A new rail pass for domestic holidaymakers will be launched later this year to boost tourism recovery, the UK government has announced. The news came on the same day that multiple circuit outages have wiped out services on two of the country’s busiest routes.
The new rail pass will be similar to the existing BritRail pass which entitles international visitors to unlimited rail travel in Great Britain within their chosen zones and duration.
Those passes, which also offer discounted entry to tourist attractions, range in cost from £96 for two consecutive days to £568 for an entire month, according to retailer Trainline.
The ‘Tourism Recovery Plan’ also includes a £10 million ‘Days Out’ scheme whereby National Lottery players can claim vouchers for redemption at UK tourist locations between September 2021 and March 2022.
This is intended to encourage travel off-peak summer season, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Further details on the rail pass and raffle vouchers will be announced at a later date.
The measures aim to bring domestic and inbound tourism back to pre-pandemic levels by 2022 and 2023, respectively, which is at least a year ahead of some estimates. Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said:
“Our brilliant tourism sector is one of our country’s greatest assets, making a huge contribution to our economy and creating jobs in all communities. That’s why we’ve provided it with £25bn in support to date during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Tourism Recovery Plan is our blueprint for how the industry can better recover from the pandemic, even faster than forecasts predict.
It was a challenging year for the tourism industry, especially for our cities, but I know that they are ready to welcome visitors back and I encourage everyone to rediscover the fantastic range of tourism in the UK.” Sir Patrick McLoughlin, chairman of the tourism authority VisitBritain, commented:
“The UK Government’s Tourism Recovery Plan is a welcome and important step towards the recovery of the sector, recognizing the sector’s economic potential and providing a clear policy direction for the future and outlining the ambitions for domestic and international tourism.”
A sustainable tourism plan will also be developed to consider measures to reduce the environmental impact of tourism while balancing the needs of local communities against economic benefits.
The government will also discuss the introduction of a registration scheme for tourist accommodation in England, including hotels, B&Bs and short-term rentals, as booked through Airbnb.
This is to provide a better understanding of the accommodations available across the country. The DCMS added that there will be a “new focus on technology and data”, using information obtained from inbound tourists at the border to track trends. Scotland’s minister Iain Stewart said:
“Tourism is a cornerstone of the Scottish economy, so it’s fantastic that this ambitious plan from the UK Government is helping the sector recover. Scotland has a huge amount to offer tourists, from our bustling cities to our spectacular scenery.
“The launch of a new rail pass will encourage people from across the UK to come and explore our beautiful country while giving a much needed boost to the tourism and hospitality sectors.
” In 2019, Scotland welcomed nearly 3.5 million inbound visitors who spent £2.5bn in the country Somewhat ironically, the new rail pass was announced on the same day that multiple circuit failures caused major disruption on two of England’s busiest railway lines.
South Western Railway (SWR) has announced during the lunch sent a message to customers advising not to travel with his services at the moment, stating that tickets are in place ts thereof are valid on Saturdays. In a statement, the company said:
“We have been informed that there are multiple circuit failures in the Surbiton area, affecting all trains departing from London Waterloo. Trains must be talked past signals and drive carefully. Trains may undergo changes at short notice.
Passengers are requested to use other London terminals.” Changes were made on many lines and services from London Waterloo to Hampton Court were suspended in both directions.
Requests were made for replacement road transport between Hampton Court and Wimbledon, but this was not scheduled. John Halsall, general manager of the Network Rail Southern region, said:
“I am so sorry for the major problems passengers are facing today and both Network Rail and South Western Railway are asking people not to travel on trains from Waterloo.
“This is an unusually complex issue and we are working as hard as we can to resolve it, but even if we can resolve it quickly, the disruption is likely to continue for the rest of the day.
“We can only run a very limited service from London Waterloo and as a result we have to limit the number of trains we run in the other direction or we will soon run out of trains on one side and space to run them on the other.
As soon as we can get things back to normal we will, but until then please don’t travel. Claire Mann, Managing Director of SWR, said: “We are so sorry that our customers today are experiencing disrupted rides due to circuit outages in Surbiton.
Unfortunately, this outage is so severe that we urge our customers not to leave until further notice. “As we work with Network Rail to resolve this issue, replacement train service is currently operating on affected routes and SWR tickets are accepted on select TfL, Southern Railway, GWR and Cross Country trains. services, along with some local bus routes.”