FCC again making it difficult for railcard holders

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by Carefree, 15 Nov 2011.

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  1. Carefree

    Carefree Member

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    The first railcard-permitted service south from Flitwick station is the 1004 First Capital Connect.

    Half of Flitwick knows this, so there is always a significant (10-ish minute) queue at the one-man booking office around this time (and getting there any earlier doesn't help - as the office refuses to sell railcard tickets before a certain time).

    The station has two ticket machines: (1) a newer one that doesn't wok because there is a fault with the touch-screen; (2) a slightly older one that does work, but also suffers from queues AND will not issue railcard tickets until 1000. Add to this the fact that the machine uses a clock that is two minutes slower than that used by FCC for the timing of it's trains.

    Thus, a passenger arriving in good time for the 1004 has 2mins to go through the purchase and payment process on the one working machine, and to run across the footbridge from platform 4 to platform 1 if they wish to catch the first valid train. And that is if they are the first person in the queue for the ticket machine. I've pretty fit, and only just managed this sprint (with a stumble on the way down the platform 1 steps) the last time I tried it.

    I pose exactly the same question as always on this: what can be done to make FCC rectify this situation. Though I know the correct answer is: "Nothing because they couldn't care less, and nobody is regulating them."
     
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  3. AlterEgo

    AlterEgo Established Member

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    Have you tried tweeting them about this? It sounds trite I know, but a lot of TOCs will respond more quickly (and are more motivated to provide a favourable outcome) when the question and answer are in the public domain.

    A few weeks ago Bedford station were wrongly advertising an EMT service as "peak" which was not the case. FCC sorted this within an hour after it was brought to their attention on Twitter.

    Now, this isn't going to be resolved in an hour, but it's worth a try.

    Have you previously complained to FCC by writing to them? What about Passenger Focus? (you can only wrote to them to complain about how a previous complaint was resolved - they aren't a regulator but a watchdog. A mediation service if you will)
     
  4. LexyBoy

    LexyBoy Established Member Fares Advisor

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    The situation you describe isn't particular to FCC- all ticket machines enforce railcard time restrictions until the relevant time.

    All I can suggest is that you write to FCC reminding them of their obligation to sell the ticket requested and asking why this is not done. If that gets you nowhere write to Passenger Focus.

    Sadly I think this is pretty widespread. I've been told more than once that it is not possible, despite the ticket clerk being willing to sell it. I do not believe this to be the case, as I have had it done, plus there seems to be a way of doing anything with ticketing systems if you know how!
     
  5. mikeg

    mikeg Member

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    Surely they're breaching the impartiality rules by refusing to sell railcard discounted tickets before 1000? I thought in these circumstances they should explain the minimum fare rule and stamp the ticket 'restrictions explained' ?

    By this I am referring to the ticket office, not the TVM.
     
  6. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I think there's only one Railcard this applies to (16-25), and only for tickets that cost less than £12 when discounted.

    What I'd be tempted to do is simply write to FCC, state you wish to get that train on a regular basis, ask what time they suggest you arrive at the station in order to purchase a ticket for it. I am happy to proof read if you like. If FCC are uncooperative we can take it further. But to start with, put the onus on them to suggest a solution.
     
  7. Carefree

    Carefree Member

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    It's a Network Railcard I'm using. The machine doesn't even display this railcard as an option prior to 1002, and will only sell me a full-priced ticket. I understand the ticket office, should you be lucky enough to ever reach the front of the queue, refuses to sell a railcard discounted ticket before 1000.
     
  8. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Impartial retailing dictates that they are not allowed to refuse sale of a ticket in the manner described. They also need to be informed of the timing errors on the ticket machine. It might not matter for FCC, however it matters a great deal to a passenger who might miss their train due to the 2-minute error programmed in the machine.
     
  9. AlterEgo

    AlterEgo Established Member

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    I really don't understand this. The ticket office are only doing themselves out of a job...maybe buy online in future Carefree?? *sigh*

    Disappointing.
     
  10. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Might not be a problem originated from the ticket office. They could be following orders from higher up, mind you.

    Unfortunately senior management cannot shed themselves of responsibility in this matter. Their attitude stinks.
     
  11. Carefree

    Carefree Member

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    I'd be interested in further info to back this up. Whereas they used to endorse tickets and bring the restrictions to the passenger's attention, it is now FCC policy to refuse to sell all time-restricted railcard-discounted tickets prior to 10am through ticket office windows (and prior to whatever time the ticket machines think is 10am). I have encountered this at Bedford, Flitwick, Luton and St Pancras. Who would be responsible for enforcing impartial retailing?
     
  12. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Impartial retailing is a franchise obligation. I will have a dig later today for documents. Others might find it before me.

    If it has become FCC policy then I think we will need to challenge that.
     
  13. hairyhandedfool

    hairyhandedfool Established Member

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    Back when I worked for Thameslink I vaguely recall something about not selling certain tickets at restricted times, but I don't recall actually reading it anywhere, this may be something clerks were 'taught' to do. There was never an issue when buying a day ahead though.

    I rather suspect this may be something to do with the rather ineffiencient way Thameslink operated it's RPIs, rather then clerks deciding not to sell tickets. There seemed to be no logic to which trains RPIs went on, but you could be sure it would usually only be on part of the network and at particular times.

    I can't say if this is still the way things happen on FCC, because I've never worked for them. Although I was rather disappointed with some things I heard about certain managers (from staff I still know there) when I was last down in London.

    It is definately part of impartial retailing that they sell tickets at any time, but they must make you aware of the restrictions and they can put 'validity advised' on the ticket to make RPIs aware that you were told of the restriction.
     
  14. trevmonk

    trevmonk Member

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    I had the same problem at St Albans catching the 10.02 with a railcard. I found the easiest way to get a ticket before 10.00 was to order online and pick it up from a Fasticket machine. You can pick up the ticket anytime, including the day before. You just hit the 'collect ticket' button, stick the card you paid with in the machine and it will print the ticket instantly. About 20 seconds from arriving at the machine to having the ticket in hand, and at anytime of the day.

    I used the Southern website to buy FCC tickets, which was also paying cashback until recently. With Southern an order could be picked up from the machine almost instantly but I have noticed that ordering from South West Trains site has a delay of an hour or two before you can pick up.
     
  15. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    This just further illustrates how useless such a system is and how it makes no sense other than to cause inconvenience to the innocent travelling public.
     
  16. CompactDstrxion

    CompactDstrxion Member

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    The programming of TVMs in this regard baffles me. They should sell railcard-discounted tickets from about 9.45. You should be able to buy such a ticket and board a train scheduled to depart at 1000 without inconvenience.
     
  17. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    There's an 0958 from Flitwick to London though.

    perhaps they could put a near-permanent RPI sting on that service?

    I also assume that people must be getting travelcard tickets (or other beyond St Pancras), as the off-peak return fare to London is £13, so there's no NSE discount weekdays anyway.
     
  18. Carefree

    Carefree Member

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    Though I would welcome the appearance RPIs up this way (as I always travel with a valid ticket, and resent those who do not), this isn't necessarily needed. It is almost impossible to exit the FCC route in the London core without encountering ticket gates - and these surely can be programmed to reject 'twerly' tickets.

    The off-peak return fare from Flitwick to London Thameslink is £16.00, and £22 for an all-zones travelcard. Thus, NSE discounts do apply (if you can get 'em).
     
  19. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    ah, I thought I'd turned off "with a railcard" in my ptions when looking at fares; I hadn't.
     
  20. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    I avoid ticket offices like the plague due to previous bad experiences. It's largely possible to do so by buying tickets online. Or, if you're a frequent visitor and well aware that you may encounter issues, you should be able to buy one from the TVM the evening before. Sometimes if things aren't the way they're supposed to be, you have to find workarounds in the short term. By all means, take it up with Customer Services if you feel it will help, but I wouldn't waste my time.

    Personally, I would sell whatever was asked for. I had my own stylised "Restriction Advised" stamp and I'd write "First train 10:04" or whatever in large figures. On the other side of the coin, when on revenue duties I had to deal with liars telling me that "one of you [ticket office clerk] said this would be valid for immediate travel," until I pointed out to them that they bought it from a TVM. I think it's right that the TVMs are set to be rigid in enforcing restrictions, as many people don't bother to read the restrictions and end up arguing with staff who are doing their job correctly by excessing up to the correct price.
     
    Last edited: 15 Nov 2011
  21. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    There's another FCC oddity - 'Off Peak' tickets at St Albans can be bought for trains leaving for London after 9.30am, but the car park 'Off-peak' doesn't start till 10am.....
     
  22. hairyhandedfool

    hairyhandedfool Established Member

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    Maybe, but could they be programmed to reject Off Peak tickets (or those with Railcards) from Flitwick (40+ minutes from London), but allow Off Peak tickets (or those with railcards) from West Hampstead (ten minutes from London) in the same time period?
     
  23. MarkyMarkD

    MarkyMarkD Member

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    No, they should sell railcard discounted tickets at any time.

    You might need a ticket leaving that station later in the day, and know that you will be short of time later. There's no legitimate reason why you shouldn't be allowed to plan ahead and buy your afternoon ticket in the morning, with your railcard discount. (Or, for that matter, an off peak ticket which is not valid for travel for several hours after the time you choose to purchase it).

    All it needs is a warning on the machine informing you of the restrictions - which they already ought to be giving you for any tickets other than Anytime without restrictions.
     
  24. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    You're making the wrongful assumption that everyone who uses TVMs engages their brain/won't try to pull a fast one! It has been said in threads on this forum recently that it's above and beyond the reasonable for people press the correct button out of a choice of "single" and "return," so I doubt it'd be a good solution for all concerned!
     
  25. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    In an ideal world, yes. However as others have pointed out, TVMs are not required to be impartial at the moment, only ticket offices.
     
  26. Carefree

    Carefree Member

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    So do I. I tend to buy tickets online and collect as often as possible for two main reasons: (1) FCC now so frequently try to sell me a ticket more expensive than the one that I want that I find this the best way to avoid such legalised theft; and (2) I dislike FCC to such an extent that if I can legitimately deprive them a penny of income by buying my ticket from someone else I will do so. (Not to mention: (3) I get a tiny bit of cashback if I use Red Spotted hanky).

    I feel there is now such a weight of evidence against FCC (see my previous posts, and those by countless others on this forum) that were they a plumber or a builder (rather than a privatised monopoly with an unregulated charter to rip off the public) they would be a regular feature on a programme such as 'Rogue Traders'; and likely as not closed town by Trading Standards.
     
  27. island

    island Established Member

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    If a ticket that's not valid for immediate travel is sold by a TVM, the passenger will complain when charged up "if it's not valid, why is it on the machine?"

    It's no less a problem than the converse "oh I'm not sure when off-peak is, better buy an Anytime ticket so we don't get fined". Especially on Saturday.
     
  28. WelshBluebird

    WelshBluebird Established Member

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    Surely the answers to both of those points is to make it VERY clear on the machine about ticket restrictions?

    Perhaps have an additional screen for tickets that are not valid for immediate travel saying specifically that.
     
  29. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    This is very likely to happen with the majority of people using TVMs and it is a fair point. What some members of this forum don't seem to understand (the perception of customer service is clearly lost on said people) is that not everybody is savvy when it comes to railway ticketing. As someone who has worked with tickets and revenue protection, I've seen supposedly intelligent people failing to take in the information shown on the screen of a TVM. Time restictions are usually shown or available to see on a TVM. I still think it'd be a bad idea to further clutter up TVMs with useless options that benefit a very small minority of people.
     
  30. thewolf

    thewolf Member

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    It does seem a bit daft that (on many machines) you can buy tickets for the next day, and even the day after, but not tickets for later on the same day...
     
  31. RJ

    RJ Established Member

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    It's not daft at all, because a great amount of people don't bother reading the restrictions shown and end up giving staff grief when they found they've bought a ticket that isn't valid. For example, buying a ticket from a TVM marked FCC ONLY, using it on a Southern service then giving staff grief when they are quite rightly charged for a new ticket. Virgin Trains/London Midland another case in point.

    It's slightly harder to justify using an out of date ticket.

    Restrictions are already shown on TVMs. It's not the machines that are the problem, it's the carelessness of the people using them. For some strange reason, some people choose not to read what's there on the screen in front of them, then blame the complexity of the system when the real issues is that they chose to ignore the information available for what they were buying.
     
    Last edited: 16 Nov 2011
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