Millennial railcard chaos as site crashes and only 10,000 available

Helena Horton
The site crashed and many complained the railcards had sold out - Railcard

There was widespread anger as the release of the millennial railcard descended into chaos after the government only made a small number available.

The site crashed, and many were unable to access it, and there were complaints that there were no notifications either by email that the tickets had gone on sale.

The railcards are available for those aged 26-30, and they give a third off rail travel in the UK. However, only 10,000 went on sale and cash-strapped young people complained they were more difficult to get hold of than Glastonbury tickets.

National Rail promised it would give an update when the railcards were issued, but it did not issue any social media posts as the site went live.

Many have complained that the railcard is not available for everyone who is eligible, and there are fears the issue could be kicked into the long grass because National Rail has refused to confirm whether the railcard will be available to everyone after the trial.

Young people have tried for hours this morning to buy the railcard, as the high demand for the first-come, first-served tickets clogged the customer service line and crashed the website.

In a message to the National Railcards Twitter account at 7.48am, youth worker Josh Booth, from Leeds, posted: "Been trying to get 26-30 railcard since 7am, your website crashing and been on hold on the phone since".

Hours after the tickets were released, the National Railcards Twitter account issued an update, reassuring users that the railcards had not yet sold out.

It posted: "Due to the high volume of traffic the 26-30 Railcard website we understand some of you have been unable to access the 26-30 website. Railcards are still available to purchase please check back shortly."

David Sidebottom, passenger director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “The nationwide trial of the 26-30 Railcard should be welcome news for passengers facing stagnant or falling incomes but they will be extremely disappointed that they are unable to access the website.”

There were also complaints that the millennial railcard is app-based only, and no physical card is issued. 

In brief | The Millennial railcard

This drains phone battery and relies on having a fully-charged smartphone even on long journeys.

Hannah Graham was one of the lucky few who managed to get their hands on one of the new railcards.

She told The Telegraph: "It took me 4 hours and constant refreshing and logging in and out and in and out again, and the website timing out on me 3 times during payment, but in the end I finally managed to confirm one of the elusive and magical 26-30 railcards. 

"I'm pretty chuffed now as it'll save me £1000s but sad for all the people who are still desperately trying. Not acceptable that an initiative that is designed to make the rising costs of travelling easier for my generation is not available for all. Elitist, limited and competitive is not the way to get young people on your side. "

Hannah Graham's railcard

Sarah Cowan also managed to get a railcard. She told The Telegraph: "Essentially I got it through sheer luck and persistence, not least because I happened to be off work today due to a home emergency so was stuck waiting for a plumber anyway.

"This meant I could afford to wait up until midnight to check if they were released then, and then set an alarm for 6:30 am and spend around 3.5 hours constantly refreshing the website on multiple devices while checking Twitter for updates.

"For a while I assumed they were selling and I would miss out, but it looks as though hardly any were actually being completed until after the railcard staff got into the office this morning, started trying to tackle it and let us know what was happening.

"After that it was much easier to get through to the logged in stage and start the application, though it still took three tries to get past the eligibility checks and photo upload (thankfully it autosaves  so I didn’t have to start again each time) and then finally it was confirmed.

"I’d seen someone else on twitter complaining about not receiving the confirmation email, so I made sure to save the confirmed payment page and actually found the code I needed for the app on there; now have my railcard safely on my phone! It’s a huge relief, as my current 18-25 railcard runs out in mid-April when I turn 27, right before a series of trips I need to make back up from London to Yorkshire for family events, and up to Edinburgh for a wedding!

"This will make a huge difference to the cost for those trips and going forwards; all my family and close friends live in either Yorkshire or Lancashire, so it costs a lot just trying to keep up-to-date with each others’ lives!"

Chancellor Philip Hammond said in his Budget speech in November that the railcards would give "4.5 million more young people a third off their rail fares".

 Despite this promise, a limit was placed on the number of cards available while the scheme is trialled to assess the impact on revenue and passenger numbers.

There was previously no nationwide railcard available for people between the ages of 26 and 59 travelling alone unless they were disabled or in the armed forces.

A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train companies and Network Rail said:

“We’re sorry to those who have been unable to buy a trial 26-30 Railcard this morning. This is due to the exceptionally high volume of traffic on the 26-30 Railcard website. We are increasing the capacity on the website to better manage the high level of traffic. Railcards are still available to purchase and people should keep checking @_Railcards Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.”


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