Cancellation charges on flex tickets

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1 Aug 2014
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132
The heavy cancellation charges for even flexible tickets can make the railway a hostile player at troubled times.

There's very nasty flooding around Matlock this morning. I've just passed blue-light mountain rescue and police vehicles, and a helicopter was hovering over Peak Rail's station at Darley Dale. The A6 is closed with only a tiny backroad as a diversion.

Yet I have just helped add to the congestion on that route, and taken a scarce high-ground parking space in Matlock - to make a completely discretionary journey on flexible tickets - because the trains are still running and I face a stiff penalty if I do not use the tickets I booked yesterday afternoon.

Is there any justification for a default of £10 cancellation on flexible tickets booked but not collected? If I order an item for collection from Screwfix but never make it to the store, the money gets refunded in full. And many other retailers who incur costs from non-collected orders also judge it a cost worth bearing to make online ordering attractive to customers. A non-collected rail ticket has far lower cost but is treated far less kindly.

Even if the inefficiency (or greed?) of the industry makes no-cost cancellation unthinkable as a norm, how about announcing such an amnesty at times when the wider community is facing challenges that would be helped by avoiding unnecessary travel?
 
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Haywain

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Are you seriously suggesting that the £10 administration fee on refunds has caused you to travel when you know it isn’t a good idea, but have still done so because the trains are running?
 
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But even £10 is a lot of money to many people, including me. The industry can do all it likes with word play, but whether you call it an administration fee or a usurous fine for reasonable behaviour, it is still £10.
 
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Four collection codes, one credit card payment - how does one know the penalty one faces?
Northern talk of a charge for "a ticket" not used, which would suggest multiple charges (even for multiple passengers under one collection reference?).

EMR talk of a charge per refund - which sounds as if it should be a single £10 for multiple tickets under one original payment.

But even if websites were clearly worded clearly, and even if that clarity made a passenger confident that there loss was only a single hit of £10, that is still a bad punishment for booking flexible tickets ahead of the last moment.
 

smsm1

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3 Nov 2015
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I've decided to not travel due to snow causing cancelled trains, so contacted Greater Anglia customer services and got a full refund with no admin fee for an Anytime day return which was bought that morning. As it was a mobile ticket I had to go through email to get the refund.
 

JBuchananGB

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Why do you need to purchase flexible tickets in advance?
To avoid the scrum at the booking office or TVMs in the morning.

I did this once from Billericay to London with an Anytime Day Single, and to come back with an Off peak day single (Railcard discount), which I then wished to cancel. The GA web site wanted to charge me 2 x £10 admin fees. I called their customer service and cancelled with just one such fee.
 

Iggy12a

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31 May 2017
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If you book your flexible tickets on Southern railway.com and don't collect the tickets, you can have a full refund under what they used to call their Rainy Day Guarantee, but I think they call it something simpler now, because people might have thought it needed to actually rain for the guarantee to apply.
 

Bletchleyite

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If you book your flexible tickets on Southern railway.com and don't collect the tickets, you can have a full refund under what they used to call their Rainy Day Guarantee, but I think they call it something simpler now, because people might have thought it needed to actually rain for the guarantee to apply.
True. I'd say it would make sense to abandon the admin charge for cancellation of walk-up tickets not yet collected or issued as e-tickets, as nobody has to actually do any admin (or if you just want a token sum to put people off booking tickets just in case, drop it to a nominal quid) - it's done automatically by the computer. By all means charge a tenner if you've collected them as there's actually some admin for somebody to perform.
 

Hadders

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A common reason is to get seat reservations.
Yep, get that and it is something I do. In fact I’m travelling to Bath tomorrow using a combination of walk up tickets which I purchased today from my local station to obtain a seat reservation (and one of the tickets is a Boundary Zone one which you can’t buy online :D )
 

island

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CrossCountry also doesn’t charge £10 fees for cancellations nor for Advance fare changes on tickets booked with them.

It does, however, sometimes charge £1 for ticket on departure fulfilment for journeys where e-tickets are available.
 

yorkie

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If a train you intended to catch is delayed or cancelled (or if "do not travel" warnings are in place on a route you intended to take) you are entitled to a full refund with no admin fee.

Make this fact clear when you make your refund request.
Loss would be about £33 as I have split tickets, and that is a lot to throw away.
Did you buy from multiple retailers or something?

I would recommend buying all tickets in one transaction if possible; ideally from a website that will produce a through itinerary (e.g. Loco2, Trainsplit etc). All good retailers only charge a maximum of one £10 for cancelling the whole transaction, where there is no disruption.

To avoid the scrum at the booking office or TVMs in the morning.
I did this once from Billericay to London with an Anytime Day Single, and to come back with an Off peak day single (Railcard discount), which I then wished to cancel. The GA web site wanted to charge me 2 x £10 admin fees. I called their customer service and cancelled with just one such fee.
Are e-tickets an option for you?
 
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If a train you intended to catch is delayed or cancelled (or if "do not travel" warnings are in place on a route you intended to take) you are entitled to a full refund with no admin fee.
The point of my original post was that, at the time of travel, the railway was fine, but it was the roads that were in a mess. So I had no entitlement to cancel without penalty (even if I had been unable to reach my starting station by road).

In the absence of free cancellation for flexible tickets as the norm (thanks to others for highlighting operators who offer this), perhaps we need an intermediate "no need to travel" status - when the railway companies would be pleased to have more flexible customers delay their trips to another date and so volunteer a penalty-free option.

Did you buy from multiple retailers or something?
Four return tickets bought as a single transaction: I am afraid that my expectation of profit-maximising companies (eg TOCs) is that unless there is clear wording to suggest a less expensive outcome, any ambiguity in wording generally works in their interest against mine - so I presumed that they would choose to refund each ticket separately and so hit me with £10 fees on each ticket. Thanks for the tips on better retailers.

Are e-tickets an option for you?
Yes, but I remain nervous of being punished if my device won't perform and display the ticket when requested. Is there any upside to eTickets for flexible fares?

Reflection on the original issue - EMR could have ended up paying a lot to sort me out as a result of my discretionary journey: with the Matlock branch closed by the time I was heading home, and no road transport up the Derwent valley, I suspect I would have ended up in a hotel in Derby. In the event, a kind Train Manager on my XC train from Oxford to New Street gave me the OK to divert to Macclesfield (a long way from home, but dry!) - the sort of action that would be much easier under a properly integrated railway.
 

Bletchleyite

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In the absence of free cancellation for flexible tickets as the norm (thanks to others for highlighting operators who offer this), perhaps we need an intermediate "no need to travel" status - when the railway companies would be pleased to have more flexible customers delay their trips to another date and so volunteer a penalty-free option.
It could certainly save itself a packet on 100% Delay Repay refunds that way. However, given that it's too stupid to allow taking an earlier train on an Advance (or a short-distance taxi to prevent a missed long-distance train meaning a much longer distance taxi or hotel) to avoid disruption that also costs it that...
 

Joe Paxton

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How many times, you don’t need any kind of electronic device to display an e-Ticket.
You do need an electromechanical device to print one though... and I think many will be familiar with the joys of that supposedly simple job being anything but!
 

Weekender

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CrossCountry also doesn’t charge £10 fees for cancellations nor for Advance fare changes on tickets booked with them.

It does, however, sometimes charge £1 for ticket on departure fulfilment for journeys where e-tickets are available.
This is wrong. I booked a super off peak return for travel this Saturday on the CrossCountry app. I wanted to change the booking to Sunday, went into the app and was informed the booking could not be changed and I would have to rebook and then cancel the original booking. I did this and then cancelled, it deducted £10 and told me to send the tickets which I obviously haven’t collected from the machine and send them to CrossCountry.
 

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