Is a gimmicky new railcard really the government’s best offer to millennials?

Emily Horton
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Rail Fare Rises Take Effect
Millennials don’t need holiday or weekend travel perks – they need houses (Source: Getty)

We were promised “intergenerational fairness”, but we received a muffled attempt at appeasing the grumpy millennial gods.

Take the railcard. As someone who just turned 25, and therefore started the dreaded countdown to the removal of the 1/3 off-peak travel privilege (a.k.a. the symbol of youth), I was initially ecstatic about the announcement. Through the magic of the Treasury, I have been gifted another five years of gallivanting across the country care free. Yes, I thought, my annual weekend away to Brighton will continue to be subsidised.

But reality soon set in. As someone working full time and commuting into the city each day, I don’t need holiday or weekend travel perks; I need the price of my daily rush-hour slug on the Northern line slashed.

Read more: Hammond's stamp duty pledge will push house prices up

This becomes even more apparent when I start to think about my distant dream of buying a property. The government has announced a substantial investment in housing, £44bn to reach their yearly 300,000 new homes target. The chancellor reassured us that these homes would be built in areas with plentiful employment – in London this means somewhere on a distant greenbelt, in zone 202. If I am ever able to buy, I’ll have to travel further to get into work. At this point a 1/3 off all travel might come in handy, to make up for the fact that I’ll be living two hours away, in a box.

As it stands, I still have very little buying power – even with schemes like Help to Buy – and the first-time buyers’ stamp duty announcement doesn’t necessarily bolster this. In fact it might work against me. The Office for Budget Responsibility considered the effects of a previous temporary relief for first-time buyers, and how the new permanent relief was expected to affect tax receipts and house prices. Worryingly, it concluded “the main gainers from the policy are people who already own property”. This has millennials like me quaking in our boots.

Equally, it’s all well and good that stamp duty will help first-time buyers, but what about the property market as a whole? What about those selling their homes? What’s encouraging them to move and to sell their properties? Regardless of the number of new houses the government builds, the property market is still chain and fluid movement needs to be encouraged at all levels – not just one.

But it’s not all bad, I guess. A freeze on booze prices will ensure that my Dalston hoppy ale will remain at £6 a pint. Merry Christmas indeed. I’ll be burying my Budget blues in the Black Friday sale anyway, where I will no doubt experience a similar feeling of regret and disappointment, over the purchase of a vegan coffee machine my sister will definitely never use.

Read more: Here's where first-time buyers will find the biggest stamp duty savings

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