Fares system is impossible for the average person to understand

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suzanneparis

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Note: split from Print at Home Ticket / 'e-ticket' - Refused travel

Yet another example of how our ticketing system in the UK is a complete mess.

There are arcane regulations that only a few people understand = witness the disputes even on this forum full of knowledgeable people. How can the general public possibly understand the complex system we currently have. It really is impossible for the average person to understand.

We need a much simpler system. The current system is broken.
 
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Agent_c

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Yet another example of how our ticketing system in the UK is a complete mess.

There are arcane regulations that only a few people understand = witness the disputes even on this forum full of knowledgeable people. How can the general public possibly understand the complex system we currently have. It really is impossible for the average person to understand.

We need a much simpler system. The current system is broken.

Surely most of the disputes all come down to two rules - buy a ticket, and buy one before you board where physically possible.
 

najaB

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There are arcane regulations that only a few people understand...
It's not arcane that if the T&Cs of the ticket you are using require it to be printed, then you print it.
...witness the disputes even on this forum full of knowledgeable people.
Most of the disagreement in this thread has been about if that requirement should exist in the first place, not that it needs to be followed.
 

Merseysider

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What problems exactly are you referring to, suzanneparis? We'd love to help if you're having trouble understanding anything but without specifics it's difficult to interpret your post as anything other than a moan unfortunately.
 

najaB

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It's as difficult as you make it for yourself in my opinion.
Indeed. If you buy through tickets (where they exist) and get an itinerary which you follow then you're hardly likely to end up in any bother.
 

W-on-Sea

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I think the rules for print at home tickets are straightforward enough and clearly explained.

Of course there are other idiosyncrasies in the ticketing system that really make no sense, and may well deter people from travelling by train.

The key ones strike me as being: differing conditions (hours of validity, in particular) over the use of tickets that ostensibly are of the same type (post-simplification) - ie "off peak" - is one thing.

Rules about valid routes is another.

And the other concerns pricing (and overpricing) of tickets, and in particular the extraordinary savings, in some cases, that can be made by ticket-splitting (one example I know reduces a fare of over £70 almost by half, simply by splitting at the second station on the line linking the origin and destination points).
 

najaB

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Of course there are other idiosyncrasies in the ticketing system that really make no sense, and may well deter people from travelling by train.
They don't. Think of this way - if you don't know about split ticketing you will look at the price of a direct ticket and either buy it or think it's too expensive and drive/get the bus instead.

The fact that the 'complex' rules around split ticketing, permitted routes and the routeing guide don't influence your decision one way or the other because you simply don't know about them. All you have to base your decision on is price.
 

319321

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The British Council actually use our arcane railway system to teach English and British idiosyncracies to foreigners:
British Council - Booking a Train Ticket said:
M1: Next!
M2: Yes, I’ve got to go to Sunderland next Tuesday, and I’m wondering what the best and cheapest way of getting there is.
M1: Is that single or return?
M2: Return. I’d want to go reasonably early on the Tuesday and come back early evening on the Friday.
M1: I see. Er, well, there’s the East Coast Express. That goes to Sunderland every hour, quarter hour, or half hour. But you have to go to Newcastle first and then change to the metro – that’s the local rail service – to get back to Sunderland.
M2: Uh huh.
M1: The cost of a return on those dates would be ... (typing) ah, £301 – not including the metro fare. That’s for a regular off-peak return.
M2: Three hundred pounds! For one ticket?
M1: For one person. Yes, sir. Standard class.
M2: Good lord! Is there nothing cheaper?
M1: Well, er, there’s a separate Eastern Arrow service. That’s run by a different company. That also goes from London King’s Cross but the trains are not so frequent. It does go direct to Sunderland, though, and that costs, er, ... (typing) let’s see, er, ... oh, £117 for a super off-peak return. That means you have to travel before 7am, or after 7 in the evening. Or you could go for an anytime off-peak train returning within one month, and that would cost you ... (typing) er, ... ah – £129.
M2: But that means I can go direct to Sunderland for £129, or go via Newcastle, which I don’t want to do, and pay £300 for the extra inconvenience!
M1: That’s about right, sir. Confusing, isn’t it?
M2: You’re telling me! So, what restrictions are there on this anytime off-peak return ticket? Do I have to leave after 10 in the evening or something?
M1: Er ... (typing) er ... no, sir! On the Tuesday, you can leave at 8:15, 9:25, 10:05, ...
M2: Nine twenty-five sounds perfect.
M1: And the open return is for any time at all within the next calendar month.
M2: For £129?
M1: Yep.
M2: I see! How long does it take?
M1: They’re all around 3 hours 45 or 4 hours, sir, give or take a quarter of an hour.
 

W-on-Sea

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They don't. Think of this way - if you don't know about split ticketing you will look at the price of a direct ticket and either buy it or think it's too expensive and drive/get the bus instead.

The fact that the 'complex' rules around split ticketing, permitted routes and the routeing guide don't influence your decision one way or the other because you simply don't know about them. All you have to base your decision on is price.


Well - this comes to light even without knowing about split ticketing. To explain the instance I cited, I live halfway between two stations (which are a few miles apart from each other in a mostly rural area), and could easily travel from either of them. I might normally travel in certain directions from one of them , and in certain other directions from the other. But for this particular journey, and for certain others, the discrepancy in fares between the two stations is so vast (and so very much greater than the fare between the two stations) that it's impossible not to notice that something odd is afoot here.
 

Agent_c

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Well - this comes to light even without knowing about split ticketing. To explain the instance I cited, I live halfway between two stations (which are a few miles apart from each other in a mostly rural area), and could easily travel from either of them. I might normally travel in certain directions from one of them , and in certain other directions from the other. But for this particular journey, and for certain others, the discrepancy in fares between the two stations is so vast (and so very much greater than the fare between the two stations) that it's impossible not to notice that something odd is afoot here.

I think that's more of a case of corporate inertia.

Where a company is doing something it tends to continue; where a company does nothing it tends to continue to do nothing.

In this specific case, they'll almost certainly say they inherited the pricing structure from the last operator, and straight back down the line the previous non BR operators, if any, would have said the same.

Never minds they could take responsibility for the situation and do something new... easier to just keep the old way and do nothing... except of course continue the price rises that they have been doing along the way.
 

najaB

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Well - this comes to light even without knowing about split ticketing. To explain the instance I cited, I live halfway between two stations (which are a few miles apart from each other in a mostly rural area), and could easily travel from either of them. I might normally travel in certain directions from one of them , and in certain other directions from the other. But for this particular journey, and for certain others, the discrepancy in fares between the two stations is so vast (and so very much greater than the fare between the two stations) that it's impossible not to notice that something odd is afoot here.
I don't doubt that is the case, but as you said that is an oddity. The vast majority of potential passengers will never come across them.
 

Shaw S Hunter

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We need a much simpler system. The current system is broken.

Oh dear, the "we need simpler fares" complaint. Of course fares could be much simpler, the most extreme would be singles only and only one level of fare with no discounts. But whatever method of simplification is used there would be both winners and losers as a result. Would there be more winners than losers? And how accepting would those losers be of the need to make the change in the first place? Who wants to tell them? Definite vote loser so unlikely to happen in any meaningful way any time soon.
 

Hadders

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I agree that the current fares set up is highly complex and confusing but you need to be careful what you wish for.

If fares are simplified they will rise. Be prepared for the removal of split ticketing and the loss of much of the flexibility that our current complex system gives.

There would be a few winners but many, many more would lose out. Remember we're talking about the DfT and ATOC here who really can't be trusted.
 

suzanneparis

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I have given this example before but will give it again.

I was travelling to Gatwick and found a super off peak that inexplicably put me on a train to London at a peak time.

I queried this in my local ticket office. They didn't know the answer!!! Despite involving the most senior member of staff. So they kindly phoned St Pancras to ask them.

The answer came back 'it's technically ok but the onboard staff may NOT accept it'.

If the toc staff cannot answer a ticketing question then what chance have the general public got?

I repeat. The system is hopeless and broken.
 

Hadders

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I have given this example before but will give it again.

I was travelling to Gatwick and found a super off peak that inexplicably put me on a train to London at a peak time.

I queried this in my local ticket office. They didn't know the answer!!! Despite involving the most senior member of staff. So they kindly phoned St Pancras to ask them.

The answer came back 'it's technically ok but the onboard staff may NOT accept it'.

If the toc staff cannot answer a ticketing question then what chance have the general public got?

I repeat. The system is hopeless and broken.

That's staff making up their own rules. Sadly it doesn't just happen in the rail industry. Where I work I've had to deal with colleagues who haven't followed the correct procedures but made up their own rules.

The validity of the super off peak ticket between Gatwick will be detailed in the restriction code. There should be more publicity about these both internally and publically facing. You could simplify it tomorrow by removing the super off peak fare and making everyone buy the more expensive Anytime fare. The trains companies would say it's simplification which is what passengers want, they'd ignore the massive increase that passengers would be required to pay.

In the case of your Gatwick (to presumably Leicester) ticket it is valid on ANY train between Gatwick and London under the Network Area Rule. The restrictions only apply between London and Leicester. This isn't anything new, it was introduced by British Rail over 25 years ago to give passengers more flexibility when using Off Peak tickets on long distance trains via London. It's a most basic ticket rule which all revenue staff in the south east should be aware of.

It's all very well saying fares are too complex but how would you simplify them?
 
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Clip

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I have given this example before but will give it again.

I was travelling to Gatwick and found a super off peak that inexplicably put me on a train to London at a peak time.

I queried this in my local ticket office. They didn't know the answer!!! Despite involving the most senior member of staff. So they kindly phoned St Pancras to ask them.

The answer came back 'it's technically ok but the onboard staff may NOT accept it'.

If the toc staff cannot answer a ticketing question then what chance have the general public got?

I repeat. The system is hopeless and broken.

There are lots of anomolies with ticketing into london from outside the old Network South East area and this was also the case when it was British Rail so that hasnt changed and its to your benefit.
 

najaB

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I have given this example before but will give it again.

I was travelling to Gatwick and found a super off peak that inexplicably put me on a train to London at a peak time.
If NRE gives you an itinerary, then it is valid. End of story, there's no need to figure anything out.
 

Bookd

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Many of the validity queries on the forum arise from the routing guide; although I understand it in theory I find it impossible in practice, before even starting on the positive and negative variations.
If I want to drive from home to Penzance, Porthmadoc or wherever Google maps will show me a range of routes, journey times and real-time delays on each option. For the routing guide something similar is needed; rather than plotting a route through maps AB, CD etc. a search from, perhaps, Birmingham to York, would show in a simple diagram all permitted routes with a note to cover any specific restrictions (as Google do with traffic).
If this were available to both passengers and guards / RPIs this would remove a lot off confusion.
 

najaB

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For the routing guide something similar is needed; rather than plotting a route through maps AB, CD etc. a search from, perhaps, Birmingham to York, would show in a simple diagram all permitted routes with a note to cover any specific restrictions (as Google do with traffic).
If you're a programmer all the information needed to do this is available in the public domain so go ahead and give it a go. There's a good reason that nobody has done it yet - it ain't easy.
 

suzanneparis

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But the point I was making was that the ticket was allegedly ok for a non off peak time between leicester and london (then on to gatwick).

Clearly that would be wrong because everyone would buy that ticket and jump ship at st pancras. But that is what my ticket promised!!
 

najaB

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Clearly that would be wrong because everyone would buy that ticket and jump ship at st pancras. But that is what my ticket promised!!
It was not wrong. Hadders explained why it was valid for that itinerary, and in any case if an itinerary is produced when you purchase your ticket then that itinerary validates the ticket.
 

yorkie

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I have given this example before but will give it again.

I was travelling to Gatwick and found a super off peak that inexplicably put me on a train to London at a peak time.

I queried this in my local ticket office. They didn't know the answer!!! Despite involving the most senior member of staff. So they kindly phoned St Pancras to ask them.

The answer came back 'it's technically ok but the onboard staff may NOT accept it'.

If the toc staff cannot answer a ticketing question then what chance have the general public got?

I repeat. The system is hopeless and broken.
Your ticket was valid as you had an itinerary. This is simple contract law. You could have asked us that!
 

Merseysider

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But the point I was making was that the ticket was allegedly ok for a non off peak time between leicester and london (then on to gatwick).

Clearly that would be wrong because everyone would buy that ticket and jump ship at st pancras. But that is what my ticket promised!!
'Peak' times are determined by the ticket and not by the train. A train which is barred for London - Gatwick off peak tickets may well be valid for holders of other off peak tickets, such as Carlisle - Gatwick, Leicester - Gatwick, Inverness - Gatwick and so on.

Instead of panicking, just ask the forum. You'll get the right answer a lot faster. :)
 

Richard_B

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I think this issue comes down to a) railway staff incorrectly applying rules and b) people being annoyed by genuinely complex, if understandable, rules.

a) is not really the fault of the system, as whatever system there is the staff will need to be trained to apply it and this would be the case unless you literally only had a buy before boarding system with flat rate for distance traveled. But that isn't really a feasible system for large swathes of the network. So even with some simplification the staff could still go rogue.

B) people who take time to learn the system are rewarded with cheaper fares. Clever people ask the forum. As an average punter thinks the fare looks high it is not too difficult in the age of the Internet to find out if better ways are possible. If the fare seems satisfactory to them they'll go an not worry about it. All simplification does is penalise those with some to a lot of understanding of the system
 

Agent_c

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But the point I was making was that the ticket was allegedly ok for a non off peak time between leicester and london (then on to gatwick).

Clearly that would be wrong because everyone would buy that ticket and jump ship at st pancras. But that is what my ticket promised!!

Although the Off Peak rules are perhaps the most complex part of the ticketing system, I think it has to be. Peak means different things on at different times and routes. A one size fits all solution would end up preventing the off peak system working.
 
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AlterEgo

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All simplification does is penalise those with some to a lot of understanding of the system

That's a ridiculous thing to say. Simplification would make it easier for the vast majority to understand the system, and increase the layman's confidence that he had the best deal and the most appropriate ticket for the journey, minimising the risk of conflict with revenue staff.

You've neatly outlined the reason why simplification is opposed by many on the forum - basically it'll make it more expensive for the cognoscenti to bash some routes.

Fortunately this is a niche viewpoint among the general public.
 

najaB

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. You've neatly outlined the reason why simplification is opposed by many on the forum - basically it'll make it more expensive for the cognoscenti to bash some routes.

Fortunately this is a niche viewpoint among the general public.
If we moved to a 'simple' pure distance-based system, it would be the death-knell for many rural routes which have low fares for long distances.
 

yorkie

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That's a ridiculous thing to say. Simplification would make it easier for the vast majority to understand the system, and increase the layman's confidence that he had the best deal and the most appropriate ticket for the journey, minimising the risk of conflict with revenue staff.

You've neatly outlined the reason why simplification is opposed by many on the forum - basically it'll make it more expensive for the cognoscenti to bash some routes.

Fortunately this is a niche viewpoint among the general public.
Go on then, propose a simple system that does not result in fare increases for the general public... ;)
 

NSEFAN

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If you plan a journey on NRE, it will give you an itinerary and appropriate fare. Perhaps TVMs should have a "journey planner" mode to guide people who don't know the system through the process to make sure they get on the right train and have the right ticket? It can even tell them which platform to head to, and if the train is on time.

Of course the ability to buy any ticket should also be there, some kind of "ticket only" mode. The TVMs have a built-in PC anyway so it can't be beyond a company to build such a machine...
 
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