The price of more than a million train tickets are to be cut by up to 50% in April and May in efforts to ease the cost of living crisis.
But the move has drawn plenty of criticism from transport campaigners and commuters.
In what the UK government and the rail industry has dubbed the ‘Great British Rail Sale’ – which is a first-of-its-kind offer, and has been described as “unprecedented” – Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that from today, selected train tickets will now become half price and many others having “very substantial reductions”.
With this being the first time that multiple rail operators have come together to offer nationwide savings, the government says it hopes the move will help connect friends and families, boost UK tourism, and encourage green travel across the country.
Cutting the cost of rail travel will help “ease some of the pressure” on finances at a time when inflation is rising, the Department for Transport said.
The discounted tickets have now gone on sale, with passengers eligible to travel for cut prices on certain off-peak and advanced fares between 25 April and 27 May.
They are being sold on a first come, first serve basis.
Some of the selected journeys where travellers can now make savings across the North include Manchester to Newcastle, which was £20.60 and is now £10.30, and York to Leeds, which was £5.60 and is now £2.80.
It will now only cost £22 to get from London to Edinburgh, £25 to get from London to Cardiff, and £5.25 to get from Wolverhampton to Liverpool.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the ticket sale, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “For the first time ever, operators across the rail industry are coming together to help passengers facing rising costs of living by offering up to 50% off more than a million tickets on journeys across Britain.
“There’s no better time to visit friends, family, or just explore our great country.”
Tickets can be purchased online from participating retailers.
While government officials said that the offering of half-price rail tickets was just “one of the ways” it was helping to support those affected by the growing cost of living crisis, after having said to be “listening to people’s concerns” and already previously announcing measures to defer energy costs and offer Council Tax discounts for some households – but the move has still drawn a fair bit of criticism this morning.
The Great British Rail Sale has been critiqued on a number of factors, but primarily, for not helping commuters who are facing increasing travel costs.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh was among those critiquing the scheme, taking to Twitter this morning to say that while the discounts this spring will be “small comfort to passengers” after years of “soaring fares”, it’s not enough.
“A decade of brutal Tory fare hikes have priced people off our railways,” she continued.
“This temporary respite will be small comfort to passengers who had thousands taken out of their pockets from soaring fares since 2010, and the decision to end the sale just before half-term will mean many families face the same punishing costs over the holidays.”
“The Tories can’t solve the cost of living crisis, because they created it,” she concluded.
The Campaign for Better Transport has also expressed criticism, adding that it had been pushing for action to improve passenger levels for months.
Although the group welcomed the move by the government, Norman Baker, its chief executive’s adviser and former transport minister, said to the BBC: “It can show the Treasury that the way to increase income is to cut fares, not keep ratcheting them up and driving people off the railway.”
“This initiative, though very welcome, is but a first step,” he added.
He then called for an end to annual fare rises, and a review of tickets and travel patterns following the rise of hybrid working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andy Burnham wants to help more girls get into football
Andy Burnham has urged schools to do more to encourage young girls to get into football.
The Greater Manchester Mayor was speaking to Sky News‘ Kay Burley on Thursday, 8 December as he discussed the importance of promoting more women in football and sport, in general.
Burnham said that himself, the FA and notable women’s football advocates like former keeper Karen Bardsley are “determined” to make sure the buzz following the Women’s Euros isn’t just a flash in the pan.
With the England men’s team currently trying to replicate the Lionesses‘ success as they prepare for the quarter-final of the 2022 World Cup, he went on to emphasise the lasting memories football can create on a global scale.
The Mayor went on to say that with the help of schools across the UK, they hope to “make sure that the success the Lionesses had in the summer becomes a permanent legacy”, imploring schools, the sporting community and the nation at large “not let those summer memories fade”.
Insisting that he already feels the heroics of Euro 2022 have already had an impact when it comes to inspiring more girls to get into football.
He said that the uptake among “women in football” since the tournament has been “amazing” but warned educators and parents not to “leave it to chance” and provide the support to make “real change”.
Coins with King Charles III’s face on have officially entered circulation today
The Royal Mint has announced that the first coins to bear the effigy of King Charles III have officially entered circulation today.
In what marks the historic transition from Queen Elizabeth II to King Charles III on the public’s money, following the passing of the former back in September after 70 years on the throne, the first coins to bear The King’s portrait – are 50 pence pieces, and they will start to appear in circulation in Post Offices around the UK from today.
The coins not only bear The King’s face, but are also said to commemorate the life and legacy of the late monarch.
The reverse of the 50 pence features a design that originally appeared on the 1953 Coronation Crown, and includes the four quarters of the Royal Arms depicted within a shield, and in between each shield is an emblem of the home nations – a rose, a thistle, a shamrock, and a leek.
4.9 million 50 pence coins with King Charles III’s face on have been sent to UK Post Offices today.
The coin will first begin being distributing as change when customers make a purchase in store, The Royal Mint explains, before a total of 9.6 million 50ps eventually enter circulation in line with the public demand for them.
“Today marks a new era for UK coinage,” commented Rebecca Morgan, Director of Collector Services at The Royal Mint.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for coin collectors to add to their collections, or start one for the first time. We anticipate a new generation of coin collectors emerging, with people keeping a close eye on their change to try and spot a new 50p that bears the portrait of our new King.
“The Royal Mint has been trusted to make coins bearing the Monarch’s effigy for over 1,100 years and we are proud to continue this tradition into the reign of King Charles III.”
Also speaking as the coins enter circulation today, Nick Read – Chief Executive Office of the Post Office – said: “It is a tremendous honour for the Post Office that the first coinage featuring King Charles III is being released into circulation via our extensive branch network.
“December is our busiest time of the year so the coin will be entering our network in a phased manner.
“If you don’t receive the new 50p in your change on your first visit to a Post Office, you may well get it in your change in a subsequent visit, so keep a look out for it.”
All approximately 27 billion UK coins with Queen Elizabeth II’s face on will remain legal tender and in active circulation, and will eventually be replaced over time as they become damaged or worn and to meet demand for new coins.