Buying season tickets - why so long?

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HugePilchard

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This isn't a whine about people, it's a question about the hoops that the people have to jump through in order to do their job!

Every month, I used to buy the same season ticket. Durham - Darlington, with Plusbus at the Darlington end. And, invariably, no matter which end I bought it from, it took an absolute age to do it.

Now, as I said at the top, this isn't a whine about the staff - in fact, I walked into the ticket office once to be served by a new starter, and one of his colleagues talked him through the process. And talked... and talked... and talked. Saying things like "Now, type the photocard number in again"

Can anyone tell me just why it's got to be so complicated on the part of the poor ticket office staff? Is there a reason why they couldn't just type my photocard number in, and click a big friendly button on the computer to give me exactly what I'd been using every single month previously? Is it an outdated system? A new system, that was designed by someone with no idea what ticket office staff have to deal with? Is it only staff at EC stations who have to put up with this, or is it a national thing?
 
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Nym

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Why even have to type the photocard number, it has a barcode on it.

As far as I know, it is very old and outdated, from what I can tell at NT when I re-new my season at Bolton, it takes about 3 mins to do, but thats with the staff no even having to look at what the're pressing because a County Card is very common.
 

MadCommuter

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We (Southern) issue them in a about a minute :lol:

I know that Eastbourne are currently trailing barcode scanning :lol:
My ScotRail barcodeone takes a long time to be scanned. The reader can't seem to recognise there's a bar code there. Thankfully I'm on an annual ticket now so its a less frequent chore.


 

island

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Nobody should be buying monthly tickets anyway, they should use odd periods so they don't pay for all the weekends/dates they're not using the ticket/etc. :)
 

Jonny

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Nobody should be buying monthly tickets anyway, they should use odd periods so they don't pay for all the weekends/dates they're not using the ticket/etc. :)
My understanding of season ticket pricing is that it is intended to be cheaper than one return per day for a five-day "week" and anything that one uses at the weekend is a bonus.
 

RJ

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It takes longer to issue monthly+ season tickets because we are required to register the details on the season ticket database. I can do in less than a minute for existing customers, or around 2 minutes for new customers.
 

ess

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It takes longer to issue monthly+ season tickets because we are required to register the details on the season ticket database. I can do in less than a minute for existing customers, or around 2 minutes for new customers.
if someone lost their season ticket and handed it in to a toc, would the toc get in touch using the database and tell the passenger where their season is?
 

Greenback

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It takes longer to issue monthly+ season tickets because we are required to register the details on the season ticket database. I can do in less than a minute for existing customers, or around 2 minutes for new customers.
Yes indeed, it is the recording of the details that takes time.

In the old days we had to fill out a form at the window, then go to a different system in the back office and transfer all the data on to the system there!

It sounds much quicker now, but it is still going to take longer than buying an ordinary walk up ticket or a weekly. When I buy my annual it can take four or five minutes, the system ATW uses seems to require a lot of typing!

if someone lost their season ticket and handed it in to a toc, would the toc get in touch using the database and tell the passenger where their season is?
It depends. The passenger may apply for a duplicate immediately on realising they have lost the original. In Reading we had a box full of 'found' tickets and railcards that wer eissued by us, so if someone came in and said they had lost their season, after establishing that it had been issued at Reading, we would check this box and see if it had been found and handed in already.

If not, we would check the database and see if anything had been recorded against the photocard number - ie season found at XXXXX, being sent to issuing office. We woudl then advise the customer what wa shapepning and they could buy a ticket for that day (if needed) and claim a refund when the season arrived.

Obviously, if someone working Monday to Friday lost their season on a Friday, there would be a higher chance that it would be found, handed in and be back at the issuing station by Monday!
 

jon0844

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My ScotRail barcodeone takes a long time to be scanned. The reader can't seem to recognise there's a bar code there. Thankfully I'm on an annual ticket now so its a less frequent chore.
They need to get the handheld Motorola barcode scanners that Waitrose allow customers to use. I am now able to scan from miles away, with the scan done in a fraction of a second.

Even a small barcode, or one that is curved, doesn't throw it!

Or indeed the system that ALDI uses, where you can throw items over the scanner and it will get it every single time.

If the railway does invest in barcode technology, I hope to God it doesn't buy some crap system that can't read barcodes with a 99.99% success rate.
 

HugePilchard

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It takes longer to issue monthly+ season tickets because we are required to register the details on the season ticket database. I can do in less than a minute for existing customers, or around 2 minutes for new customers.
Aha. I guess that probably explains it. You'd think that it would be done automatically, wouldn't you? Oh well; guess that would have cost another few hundreds of thousands on top of the bill for the original system if they'd requested that!

They need to get the handheld Motorola barcode scanners that Waitrose allow customers to use. I am now able to scan from miles away, with the scan done in a fraction of a second.
I did some work with a very similar piece of kit a while ago and, whilst testing it out managed to confuse my poor colleague on the other side of the office, who couldn't figure out where the red line on the ceiling was coming from!

If the railway does invest in barcode technology, I hope to God it doesn't buy some crap system that can't read barcodes with a 99.99% success rate.
Surely the way forward is contactless technology (a la Oyster)? The gates that EC have rolled out appear to have contactless readers in, and there's actually a standard that most companies are subscribing to. The only fly in the ointment there is that Oyster is incompatible with the standard. Oh well.
 

jon0844

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I don't think NFC will replace the barcode for all situations. Clearly it must for smart tickets, credit cards, in mobiles and so on - but a QR code printed on a paper ticket/ID card is fine - and keeps costs down.

It would be fair to say that any new systems introduced on the railway not only need a decent barcode scanner, but to be equipped for NFC/RFID too.

While I am not sure if Eurostar still issue them, during their testing at St Pancras (before opening) they were issuing tickets with QR codes instead of magnetic strips. The gates have readers for this at the front in case anyone didn't know, but I have to assume the readers weren't very accurate or people were too confused.

It works for the airlines as there's usually someone to take the ticket off you and hand it back.

While NFC would be fine for me and my season ticket, or to load and store individual tickets, paper tickets issued from TVMs could have barcodes that contain lots of detailed information that can't be encoded on the magstrip. Seat reservations, confirmation that the customer was advised on restrictions etc.

Onboard staff and RPIs would then have a reader for both Oyster/ITSO compliant NFC cards and barcodes.
 

button_boxer

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While I am not sure if Eurostar still issue them, during their testing at St Pancras (before opening) they were issuing tickets with QR codes instead of magnetic strips. The gates have readers for this at the front in case anyone didn't know, but I have to assume the readers weren't very accurate or people were too confused.
Eurostar print at home tickets have a 2D barcode that the gates can scan (I don't think it's a QR code specifically).
 

Deerfold

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This isn't a whine about people, it's a question about the hoops that the people have to jump through in order to do their job!

Every month, I used to buy the same season ticket. Durham - Darlington, with Plusbus at the Darlington end. And, invariably, no matter which end I bought it from, it took an absolute age to do it.

Now, as I said at the top, this isn't a whine about the staff - in fact, I walked into the ticket office once to be served by a new starter, and one of his colleagues talked him through the process. And talked... and talked... and talked. Saying things like "Now, type the photocard number in again"

Can anyone tell me just why it's got to be so complicated on the part of the poor ticket office staff? Is there a reason why they couldn't just type my photocard number in, and click a big friendly button on the computer to give me exactly what I'd been using every single month previously? Is it an outdated system? A new system, that was designed by someone with no idea what ticket office staff have to deal with? Is it only staff at EC stations who have to put up with this, or is it a national thing?

I don't know if the plusbus confuses them or what but I bought three annual tickets from Hitchin to London and a couple of monthly seasons. I don't think it ever took less than half an hour and took several manuals and people (and they still once managed to incorrectly date the wife's £1 network card so it had a month less than it should have). I did learn to tell them to issue it as a London-Hitchin+plusbus as that seemed to work more easily but I never did find out why it took so long.
 

button_boxer

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I've just bought one through Eurostar concessions, and the e-ticket has what appears to be a QR code on it. I'm told I just scan it into the gate and voila....
I'm just being a barcode geek - the E* tickets I've had in the past look more like Aztec codes (a single square "target" pattern in the centre of the 2D code) rather than QR (big squares at 3 corners and a small square just in from the fourth corner).
 
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