Guardian article: XC's Head of Communications gives out incorrect information

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Jordeh

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Interesting article on the Guardian website where head of Communication at XC is interviewed about the expensive walk-up fares on the network.

From reading it and some opinions on Twitter, XC come out of it very arrogant and almost unprofessional. Whilst some expensive fares could be justified given the over-crowding and the fact some fares are out of their control, XC make a terrible impression in this interview.

He also falsely states you won't be covered for a delay with split tickets which is quite concerning that someone so senior doesn't understand the ticketing system and gives out false information.

The Guardian said:
GW: I then booked the two parts of my journey separately on your website. I bought one ticket from St Austell to Birmingham, and one from Birmingham to Macclesfield, on the same CrossCountry trains I'd been quoted £147.50 for. The new price was £65. That's £80 cheaper.

RG: Yeah.

GW: How can you justify that?

RG: If you choose to buy multiple tickets for a simple journey, you may find it's considerably cheaper. But you're not getting the guarantee of the service all the way through. If your train from A to B was delayed, and you missed the train from B to C, you'd have to buy a new ticket.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/apr/13/rip-off-britain-everything-expensive?CMP=twt_gu
 
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emorris

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That is rather concerning. However, if the people who set the fares actually think that's true (through ticket "guaranteeing" you of the full journey (edit: whereas split ticketing not)), then I'm not surprised they're so high!
 
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Greenback

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That is rather concerning. However, if the people who set the fares actually think that's true (through ticket "guaranteeing" you of the full journey), then I'm not surprised they're so high!

It is very concerning, but in my view it is indicative of the lack of understanding that exists in XC's pricing policy.
 

OuterDistant

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I saw it too! Particularly enjoyed this gem:

RG: I don't think it would be useful for customers to put a section on our website to explain how the fare system works. I think it's providing a level of complication.
 

General Zod

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Oh hai ! But surely fares have been simplified ! Advance, Anytime and Off Peak - what could be simpler ! :D:D

GW: Who sets the system?

RG: The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc). They would be quite happy to explain the national fare structure.


Is there a pdf freely available in the online public domain, which one could download from ATOC, that explains the national fare structure ?
 
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Tav77

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For Head of Communications he doesn't communicate very well!

IMO he comes across as an arrogant, ill informed person
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Interesting article on the Guardian website where head of Communication at XC is interviewed about the expensive walk-up fares on the network.

"RG" claims the reason XC were able to offer an advance fare for St Austell to Birmingham but not to Macclesfield was that they do not set the fare for Birmingham-Macclesfield.
But they do! According to Avantix 11, SAU-BHM or MAC, or BHM-MAC, it's all XC ("CC") fares.
So what's all that about?
 

General Zod

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For Head of Communications he doesn't communicate very well!

IMO he comes across as an arrogant, ill informed person

RG: I think that £147.50 to travel from St Austell to Macclesfield is a fair price for the journey.

GW: You keep telling me it's fair, but when people read this they're going to say: it's absurd and you're ignoring my question. Why can't CrossCountry write on their ticket site, "It may be cheaper to book your journeys separately."

RG: Because not every customer wishes to do what you've tried to do.

GW: Not every customer wishes to save money? It is a hassle, but you should still tell them. Why won't you?

RG: Because that would be confusing to customers.

GW: I think customers would like to save money.

RG: I think we disagree on what we think our customers would prefer.


He's basically said that he disagrees with the journo on the fact that people would like to save over 55% for their train journey.
 

MarkyMarkD

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Not the best set of answers. It would be considerably more honest to simply say that they set fares at the highest possible levels they can (where they are not regulated), in order to maximise their profits; and that the reason that split ticketing can be cheaper is that on certain parts of their routes they are in competition with other operators and hence HAVE to price competitively to encourage customers to buy their fares (on which they get all the income) rather than cross-operator fares where they would get a small share of the income.

But far easier to blame it all on ATOC and keep repeating that 50p a mile isn't a high fare!

50p a mile is a high fare. It is more than the all-in cost of driving by car on your own. So they are completely not price competitive for anyone who (a) has the option of driving or even more so (b) who is travelling with anyone else.
 

starrymarkb

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Given that East Coast and FGW do have an arrangement where it is possible to buy a combined GW+EC advance ticket from the SW to NE. I'm not sure his argument about multiple TOCs holds water.

I've noticed XC advances are both rare and poor value. IE the XC Advance Exeter to Bristol (x2 for out and back) is about the same price as the FGW set all operator Off Peak return!

Whenever I looked at SW to Scotland their advance fares compared very badly with Easyjet (even factoring fuel and parking getting to Bristol Airport!)

I've just tried Exeter to Glasgow for the 30th April return the following day - XC is £168 Standard Advance! Easyjet from Bristol is £87.98 (including Card Fee) (factor in £15 fuel to Bristol and £24 parking brings the total to £126)

Midweek in June (Out 13th back 14th) gives XC Advance: £168 - Flybe (Economy EXT-GLA): £116 and Easyjet (Standard BRS to GLA): £56.98 interestingly Easyjet Flexible (a near walk up ticket with everything included) is £190.
 

MarkyMarkD

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"RG" claims the reason XC were able to offer an advance fare for St Austell to Birmingham but not to Macclesfield was that they do not set the fare for Birmingham-Macclesfield.
But they do! According to Avantix 11, SAU-BHM or MAC, or BHM-MAC, it's all XC ("CC") fares.
So what's all that about?
It'sa appalling. He manages in the course of a dozen answers to lie twice, once about the need to "buy a new ticket" if the first leg of a through journey is delayed when split ticketing, and secondly about who sets which fares. And even if XC did not set the fare from SAU-MAC, they could still make quota available on their trains for advances.
 

bignosemac

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, they could still make quota available on their trains for advances.

Which they indeed do on BHM-MAC. There's a whole slew of Advance Purchase set by CrossCountry on that flow.

Richard Gibson. What a chump.
 

yorkie

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For Head of Communications he doesn't communicate very well!

IMO he comes across as an arrogant, ill informed person
Agreed.

Most of what he passes of as fact, is wrong. The rest is his opinion, and it does not put XC in a good light.

Any volunteers to send some letters to relevant organisations, requesting some 'clarification'? Please PM me if you can assist ;)

Incorrect or irrelevant information given by Richard Gibson:

"Not all journeys have an advance fare"
This is irrelevant, as there are advance fares for the flow in question. The issue here will be regarding allocations, but he either isn't knowledgeable enough to know that or is deliberately being awkward. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume lack of knowledge.

"But Birmingham to Macclesfield is set by another operator."
incorrect. Birmingham to Macclesfield flow is owned by CrossCountry! Both CrossCountry and Virgin offer Advance fares for that flow. But the Birmingham to Macclesfield flow is irrelevant when discussing a St Austell to Macclesfield ticket.

"The way fares are set, we cannot provide allocation of advance fares on the second part."
This is completely incorrect, they can provide an allocation if they choose to!

"Because that is the way the system is set."
Again, incorrect, the reason is entirely in the hands of XC. It is XC who determine the quotas.

"[ATOC] would be quite happy to explain the national fare structure"
This is irrelevant. There's no reason why he cannot do so, apart from the fact he does not understand it himself! But ATOC are not to blame for the lack of XC Advance ticket availability. I think that what needs to happen, is some letters need to be sent to ATOC stating that XC have blamed ATOC, and can ATOC confirm if XC are correct or not? Of course, we know it is is incorrect, but it would be great to hear ATOC's view ;) Perhaps ATOC will be able to have a word with someone higher up at XC and ask them to ask Richard Gibson to refrain from making such comments in future.

"If you choose to buy multiple tickets for a simple journey, you may find it's considerably cheaper. But you're not getting the guarantee of the service all the way through. If your train from A to B was delayed, and you missed the train from B to C, you'd have to buy a new ticket."
This is incorrect. He is either unaware of the Advance ticket conditions regarding delays, and NRCoC Condition 19 allowing more than one ticket for one journey, or he is deliberately disregarding them. I'll again give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is not familiar with the Conditions of Carriage or Ticket Conditions. He is also seemingly unaware of the "Advance Fares FAQs" in The Manual. What needs to happen, is for someone to ask XC to confirm if they comply with the NRCoC and if they follow the guidance in The Manual. I'm sure XC will say "yes" when asked that question ;) To which a reply can ask whether or not Richard Gibson should perhaps check The Manual before giving incorrect information to the media?

"This is the industry system and you'd need to contact Atoc."
Incorrect. We did contact ATOC regarding ticket combinations, and ATOC said the opposite of what he is saying, and this was clarified in The Manual last Summer in the Advance Fares FAQs. Perhaps he should contact ATOC himself, but he wouldn't need to if only he read the rules himself.

" I think the fare of £147.50, at less than 50p per mile, is a fair price for the 300-mile journey."
Daft opinion. That's fine; everyone needs to spread the word that other operators are cheaper than XC, and that XC thinks that a much higher price than other operators charge is a fair price for them to charge. Customers can make up their own choices, and I spread the word to everyone I can. We all need to do this.

" Because not every customer wishes to do what you've tried to do."
Daft opinion. Sure, of course not every customer does, but anyone who does, can save a fortune. Those who want to, will do, and he cannot stop them or erode their rights.

" I think we disagree on what we think our customers would prefer."
Daft opinion. We certainly do disagree!

" I don't think it would be useful for customers to put a section on our website to explain how the fare system works. I think it's providing a level of complication."
Daft opinion. Given that he does not understand how the fare system works, it is unsurprising he thinks his customers wont! However the problems with a lack of Advance ticket availability as described in this article are nothing to do with how the wider fare system works at all, it's purely down to XCs policies and decisions by XC on advance quota availability.

Huge own goal by Richard Gibson, and some serious questions need to be asked. Any volunteers?
 

All Line Rover

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50p a mile is a high fare. It is more than the all-in cost of driving by car on your own. So they are completely not price competitive for anyone who (a) has the option of driving or even more so (b) who is travelling with anyone else.

I know - it might have been cheap a century ago but it isn't any longer. Our weekly petrol bill would be over £150 if we paid 50p a mile! (It's about £50 ;)). Or, if we had to pay for the 4 of us (like we'd have to do on a train), that's £600 a week! :shock: I think we'd be broke! :lol:

Virgin can manage to charge £32.50 for a 200 mile peak time journey (Manchester to London on a Friday morning) - that's just over 16p a mile, almost identical to the cost of fuel for a car.

I think this person is the worst communications manager I have ever seen. I can't find a single response that is actually correct! The British Gas COO was much more reasonable.
 

185

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Other related humour from the Arriva group. In one of the UK's most deprived areas, Arriva Bus recently withdrew child fares.
 

pendolino

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Loaded or not, nothing excuses giving misleading and inaccurate answers.

To be honest, reading the questions (and those asked to others interviewed by the Graun, particularly that with the sommelier from La Gavroche) it reads like the transcript of a telephone interview. I wonder if he was given any time to actually research the questions being asked? He's head of communications, not an RPI, so not entirely surprising he doesn't know all the ins and outs of a complicated ticketing system.
 

SS4

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Loaded or not, nothing excuses giving misleading and inaccurate answers.

Even when the questions have no scope for an accurate answer? Asking XC is loaded in itself - why not ask LM? Answer: because LM have reasonable ticket prices and XC do not.

GW: Do you think that's a fair way to treat your customers?
So loaded.

Virgin can manage to charge £32.50 for a 200 mile peak time journey (Manchester to London on a Friday morning) - that's just over 16p a mile, almost identical to the cost of fuel for a car.

£32.50? Is there a typo there ;)
 

pendolino

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I know - it might have been cheap a century ago but it isn't any longer. Our weekly petrol bill would be over £150 if we paid 50p a mile! (It's about £50 ;)).

For a genuine comparison though you need to take into account servicing, insurance, road tax, depreciation, cost of any finance etc etc not just fuel cost.
 

SS4

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To be honest, reading the questions (and those asked to others interviewed by the Graun, particularly that with the sommelier from La Gavroche) it reads like the transcript of a telephone interview. I wonder if he was given any time to actually research the questions being asked? He's head of communications, not an RPI, so not entirely surprising he doesn't know all the ins and outs of a complicated ticketing system.

Adding even further to the idea of such loaded questions.

Make no mistake, this "reporter" already knew the answers he wanted to hear and designed the questions in order to get said replies. I wonder what has not been reproduced? It's far from implausible that the reporter tried to hurry him up.

nb: For clarification I am not saying that the guy at XC gave good replies - far from it and could have done better.
 

MarkyMarkD

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Even when the questions have no scope for an accurate answer? Asking XC is loaded in itself - why not ask LM? Answer: because LM have reasonable ticket prices and XC do not.

So loaded.
There are valid answers, at least to some of the questions. Some of these, at least, are answers which he should have been glad to give.

How about:

- XC does not have sufficient train capacity to meet demand
- XC cannot do anything about its train capacity because there is a shortage of rolling stock in the UK and capacity expansion is controlled by the Government, not the TOCs
- because XC has lack of space on most of its trains, reducing fares will further exacerbate over-crowding which is bad for passenger's health and safety

That doesn't address the splits issues, but I've previously suggested explanations on that.

Or he could say something like:

- due to very limited capacity on our trains, we are able to offer cheaper advance fares for short sections of route where we anticipate there will be greater space available; or
- we offer better value advance fares on shorter sections of route to give access to our services to the maximum possible number of passengers

On splitting he should simply have said:

- split ticketing is permitted by industry rules, but most of our passengers do not wish to spend the additional time researching split fares.
- we are not going to promote the availability of split fares for the previous reasons, relating to limited capacity.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
For a genuine comparison though you need to take into account servicing, insurance, road tax, depreciation, cost of any finance etc etc not just fuel cost.
I agree, but 50p is a reasonable "all-in" figure for driving.

And, for anyone who has a car, the marginal costs are less than that - because insurance, road tax and financing are fixed. It is only servicing, tyres, fuel, etc. which are variable and hence relevant to the comparison between train and car.

Despite all the above, we now usually travel by train as a family even though the straight cost comparison sometimes favours the car - simply because it is far more enjoyable to sit around a table on a train (ideally) rather than to sit in a traffic queue on a motorway without any ability to walk around or use the conveniences!
 

bignosemac

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Or..... as a Head of Communications he should be versed in dealing with loaded questions from journalists.

If he didn't know the correct answers then it should be his job to explain that and offer to come back to the journalist after checking.

Also it's highly unlikely this interview came out of the blue even if it was conducted over the telephone. A Head of Communication is most unlikely to be fielding questions from a journalist without prior warning. If he was then it just goes further to show how inept he appears to be at his job.

I suspect though, that Richard Gibson firmly believed passengers are required to buy a new ticket if one leg of a split Advance is delayed. That used to be a common misconception in the lower ranks, thankfully now addressed by ATOC. Seems though that those in ivory towers are still blissfully unaware of the protections offered to passengers.
 

Greenback

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Even if the interview was conducted by phone, I would assume it was agreed in advance rather than an unexpected call at 0900 on a Sunday morning when Mr Gibson was half asleep and wandering around the kitchen in his pyjamas.

I would also expect a Communications Manager to be have some idea of what is likely to be aske din an interview, and to have the necessary skills in communication to be like apolitican and avoid giving direct answers where he was uncertain of the facts.

But from what I hear from inside the Arriva XC, this is not an isolated example of a lack of knowledge at senior level.
 

GadgetMan

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I suspect though, that Richard Gibson firmly believed passengers are required to buy a new ticket if one leg of a split Advance is delayed. That used to be a common misconception in the lower ranks, thankfully now addressed by ATOC. Seems though that those in ivory towers are still blissfully unaware of the protections offered to passengers.

That is what the majority of staff believe. From the crew on trains, through control and up in the top offices.

I also believed the above until reading different on this forum. Ofcourse most passengers would not argue as they would assume they have no leg to stand on when delayed on separate tickets.
 

Greenback

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Not only Arriva XC but most senior managers in all the TOCs and in ATOC do not have the knowledge of day to day ticketing that would be expected of them.

Peter

You are undoubtedly correct, but I only have inside information from AXC, where it affects a lot more than just ticketing!
 

GadgetMan

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Those responses sound like they are coming from someone who is a bit p***ed off after being continuously badgered with repeat questions. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lot more to the interview before the questions/responses printed.

Either way, a head of comms should know better than to respond like that.
 

Failed Unit

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I don't think XC are worse than other operators, look at some of Scotrails prices. Same issues splitting is cheaper and the don't offer APs from a majority of stations. Stirling / Edinburgh to Aberdeen fine as they are direct trains. Linlithgow - Aberdeen no AP exists and you must split at Edinburgh. I hope that the don't try and penalise anyone doing this if they miss the connection and the interchange time is valid. Even on XCs own patch you need to split at Nottingham for Lincoln to Cardiff simply because XC refuse to offer it in one ticket (luckily east coast do offer such an AP)
 
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