Break of Journey (BoJ) denied by Southeastern at Canterbury West

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by alistairlees, 14 Oct 2018.

  1. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    On Saturday I travelled with some friends from Paddock Wood (PDW) to Ramsgate (RAM) to walk round the coast to Margate (MAR), then get the train back to Paddock Wood.

    Because of diversions it means changing at Ashford Int (AFK).

    I bought Off-Peak Day Returns (CDR) which have restriction code B3. This doesn't mention anything about BoJ restrictions, on either leg.

    We missed our outward train (the 08.56) from Paddock Wood, so got the next train (09.26) to AFK, then got the 10.05 from there to Canterbury West (CBW) where it terminates. We could have waited at AFK for the next direct train to RAM via CBW, but didn't want to wait at AFK and thought we might as well go for a stroll around Canterbury for about 30 minutes - better than waiting at Ashford.

    As we tried to exit through the barriers at CBW we were told Off-Peak tickets are not valid for break of journey on the outward portion, though you can break as often as you like on the return.

    When I said I didn't think that was the case, and that you could break unless it was explicitly denied, I was told no it was correct. On saying that this was what the National Rail website that said this, I was told that that was "just National Rail, it isn't always correct". On further querying, I was told that "train companies have different rules". We were then told that we would be let through if we were quick (like they were doing us a favour) and that "people ask us this all the time, and we always let them then through, even though we shouldn't".

    I asked a different member of the gateline staff on the way back in and he said the same thing.

    At no point did either of them attempt to look at the restriction code (it's in fairly small writing); they just looked at the "Off-Peak" text (larger writing).

    At no point did either of them seem to consider looking up the question via any reference material (is there any?) or by asking another member of staff. They just were convinced they were right, and did not want to countenance that they might not be.

    Regarding the break of journey:
    The NRE ticket type code web page does not list any restrictions
    The Southeastern booking website explicitly states there are no break of journey restrictions for this ticket on this journey
    The NRE website on the Off-Peak detailed T&C page states that break of journey is permitted on the outward (and return), "unless otherwise indicated by a restriction". These were day return tickets, but the NRE page for Off-Peak Day detailed T&Cs makes no mention of BoJ for some reason.

    Thoughts, please? Things like this only serve to annoy and confuse customers, and to cause disrepute to the railways in general.
     
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  3. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    Thoughts? As is so often the case on here, the staff were in the wrong.

    Is it surprising? No. Will anything be done? No.

    Until such time as the DfT and/or ORR take punitive action against train companies that refuse people rights they have already been granted, nothing is going to happen. It will take someone taking it to Court and getting an injunction for it to change, and even then, knowing the poor training and "I'm always right" attitude of an alarming percentage of train staff, it would probably be said "not to apply" for whatever reason.

    I don't foresee any practical remedy here, beyond paying the tortiously claimed excess to the Anytime, and then making a chargeback if paid by card, and complaining to customer services if this does not succeed (or if you paid another way).

    It's utterly ridiculous but unfortunately the TOCs have far too much institutional backing for behaviour such as this to be stopped.
     
  4. Hadders

    Hadders Fares Advisor

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    Staff making their own rules up..... again.
     
  5. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Yet again, our TOC's, who claim to want fares "simplification" seem more interested in imposing petty and pointless restrictions, aimed at forcing more dough out of the passenger.
     
  6. JB_B

    JB_B Member

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    Not good but not unusual.

    The correct response is for SE management to ensure that all relevant staff are properly trained.
     
    Last edited: 14 Oct 2018
  7. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Hopefully prompted by a communication by the OP to the customer relations department: if they don't know, they can't do anything about it.
     
  8. Haywain

    Haywain Established Member

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    Except that no excess was demanded.
    Not the TOC but some poorly trained/informed barrier staff.
     
  9. bignosemac

    bignosemac Established Member

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    If the "doing me a favour" had not been forthcoming, I would have paid the 20p excess up to the Anytime Day Return then claimed this back, along with an administration fee of £25, from Southeastern.

    When the payment of the reasonable administration fee was declined I would then start the legal ball rolling for breach of contract with a Letter Before Action.
     
  10. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    Perhaps not in this specific instance, but the OP was "warned" that they would be charged the excess next time, and in any case, more "meek" passengers may not challenge what the barrier line say, and may pay up straight away. The number of people who have been affected in this way - either being charged extra, or being incorrectly warned, or being outright denied the rights they have - is simply unknown. It could quite feasibly be in the tens or hundreds of thousands each year, if not more.
     
  11. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    A number of posters are trying to put words into my mouth here. Please don't.

    For clarity, I was not asked to pay any excess. Nor was I warned that I would be charged anything extra next time. "Next time" was not mentioned. I was denied my rights though, until I persisted and was let through (grudgingly).
     
  12. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    To update everyone: the issue has been raised with a few people at Southeastern (thanks to all at the forum here who helped out) and the staff concerned are going to be trained a little more so that the situation doesn't arise again. Southeastern have been very helpful. Hopefully this will not happen again, at least at Canterbury West (and, I hope, at other stations).
     
  13. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    My advice would be not to waste any time thinking about it - Southeastern operate their own set of rules which aren't the same as the National Rail Conditions of Travel, but aren't published anywhere.

    This won't change (lip service is part of the package) so it's a case of accepting the risk of encountering unpredictable behaviour or finding another way to make that journey.

    I remember writing to them because the ticket office at Canterbury West was often closed well before it was meant to be. Their response was that they had no obligation to remain open at the times stipulated by Schedule 17 and didn't do anything about it!

    The best way to deal with it is not to complain, but travel with the best value tickets that permit the journey you're making. If get a really good deal, the customer service issues can be overlooked :)
     
    Last edited: 15 Oct 2018
  14. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Seriously? Have you forwarded that reply to the DfT?
    (Reference)
    Or you could give them chapter and verse based on that previous breach notice yourself.
     
    Last edited: 15 Oct 2018
  15. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    I think that's all a bit negative really, though I accept you may have had some frustrating experiences and feel that it's not possible to change things for the better. On the other hand I have had a good response from Southeastern and certainly the people I have spoken to definitely want to do things properly. That certainly doesn't involve "operating to their own set of rules".
     
  16. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    I think perhaps some "good eggs" want to do the right thing and want to follow the correct rules. But unfortunately there are far too many "bad eggs" out there and so there is a substantial risk that you encounter one of these.
     
  17. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    Honestly, I've got bigger fish to fry and I suspect the DfT do too. As the computer would have been logged in there wouldn't be much they can do.

    Sometimes the way things are done aren't quite right, which negatively impacts on customers - but following up on every little thing isn't a productive use of time, which is why I say it's best not to waste time thinking about it.
     
  18. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    Maybe it's because of who you are and who you liaise with, you've been fed a response that seems satisfactory. Southeastern have this approach that the customer is always wrong when it comes to anything to do with tickets - their Customer Services at least don't acknowledge that their colleagues can ever make a mistake. The concept of "we're sorry we got it wrong, let's see what we can do to put it right" is completely alien to this part of the railway. I'd genuinely love to be proven wrong on this, being staunchly pro-customer service.

    That aside, there's no guarantee your complaint will be resolved. Whoever you've spoken to understands how break of journey works. Assuming they intend to do something about it, with the best intentions it's not a given the message will get through the railway's communications processes and reach the relevant staff in a form that's easy for them to understand.

    Generally station managers/team leaders are the ones who communicate directly with station staff. They might get an email about this. They tend to be busy people with important tasks to deal with and I'll leave you to guess how likely it is they'll be spending any time ensuring everyone who needs to know understands this. Not an easy task with a roster of shift workers as it would mean multiple sessions spread over days. It may instead come through to the station as a written brief. If it gets picked up and everyone concerned manages to view it, you can only hope that it is written in a way that anyone can understand. Many a retail brief have been put down after a moment's head scratching because there are reams of excessive technical detail that whilst perfectly correct, will cause a wide distribution of people to switch off part way through when two lines of text would suffice.

    I think Southeastern teaching their employees to forbid break of journey on CDRs is unfair on the staff too. It generates stressful interactions with customers who are not as stupid as the company thinks, and who feel strongly enough to write about it on the internet in detail.

    Good luck with it, but I maintain that it's not worth thinking about any further. Remember that NRE and the CoT are documents of a technical nature that most people, many staff included won't comprehend. Not everybody can assimilate the hordes of information within them. To know what a restriction code is and that it contains BoJ information requires a level of technical knowledge that is generally not taught to staff - even if it does seem like a very basic thing from your perspective. The trick is to empathise and communicate in a way that gets them on side - and that doesn't necessarily mean proving you are right. Quoting chapter and verse of things people don't understand gets their backs up.
     
    Last edited: 16 Oct 2018
  19. t0ffeeman

    t0ffeeman Member

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    Just use the return portion to exit the barriers
     
  20. robbeech

    robbeech Established Member

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    I thought this. But guessing if the barriers are set to reject the outward they’ll also be set to reject the return. Given both ARE valid you’d assume the barrier response would be common.
     
  21. swt_passenger

    swt_passenger Veteran Member

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    By default the barriers will probably not be set up for break of journey at all, whatever direction. So you have to ask staff. But then the staff assume the barriers are confirming their misunderstanding.
     
  22. maniacmartin

    maniacmartin Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    I would bet money that despite what customer services say, staff will still be denying this break of journey in the future
     
  23. paul1609

    paul1609 Established Member

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    Last Summer I was walking the Saxon Shore way this involved several days of getting trains to the start of my days walk then picking up a bus to Canterbury, then a train back to Ashford. None of the return tickets worked the barriers at Canterbury West although the staff didn't have any problem let me through.
     

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