Free first class upgrade... or not

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railboy

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Hi guys! New to this forum, always found it a very interesting place and decided to join and share my most recent experience with Virgin Trains to see what you all think about this situation.

I was traveling from London Euston to Glasgow Central on a Sunday afternoon on a train that departed at 1525 last week. I'm visually impaired so was with my uncle who was helping me get onto the train. I decided that I'd opt for the £15 weekend first class upgrade as I expected the train to be very busy due to the olympics. When we went into the ticket office and asked for the first class upgrade we were told that you could only get it on the train. I thought this was very strange especially reading all the stories about people getting penalty fares for thinking they could buy on the train when tickets should be bought beforehand etc.

We went to the platform and my uncle helped me find a seat in first class and then my uncle went to find the train manager to buy me the first class upgrade. The guard said that I could travel free in first class through to Glasgow which I thought was very nice of him. When I left Euston all was well when my ticket was checked no problems but that was soon to change.

When I departed Preston we were informed by announcement that train crews had changed and full ticket inspections would take place. When the new guard came through he checked my ticket asked why I was traveling in first on a standard ticket and I explained the first guard gave me permission. He explained he wasn't allowed to do that and he was required to charge me the suppliment and on this occasion he wouldn't take my details but warned me in future my details could be taken for an unpaid fare or possible prosecution. After I paid the £15 my tickets were replaced by another ticket which I believed to show the excess or something like that. I cant read the tickets but presumed that was that until I got to Glasgow.

When I arrived at Glasgow Central I tried to get through using my blind pass so i could retain my ticket as a receipt but the person there obviously knew my journey started before Carlisle and asked for my ticket for my journey before Carlisle I happily handed it over for inspection but asked if I could have it back for a receipt and he was insistent that keeping your ticket wasn't allowed and that he had to keep it from me. Due to having to make a connection I wasn't in a position to try and explain the situation I had just been through so I stood down and went through to carry on with my journey home.

My uncle wasn't too happy about what had happened when I told him and said he would contact virgin to complain on my behalf but the experience does make me ask questions about what should normally happen in this situation. Although I was perfectly prepaired and happy to pay for an upgrade, I'm not too happy at being promised a free upgrade and then not getting it later in the journey and being spoken to as if i'm deliberately trying to avoid paying the first class upgrade. So I have the following questions that you might be able to answer just in case a similar situation arises in future. I've been allowed free upgrades before on Scotrail on several occasions where guards stay the same throughout the journey and I've never had an issue. My questions are as follows:

  1. Is it really true that you cant buy a first class upgrade at a train station even though the NRCoC says you must do this?
  2. If you are allowed a free upgrade to first class, should you be given an additional ticket to suppliment the one you hold e.g. a zero fare excess?
  3. If the train manager is going to change, should this permission be communicated to the new guard from the old one and if so, how would that happen in such a quick time? What if the first guard forgets or is more worried about other things?
  4. Are you normally given a freash ticket or should you be given one that is in addition to your previous one? I was traveling on an advance so ticket had 2 parts but was only given 1 part after the upgrade transaction
  5. Does ticket gate staff have to collect tickets even when you ask nicely to retain them? I was told they have to be collected unless endorsed for compansation

Thanks in advance it will be interesting to see what others have to say about this.
 
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yorkie

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Welcome to the forum :)

I thought this was very strange especially reading all the stories about people getting penalty fares for thinking they could buy on the train when tickets should be bought beforehand etc.
Virgin are not like that. Virgin do not operate a Penalty Fare scheme and, unless a barrier is in operation, Anytime fares are sold on board. First class upgrades are also available on board (space permitting!).

They don't allow upgrades before departure in case the train is too busy.

Is it really true that you cant buy a first class upgrade at a train station even though the NRCoC says you must do this?
In the case of Weekend First that is often the case. NRCoC sets out minimum rights. Many TOCs give us more rights (the best for giving us more rights are Grand Central and Hull Trains).

If a passenger boards a First TPE train with a standard ticket and sits in 1st, he will be invited to pay the difference in fare up to the cheapest first class ticket for the journey, and will be treated as a customer.

If a passenger boards a First Capital Connect train with a standard ticket and sits in 1st, he will be lucky to be let off with a Penalty Fare of TWICE the FULL 1st fare, and may face prosecution, and could be treated as a criminal.

It is therefore important to know which policy applies before boarding the train.

But we must not demand consistency... for if we get it, you can guess which way it would go... :|

If you are allowed a free upgrade to first class, should you be given an additional ticket to suppliment the one you hold e.g. a zero fare excess?
The guard was showing discretion, due to your disability. Very nice of him, however...

If the train manager is going to change, should this permission be communicated to the new guard from the old one and if so, how would that happen in such a quick time? What if the first guard forgets or is more worried about other things?
Yes, that is a concern.

The guard perhaps should have said he only had the authority to offer this free upgrade until Preston.

The problem here is that the first guard will potentially get into trouble for being nice (but not fully explaining). In an ideal world that wouldn't be the case, but I do not know what Virgin HQ will think. I'd like to think they'd side with the first guard but I do not know either way.

Are you normally given a freash ticket or should you be given one that is in addition to your previous one? I was traveling on an advance so ticket had 2 parts but was only given 1 part after the upgrade transaction
For Weekend First you will get an additional Weekend First Upgrade/Supplement ticket.

Does ticket gate staff have to collect tickets even when you ask nicely to retain them? I was told they have to be collected unless endorsed for compansation
I am surprised at this. Who did the gateline staff work for? In any case I do not see why they'd want to retain your Weekend First upgrade ticket!


If they worked for Scotrail (which I suspect they did?), I'd write to both Virgin and Scotrail. Scotrail becuse it was their member of staff who acted incorrectly (and ask them specifically if Virgin have authorised them to do this?) and Virgin because they need to know what Scotrail staff are doing to their customers.

As you were happy to pay the £15 upgrade and in the end paid it, I personally would not peruse that, however I would consider a general letter to the Company without mentioning the incident praising the standards set by the first Guard and stating that the second Guard did not act in a way that is in accordance with Virgin's Passengers Charter.

The second guard should have politely explained the situation and not threatened you with prosecution. (The charter states: At all times, we expect our staff to be smartly dressed and to respond to passengers in an efficient, considerate and courteous manner). If he had carried out his threat, I am confident a prosecution would have failed, we would have assisted you (providing what you say here is totally accurate of course) and the media would certainly have been interested, given your disability. Chances are that guard has had complaints before, and is probably one of the 'usual suspects'. Customer Services are generally aware of such individuals and usually welcome complaints so that they can take disciplinary action as appropriate.

I would pursue the ticket retention issue, and am happy to proof read a letter if you like (feel free to PM me a draft if you like).
 

railboy

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Thanks for the quick reply. Very impressive!

Virgin are not like that. Virgin do not operate a Penalty Fare scheme and, unless a barrier is in operation, Anytime fares are sold on board. First class upgrades are also available on board (space permitting!).

There were signs in the station about penalty fares so we wanted to be very careful just in case. I've never had problems with tickets on virgin before but I was also bearing in mind on my way down to London about a penalty fares sign and a station staff member recommending that my mum (who was helping me on the London bound train) bought a platform ticket at the cost of 10p.

If a passenger boards a First TPE train with a standard ticket and sits in 1st, he will be invited to pay the difference in fare up to the cheapest first class ticket for the journey, and will be treated as a customer.

If a passenger boards a First Capital Connect train with a standard ticket and sits in 1st, he will be lucky to be let off with a Penalty Fare of TWICE the FULL 1st fare, and may face prosecution, and could be treated as a criminal.

I have always been very careful when I decide to travel in First Class always ensuring that I buy the upgrade before I get on the train just in case and usually I've been able to do that. I do have a disabled railcard and I understand that someone with this railcard can buy tickets on the train without penalty but I wonder what would happen if I wanted to buy on the train as I couldn't at station for example I dont manage well in big crowds and would hope I could manage to not be treated like a criminal for this reason. When I arrived in London for my short stay there I had to queue for nearly an hour at a tube station office to get my railcard discount loaded onto an oyster card after waiting for 20 minutes in a queue at the train station and being told I couldn't do it there.

I am surprised at this. Who did the gateline staff work for? In any case I do not see why they'd want to retain your Weekend First upgrade ticket!

I'm not sure but it was a manual inspection done at platform 1 that has no physical gates. They had orange jackets on not the yellow ones that the other gate staff have. He did say something about being an authorised ticket collector and tried to show an identification but i couldn't read it. Maybe he was a network rail person but again I'm unsure as i cant read the name badges (most annoying sometimes)

As you were happy to pay the £15 upgrade and in the end paid it, I personally would not peruse that

I wasn't planning on persuing a complaint with virgin about this. They have been nice to me in the past. It was my uncle who said he wasn't happy when I told him what happened and he said he would chase it up with virgin, whether he did or not I'm unsure but I just thought it was an unusual experience that I didn't expect to happen.

I would pursue the ticket retention issue, and am happy to proof read a letter if you like (feel free to PM me a draft if you like).

Thanks thats very nice of you. Unfortunately I dont know whether the people doing these checks were virgin or scotrail or national rail or someone else so not much point chasing it up. I'm not that bothered anyway I just wanted to hold onto it to see if it was correctly issued because I was given a brand new, fresh ticket. I know that because my ticket was punched by the first guard and when given the new one it wasn't punched.

Sorry about my slow response I'm still getting used to this!
 

dave87016

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I may be wrong but I am sure that I read somewhere that wheelchair users can upgrade to First Class at weekends free of charge ( as long as there is space) , not sure if this applies to visually impaired.

I think the guard from Euston may have enforced this ( correctly or incorrectly) I dont know and possibly the guard from Preston took a different view of things
 

SussexMan

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I do have a disabled railcard and I understand that someone with this railcard can buy tickets on the train without penalty....

Can someone confirm whether this is true? I could certainly understand it if there was no booking office open and the ticket machines were the only option (and unlikely to be accessible to many visually impaired people) but does the NRCOC refer to it or would it be down to other legislation around Disability Discrimination?
 

GadgetMan

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Can someone confirm whether this is true? I could certainly understand it if there was no booking office open and the ticket machines were the only option (and unlikely to be accessible to many visually impaired people) but does the NRCOC refer to it or would it be down to other legislation around Disability Discrimination?

The official rule applying to the Disabled railcard is that they must buy tickets before boarding a train if there is an opportunity to purchase at the station. Same rule that applies to everyone else.

I should add that accessibility to the ticket office/machine also plays a part.

People with learning difficulties who may find it difficult to use a TVM are also to be shown discretion.

However individual TOCs can/do have there own policy that offers Disabled passengers more flexibility.

Staff discretion/common sense should also apply as and when the situation requires it.
 
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scotsman

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railboy will have arrived at one of the barriered platforms in Central - staffed by ScotRail and agency staff. The new guys have a reputation have a reputation for being very petty (they once refused a Traction Inspector access to the platform on which his train was arriving because they were told not to let anyone on...they never realised he was driving)
 

yorkie

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Can someone confirm whether this is true?
It's certainly true on East Coast and Virgin Trains, who give this additional right to Disabled Railcard holders. However it's down to individual TOCs to decide whether or not to give additional rights or not, and I doubt any of the Penalty Fare TOCs share this policy.
 

island

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railboy will have arrived at one of the barriered platforms in Central - staffed by ScotRail and agency staff. The new guys have a reputation have a reputation for being very petty (they once refused a Traction Inspector access to the platform on which his train was arriving because they were told not to let anyone on...they never realised he was driving)

Could also have been a manual barrier at plat. 1 or 2.
 

rail-britain

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If they worked for Scotrail (which I suspect they did?), I'd write to both Virgin and Scotrail. Scotrail becuse it was their member of staff who acted incorrectly (and ask them specifically if Virgin have authorised them to do this?) and Virgin because they need to know what Scotrail staff are doing to their customers
Normally a Euston service will arrive into Platform 1/2 which will be a manual barrier (as there are no automated barriers)
This is typically manned by Virgin Trains, but can also be manned by ScotRail
As above, they are being overzealous at the moment and retaining any and all tickets that have been used

However if the Euston service arrives at Platform 9, 10, or 11, then it will be an automatic barrier

The solution here is to always ask for a receipt when purchasing the ticket

Sadly ScotRail take little heed in complaints about their barriers, I have now made in excess of 10 complaints and have also seen staff denied access when they are clearly going to be working on the (waiting) service
 

voyagerdude220

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Hi Railboy,

If you held a standard advance or off peak ticket, you were right to be charged the £15 upgrade.

However, if you held an anytime ticket you may travel in First Class for free at weekends with Virgin.

Many a time I've held a Standard ticket, sat in First and been asked to pay the upgrade- and politely declined it.
 

calc7

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Hi Railboy,

If you held a standard advance or off peak ticket, you were right to be charged the £15 upgrade.

However, if you held an anytime ticket you may travel in First Class for free at weekends with Virgin.

Many a time I've held a Standard ticket, sat in First and been asked to pay the upgrade- and politely declined it.

You wouldn't purchase an Anytime Single from London to Glasgow at the weekend when an Off-Peak Single (or Off-Peak Return for pence more) is valid.

The Virgin "Anytime to First Class" weekend easement is useful for shorter trips where the Anytime fares are reasonably priced (or priced by the likes of Northern Rail).

It is useful for Virgin as some customers who hold a long-distance Anytime Return will "waste" it on these services!
 

voyagerdude220

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I'm fully aware Calc7, I just wanted to double check that the OP didn't hold an anytime ticket.
 

All Line Rover

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I'm fully aware Calc7, I just wanted to double check that the OP didn't hold an anytime ticket.

The OP held an Advance ticket, as you are allowed to purchase an upgrade before boarding for Off-Peak tickets (£15) and Anytime tickets (£0).
 

route:oxford

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The solution here is to always ask for a receipt when purchasing the ticket

Which is useful, but better still to retain the ticket in order that a complaint can be made about service issues on this or earlier connecting services.

What's the rule about the connecting bus service between the two stations?

I've used a Euston-Glasgow ticket to get myself to Queen Street in order to purchase a ticket to Stirling from there.
 

andykn

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...Is it really true that you cant buy a first class upgrade at a train station even though the NRCoC says you must do this?
...

First Great Western say you can't buy Weekend First upgrades in advance:

"Buy your Weekend First upgrade on board any First Great Western service which has First Class accommodation. Please note Weekend First is not available to purchase at ticket offices."

http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Your-journey/On-board/First-class

I seem to remember South West trains are the same.
 

CC 72100

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Who employs the yellow jacketed muppets manning the barriers at Central? Unprofessional and rude imo.

I believe they are an external security agency.

The problem is that people ask them 'railway questions' which they do not know the answer to, annoying people. We all know how passengers sometimes think 'bloke in high-viz jacket - he must know the answer' and these guys (through no fault of their own, crowd management is their job) can't provide the answers.
 

Brucey

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The solution here is to always ask for a receipt when purchasing the ticket

Unfortunately that isn't great if you start at a station with only a TVM. Look at the image I've attached. It doesn't say for how many people or where you travelled to/from. Some employers get very fussy when it comes to receipts like this.

(And yes, I had a problem submitting this very receipt to a former employer)
 

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calc7

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Unfortunately that isn't great if you start at a station with only a TVM. Look at the image I've attached. It doesn't say for how many people or where you travelled to/from. Some employers get very fussy when it comes to receipts like this.

(And yes, I had a problem submitting this very receipt to a former employer)

Agreed - not useful at all.

Though of course expense claims between a private company and its employees are not of concern to the railway.
 

jon0844

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But surely a receipt can convey a bit more useful information than that? That's just bad programming.

And surely there's no actual need to try and print anything in the style of a ticket. As most, if not all, printers now print images - you could use the same ticket stock and write 'Not valid for travel' on the top or bottom and then print the receipt itself sideways, itemising key data in a smaller font. It would become even more obvious that it wasn't a rail ticket if you end up with these mixed up with actual tickets in your wallet/ticket holder.
 

island

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I agree with jonmorris0844 that it is bad programming. However, for now, we are stuck with it.
 

jon0844

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Like so many things on the railway! One of many things that causes major inconvenience but would fail the 'What would you rather, a train on time or fixing xxxx?' question.
 

andykn

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Agreed - not useful at all.

Though of course expense claims between a private company and its employees are not of concern to the railway.

Should be. Otherwise they might lose customers. People might drive rather than have the hassle of having expense claims continually queried.
 

calc7

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Should be. Otherwise they might lose customers. People might drive rather than have the hassle of having expense claims continually queried.

I imagine somebody has done a business case on these marginal customers and worked out cost of change > lost revenue
 

voyagerdude220

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Isn't this a discretionary policy though, not an automatic right?

It is subject to availability, but it should always be honoured if the service isn't particularly busy.

What I meant is that the TM has offered me the upgrade, forgetting the easement. Both times the TM has sighed to themselves for their mistake and moved on.

I did once have an incident where unusually a CSA checked tickets on my double Super Voyager, asked me to move to Standard (despite not even offering me the chance to pay the Weekend First- and also not being able to take money from me as he wasn't the TM nor had a ticket machine for that reason) and argued with me about sitting in First.

It was only after a few minutes, he eventually crew-called the TM who was on the rear set (one TM across the two sets) and ten minutes later the CSA admitted he had been wrong and didn't know about ticketing etc. (I know CSA is Customer Service and Catering, but the TM had told him to check tickets, despite not being able to do anything about any problems he may find).
 

34D

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It is subject to availability, but it should always be honoured if the service isn't particularly busy.

I thought (from this forum) that it was a case of ask the TM prior to sitting down, not potentially get their back up by taking a seat anyway?
 

tony_mac

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I thought (from this forum) that it was a case of ask the TM prior to sitting down, not potentially get their back up by taking a seat anyway?

It is, but not a lot you can do if the TM is in the other set.
 

snail

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They don't allow upgrades before departure in case the train is too busy.
Do you know what the cut off time is for this. Is it the same as the seat reservation deadline, which was about 2 hours before departure?

I've bought Virgin weekend first upgrades in advance several times, it's often cheaper to get an Off-Peak return + upgrades than two Advance 1st tickets. You still get seats reserved and have some flexibility if you need it as the upgrade is dated but isn't tied to the reserved train.
 
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