There's a petition being created by a Virgin Trains (West Coast) user who will be unable to afford to travel to work when Virgin Trains alter their rules for railcards from the 6th September. To make things worse this has been done with relatively little notice (most people started to find out about it in the last week or so) and just like the decision to scrap East Coast Rewards was done without adequate consultation.
What is the deal?
In December 2011 Virgin Trains introduced what they called an easement on railcard tickets which basically allowed holders of qualifying railcards to travel on peak time trains using off-peak tickets. They are the only train operator to do this. The cynic inside of me thought that they deliberately introduced this deal because in 2012 their franchise was coming up for renewal (Virgin Trains has been around in 1997 and could have offered this a lot sooner if they'd wanted) and they wanted to drum up support for their franchise. They mentioned the railcard easement as one of the 50 reasons you should sign their petition to retain their franchise.
The availability of these cheaper fares has meant that some people have been using them to commute to work (as you can't get a railcard discount on a season ticket), it dramatically reduced the cost of travel for those young people just starting their careers on low paid jobs. It can make the difference between someone being able to take a job outside of their hometown or not.
But no one else offers it!
No one else (including Virgin Trains East Coast) has these railcard offers, so why is the West Coast so special? It isn't special, but Virgin Trains did make a big deal about how customer focussed they were when they made this change and now they've backtracked on this at very short notice. Imagine if you've just graduated and were offered a job in London on initially low pay but had a lot of potential for career advancement, you looked at the cost of living and worked out you couldn't currently afford to live in or near London but you worked out that you could afford the off-peak fares on Virgin Trains to get to work. You then accept the job on that basis only to find out that at very short notice Virgin are scrapping this offer meaning you either have to quit your job due to the rail fares being more than your income or work at a loss in the hope that you get promoted and a payrise relatively soon.
As those of us who used East Coast Rewards know if you have something good and they take it away without consultation you rightly feel cheated.
The increase in cost is unbelieveable. Someone who has a 16-25 Railcard would be currently paying £53.85 for a return Euston - Manchester, when peak time restrictions are enforced that'll rise to £217.15 so the increase will be around four times the amount on that route.
Should I sign the petition?
Absolutely, the link is here. Although this is not something we have ever had on the East Coast it was something that was relied on by many on the West Coast and changing the rules at such short notice can make life difficult for many.
We'd also like to point out our own petition for East Coast Rewards, another example of Virgin abolishing a customer friendly scheme without consultation.