Issues with tickets to Manchester stations and the user experience of buying such tickets online

Status
Not open for further replies.

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England
Just looking up some times and fares for a trip I'm considering in the summer, and bizarrely the Avanti West Coast website is claiming that no fares are available to Manchester from most Northern stations in the Stockport area, even though I know they exist and have even bought them from Avanti in the past. I tried Navigation Road, Altrincham, Davenport, Woodsmoor, Cheadle Hulme, Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme on a variety of different dates, including some in the near future, and none of them would show any fares to Manchester.

Strangely, selecting "Manchester Ctlz" (presumably standing for Central Zone) rather than a specific Manchester station produces the correct fares - even though, if I'm not much mistaken, it should be offering to sell the Ctlz tickets for journeys to a city centre station anyway. And even more strangely, reversing the direction of travel (entering Piccadilly to Levenshulme rather than Levenshulme to Piccadilly for example) also produces fares.

Other booking engines don't seem to have this bug.

Why is this happening?
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
4,645
Aren't all walk up (non ToC Specific) anytime and offpeak tickets to Manchester Stns, from stations within the TfGM area, issued now instead to Manchester CtlZ, so allowing use of the Metrolink in the City Centre (Zone 1) area?
 

CyrusWuff

Established Member
Joined
20 May 2013
Messages
2,766
It's not a bug, it's a feature!

In all seriousness, this appears to be a quirk with Pico, as the same situation occurs on the c2c website. I would suggest that the average passenger is unlikely to know they need to search for Manchester Central Zone as the destination - rather than a specific station (or Manchester Stations for that matter) - to get the fares to display.

Doing some digging: Chiltern, Trainline, Thameslink and LNER all make a seamless translation to Manchester Central Zone; Raileasy and Raileurope (formerly Loco2) make the transition, but for the flow I looked at (Heald Green - Manchester) both quote a price 50p higher than the advertise fare; and c2c and GWR come up with "No fares found" if you search for "Manchester Piccadilly" explicitly. Also the GWR site (powered by Atos WebTIS) doesn't recognise Manchester Central Zone at all.
 

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England
It’s not a bug , flows Are priced to Manchester CTLZ other sites may be using the station you’ve searched for as an alias
OK, so maybe it's not a bug in a technical sense.

But a situation where the ticketing system will refuse to return any fares (despite sensible ones being available) when someone correctly enters a reasonable pair of origin and destination stations indubitably poses a severe usability issue, and in my opinion Avanti and/or their contractors really need to look into and fix this. Especially considering that other systems cope with the same input absolutely fine (by seamlessly searching for fares to Ctlz when a specific Centralzone station is entered)
 

Bletchleyite

Veteran Member
Joined
20 Oct 2014
Messages
70,470
Location
"Marston Vale mafia"
OK, so maybe it's not a bug in a technical sense.

But a situation where the ticketing system will refuse to return any fares (despite sensible ones being available) when someone correctly enters a reasonable pair of origin and destination stations indubitably poses a severe usability issue, and in my opinion Avanti (or their contractors) really need to look into and fix this. Especially considering that other systems cope with the same input absolutely fine (by seamlessly searching for fares to Ctlz when a specific Centralzone station is entered)

I must admit the phrase "working as designed" in this sort of context gets my back up as an IT person. OK, if the software isn't faulty then the design is! :)

It's a phrase used by lazy people to try to justify/get away with their lack of quality business analysis.
 

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England
I must admit the phrase "working as designed" in this sort of context gets my back up as an IT person. OK, if the software isn't faulty then the design is! :)
It is entirely possible - and seemingly fairly common - to write a piece of software which is stable and where plenty of excellent functionality exists, but where the UX is still appalling because seemingly nobody has considered the impacts of their decisions about how to present said functionality to the end user.

The tickets to Manchester are an excellent example of this. The fact that "Manchester Stations", "Manchester CtlZ", and separate listings for all four of the stations in the central zone (which has been called Zone 1 for ages now, but the tickets still haven't been updated to reflect that) all co-exist in booking engines and don't do the same thing, as well as the fact that there is a station beginning "Manchester" which a ticket to "Manchester Stations" wouldn't be valid to, make perfect sense if you already have some grasp of why.
But if you don't, it's hopeless and you'd be forgiven for trying to buy a ticket, seeing the website fail, and giving up and taking the bus or the car instead.
 

Paul Kelly

Verified Rep - BR Fares
Joined
16 Apr 2010
Messages
3,912
Location
Reading
The fact that "Manchester Stations", "Manchester CtlZ", and separate listings for all four of the stations in the central zone (which has been called Zone 1 for ages now, but the tickets still haven't been updated to reflect that) all co-exist in booking engines and don't do the same thing, as well as the fact that there is a station beginning "Manchester" which a ticket to "Manchester Stations" wouldn't be valid to, make perfect sense if you already have some grasp of why.
But if you don't, it's hopeless and you'd be forgiven for trying to buy a ticket, seeing the website fail, and giving up and taking the bus or the car instead.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority would have you believe that they need to have more powers, for example taking control of bus franchising, to make fares simpler for passengers. But as you have correctly pointed out, there are so many things that could be made massively simpler with no new powers needed at all.
 
Joined
16 Aug 2017
Messages
204
I must admit the phrase "working as designed" in this sort of context gets my back up as an IT person. OK, if the software isn't faulty then the design is! :)
I'd agree that this is absolutely a missing requirement. It's almost like not getting a fare to London Terminals when you ask for Euston. In this case there is an argument for adding the central zone as an extra selectable destination, for those people who know what it is but don't realise that they'll get it anyway.
 

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England
I must admit the phrase "working as designed" in this sort of context gets my back up as an IT person. OK, if the software isn't faulty then the design is! :)
I could have sworn I wrote a response to this yesterday; maybe I failed to submit it properly, my internet connection was playing up a bit at that point. Or maybe it was somehow deleted when this thread was renamed.

[actually it DID submit properly and then I didn't realise, see post #7 for the original post & #13 for the explanation]
 
Last edited:

Haywain

Established Member
Joined
3 Feb 2013
Messages
6,657
I could have sworn I wrote a response to this yesterday; maybe I failed to submit it properly, my internet connection was playing up a bit at that point. Or maybe it was somehow deleted when this thread was renamed.
Post #7?
 

Wallsendmag

Established Member
Joined
11 Dec 2014
Messages
3,165
Location
Wallsend or somewhere on the ECML
It's not a bug, it's a feature!

In all seriousness, this appears to be a quirk with Pico, as the same situation occurs on the c2c website. I would suggest that the average passenger is unlikely to know they need to search for Manchester Central Zone as the destination - rather than a specific station (or Manchester Stations for that matter) - to get the fares to display.

Doing some digging: Chiltern, Trainline, Thameslink and LNER all make a seamless translation to Manchester Central Zone; Raileasy and Raileurope (formerly Loco2) make the transition, but for the flow I looked at (Heald Green - Manchester) both quote a price 50p higher than the advertise fare; and c2c and GWR come up with "No fares found" if you search for "Manchester Piccadilly" explicitly. Also the GWR site (powered by Atos WebTIS) doesn't recognise Manchester Central Zone at all.
We do have some problems with this destination but nothing as bad as this.
 

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England
Yes, you're right. For some reason quite a lot of posts didn't load in last time I viewed this thread... I have no idea what was going on there.

Apologies all for the duplication.

(The irony of this happening on a thread about UX design is not lost on me...)
 

alistairlees

Established Member
Joined
29 Dec 2016
Messages
2,695
It's not a bug, it's a feature!

In all seriousness, this appears to be a quirk with Pico, as the same situation occurs on the c2c website. I would suggest that the average passenger is unlikely to know they need to search for Manchester Central Zone as the destination - rather than a specific station (or Manchester Stations for that matter) - to get the fares to display.

Doing some digging: Chiltern, Trainline, Thameslink and LNER all make a seamless translation to Manchester Central Zone; Raileasy and Raileurope (formerly Loco2) make the transition, but for the flow I looked at (Heald Green - Manchester) both quote a price 50p higher than the advertise fare; and c2c and GWR come up with "No fares found" if you search for "Manchester Piccadilly" explicitly. Also the GWR site (powered by Atos WebTIS) doesn't recognise Manchester Central Zone at all.
I make the Heald Green to Manchester Central Zone fare £4.70, yet it's £5.00 on Raileasy (well, that's for a fare to Manchester Piccadilly, which is "only valid via Manchester" - what this actually is, I don't know). So that's a 30p difference. Did you also find a 50p difference?

I must admit the phrase "working as designed" in this sort of context gets my back up as an IT person. OK, if the software isn't faulty then the design is! :)

It's a phrase used by lazy people to try to justify/get away with their lack of quality business analysis.
Whilst I agree that the customer should not have to do anything other than simply enter (for example) "Stockport" and "Manchester Piccadilly", and see appropriate fares as a result (with. preferably, some information on the extra Zone 1 validity of the fare), the problem is not only caused by bad design. This is a typical (and all too frequent) industry fudge where there are "rules" that are not well-supported in industry data, and for which additional technical development, testing and maintenance are required. I would much more support the evolution of industry data structures to cater for changing customer needs, rather than the addition of ever more hacks. The industry fares data structure has basically not changed since 1996 (and maybe before). Since before the internet existed, pretty much. This is the real problem. Without addressing that retailing gets ever costlier.
 
Last edited:

Paul Kelly

Verified Rep - BR Fares
Joined
16 Apr 2010
Messages
3,912
Location
Reading

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England

Paul Kelly

Verified Rep - BR Fares
Joined
16 Apr 2010
Messages
3,912
Location
Reading
why on earth hasn't the CTLZ ticket been renamed "Metrolink Z1"
I suspect it's partly because Manchester CTLZ isn't just a fare location (e.g. a zonal location), but exists in the timetable data as a physical station (with fixed METRO links to Piccadilly and Victoria), and nobody understands enough about how it's supposed to work to be confident in changing anything.
 

infobleep

Established Member
Joined
27 Feb 2011
Messages
10,689
It's not a bug, it's a feature!
I refer things like this as undocumented Web Site features. It covers features that aren't obvious to the user, as well as bugs.

Most quirks never seem to have a help page explaining what to do.
 

tspaul26

Member
Joined
9 Jun 2016
Messages
768
Could maybe be this fare to Metrolink Z1-2: https://www.brfares.com/!faredetail?orig=HDG&dest=QMH&rte=312&tkt=SDS - perhaps someone has got mixed up between MANCHESTER CTLZ and METROLINK Z1-2?

As an aside, if the ticket to "Metrolink Z1-2" exists, then why on earth hasn't the CTLZ ticket been renamed "Metrolink Z1" for consistency with both the TfGM maps and the other tickets?

I suspect it's partly because Manchester CTLZ isn't just a fare location (e.g. a zonal location), but exists in the timetable data as a physical station (with fixed METRO links to Piccadilly and Victoria), and nobody understands enough about how it's supposed to work to be confident in changing anything.

In this particular example (from Heald Green), the £5.00 fare from Heald Green to Metrolink Zones 1-2 is for a single combined train and tram journey.

By comparison, fares with a destination of Manchester Central Zone are valid for unlimited travel within Zone 1 (formerly the Central Zone).

The combined train and tram through tickets were previously priced to lettered Metrolink zones (A to H if memory serves) and were rather obscure creatures that booking offices often had to rummage around to find in my experience.
 

Llandudno

Established Member
Joined
25 Dec 2014
Messages
1,353
Good luck to Andy Burnham and his TfGM chums in sorting out integrated ticketing for bus/rail/tram if/when bus franchising is implemented!
 

185

Established Member
Joined
29 Aug 2010
Messages
4,087
By comparison, fares with a destination of Manchester Central Zone are valid for unlimited travel within Zone 1 (formerly the Central Zone).
Not quite true, iirc a single is still one journey into the city CTLZ/Z1 (& a connection if needed) - and a return includes a journey back to the railhead station...

....however the odds of anyone (in 25 years) enforcing that one are higher than my lottery jackpot win this Saturday. Inspectors on Metrolink have far more fish to fry. :)
 

Roy Badami

Member
Joined
12 Oct 2014
Messages
106
My understanding is that journeys originating in the TfGM area are issued to Manchester CTLZ and journeys originating outside are issued to Manchester Stations. But obviously it's mad that the passenger should have to know that. They are not the same, because tickets issued to Manchester CTLZ include free tram travel in Zone 1, I believe (and, of course, tickets issued to Manchester Stations don't).

I don't think Manchester CTLZ can be used as an origin, though. Tickets are always issued from Manchester Stations, even if the destination is within the TfGM area.
 

CyrusWuff

Established Member
Joined
20 May 2013
Messages
2,766
My understanding is that journeys originating in the TfGM area are issued to Manchester CTLZ and journeys originating outside are issued to Manchester Stations. But obviously it's mad that the passenger should have to know that. They are not the same, because tickets issued to Manchester CTLZ include free tram travel in Zone 1, I believe (and, of course, tickets issued to Manchester Stations don't).

Correct. To get the equivalent validity on a ticket originating outside the TfGM area, you'd have to ask for one to "GM Metrolink Zone 1" (NLC: L002), though there may not be an explicit price for it for all the routeing options that would be available for a Manchester Stations ticket.

I don't think Manchester CTLZ can be used as an origin, though. Tickets are always issued from Manchester Stations, even if the destination is within the TfGM area.
Yup. The relevant Knowledgebase page explicitly states: “Manchester Ctl Zone” cannot be used as an origin station.
 

Llandudno

Established Member
Joined
25 Dec 2014
Messages
1,353
Correct. To get the equivalent validity on a ticket originating outside the TfGM area, you'd have to ask for one to "GM Metrolink Zone 1" (NLC: L002), though there may not be an explicit price for it for all the routeing options that would be available for a Manchester Stations ticket.


Yup. The relevant Knowledgebase page explicitly states: “Manchester Ctl Zone” cannot be used as an origin station.
If you bought a Manchester to Hazel Grove ticket at Victoria obviously you can use the train to Piccadilly but can use Metrolink as well to get to Piccadilly?
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
4,645
If you bought a Manchester to Hazel Grove ticket at Victoria obviously you can use the train to Piccadilly but can use Metrolink as well to get to Piccadilly?
You'd have to buy a Metrolink zone 1 single for that, additional cost £1.40.

A workabout solution to save some pennies might be to buy a Moston to Hazel Grove SDS ticket and start short at Victoria. It's slightly more (+ 50p) than a Manchester Stns to Hazel Grove SDS ticket, but gives you the Metrolink CtlZ routing.
 

py_megapixel

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2018
Messages
4,666
Location
Northern England
You'd have to buy a Metrolink zone 1 single for that, additional cost £1.40.

A workabout might be to buy a Moston to Hazel Grove SDS ticket and start short at Victoria. It's slightly more (+ 50p) than a Manchester Stns to Hazel Grove SDS ticket, but gives you the Metrolink CtlZ routing.
So, just to clarify:

If I want to travel from Hazel Grove to Victoria, I can buy a single ticket all the way, including the Metrolink leg.
But if I want to travel from Victoria to Hazel Grove, I pay the same amount for the train ticket but then have to buy an extra ticket for the Metrolink.

Am I missing something here? Because that sounds unbelievably stupid.
 

Llandudno

Established Member
Joined
25 Dec 2014
Messages
1,353
You'd have to buy a Metrolink zone 1 single for that, additional cost £1.40.

A workabout solution to save some pennies might be to buy a Moston to Hazel Grove SDS ticket and start short at Victoria. It's slightly more (+ 50p) than a Manchester Stns to Hazel Grove SDS ticket, but gives you the Metrolink CtlZ routing.
Ha! Ha!

Brilliant, I love it - Moston to Hazel Grove single.

Further evidence of how confusing ticketing is, unless you know how to beat the system!
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
4,645
Just to make things even more fun, if you are buying your single ticket from a Metrolink TVM within Metrolink zones 1-2, which includes the City Centre and the next zone out, it *might* just be possible to buy a through single from Victoria to destination "Rail Zone 2", which zone includes Hazel Grove.

Believe the single through fare should then be £5.00 but I'm not 100% sure if you can actually buy a ticket to "Rail Zone 2" from within the Metrolink CtlZ (Metrolink Zone 1 area) or if it can only be done from the outer zone Metrolink stations. :s
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top