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Several rail companies are facing criticism over their refusal to offer free train tickets to veterans to raise money for the London Poppy Day appeal on Thursday.


Major train operators have come under fire over their refusal to offer free train travel to armed forces veterans on London Poppy Day.

Several companies have limited the concession to serving members of the services who are travelling to the capital to raise money on Thursday. They are not extending concession to those who have left the services.

Those taking the toughest line include Southern, Southeastern and London Midland, which are all part of Govia a consortium dominated by the Go Ahead Group.

Greater Anglia said it was offering free standard class train travel to and from London to “service personnel in full uniform, with a valid military ID.”

State-run East Coast has also limited the concession to serving personnel in uniform travelling to King’s Cross.


This approach was condemned by unions and MPs.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association, called the stance “insensitive”.

He added: “It is insulting to the thousands of veterans who will be out in all weathers this week collecting in memory of their fallen comrades.

“If anyone needs help with travel, it will be the veterans themselves, not just serving soldiers.”

Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable and a member of the Defence Select Committee, was withering in his condemnation of Southeastern.

“I would be very disappointed if they do not match other train operators, not least because of the problems they caused veterans a few years ago.

“Then they scheduled engineering works on Remembrance Sunday forcing disabled veterans to get up at 5am to get to London.”

A Govia spokesman said its conductors would be making announcements on Poppy Day encouraging passengers to make a contribution.

The company insisted its policy was in line with other train operators serving London.

However Virgin Trains, and South West Trains have all said they will allow veterans to travel to London to take part in the appeal, which is aiming to raise £1 million.

East Midlands Trains is also allowing veterans to travel free on Poppy Day.

Two companies, C2C and Chiltern have said they will extend free travel to veterans on both Poppy Day and Remembrance Sunday.

Their generous stance will put pressure on other operators – even those offering concessions on Poppy Day – to do so again on Remembrance Sunday.

Mary Creagh, Labour’s transport spokesman, condemned what she described as the patchwork of arrangements.

“What people want is certainty when they visit relatives and commemorate fallen comrades.

“The Rail industry should be showing some solidarity to people who have fought for this country.

“We would like to see the armed forces concession for serving members of the forces extended to anyone who has served their country.”

However a spokesman for the Royal British Legion said it was grateful for any support it received from train operators.

We are very grateful to the train operating companies, Network Rail and Transport for London for their widespread support of London Poppy Day, including free transport for Service personnel in London on the day.

“Many of these personnel will have volunteered their time to collect on behalf of the Poppy Appeal, so their ability to travel into and across London on collection duties will be greatly enhanced.”

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