No return ticket available - why?

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by kristiang85, 9 Sep 2019.

  1. kristiang85

    kristiang85 Member

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    I was flying from Southampton at the weekend, and on Friday I tried to purchase an off peak return from Basingstoke to Southampton Airport Parkway on my Network Railcard. The machine did not have returns listed, so I went to the desk and they said SWR don't offer return tickets on this route. So I was only allowed to buy a single, and my railcard basically reduced the £13.80 single fare to £13 as that was the minimum spend.

    Then yesterday I arrived back at Southampton Airport and the machine straight up offered me a day return to Basingstoke (though I didn't check if open returns were available, as I only needed a single).

    Can I ask if there is any good reason not to have the returns available? Because to me it seems a bit of a scam on the TOC's side to negate the discount on the railcard on a shortish route.
     
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  3. maniacmartin

    maniacmartin Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    They are returns available on this route, however due to the relatively short distance, only Day returns are available. Period returns (valid for a calendar month) are generally only available for longer distance journeys.

    If you want to avoid paying 2 lots of the minimum fare, sometimes it can be cheaper to buy a ticket to a destination further away that does have period returns, assuming the ticket allows starting/stopping short.
     
  4. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    Only day returns are available on that journey, as with most short journeys. There are period returns available to Southampton Central and you should be able to end/start short at Southampton Airport with the Anytime return.
     
  5. kristiang85

    kristiang85 Member

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    OK good to know for future reference, thanks.

    May I ask what the logic is behind it?
     
  6. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    It stops a flexible ticket, valid for up to a month, being used for multiple journeys. It would effectively become a season ticket as the opportunity for a ticket inspection is lower on a short distance journey.
     
  7. swt_passenger

    swt_passenger Veteran Member

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    It’s basically to prevent repeated use on typical commuting journeys. Fairly standard for there to be no period returns in the south east for distances less than about 30 miles. However, where there are exceptions it is often to airport stations...
     
  8. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Well if you're bothered enough, you could make a complaint and ask for them to refund the amount you were overcharged. The ticket office should have sold you the ticket to Southampton Central instead if that was the cheapest and most appropriate ticket for your journey and arguably the ticket machine should also have suggested this. If the company refused to refund you, then you could try to involve the Rail Ombudsman, the ORR and/or the DfT. This is an area where some people would argue the train companies are potentially routinely breaching consumer law but as yet it's received next to no consideration as the focus so far has been on more serious types of potential breaches.
     
  9. PeterC

    PeterC Established Member

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    IIRC British Railways brought that in when I was a teenager back in the 60s.
     
  10. Haywain

    Haywain Established Member

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    This is completely wrong. Ticket offices are only required to offer tickets for the specific journey requested which was, in this case, Basingstoke to Southampton Airport. Similarly ticket vending machines can only do the same thing, so there is no question of overcharging. If the requirements were as you seem to think they should be, this would soon lead to the closure of all 'loopholes' that allow tickets to be used by starting/stopping short etc.
     
  11. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Well one line of questions might go something like this: If the consumer had known that the Basingstoke to Southampton Central ticket existed and was valid for their journey and was cheaper, would they have chosen to purchase it or would they have still bought the tickets that they did purchase at higher cost? As such, was the information about that alternative ticket material information in respect of their planned journey from Basingstoke to Southampton Airport? And if so, did the commercial practice not to provide that material information in either or both sets of circumstances (at the ticket machine and at the ticket office) amount to a misleading omission?
     
  12. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I agree this is the view of the rail industry, however I am uncertain if it would be the view of the courts if it was ever tested in court under consumer law legislation.

    It would be interesting to see how this would be ruled; I could see it going either way potentially as I can see arguments for and against.

    It's also not always the case that customers are only sold a ticket for the specific journey requested either; certainly York ticket office used to regularly recommend tickets to Bradford if people said they wanted a period return to Leeds. I remember witnessing this on multiple occasions until TPE introduced a York to Leeds period return at the same price as York to Bradford.
    I agree there is a risk that such attempts would happen, but as soon as you start barring period returns on slightly longer journeys, all you do is move the problem to another set of fares. It's impossible to remove loopholes without creating new ones. But this is really a whole new topic in itself. I can certainly see where you are coming from, though!
     
  13. Haywain

    Haywain Established Member

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    Thank you for your line of questioning, but it doesn't alter what ticket office staff are instructed to do and what the equipment provide for them reasonable allows them to do. This may seem like a simple case, but it becomes ever more complex as the length of journey increases and there is a need for consistency. And whilst local knowledge may sometimes benefit, what happens when the ticket is purchased away from that locality?

    Whether it is right or wrong under consumer legislation is for others to judge, but this isn't simply about what staff at Basingstoke should or shouldn't know.
     
  14. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Just to clarify for anyone reading this I am sure we are all agreed that the staff are undoubtedly acting correctly in accordance with their employers instructions and industry guidelines.

    The question is whether or not this complies with consumer legislation, which I am not entirely sure either way.
     
  15. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    That might amount to a 'limitations of space or time' exclusion - but to balance against that, there is also a separate duty of 'professional diligence'. So indeed it's possible that the expectations under some clauses might vary by locality.
     
  16. Haywain

    Haywain Established Member

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    Point taken, but this sort of knowledge can vary so much that the locality might be which desk you happen to have arrived at.
     
  17. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    If a furniture store had an offer on an ad in the local paper saving £100 on a safe, would they be obliged to suggest to all potential purchasers they should pop to the Newsagent down the road before continuing their purchase?
     
  18. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Analogies rarely work. We're discussing a service (not goods) where many contracts are available and valid for immediate purchase and use but each comes with slightly different conditions (valid times of travel, additional routes valid, additional stations valid) at different prices and the obligations of the retailer "expert" not to hide the most appropriate one (here the cheapest) that meets the expressed requirements of the type of consumer concerned.
     
  19. SN1 19-5

    SN1 19-5 Member

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    Didn't someone get fined for getting off short between Basingstoke (ish) and Southhampton years ago?

    I only ask because I'm sure this was in the papers.

    Two people had tickets to Southampton (I think) They only wanted to go to Eastleigh .

    Got off the train, tried to go through the barrier. Nicked! SHORT of their ticket destination.

    No wonder railways are in a mess!
     
  20. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    Yes, they were using Megatrain tickets not valid for stopping short.

    The ticket office staff sell the cheapest ticket for the specific journey requested. It isn't for them to point out loopholes. I don't see how it ever can be for them to point out loopholes.
     
  21. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    They did in the case detailed in the OP. They do not do so in all cases (and nothing to do with "loopholes").
     
  22. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    It's not a "loophole" - the other fare is perfectly valid by any measure, it is not obscure, and, unless there's an even cheaper one, under consumer law this fare might well be the one that must be offered by default whenever that particular journey is requested. The company knows the other fare exists, it knows it is valid for that journey and it knows it is cheaper therefore under the requirement for professional diligence mustn't it offer it as the most appropriate response to the consumer's requirement? Even some websites now are more than capable of offering rovers when they might represent the cheapest option for a journey i.e. offering tickets that include extra unneeded validity.
     
  23. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Completely the wrong analogy for several reasons, including - to name just one - the rather important fact that we're talking about products available from exactly the same retailer.

    Analogies can be extremely problematical (often being no good for anything other than amusement purposes) but a more accurate analogy would be that you ask for a safe that meets a particular specification; the furniture store has in stock a safe that exceeds this specification at a very reasonable price, but chooses not to sell it (for whatever reason) and instead sells you two halves of a safe, which - when combined - do exactly meet the specification, but at a vastly inflated price.
     
  24. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    So was I. Just one with a voucher and one without. My sofa was autocorrected to a safe, but that doesn't change the sense of ut.
     
  25. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    They had a ticket that did not permit break of journey; they broke their journey when not permitted to do so; they were issued with a Penalty Fare (which is seen by some people as a "fine" in all but name) which was an illegal act by SWR because this action was contrary to both the contract (the National Rail Conditions of Carriage/Travel) as well as Penalty Fare legislation. The Penalty Fare had to be refunded by SWR. And yes it did bring much bad publicity to the company. But that appalling episode of illegal behaviour by SWR isn't relevant here as we are talking about fares that do permit a break of journey.
    We're not talking about vouchers. Fares that require a voucher are not 'basic' products. We are talking about 'basic', 'permanent' fares as defined in the Ticketing Settlement Agreement. Some ticket offices will advise people to purchase a return fare that will suit the passengers requirements at a reasonable price; I've seen York ticket office do this on numerous occasions. It's got nothing to do with vouchers or discounts.
     
  26. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    Some ticket offices will, as a matter of course, sell a Return ticket which is cheaper than the Single requested by the passenger.
     
  27. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    There is that too! And some websites do too.
     
  28. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    I was correcting your assertion that I was talking about different retailers.
     
  29. BluePenguin

    BluePenguin On Moderation

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    You must be thinking of somewhere else as Eastleigh does not have barriers
     
  30. MikeWh

    MikeWh Established Member Senior Fares Advisor

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    See posts 19 and 24. Just because a station does not have gates does not mean that the entrance isn't manned by humans.
     
  31. kristiang85

    kristiang85 Member

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    Thanks for the responses... very interesting. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is perplexed. I'm surprised I haven't come across it before to be honest, given how much I use the railways.
     

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