A new rail ticket is being planned to launch later this summer for “staycationers” who are looking for holidays and short breaks within the UK. It’s part of a wider plan announced by the government to boost the UK tourism industry this year as it recovers from the pandemic.

Although details about the new rail travel pass are not being revealed yet, the government confirms that it will “build on the success of the BritRail pass, which is sold through VisitBritain and currently gives international visitors flexible travel across the country”.

The BritRail pass is one of those dark secrets of the UK rail network as it gives overseas visitors a flexible travel deal that’s similar to the UK’s existing All Line Rover, but often at a much lower cost.

The government’s Tourism Recovery Plan, says that “The aim is to launch this new domestic rail tourism product later in the year, subject to a successful business case being developed.”

It’s worth keeping an eye on the small print when it’s launched though, as the existing Network RailCards offer a third off train fares and may offer a better deal, and they are valid right now.

Another related initiative will be a £10 million National Lottery Days Out scheme in the autumn to encourage people to visit attractions supported by Lottery funding, with players having the chance to claim vouchers to redeem at tourist attractions across the UK during the traditionally quieter times of  September 2021 to March 2022.

Note that the vouchers kick in at the same time as the current temporary VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors partially expires, so VAT will rise from the current 5% to 12.5%. Depending on the types of deals being offered closer to the date, it may be cheaper to visit in August when VAT is lower.

It’s notable that when we talk about tourism, we tend to think of overseas visitors, especially in London. However, domestic tourism as measured by visits requiring at least an overnight stay somewhere is more than double the overseas visitor numbers (99 million vs 41 million in 2019). Domestic visits are also spread far more evenly around the UK than international visits, so repairing domestic tourism will be better for the wider economy.

The government has set itself a target of recovering the domestic tourism industry to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, although overseas tourism is more uncertain at the moment.

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6 comments
  1. Brian Butterworth says:

    I’m still amazed that I can use my Network Card to go from London London Waterloo to Exeter St David’s for £54.45 in 3h 22m!

    On the other hand London to Doncaster, which isn’t covered by the Network Card is Super Off-Peak Return is £101.40 for a 1h 40m trip.

    Both about 250km, one twice the price for a standard ticket.

  2. James Bunting says:

    The Britrail Pass is only sold overseas because it is to attract overseas tourists. As with similar tickets in many countries around the world the price is not sustainable if it was to be on sale domestically. The All Line Rail Rover offers significant savings over equivalent tickets offering the same timing and flexibility. It has been around for over sixty years and is just one of around 100 different tickets available for travel at will. There is, however, little promotion of these tickets.

    https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/rangers_and_rovers.aspx

    When I visit my son in Japan I can travel there for a fraction of the cost that he, as a resident, would have to pay. Likewise, the Inter-Rail range of tickets, including single-country tickets, offer non residents considerable savings.

    The lower cost is calculated on what the overseas traveller enables the country to earn, not the rail operator. The only way that a ticket can be sold to UK residents at Britrail prices is via a substantial government subsidy.

  3. MilesT says:

    The other “secret” discount is the network gold card, if you have an annual season ticket in network southeast. Same discount as network card (slightly better T&C, though) but can also get your oyster card flagged for off peak discount too, even if the annual season does not include any London stations. Cheapest annual is about £160 (a pair of close stations at the northwest edge I believe), so only the heaviest London Transport users will break even, though on a standalone basis, but may work for you with some careful choice of stations for the annual part if you can use that often enough.

    A couple of other railcards get oyster discount privileges–those based on age/status generally do (e.g. senior, but not family or network).

  4. Grumpy Chicken says:

    I suspect this will be turn out like the flexible season ticket, a good idea killed off by the pricing.

    “Build[ing] on the success of the BritRail pass” probably refers to the additional cost they’ll apply for UK residents.

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