Are reduced rate Senior Railcards being discontinued?

As residents of East Cheshire we are entitled to purchase Senior Railcards at the reduced rate of £22 per year instead of the full price of £28 per year, from Cheshire East Customer Information Centres. Except that for the last few weeks there have been no cards available from the centre in Wilmlsow library, and customers are being redirected to Wilmslow Rail Station where they can buy a card at the full price.

When this happened to my wife four weeks ago I sent an email to the relevant part of Cheshire East Council. I still await even an acknowledgement. Two weeks ago I visited the library to renew my own railcard, but still there were none to be had. The lady at the desk was as helpful as she could be, pointing out that a diminishing supply of cards can be obtained from Knutsford or Bollington (apparently the processes of the Council make it impossible for cards to be moved to Wilmslow from areas that still have them).

So what's going on? Is there a national shortage of Senior Railcards? No, there isn't.

What's going on is that Cheshire East has failed to authorise provision of cards, so supplies have dried up at Wilmslow and will soon do so at all information centres. Why would they do this? Well, it saves them £6 per transaction if residents have to purchase from the rail station instead of from Cheshire East. Or did someone 'just forget' to sign-off the budget for these cards to be provided at the rate residents are entitled to buy them for?

I asked the lady in the library for a phone number so I could pursue this to the level within the Council where either a considered decision not to provide this facility any more has been taken, or where simple incompetence has resulted in financial loss not for the Council, but for us customers (they owe my wife £6 for a start!). I was told that phone numbers of council officers were not divulged to the public!

So, as Cheshire East officers are apparently immune from explaining, by telephone or email, the shortcomings of their service, I invite Cheshire East Council to explain through this website just what is going on. Is it their incompetence that forces us to pay full price for a railcard, or a deliberate removal by stealth of a service Cheshire East customers are entitled to?

This is a member post by Vince Chadwick.

Editors note: We have requested a statement from Cheshire East Council two weeks ago when this isue was first brought to our attention. We hope to receive some information from them shortly.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Friday 17th August 2012 at 6:17 am
An extraordinary tale of woe. CEC we were told ,before it was formed from MBC, was going to be "Our Council". No longer the problems of dealing with CCC at Chester. It would be a responsive Council to meet the needs of its Residents.
Where did it all go so wrong?
Your supposition Vince is I suspect all too likely to be true. Have you tried getting a response from your Councillor Vince? They surely remember that we voted them in and will surely vote them out .
Vince Chadwick
Friday 17th August 2012 at 10:47 am
Good idea, Clive. I've contacted Councillor Menlove who I understand is 'my' CE Councillor. Let's see if he can tell us what is going on.

Vince Chadwick
Stuart Redgard
Sunday 19th August 2012 at 5:15 am
The corporate management structure of CEC can be found at the following link along with the names and contact numbers of the relevant people. Good look at finding the right person and keep us informed of your success or not.
Malcolm Harvey
Tuesday 21st August 2012 at 4:28 pm
I have renewed my Railcard at Wilmslow library this week so the problem must have been resolved.
Vince Chadwick
Tuesday 21st August 2012 at 5:18 pm
I'm pleased to hear that, but it's worrying that the cards were unavailable for such a long time with no explanation whatsoever from Cheshire East Council.

I received a response from Councillor Menlove which states:

-this is a temporary lack of availability from a partner local authority we use to source the cards

-new stocks have been promised for the turn of the month

-the demand from residents throughout Cheshire East is almost 10,000 a year

-this is an optional service giving a modest discount that residents appreciate and is being continued

That doesn't answer the question, however, in that it doesn't explain the reason for the lack of availability from the 'partner local authority'. Furthermore, it raises two questions which I have put to the councillor:

- Why does CE source the cards through a 'partner local authority'?

- Since this 'partner' has proved unreliable, will CE Council source these cards direct in future so that CE residents will not suffer future shortages?
Elaine Napier
Wednesday 22nd August 2012 at 10:51 pm
Contact details (including telephone numbers) for all councillors are published on the CEC website, so you can obtain details of how to contact your councillor (or any other councillor for that matter) from the website. Here is the link.

Click on the individual's photo to go to a second page which gives all their details.
Vince Chadwick
Thursday 23rd August 2012 at 8:00 am
Contacting councillors isn't a problem, and that's what I did. Trying to phone someone in the council to ascertain what the problem is and why it happened seems impossible! They don't answer e-mails, and their phone numbers are not released!
Vince Chadwick
Monday 3rd September 2012 at 4:36 pm
This issue is still live. A friend has just been to Wilmslow Library and was told no cards are available. There are no longer any at Knutsford either, but Holmes Chapel has some! What a ludicrous situation and still no response from Cheshire East!

Councillor Menlove has further advised me, when I asked him why CE used a 'partner authority' (whatever that means) to source the cards, and why not source them direct in view of the unreliability of said Partner authority:
"The arrangements covering the Senior Railcards started in the time of Cheshire County Council and it is through continuing that procurement arrangement that Cheshire East is able to offer a discount.

Were Cheshire East to start to source them direct, then the inherited arrangements would not apply and the discount currently enjoyed by local residents would be lost."

So, other than an indication that CE intend to continue the discounted railcard scheme, we are no nearer discovering why the supply of these cards has been problematical. Councillor Menlove's explanation merely shifts the question one place to the right and doesn't get us any nearer to discovering what has caused the problem and what is being done to correct it and to ensure it doesn't happen again.

So, CE council.... can someone please give us answers to those questions?
Stuart Redgard
Monday 3rd September 2012 at 6:22 pm
As your seem not to be happy with your response from Councilor Mendlove, I suggest the following courses of action.

1) Contact the Chief Executive

2) Submit a freedom of information request at 01270 686605

If you are then still dissatisfied contact the Local Government Ombudsman office at