Conservative manifesto pledge: Introduce significantly discounted bus and train travel for young apprentices

Frankie Linn argues FOR

The Conservative manifesto commitment to an apprentice travel discount is a pleasant reminder that sometimes politicians listen. That sometimes including the ‘apprentice voice’ in meetings isn’t tokenism. That all those meetings and emails and trips to London might actually be worthwhile. Of course the money it’ll save will be useful but the most exciting thing about this announcement is that we know that when we get apprentices together to speak to decision-makers, things can change.

The National Society of Apprentices delivers the apprentice voice at a local, national and European level, supporting apprentices to reflect on their apprenticeships and engage with decision-makers on the issues that affect them. This announcement shows us that it works.

In 2014 one of the first things we did as the national society was to go and ask apprentices about travel. The message came back loud and clear: apprentices were paying too much on travel. Back in 2014 it was £24 a week and we can’t imagine it’s got any cheaper.

This means that working 35 hours a week for £3.50 an hour, travel consumes 25% of an apprentice’s weekly wage. Essentially that works out as working until your morning tea break on Tuesday just to pay your bus fare.

Here are some of the comments we received from apprentices:

“I worry a lot about my money situation … it puts a hard strain on me. Getting to work each day financially is a struggle”

“I’m enjoying my apprenticeship, however worrying about my financial situation is a regular occurrence”

Discounted bus and train travel is a change that will make a big impact on younger apprentices, who are more likely to be paid £3.50 an hour. We’ll know exactly how many that is once last year’s apprenticeship pay survey is finally published (cough, cough). This change means that fewer apprentices will have to rely on a second job, or worry as much about getting into debt.

Apprentices are a pretty positive, proactive bunch, but 40% of us regularly worry about money. We’ll have to wait and see exactly how the transport offer pans out and how it compares to the new MY Travel Pass in Wales and the changes afoot in Scotland. That said, when many of us are paying a quarter of our wage getting to work, a little help won’t go amiss.

 

Frankie Linn is part of the leadership team at the National Society of Apprentices