It is so exciting to see travel opening up again. And what’s even more exciting is that there are ways to reduce the cost of train travel: introducing the Veteran’s Railcard. It’s designed to cut rail prices by 1/3 for Veterans in the UK on all sorts of ticket types – First, Standard, Advanced and Off-peak all included.
I don’t have a driver’s licence so rail travel is really crucial for me and makes up a huge part of my routines – from getting to airports, to visiting friends and family, and attending events like weddings and birthdays. I joined the Army in 2006 – I trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, before joining 4th Regiment Royal Artillery in Osnabruck, Germany. I have fond memories of visiting friends who were commissioning after me at Sandhurst – my regular route was by train via Ascot, to Camberley. Having my Veteran’s Railcard makes longer journeys so much more affordable.
One particular journey on the route I remember is taking the train home from Dave’s commissioning (RMAS CC093). I’d arrived by car with his family but was leaving with my twin sister who also doesn’t drive, so we’d mapped out our route home ahead of the day. And I mean literally mapped. Our MO was searching a route on dad’s PC, screenshotting, and printing. Neither of us are particularly navigationally gifted.
The ball is traditionally quite a late night. The colour and staff sergeants disappear just before midnight, which is when the commission becomes official. The commissioning cadets wear tape on their lapel pips, which is torn off in celebration at midnight. The next time I saw Dave’s colour sergeant was the next morning at 7am, when we were woken to the dulcet tones of the DS (directing staff), informing all guests to clear the lines. Not wanting to be asked twice by, we gathered our stuff and tootled off toward Camberley station.
I don’t know if you’ve travelled much after a big party, but in such circumstances, I really cannot recommend train travel highly enough. We got coffees, sat in the fresh air, and reminisced on the night before (I lost track of Laura for a solid hour somewhere between the dodgems and the carousel. I had questions that needed answering). It was a Sunday service and Camberley is a small station, so it was just us on the platform. It was the days pre-smartphone, so I braided Laura’s hair to pass time. It was like something out of the Railway Children, except with slightly higher blood alcohol levels.
It’s a memory that I’ll carry with me forever as I spent quality time with two of my favourite people in the world. And train travel made it happen.
One of the things I love about the Veteran’s Railcard is that you get the choice to either receive a physical card in the post, or download your Railcard to your phone via the app (available on iPhone and Android). This is perfect for me because I’m great at forgetting things, but once I’ve downloaded my Railcard onto my Phone’s wallet, it’s always with me.
Train travel is unique in that it can be part of a regular routine, or can sometimes mean something a little more special – like re-visitng a journey you’ve done in the past. There is something very reassuring and nostalgic about getting a train, and I am loving exploring new routes with my Veteran’s Railcard.
In order to apply for a Veteran’s Railcard, you need to be either a UK Veteran having served at least one day in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces; or a Merchant Mariner who has seen duty on legally defined military operations.
There are a lot of Veterans in Britain that don’t realise they’re actually eligible for a Veteran’s Railcard. If you meet the above criteria, then you and a companion can save 1/3 off your rail travel for just £30 a year, or £70 for three years.
And then, the process is super-simple. Head to the Veteran’s Railcard website, and simply decide whether you want to sign up for a year (£30 annually) or 3 years (£70 for 3 years). Then you add personal details and upload proof of service – something like your MOD90, or a pay slip with your service number is sufficient.