British military heroes to get cut-price rail travel as government admits delay in veteran ID card rollout

MILITARY veterans are to get cut-price train tickets as part of sweeping new measures to improve lives for Britain’s forces heroes, the government has announced.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 1:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:09 pm

The special veterans railcard – which will go on sale on Armistice Day later this year – will give former troops a third off rail fares.

More than 830,000 will be eligible for the offer, which was enshrined in the Tory’s election manifesto.

The news comes as the Ministry of Defence today admitted a pledge to rollout a veterans identity card had been ‘delayed’ following last month’s election.

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Veterans marching along Southsea seafront during the D-Day 70 anniversary commemorations. Picture: Paul Jacobs (141677-13)

The card is available for all those currently leaving the military. But a promise to introduce this for those who have already left the forces by the end of 2019 has failed.

A Whitehall source told The News: ‘There has been a delay. It was supposed to be put through by the end of last year. The decision had to be signed off by ministers but because the election was called, that didn’t happen.’

The government insisted it aimed to launch the scheme to the wider veteran community ‘as soon as practicable’ but was unable to confirm when this would be, when asked by The News.

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The veterans rail card will be rolled out in November, the government has announced.

Shadow defence minister, Stephen Morgan said it was ‘essential’ veterans received ‘full and comprehensive support’ and that further delays were unacceptable.

The Portsmouth South MP said: ‘No more disappointment, no more delay. Ministers must get on with delivering on this promise and well-deserved benefit for our veterans community.’

Mr Morgan added he had lobbied veterans minister, Johnny Mercer, to extend Britain’s forces railcard scheme to include ex-serving personnel.

‘While last year the veterans minister responded to my letter refusing the request, I welcome news that they have since taken on board my arguments,’ he said. ‘Now the government must give justice to the duty of our veterans and put words into actions.’

Military parade by 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, through Emsworth to mark St Georges Day. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121436-674)

Speaking of the new scheme, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Every part of society should honour the debt we owe those who’ve served our country.

‘I’m proud that the Department for Transport, with other government colleagues and the rail industry, is doing its bit.

‘This railcard will help open up opportunities to veterans, whether through employment and retraining, or by strengthening links with friends and family.

‘I believe that enabling former service personnel to travel more easily is the least we can do.’

Johnny Mercer, veterans minister. Picture: UK Parliament

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said the new scheme showed ‘how seriously’ the government was taking its commitment to make the UK ‘the best country in the world to be a veteran’.

‘The railcard is only the start though, and I’m clear we need to do more to look after the people who so selflessly put their lives on the line to look after us,’ he added.

The railcard will cost £30 but will go on sale at a cut price £21 on November 11.

Only serving members of the armed forces have been eligible for discounted train fares.