Guardian: "Penalised train passengers fight ticketing rules"

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Squaddie

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Rail passengers threatened with fines and even prosecution by train guards – despite buying a ticket – have called on the rail passenger watchdog to challenge their legality amid growing consumer anger.

Next week consumer watchdog Passenger Focus will publish a report calling for a change in the way train companies treat passengers...

Full Guardian story
 
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Ah but you see this involves common sense and for the most part railways don't do common sense - the big problem of course is that common sense is not quantifiable.
 

island

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Those stories don't all seem to add up. Can you print at home when you buy from thetrainline directly? How is the "guard on the platform" different from the train guard? I'm quite happy with the status quo; some people think they're special and the rules don't apply to them. If they were pandered to in the interest of "good customer service" then the fares would go up for everyone else.
 

trentside

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How is the "guard on the platform" different from the train guard? I'm quite happy with the status quo; some people think they're special and the rules don't apply to them. If they were pandered to in the interest of "good customer service" then the fares would go up for everyone else.

The fares system is complex, and I'm not surprised people get confused. We could easily argue that people shouldn't be punished for innocent mistakes, but where do we draw the line? Most of the stories in the article seem to be people who have tried to circumvent the restriction of 'booked train only' on Advance tickets. My experience of the booking process and having checked some booking confirmation emails show that 'booked train only' is clearly stated. It's the price you pay for getting a cheap ticket.

Maybe I'm being harsh... after all, the man on the platform did say it would be ok... :lol:
 

class156

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Those stories don't all seem to add up. Can you print at home when you buy from thetrainline directly? How is the "guard on the platform" different from the train guard? I'm quite happy with the status quo; some people think they're special and the rules don't apply to them. If they were pandered to in the interest of "good customer service" then the fares would go up for everyone else.

I'm guessing that the "guard" on the platform is a dispatcher who may well have no ticketing knowledge but as passengers see someone who is wearing a uniform they ask them if they can board the train.....
 

benk1342

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The "man on the platform" is the common thread through an awful lot of these stories, both in the Guardian article and elsewhere. I think a sensible first step would be for the TOCs (and Network Rail for the stations it manages) to direct their staff never to advise passengers to board alternative trains unless they are willing and able to endorse the ticket in writing. Yes, this will mean that now and then a passenger with an Off-Peak or Anytime ticket is given overly cautious advice, but it will eliminate a lot of these issues.
 

OwlMan

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As I have witnessed passenger asks "Is this the London Train" Yes, madam says the dispatcher.
The passenger gets on, sits down, when the guard comes round and sees the advance is for another train the passenger says the platform staff said I could get on this train.

peter
 

andykn

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The "man on the platform" is the common thread through an awful lot of these stories, both in the Guardian article and elsewhere. I think a sensible first step would be for the TOCs (and Network Rail for the stations it manages) to direct their staff never to advise passengers to board alternative trains unless they are willing and able to endorse the ticket in writing. Yes, this will mean that now and then a passenger with an Off-Peak or Anytime ticket is given overly cautious advice, but it will eliminate a lot of these issues.

I don't think an outside body would accept that a passenger is supposed to understand their fare better than the TOC's own staff. If the TOC's own staff don't understand the off peak and booked train only restrictions...

I was quite surprised to be told by the (then) NXEA customer service desk at Liverpool St that they couldn't endorse my ticket, my only option was to find the guard on the train and ask before departure. Especially when the First Great Western customer service desk have done so before.
 

benk1342

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As I have witnessed passenger asks "Is this the London Train" Yes, madam says the dispatcher.
The passenger gets on, sits down, when the guard comes round and sees the advance is for another train the passenger says the platform staff said I could get on this train.

I agree that probably happens frequently. But in that case the passenger (intentionally or not) is misrepresenting what the platform staff told him/her. For the purposes of this discussion I am taking the passengers at their word that they were told it would be alright to travel on train Y with ticket X.
 

hairyhandedfool

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Half the problem is that the question to 'the man on the platform' is along the lines of "Can I take this train to...." rather than "Is my ticket valid on....", and aside from educating the general public to ask the right question to get the right answer, there is little you can do about that.
 

bignosemac

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Half the problem is that the question to 'the man on the platform' is along the lines of "Can I take this train to...." rather than "Is my ticket valid on....", and aside from educating the general public to ask the right question to get the right answer, there is little you can do about that.

You could educate the staff to enquire of the passenger what ticket they hold.

But then with such a complex ticketing system that even stumps booking clerks, what hope the dispatcher or platform assistant knowing the right answer any more than the passenger? Easier to pass the buck and leave the passenger at the mercy of the guard/conductor/train manager/RPI.
 
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Nym

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You could educate the staff to enquire of the passenger what ticket they hold.

But then with such a complex ticketing system that even stumps booking clerks, what hope the dispatcher or platform assistant knowing the right answer any more than the passenger? Easier to pass the buck and leave the passenger at the mercy of the guard/conductor/train manager/RPI.

Or just answer the question the passenger asked, if they don't read the terms and conditions when they purchase an Advance Purchase ticket (that most of this article seems to be about) then it's their own stupid fault.

Further to this, if they believe that they have been mis-sold this ticket then they should take it up with who sold them the ticket. But my experience in buying AP tickets over the counter (even when I'm specifically asking for an AP ticket) I was advised three times that they are only valid on the booked train and a summary of terms and conditions stapled to the ticket.

As much as I hate to draw these parallels, but AP tickets are similar to airline fares, if you turn up late for a flight, some people expect to be transferred onto the next one for free, most airlines do not do this. So why should TOCs?
 

AndyLandy

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As much as I hate to draw these parallels, but AP tickets are similar to airline fares, if you turn up late for a flight, some people expect to be transferred onto the next one for free, most airlines do not do this. So why should TOCs?

The inverse argument is also true though. If TOCs permit it, why shouldn't airlines?

I find it quite poor taste that if you don't use a service, your ticket becomes entirely worthless. At least some ability to trade up ought to be available. Perhaps I feel this way because Advance fares aren't actually all that cheap any more.
 

causton

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and aside from educating the general public to ask the right question to get the right answer, there is little you can do about that.

True. I was at Kings Cross the other week and all services were terminating at Welwyn Garden City (that were not going via Hertford). Now for those who don't know, all-stations services normally terminate there, but the fast services normally run through to Stevenage and Peterborough. So FCC had 2 services:
* 1 all stations KGX - WGC
* 1 fast (KGX - Finsbury Park - Potters Bar - Hatfield - WGC)

I'm sure you can see where this is going <D but yes, inevitably, the train got announced four minutes before departure! As I was boarding I got asked "is this train for Welwyn Garden City" I said "Yes". We boarded and sat down...

...I saw them get up to try to alight at New Southgate... oops! They got off at Potters Bar and just made the last train back south. Except, the last slow train running into London runs at 11pm so they had to go all the way back into London and change back there for the northbound service!

(I looked up the times and I think they were going to miss the last train for a while and would end up home at just shy of 2am... not good when they left KGX at midnight!)
 

MarkyMarkD

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I find it quite poor taste that if you don't use a service, your ticket becomes entirely worthless. At least some ability to trade up ought to be available. Perhaps I feel this way because Advance fares aren't actually all that cheap any more.
To be frank, I find your views on this matter quite odd.

If you choose to book an Advance fare, a seat is reserved on that specific train for you alone. If you don't use it, it goes to waste.

Nobody made you buy an Advance; flexible tickets are always available. And as you say, flexible tickets are not always that much more expensive than Advances.

I buy lots of Advances. I never, ever, fail to catch the specified train. If I knew my arrangements were uncertain, I would buy a flexible ticket.

I can't entertain any sympathy for people who buy Advances, simply because they are (sometimes only a bit) cheaper, but then expect to be able to travel whenever they like.

Of course, it is also possible to amend the travel times for an Advance ticket at any time up to the minute before the originally booked train leaves. So the only people who "suffer" from loss of the entire value of an Advance are those who miss their booked train, due to poor planning, without bothering to reschedule the ticket first.
 

silverfoxcc

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Had a situation some years ago. Bought a cheepie ticket to go to Derby to watch a football match. Specified services each way. On returning to the town (you use a footway over the station) attempted to exit via the public access, when was 'forcibly' advised by a Wets Mids policeman to get on the next train out of my town!!! (yes honestly) Wouldn't have minded but i am in my 60's along with my accountant son,and a schoolteacher, both in their 30's. Not hooligans by a long chalk. I explained to him i could not nor would not as i had a specified train to catch, to which he replied, tell 'them i said it was OK' We decided that after being intimidated into doing this we wandered up the platform where we met two BTP plod, who showed us where to exit and not been observed by the wall of blue at the main entrance.
Enjoyed a v nice Indian and got the correct train.
Big up to the BTP, but would would have happened if we had been forced onto the 'next train'?
 

158801

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For some reason people think the railways should be different.

Would I buy a £3000 car and expect the same Sat Nav, CD player, Air Con & ABS as found in a £10000 car. May be I should and then complain to the Gguardian and get the law changed
 

AndyLandy

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To be frank, I find your views on this matter quite odd.

Well, life would be pretty boring if everyone held the same views. :D

If you choose to book an Advance fare, a seat is reserved on that specific train for you alone. If you don't use it, it goes to waste.

Is that necessarily true? After all, you can't know how many walk-on fares will turn up for any given service (although you can make a fair prediction based on previous statistics, I guess)

Nobody made you buy an Advance; flexible tickets are always available. And as you say, flexible tickets are not always that much more expensive than Advances.

I've even seen situations where a flexible ticket was cheaper than an advance. Bizarre but true!

I buy lots of Advances. I never, ever, fail to catch the specified train. If I knew my arrangements were uncertain, I would buy a flexible ticket.

As indeed do I. I might not like the rules as they stand, but I play by them.

I can't entertain any sympathy for people who buy Advances, simply because they are (sometimes only a bit) cheaper, but then expect to be able to travel whenever they like.

Of course, it is also possible to amend the travel times for an Advance ticket at any time up to the minute before the originally booked train leaves. So the only people who "suffer" from loss of the entire value of an Advance are those who miss their booked train, due to poor planning, without bothering to reschedule the ticket first.

I'm not condoning people buying a clearly cheaper ticket to try and use as a flexible one either. I'm just aware that there are a whole host of good reasons why you might have been unable to make your original booking. I'd hate to be in that situation and have to throw away a £50 ticket and buy a new one for £90.
 

SS4

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I'm quite happy with the status quo; some people think they're special and the rules don't apply to them. If they were pandered to in the interest of "good customer service" then the fares would go up for everyone else.

I'm equally happy with the status quo; I also think that customers are not reading the T&Cs of their ticket in much the same way computer licences aren't read either.

The railways will never, ever be able to win in the press. If a TOC has 97% punctuality the article is how bad it is that 3% are late!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Is that necessarily true? After all, you can't know how many walk-on fares will turn up for any given service (although you can make a fair prediction based on previous statistics, I guess)

That's certainly true although the number of reservations issued could be a good barometer. Additionally you'll get some Advance passengers that don't turn up (more on that later)

I've even seen situations where a flexible ticket was cheaper than an advance. Bizarre but true!

Same here. I've seen situations where a First Advance was cheaper than a STD advance although I'm sure you'll agree they're comparatively rare.
Sometimes you can buy multiple advances if you don't know what train you're travelling on and get a spread of trains for less than a flexible ticket

As indeed do I. I might not like the rules as they stand, but I play by them.

As do I. I've been quite lucky with my journeys though and since I often travel alone I understand I have less time constraints than others.

I'm not condoning people buying a clearly cheaper ticket to try and use as a flexible one either. I'm just aware that there are a whole host of good reasons why you might have been unable to make your original booking. I'd hate to be in that situation and have to throw away a £50 ticket and buy a new one for £90.

It seems fair enough. I'd hate to be in that situation myself too yet with advance tickets you can have a spread.
 

BrownE

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No you cannot.

Most of the stories don't add up, you're right.

Yes you can. (Providing you are on a route that supports print at home). This is what I get if I go for a BHM to OXF single.

 

MarkyMarkD

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Well, life would be pretty boring if everyone held the same views. :D
Agreed! It's always good to discuss and very boring if everyone holds exactly the same opinion on each topic.
I'm not condoning people buying a clearly cheaper ticket to try and use as a flexible one either. I'm just aware that there are a whole host of good reasons why you might have been unable to make your original booking. I'd hate to be in that situation and have to throw away a £50 ticket and buy a new one for £90.
Whilst I know exactly what you mean, for the vast majority of people (including those who moan to the Guardian), they will save a lot of money by purchasing Advance tickets on the 9 out of 10 (or whatever) times they actually catch the right train. And then they'll moan like hell because they've had to pay more on the 10th occasion - just because they didn't rearrange their Advance.

Using your figures, you might save £360 on the 9 occasions you use an Advance instead of a walk-up, and then you "lose" £50 on the 10th "throw away" occasion.

Whilst most passengers don't work things out like that, the reality is that buying Advances can be very cost effective EVEN if your plans aren't always 100% reliable. But you have to consider the total spend over time, not just the "rip off" on the one occasion your plans changed.


Passenger Focus will be doing the world of passengers a massive dis-service if they end up in a situation where Advances are in some way a down-payment on a flexible ticket, because it messes up the whole economics of Advances for the TOCs and likely leads to higher Advance fares as a result. Which is good for the moaners, but not good for those who make appropriate use of Advances.

Advances were originally intended, I believe, for those whose travel plans can be shaped to meet the times of least demand on the railway - students, pensioners, etc. Not to give business people who need flexibility, a cheaper way to travel.
 

AlterEgo

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Passenger Focus will be doing the world of passengers a massive dis-service if they end up in a situation where Advances are in some way a down-payment on a flexible ticket, because it messes up the whole economics of Advances for the TOCs and likely leads to higher Advance fares as a result. Which is good for the moaners, but not good for those who make appropriate use of Advances.

Advances were originally intended, I believe, for those whose travel plans can be shaped to meet the times of least demand on the railway - students, pensioners, etc. Not to give business people who need flexibility, a cheaper way to travel.

Excellent points, well put. My thoughts exactly.

However, like many QUANGOs and the like, Passenger Focus have a huge insecurity problem. They're constantly trying to justify their existence by engaging in campaigns which are ill-thought-out and do not consider the wider impact the proposed changes will bring. For a start, they are pro-barrier, and think that automatic barriers at stations solve a whole myriad of problems.
 

infobleep

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I was on a train back from Reading last Saturday. Some people got on and ask if the train stopped at Wokingham.

I think someone said no but they stayed on anyway. I didn't know the answer myself so kept quiet.

The train left and soon the guard came down to check the tickets. Cue them being told it doesn't stop there due to fighting that occurred 10 years ago. In the world of trains, if a service gets cancelled, it takes years to get reinstated if ever, regardless of the change of situation on the ground. The last service from Brighton on Fridays and Saturdays being a good example of this.

It clearly is in the timetable that it doesn't stop their on Fridays and Saturdays but I imagine the people didn't read the timetable correctly or not at all. They were very polite about it.

To make it worse, the train stopped at Crowthorns just as the last train to Wokingham from there leaves. There is I think another train later than that to Wokingham but it doesn't stop at Crowthorns.

Personally I once got on a train from Portsmouth and was surprised when it didn't stop at Woking. Again I didn't check the timetable closely. Surely every train stops at Woking. It does expect during peak rush hour when at least 1 train an hour doesn't.

The problem is that people think they know something when sometimes they don't.

However the train companies don't help. I was on South West Trains Web Site and they give examples where groupsave for 3 people is cheaper even if you have 2 adults and a child travelling. The child in this case is travelling as an adult.

So imagine my surprise when I find that a friends and family railcard disccounted journey with 2 adults and a child is cheaper than a 3 adult groupsaver! Surely it shouldn't be because the groupsave for 3 people is cheaper! South West Trains claim this to be the case! Or do they? You could argue they are just referring to the saving on the full priced fair as disscounts are not allowed on groupsave tickets.

This only makes me think that rail companies want to confuse passengers. Are they really out to get passengers?

I tend to think of travelling by train as a game when it comes to buy train tickets and even travelling. Some games you lose by not of thinking of everything you can do and others who win.
 

Oswyntail

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... the vast majority of people (including those who moan to the Guardian), they will save a lot of money by purchasing Advance tickets on the 9 out of 10 (or whatever) times they actually catch the right train. And then they'll moan like hell because they've had to pay more on the 10th occasion .......
The flaw there is that we are probably talking about ten different people. Apart from commuters and business travellers the vast majority travel by train rarely. So on the one occasion they do this tenth person has found that his £50 ticket has been rendered worthless because of unforseen circumstances outside his control. Too right he'd moan! The question for the industry is whether it is better commercially to have some form of refund mechanism (of whatever kind) or run the risk of the moaning reaching the national press.
A possible approach would be to offer "travel insurance" at a small premium (or included automatically); if the advance cannot be used, the full cost can be reclaimed from the insurers but you still have to buy a flexible ticket on the day.
 

andykn

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The flaw there is that we are probably talking about ten different people. Apart from commuters and business travellers the vast majority travel by train rarely. So on the one occasion they do this tenth person has found that his £50 ticket has been rendered worthless because of unforseen circumstances outside his control. Too right he'd moan! The question for the industry is whether it is better commercially to have some form of refund mechanism (of whatever kind) or run the risk of the moaning reaching the national press.
A possible approach would be to offer "travel insurance" at a small premium (or included automatically); if the advance cannot be used, the full cost can be reclaimed from the insurers but you still have to buy a flexible ticket on the day.

Most people are used to the idea of advance air tickets not being refundable unless you pay an absolute fortune, hotel rooms are starting to do the same on the internet, so I don't think it's too much to ask for most people to realise that the cheapest tickets have conditions attached.

Those who think you get something for nothing get little sympathy from me.

The "travel insurance" is pay for the fully flexible fare.
 
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