A temporary train ticket sale of heavily discounted rail fares is under way.
The government is hoping the Great British Rail Sale will stimulate demand for rail travel.
Rail minister Huw Merriman told The Independent: “Over a million tickets on the railway will be available up to half price.
“We want to try and entice more people on the railways to go and take a city break, go and visit their friends and family and go and explore the wonderful countryside and really get them onto the railways. Because we’re keen to grow the railways.”
Post-pandemic changes to commuting patterns has resulted in a dramatic reduction in revenue – around 20 per cent on pre-Covid levels. As a result, taxpayers are subsidising train travel by an additional £2 billion annually.
Mr Merriman said: “People’s working patterns have changed, and in many regards that won’t come back and that’s why it’s really important that we look at the railway as a seven-day offer and particularly growing our leisure market.”
The government says that the last such promotion attracted 70,000 travellers who had not used trains since the pandemic.
But efforts to entice new passengers to the railway are hampered by the extreme disarray of the industry.
The first national strikes since the 1980s have been disrupting travel since June 2021. The next round of walk-outs by train drivers belonging to the Aslef union begins on the first day on which travel is allowed under the Rail Sale terms.
There have also been repeated infrastructure failures and storm-related disruption.
These are the key questions and answers about the Rail Sale
What’s the deal?
Book by 29 January for deeply discounted travel on advance tickets (and a few off-peak fares) for journeys from 30 January to 15 March inclusive. From research done by The Independent, it appears that each Rail Sale fare is a fixed, low price.
The deal applies to the rail firms that are controlled by the Department for Transport (DfT).
ScotRail, Transport for Wales, Merseyrail and “open-access” operators such as Grand Central, Hull Trains and Lumo are not involved.
The organiser, Atoc Ltd, says: “Tickets are not available on all routes and at some peak times and are not offered by…