Northern Rail: Lack of training

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185

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Second time something like this has come to my attention in as many days at Manchester Victoria, so thought it should be worth raising on here.

Passenger comes to me, pretty annoyed about guard on her train from Atherton. She and a friend bought Tram & Train Daysaver tickets for a journey from Newton Heath to Atherton, price £7.20. They travelled out fine on tram, then train. On return, boarded at Atherton and a guard (think he's a new one at Victoria) told them "Oh they are for trams only, not valid here" - even though their two tickets clearly have Tram & Train DaySaver in bold type on the top band. The Guard continued arguing and reduced one of them to tears, then insisted on them forking out money for two singles into Manchester.

This makes me wonder, when I look at the excellent training I had under Northern Spirit, who is doing the retail course at Northern (West) ?? Is the training on the West Area done by those trainers inherited from First North Western?

Some brilliant guards at Vic let down by a small minority.
 
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transmanche

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Some brilliant guards at Vic let down by a small minority.
That is pretty poor. It certainly doesn't reflect my experience of Northern guards in the North East, who I have found to excellent... almost without exception.

I hope the guard has been identified for remedial training.
 

RJ

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This makes me wonder, when I look at the excellent training I had under Northern Spirit, who is doing the retail course at Northern (West) ?? Is the training on the West Area done by those trainers inherited from First North Western?
How do you know that this particular guard wasn't listening, missed all publicity/briefs or merely forgot about this ticket's validity? Why does it have to be down to bad training by the TOC concerned?

It seems to be a mentality endemic on this forum that all TOC employees are uniform in terms of aptitude and cognitive ability. After the 4 week retail training course I did, we all did the same 6 hour examination, purely on tickets. The marks varied between 35% and 94%. Clearly, not everybody reacts identically despite being in the same classroom with the same teacher.

Some will understand the bulk of it first time, remember most of it, keep themselves up to date and do well in the job, whilst others can be retrained an unlimited number of times and still not be able to get it. I'm surprised about the mentality seen on this forum. Is there anybody on here who hasn't actually been to school and noticed that after exams, not everyone gets the same mark? Can you blame the failures on "bad teaching," when several others excelled?

I'd have thought that a railwayman like yourself would appreciate that TOC employees are individuals and not identically specified robots.
 
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Simon11

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That is pretty poor. It certainly doesn't reflect my experience of Northern guards in the North East, who I have found to excellent... almost without exception.

I hope the guard has been identified for remedial training.
Surely just a staff briefing would survice to remind all staff of the ticket.


 

lyndhurst25

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There are four different types of DaySavers (bus+train, bus+tram, train+tram, bus+train+tram)! I'm not sure how "training" is going to help here, unless the training consists of teaching him to read and understand what is says on the ticket. Surely he'd have had that training in primary school.

RJ, what was the pass mark on the ticket exam you did and what happened if you failed?
 

34D

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How do you know that this particular guard wasn't listening, missed all publicity/briefs or merely forgot about this ticket's validity? Why does it have to be down to bad training by the TOC concerned?
If he doesn't know about the ticket, then it should be accepted anyway, and the guard make a mental/written note to check with his colleagues.

However, I cannot believe that GMPTE or TfGM don't have a guide to tickets for rail/bus staff. Metro WYPTE produce an excellent one.
 

voyagerdude220

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I once went to Blackburn ticket office, requesting to buy an advance first single for the next day. The journey being Rgw-Bbn-Preston-Glasgow-Edinburgh. Perfectly valid. The chap in the ticket office immediately refused to even look it up. Reason given- You can only get a ticket to Glasgow *or* Edinburgh, not both. When I explained I could buy it on the net, he said it was 'an internet only offer.'.
In the end I didn't bother travelling.
The same ticket office has previously also advised me to buy a FC return to Glasgow on the day.. Imagine if joe public did just that, without knowing the huge difference in price..
 

radamfi

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Surely the Daysaver range is almost the simplest thing a guard in GM needs to know about, after basic singles and returns and GM Rail Rangers? I suspect the guard didn't like it because it was on Metrolink issued stock. I've had G4S staff trying to refuse my yellow Daysaver until I pointed out it said "Tram+Train".

I wonder if DB guards refuse Tageskarten issued by regional transport companies? I think not!
 
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RJ

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RJ, what was the pass mark on the ticket exam you did and what happened if you failed?
It was out of 138 marks, 85% was the pass threshold. It was a very long test which tested to see if we understood tickets and customer service properly. There was an online SHL psychometric test at the application stage which would filter out anyone who would not be able to cope with learning the ticketing system.

I passed the exam so I don't know for sure. I vaguely remember the trainer (very good BTW) saying that it was in the company's interest for all induction students to pass and that continued training would take place for anyone who failed.

The only person that failed somehow managed to bypass the application stage test :?. They later got deported after it transpired they weren't who they claimed to be. Turns out a family member sat the online tests on their behalf!

If he doesn't know about the ticket, then it should be accepted anyway, and the guard make a mental/written note to check with his colleagues.

However, I cannot believe that GMPTE or TfGM don't have a guide to tickets for rail/bus staff. Metro WYPTE produce an excellent one.
I certainly think there was an element of bad attitude towards customer service in the story. Stubborness/pride is a personality trait which I'm not sure a TOC can iron out of a person. I don't think there's anything wrong with a ticket inspector admitting that they don't know, but quite a few don't see it that way and prefer to inconvenience the passenger instead.

Sad state of affairs but guards have a relatively high amount of job security given the degree of training their employers have to pay for, so customer service seems to be low on the list of priorities for a few individuals. Anybody working in the retail industry with such an anti-customer attitude would see the boot post haste!
 
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furryfeet

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The TOC is responsible for making sure that the guards knowledge is up to the required standard, which clearly in this case it was not.
The employees manager should be aware of which of his subordinates have a lack of knowledge / application in the day to day environment, regardless of what score they attained in the tickets and customer service training course. Hence the managers should mark those people down for remedial training. If they improve, then all well and good. If not, then put someone else in the post.
The OP's experience will not be a good advert for northern trains, or indeed rail travel in general.
p.s. I hope that the passenger got a full refund and an apology straight away.
 

Greenback

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Instances like this one need to be brought to the attention of the train company concerned. The individuals manager should be able to use such reports as an indication of the guards performance, alongside other indicators.

Also, it will assist in determining whether previous issues that may have occurred have been resolved by any retraining that may have been undertaken.

This is best done by the passenger(s) concerned. I hope that anyone who receives genuine poor service as in this case, as opposed to those who label staff as rude and unhelpful because they don't allow them to travel on an invalid ticket, reports it to the company.
 

ANorthernGuard

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While we are at it lets hand draw and quarter the guard concerned, on a serious note, local fares get taught when he/she is at depot during their training and its easy to get mixed up (especially as a brand spanking new guard). New guards are put under so much pressure by the management that by trying to do their job correctly they are fouling up as common sense goes out the window as its follow the rules follow the rules DON'T use discretion (which as any guard will tell you it an essential part of our job) maybe people should look at the reasons higher up the chain then having a go at someone at the bottom!
 

OwlMan

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Instances like this one need to be brought to the attention of the train company concerned. The individuals manager should be able to use such reports as an indication of the guards performance, alongside other indicators.

Also, it will assist in determining whether previous issues that may have occurred have been resolved by any retraining that may have been undertaken.

This is best done by the passenger(s) concerned. I hope that anyone who receives genuine poor service as in this case, as opposed to those who label staff as rude and unhelpful because they don't allow them to travel on an invalid ticket, reports it to the company.

I fully agree with the above. If an incident of poor service is not reported to the TOC the "powers that be" will not know about it. If everybody complains patterns will emerge that will help to TOC spot the problems and deal with them in an appropiate manner

Peter.
 

transmanche

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That is pretty poor. It certainly doesn't reflect my experience of Northern guards in the North East, who I have found to excellent... almost without exception.

I hope the guard has been identified for remedial training.
Surely just a staff briefing would survice to remind all staff of the ticket.
Quite, but I was also thinking about his/her customer service skills.

Obviously I wasn't there, but as apparently "The Guard continued arguing and reduced one of them to tears", that suggests to me that perhaps they need to brush up on their customer service technique.
 

ANorthernGuard

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I fully agree with the above. If an incident of poor service is not reported to the TOC the "powers that be" will not know about it. If everybody complains patterns will emerge that will help to TOC spot the problems and deal with them in an appropiate manner

Peter.
If it costs Northern money they (The people with the purse strings) won't give a damn heck according to the upper management money is so tight (remember the millions in profit etc.) that the training school have to print/photocopy in Black & White and not colour to save money, the situation really is that incredulous. I do wholeheartedly agree that rudeness and unprofessionalism is completely out of order but I do wish to point out the lack of knowledge may not be the guards fault.
 

aformeruser

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I just checked a ticket a new Northern guard sold on the Manchester-Chester line the other day (she told another passenger that she was new in the role) and it turns out she sold an invalid ticket.

The passenger boarding at Altrincham said he was going to Bebington but was returning to Manchester the next day, so could be get a ticket that allowed that. She sold him the £21.90 Anytime Return for Manchester-Bebington.

A few issues there:
1. Manchester to Bebington via Altrincham is not a permitted route. She didn't ask what route the passenger was intending to take for the return journey.
2. A cheaper £16.80 Off Peak Return ticket would have been as valid as the £21.90 Anytime Return ticket was. If you're refusing to sell a cheaper ticket because the passenger didn't buy at the first opportunity at a smaller station shouldn't you tell the passenger that you are doing that in case there was a problem at the ticket office that you haven't been told about?
 

ANorthernGuard

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I just checked a ticket a new Northern guard sold on the Manchester-Chester line the other day (she told another passenger that she was new in the role) and it turns out she sold an invalid ticket.

The passenger boarding at Altrincham said he was going to Bebington but was returning to Manchester the next day, so could be get a ticket that allowed that. She sold him the £21.90 Anytime Return for Manchester-Bebington.

A few issues there:
1. Manchester to Bebington via Altrincham is not a permitted route. She didn't ask what route the passenger was intending to take for the return journey.
2. A cheaper £16.80 Off Peak Return ticket would have been as valid as the £21.90 Anytime Return ticket was. If you're refusing to sell a cheaper ticket because the passenger didn't buy at the first opportunity at a smaller station shouldn't you tell the passenger that you are doing that in case there was a problem at the ticket office that you haven't been told about?
To be honest with you JC I would have done exactly the same, all we would have had on our machines is something like via birkinhead any permitted yadda yadda and I would have sold the same, we do not have copies of routing guides or anything like that so I would be surprised if hardly any guards knew that it wasn't a valid route (I am presuming bebington is on the merseyrail network)


edit just reaqd the whole of the post :-x and didn't know she didn't sell the saver.
 

aformeruser

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Obviously I wasn't there, but as apparently "The Guard continued arguing and reduced one of them to tears", that suggests to me that perhaps they need to brush up on their customer service technique.
Reminds me of a former Northern guard (who now works for Metrolink) who had an argument with a passenger over a zero excess one day, another day he got his peak and off-peak conditions wrong when informing another passenger and another day he was running behind (when his train was in front of a XC train that was departing 5 minutes later) and then preceded to stand around chatting to someone, which led to him getting in to a confrontation with the driver of the XC service. And that's just on trains I used which he was working. Hardly a customer service friendly employee!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
To be honest with you JC I would have done exactly the same, all we would have had on our machines is something like via birkinhead any permitted yadda yadda and I would have sold the same, we do not have copies of routing guides or anything like that so I would be surprised if hardly any guards knew that it wasn't a valid route (I am presuming bebington is on the merseyrail network)
The conductor sounded unsure when issuing the ticket and seeing this thread made me curious about whether she actually did sell the right ticket.

In fairness the passenger asked for the wrong ticket. He should have asked for an Altrincham to Bebington ticket (valid via Manchester & Liverpool or Chester) and returned via Liverpool to Manchester, stopping short of Altrincham.
 

185

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jcollins said:
Reminds me of a former Northern guard (who now works for Metrolink)
Reason I posted this is I never worked for Northern, so was unsure if they inherited training staff from FNW. Afaik, there are no ex-Northern guards at Metrolink, just ex-XC and ex-Virgin. One did leave two years ago.

How do you know that this particular guard wasn't listening, missed all publicity/briefs or merely forgot about this ticket's validity? Why does it have to be down to bad training by the TOC concerned?

It seems to be a mentality endemic on this forum that all TOC employees are uniform in terms of aptitude and cognitive ability. After the 4 week retail training course I did, we all did the same 6 hour examination, purely on tickets. The marks varied between 35% and 94%. Clearly, not everybody reacts identically despite being in the same classroom with the same teacher.

Some will understand the bulk of it first time, remember most of it, keep themselves up to date and do well in the job, whilst others can be retrained an unlimited number of times and still not be able to get it. I'm surprised about the mentality seen on this forum. Is there anybody on here who hasn't actually been to school and noticed that after exams, not everyone gets the same mark? Can you
blame the failures on "bad teaching," when several others excelled?
My suggestion that it may be down to bad training and not the individual? Something else happened a day earlier, with a Countycard ticket, albeit with a different guard.

I tend to agree with radamfi who mentions this ticket, the Daysaver, is one of the most well known and commonly seen tickets by Wigan or Vic guards, so they really should know what it is. It's not a case of missing retail briefings, this is one of the key tickets staff should recognise under their local ticketing retail course.

I'd have thought that a railwayman like yourself would appreciate that TOC employees are individuals and not identically specified robots.
I agree, personally I detest staff that take their job too seriously and behave like robots, but when a very small minority of staff are missing the most basic things, it makes the rest of the hardworking staff look daft.
 
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aformeruser

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Afaik, there are no ex-Northern guards at Metrolink, just ex-XC and ex-Virgin.
Might be an ex-Northern guard's brother or something then. Anyway I've not seen the Northern guard in question for a long time now so I imagine he no longer works for Northern.
 

Greenback

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If it costs Northern money they (The people with the purse strings) won't give a damn heck according to the upper management money is so tight (remember the millions in profit etc.) that the training school have to print/photocopy in Black & White and not colour to save money, the situation really is that incredulous. I do wholeheartedly agree that rudeness and unprofessionalism is completely out of order but I do wish to point out the lack of knowledge may not be the guards fault.
When such incidents are reported, hopefully any training issues or knowledge gaps cna be rectified.

My suggestion that it may be down to bad training and not the individual? Something else happened a day earlier, with a Countycard ticket, albeit with a different guard.
It may well be. Again, Northern managers will not be able to do anything about unless they are informed of these sort of mistakes.

I tend to agree with radamfi who mentions this ticket, the Daysaver, is one of the most well known and commonly seen tickets by Wigan or Vic guards, so they really should know what it is. It's not a case of missing retail briefings, this is one of the key tickets staff should recognise under their local ticketing retail course.
In that case, the training must be delivered in a poor way, or be pretty useless! Seriously though, as has been mentioend, ther eis an awful lot for new staff to remember, and it is verye asy to get confused with the huge number of ticket types that guards can be presented with.

I agree, personally I detest staff that take their job too seriously and behave like robots, but when a very small minority of staff are missing the most basic things, it makes the rest of the hardworking staff look daft.
Indeed.

Indeed. Hopefully the passenger will, as they are entitled to a refund.
Quite. I wonder how many don't bother, though, especially when the sums of money invovled are relatively small, eithe rbecause they don't have the time, or don't want the hassle?
 

transmanche

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Quite. I wonder how many don't bother, though, especially when the sums of money invovled are relatively small, eithe rbecause they don't have the time, or don't want the hassle?
I think in such circumstances, the TOC should refund the amount overpaid - plus a 'penalty fare'.

It doesn't matter if it's just an honest mistake... what's sauce for the goose, etc...
 

Greenback

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I think in such circumstances, the TOC should refund the amount overpaid - plus a 'penalty fare'.

It doesn't matter if it's just an honest mistake... what's sauce for the goose, etc...
In my experience, TOC's often provide more than just the refund amount in these circumstances.
 

156441

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Heres a new guards perspective on retail training at northern.

Quite poor.

4 days avantix training, where you are basically told to try and sell the cheapest ticket (if selling onboard from an unmanned station)
Around 4 hours 'local fares briefing'. Which for me was 85% GMPTE tickets 10% Merseyrail tickets, a tiny bit about West + South Yorkshire and a wee bit about Derbyshire.

However on a personal level I always try and sell the most relevant ticket.
95% of the time avantix will highlight the cheapest fare but in relation to the ticket sold on the Chester line I do happen to know the cheaper tickets are hidden towards the bottom of the screen when travelling onwards from Chester.

I'm also unclear on how anyone could mistake a 'train/tram ' daysaver. not exactly rocket science and sounds like the guard making a quick buck to me!!
 

WestCoast

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I usually buy a Tram&Train DaySaver from a Metrolink TVM when I'm in Manchester, which is printed on yellow tickets with a different information layout to standard railway stock (I believe this would have been the case in the situation described by the OP). A few guards and G4S staff have had a closer look at it, but rightly so no one has ever rejected it.

Having said that, I suppose a DaySaver combo product can be printed on a tram, train or bus ticket, so the tram inspectors, train guards, G4S staff and bus drivers need to be aware of what one looks like in each case.

As an aside, the guards on my local line (some distance from the TfGM boundary) haven't been able to sell a GM Train+Tram DaySaver, because they couldn't locate it on their Avantix. Could any of the staff on here possibly tell me how the guards can sell it?
 
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Solent&Wessex

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The retail training for on train staff is woefully inadequate overall.

Whilst it may just about be acceptable for new starters, the top ups required to keep up knowledge are seemingly non existent in many TOCs.

Whilst the very basic core details are done in a classroom (over about 1 or 2 days max) the majority of retail training in my TOC is now done on the job with a minder, so people don't get the same training. There is limited, if any, top up training or refreshers on rarer stuff. Some knowledge is omitted completely.

When a new ticket is introduced, or a ticket machine changes, or new ticket stock is introduced you very rarely actually get to see it until it is too late.

In recent months I am aware of a couple of staff at my TOC who, between them, believed the following:
- That all GM tickets and free passes were valid to Birchwood.
- That if someone was travelling with an invalid ticket due to a time restriction then they had to purchase a new ticket and could not pay an XS fare.
- That The ENCTS Bus Pass gave Senior Railcard fares.
- That off peak tickets were only valid after 0930 on all flows on all routes.

As on board staff:
- We are not provided with any information relating to GMPTE tickets types, areas of validity, ticket stock images, ticket layouts etc. Retail training for new staff barely mentions PTE products at all, let alone in any detail.
- We are not provided with any paperwork regarding XS fare rules or how to process them.

As for the last two, I don't know why they thought that, but the ticket restriction information on Avantix Mobile is so hidden away and hard to find, let alone understand it, that many people don't bother.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
.

As an aside, the guards on my local line (some distance from the TfGM boundary) haven't been able to sell a GM Train+Tram DaySaver, because they couldn't locate it on their Avantix. Could any of the staff on here possibly tell me how the guards can sell it?
IIRC, tell them to go to the Rovers section and they are under there just as "Daysaver TB", "Daysaver TBM" etc etc. There is no mention of GM or anything else.
 
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mark1987

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I have always found the day tickets via the rovers section, and putting gm1 or 2 or 3 (dependent on which one is required)
 

bb21

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I vaguely remember the trainer (very good BTW) saying that it was in the company's interest for all induction students to pass and that continued training would take place for anyone who failed.
This is a rather central issue of the problem really. Employees in public-facing roles represent the company. The people higher up therefore have management responsibilities to ensure that all aspects of their subordinates' work performances are up to standard. This includes ticketing knowledge within the environment of the railway industry.

Whatever the reasons, people in the chain of command have failed, somewhere, if they have incompetent staff. Pure and simple. One member of staff failing might just be a one-off. When multiple staff demonstrate the same lack of knowledge in the same broad area then questions should surely be asked, answerable both by management and the company itself.
 
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