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Train ticketing app wants to offer free rail travel to descendants of British rail pioneer

A train ticketing app is on the hunt for relatives of an unsung British rail pioneer to give him the recognition he deserves. Virgin Trains Ticketing is looking for those related to Richard Trevithick, who played a pivotal role in designing the locomotive used in the world’s first steam-powered rail journey, on February 21, 1804.

And exactly 220 years on from that journey in South Wales, the brand is celebrating the momentous milestone by rewarding his descendants, as part of a campaign to further enlighten people about his huge impact on British rail. Anyone with the surname Trevithick could unknowingly be a descendent of the iconic rail pioneer – and could now be rewarded with free train travel.




Mark Plowright, director at Virgin Trains Ticketing, said: “Richard Trevithick’s influence and impact on British rail history should not go unnoticed. He was a true trailblazer, who laid the foundations for others to go on and help build upon his successes. We want to make sure his good work doesn’t go unnoticed – and that’s why we’re offering free train travel to his lucky namesakes.”

It emerged that Cornishman Trevithick’s impact on Britain’s industrial revolution has often been overlooked in favour of others. A poll of 2,000 adults found that just 22 per cent recognised Richard Trevithick’s name, and only 14 per cent knew he constructed the world’s first steam railway locomotive.

As a result, 44 per cent admitted they have a lack of knowledge when it comes to the history of Britain’s train and railways. There are certain pioneers that have remained well-known, however – with the most recognisable being Isambard Kingdom Brunel (58 per cent), who designed Paddington Station, and George Stephenson (57 per cent), who built the first train to carry passengers on a public rail line.

But upon learning about Richard Trevithick’s work, almost three-quarters (74 per cent) felt he is overlooked in Britain’s history of rail travel. And 79 per cent agreed more should be done to raise awareness and celebrate British pioneers – with the same percentage saying schools should teach more about the role that engineers played in developing rail travel.

When it comes to knowledge of Richard Trevithick, just 35 per cent knew his first steam locomotive carried five wagons of iron on its first journey. And fewer than a quarter (24 per cent) were aware that 1804 was the year in which he successfully tested the high-steam locomotive on Britain’s railways.

And now, his descendants are being rewarded for his efforts and contributions to railway history(Image: Ancestry)

Meanwhile, just 23 per cent could name Liverpool and Manchester as the birthplace of the world’s first intercity railway in 1830 – with 18 per cent wrongly of the belief that it was London and Bristol. It also emerged one in five (21 per cent) incorrectly thought Great Western Railway was the first company to introduce the world’s first timetable for public use in 1839 – with just 14 per cent aware that it was actually Manchester and Liverpool Railway.

However, a knowledgeable 48 per cent knew the railways system in Britain is the oldest in the world. And 92 per cent of those polled, via OnePoll, believe the invention of British railways were important. Today, 23 per cent often travel by rail due to affordability (52 per cent), comfort (45 per cent), and convenience of schedules (43 per cent).

And more than two centuries since the world’s first steam locomotive, rail travel has come on leaps and bounds – with 57 per cent buying their tickets digitally, either online or through ticketing apps.


A spokesman for genealogy company, Ancestry, which helped to source key historical facts about Richard Trevithick, said: “The research shows there is limited knowledge around Richard Trevithick – and, after more than 220 years from his great invention, we want to put the nation on the right track to learn more about British rail history.

“With more than 40 billion records to explore, we encourage everyone to start their journey to learn more about their past. It’s incredible what you could discover, and where this journey could take you – you may even find an ancestor in our railway records.”

Those who share the surname Trevithick should email trevithick@virgin.com to claim their free travel for three months.