Not happy with staff on Northern

ca2102

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Hello, On Sunday 15th December I went to Outwood Station to catch the 13:01 train to Leeds. The ticket machine was out-of-order so when I boarded the train I was hoping to buy a ticket from the guard. This did not happen so when I arrived at Leeds station I went to the Ticket Office and purchased an Outwood-Leeds single ticket for £3.30p. (Outwood is the last station before Leeds) I had not walked 5 metres from the Ticket Office when I was stopped by 2 staff (one female and the other male). The female staff member asked me where I had travelled from and could she see my ticket. (If I did not know better I am sure that they heard me make my purchase at the Ticket Office). She then said that Outwood station was conducting a "blocking excercise" (or something like that) and could I show her a "ticket/voucher" that should have been given to me by two members of staff that were at Outwood station. I told her there were no staff on the platform at Outwood but she insisted that there were. I re-affirmed my statement that there were no staff at Outwood station and her reply both surprised and upset me. She said that if I could not produce a "ticket/voucher" that should have been given to me by two staff at Outwood station then she would have to assume that I must have travelled from another station. This, to me, meant that I was being accused of being a fare dodger. All this was happening on the concourse whilst commuters were passing and to say that I was embarrassed and humiliated was no under-statement. I showed her my driving licence with my Outwood address on it and again insisted that there were no staff present at Outwood station when I boarded the train. She then told me to wait and proceeded to make a mobile telephone call in front of me. I heard her describing myself (age, clothing etc.) and asking if they (the two staff) were at Outwood station. She then asked them if they had left the station at all. They must have admitted that they had, at some point, left the station because she proceeded to tell them that they must let her know if they ever leave the station, even for a moment. After the telephone call ended she told me that her colleague (the male member of staff who was stood with her) would deal with the two members of staff at Outwood station. She then said I could continue my journey. Not a sorry, not an apology, nothing. The whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth and I am still angry about the whole episode. I am 61 years old and have always paid my dues. To be falsely accused and made to feel like I did is shameful on Northern Railways part. I do not expect anything to happen because there were two staff members present and it is their word against mine but I will not forget the experience anytime soon.
 
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jfollows

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Under similar circumstances I would write a polite and concise letter of complaint to Northern rather than post here, but then again maybe you posted here in order to get someone like me to say this!

EDIT: I should add that I, myself, have encountered no problems with Northern's staff, including their revenue protection staff, but the attitude you describe is unacceptable and should be called out.
 
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Starmill

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I'm not surprised that the company assumed criminal behaviour on your part, or that the staff treated you with such a lack of good grace. It's unfortunately something which they specialise in. They're very well known for giving the implication that their loyal, honest customers have committed crimes.
 

Skiddaw

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OP, what you describe is quite unacceptable to my mind. If it were me I'd definitely be submitting a formal complaint. If they don't deal with it to your satisfaction I'd be tempted to involve my MP.
 

WesternLancer

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Hello, On Sunday 15th December I went to Outwood Station to catch the 13:01 train to Leeds. The ticket machine was out-of-order so when I boarded the train I was hoping to buy a ticket from the guard. This did not happen so when I arrived at Leeds station I went to the Ticket Office and purchased an Outwood-Leeds single ticket for £3.30p. (Outwood is the last station before Leeds) I had not walked 5 metres from the Ticket Office when I was stopped by 2 staff (one female and the other male). The female staff member asked me where I had travelled from and could she see my ticket. (If I did not know better I am sure that they heard me make my purchase at the Ticket Office). She then said that Outwood station was conducting a "blocking excercise" (or something like that) and could I show her a "ticket/voucher" that should have been given to me by two members of staff that were at Outwood station. I told her there were no staff on the platform at Outwood but she insisted that there were. I re-affirmed my statement that there were no staff at Outwood station and her reply both surprised and upset me. She said that if I could not produce a "ticket/voucher" that should have been given to me by two staff at Outwood station then she would have to assume that I must have travelled from another station. This, to me, meant that I was being accused of being a fare dodger. All this was happening on the concourse whilst commuters were passing and to say that I was embarrassed and humiliated was no under-statement. I showed her my driving licence with my Outwood address on it and again insisted that there were no staff present at Outwood station when I boarded the train. She then told me to wait and proceeded to make a mobile telephone call in front of me. I heard her describing myself (age, clothing etc.) and asking if they (the two staff) were at Outwood station. She then asked them if they had left the station at all. They must have admitted that they had, at some point, left the station because she proceeded to tell them that they must let her know if they ever leave the station, even for a moment. After the telephone call ended she told me that her colleague (the male member of staff who was stood with her) would deal with the two members of staff at Outwood station. She then said I could continue my journey. Not a sorry, not an apology, nothing. The whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth and I am still angry about the whole episode. I am 61 years old and have always paid my dues. To be falsely accused and made to feel like I did is shameful on Northern Railways part. I do not expect anything to happen because there were two staff members present and it is their word against mine but I will not forget the experience anytime soon.
Welcome to this forum.

You will probably help future honest passengers if you:

Cut and paste this post - with some minor edits, put on your name and address and send it or e-mail it to Northern Customer Services.

I suspect you were lucky enough that the staff she rang were honest enough to say they were in fact not on duty - or no doubt they would have taken the fare dodging accusation further.

Obviously a 'short faring' hot spot as you can imagine, but showing ID with an address near the station surely ought to have been enough to give you the benefit of the doubt, one might think.
 

WesternLancer

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Is there much point in writing a letter of complaint to Northern?
Yes, at some level they will have to deal with it, and I suspect they have to publish statistics of complaints etc to the regulator / Transport Focus (passenger 'watchdog') - statistics of such things are supposed to be an element of the decision making process when the government awards franchises.

It certainly can't do any harm.
 

404250

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It's unfortunate for you. However, I'm for fare dodgers not getting away with it so a hard line does need to be taken by staff. I guess so many people try it on with them they had no reason to believe you more often than not people lie.
 

ca2102

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Well an email has been sent and already replied to:
Thank you for contacting Northern, Your complaint has been received and a case created on our system under reference number xxxxxx. One of our dedicated customer complaint managers will review your complaint and respond within 20 working days.
I await their response........
 

WesternLancer

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Well an email has been sent and already replied to:
Thank you for contacting Northern, Your complaint has been received and a case created on our system under reference number xxxxxx. One of our dedicated customer complaint managers will review your complaint and respond within 20 working days.
I await their response........
Well done for making the effort to do this.

Obviously there is a problem with endemic fare dodging on parts of the rail network, so I am sure you can see the other side of things, but Northern are increasingly poor on other matters (see various other threads on the forum esp ref delay repay claims etc) that it is easy to believe (sadly) you were not dealt with in an appropriate manner.
 

thejuggler

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Difficult at the time when you aren't expecting such treatment, but the best response is to simply state that you did get on at Outwood and you bought at the first opportunity to do so in line with conditions of carriage.

Then let them know if they don't agree with this statement of fact present their evidence to the contrary.
 

70014IronDuke

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Difficult at the time when you aren't expecting such treatment, but the best response is to simply state that you did get on at Outwood and you bought at the first opportunity to do so in line with conditions of carriage.

Then let them know if they don't agree with this statement of fact present their evidence to the contrary.
That's easy to say - but what would have happened if the block RPIs had insisted they had been ever present on duty and had agreed to lie in tandem? Their word - two of them - versus the OP? Hmmmmmm. Not an easy situation, methinks, even for an older person with - presumably - an unblemished record for honesty.

And as the OP says, it must be very shocking and emotionally draining for someone to be stopped like this when innocent.
 

Kilopylae

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I'm not surprised that the company assumed criminal behaviour on your part, or that the staff treated you with such a lack of good grace. It's unfortunately something which they specialise in. They're very well known for giving the implication that their loyal, honest customers have committed crimes.
Regardless, whether or not they're used to dealing with fare evaders, there's no excuse for treating a member of the public in this fashion. It's disrespectful in the extreme and frankly rather Kafkaesque
 

Starmill

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It's unfortunate for you. However, I'm for fare dodgers not getting away with it so a hard line does need to be taken by staff. I guess so many people try it on with them they had no reason to believe you more often than not people lie.
Other companies seem to manage just fine to protect their revenue without the need to give the implication that people who have not done anything wrong have committed an offence.
 

Wombat

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Can someone explain this "blocking exercise"? It sounds as though the idea is that a member of staff at Outwood should have given the OP some form of token in addition to the (not-yet-purchased) ticket, and that the OP should have presented this token at Leeds as "evidence" that they did indeed board the train at Outwood. But is there any sort of legal obligation for a passenger to accept, retain and present this token, or have Northern just made it up?
 

Starmill

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It's something which Northern have just made up.

I've been given little slips of paper at Mauldeth Road a few times, although I've never handed them over to anyone when I bought a ticket, and I wasn't asked.
 

Kilopylae

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Not a northerner, but G.W.R. have sometimes organised something similar at Exmouth, where there are no barriers. The staff are generally wearing those portable ticket machines - anyone entering the station is offered to buy a ticket, and anyone trying to get off a train without a ticket is asked to stand aside. This slips of paper thing sounds slightly ridiculous... just put in a working ticket machine, for heaven's sake!
 

30907

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Not a northerner, but G.W.R. have sometimes organised something similar at Exmouth, where there are no barriers. The staff are generally wearing those portable ticket machines - anyone entering the station is offered to buy a ticket, and anyone trying to get off a train without a ticket is asked to stand aside. This slips of paper thing sounds slightly ridiculous... just put in a working ticket machine, for heaven's sake!
1. Revenue blocks using this method have been in use for years, certainly as long as I've been reading this forum, and it seems to be an effective method of catching short-farers.
2. Operating a block - even if the staff operate it properly - when there is no working ticket machine seems remarkably stupid.
 

Brissle Girl

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Blocking is a perfectly legitimate way to catch people short faring, and I would imagine is very effective, and catches a lot of people out. If it prevents fare dodging then I'm all in favour of it. As to the question as to whether there is a legal obligation to take the token and present it, well, you are obliged to follow any instructions from railway staff, and it would be in your own interest to do so, so I can't see what the problem is there.

I would imagine most people caught deny it at first, and that even on being told that there was a block in place they will still deny it. So it shouldn't be that surprising that those involved in the exercise have to be assertive in stating that they believe the passenger is trying to short fare. Unfortunately that does mean accusing you, and by the nature of the exercise that will be in a public place.

Now in this situation, the staff involved were completely wrong footed by those at Outwood who went off duty, which makes a mockery of the whole exercise if they didn't call through to advise those catching people at Leeds. To their credit they did phone through, and get confirmation that the OP was telling the truth, but to my mind the complaint should be more directed at the failure of the process that led to the two staff being put in the position of making a false accusation. I bet they were just as mad as you were that in carrying out their job they were let down by their colleagues and made to look silly.
 

Starmill

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I would imagine most people caught deny it at first, and that even on being told that there was a block in place they will still deny it. So it shouldn't be that surprising that those involved in the exercise have to be assertive in stating that they believe the passenger is trying to short fare. Unfortunately that does mean accusing you, and by the nature of the exercise that will be in a public place.
Imagine if I walked up to you while you were in the supermarket, and accused you of assault.

You would protest, I imagine, that you'd never assaulted anyone. Obviously I wouldn't have a shred of evidence, because I assume you've not actually assaulted anyone, but I could reply saying that someone who had been caught committing an assault would be very likely to respond in the way you just had, and go on to explain to you that assault is a common problem in my area and that I think it causes a lot of problems in society that I'm unhappy with.

Presumably you'd then expect me to let you go and for me to believe you that you'd done nothing wrong, but instead of doing that I could just walk off and leave others who were onlookers to come to their own conclusions about your criminal behaviour.
 

deltic

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Imagine if I walked up to you while you were in the supermarket, and accused you of assault.

You would protest, I imagine, that you'd never assaulted anyone. Obviously I wouldn't have a shred of evidence, because I assume you've not actually assaulted anyone, but I could reply saying that someone who had been caught committing an assault would be very likely to respond in the way you just had, and go on to explain to you that assault is a common problem in my area and that I think it causes a lot of problems in society that I'm unhappy with.

Presumably you'd then expect me to let you go and for me to believe you that you'd done nothing wrong, but instead of doing that I could just walk off and leave others who were onlookers to come to their own conclusions about your criminal behaviour.
What a strange response to Brissle Girl's reasonable posting. The RPI knew a block was on at the OP's station and therefore did their job by stopping and challenging them. They also checked to see if the block was actually being enacted. Where the system fell down was in their failure to apologise to the OP when they discovered their staff had gone walkabout.
 

Starmill

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What a strange response to Brissle Girl's reasonable posting. The RPI knew a block was on at the OP's station and therefore did their job by stopping and challenging them. They also checked to see if the block was actually being enacted. Where the system fell down was in their failure to apologise to the OP when they discovered their staff had gone walkabout.
Have you read the OP's post? They were concerned at being accused falsely of a serious crime.

My post was intended to demonstrate that Brissle Girl has inconsistent standards, and that they would be very unhappy if they were baselessly accused of a crime in any other situation, even if they wouldn't mind Northern doing it to them.
 

deltic

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Have you read the OP's post? They were concerned at being accused falsely of a serious crime.

My post was intended to demonstrate that Brissle Girl has inconsistent standards, and that they would be very unhappy if they were baselessly accused of a crime in any other situation, even if they wouldn't mind Northern doing it to them.
I have read it - the RPI had reasonable grounds that a crime had been committed- they investigated further and found that it hadn't. It happens on a regular basis with the police, not a pleasant experience but no system is 100% fool proof.
 

Kilopylae

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I have read it - the RPI had reasonable grounds that a crime had been committed- they investigated further and found that it hadn't. It happens on a regular basis with the police, not a pleasant experience but no system is 100% fool proof.
I really don't think it's fair to say that knowing a block was going on is "reasonable grounds [to assume] that a crime had been committed". The assumption could quite easily have been one of good faith - perhaps a wording along the lines of:

"Sorry to bother you, sir, but I just wanted to check with you whether there had been any staff at the station when you started your journey [...] Would you mind waiting for a moment while I check that with the staff at the station? Once again, sorry for the inconvenience; this very likely the fault of our communications systems."

Frankly, there are a small minority of railway staff who do take an unacceptably cynical and guilty-until-proven-otherwise attitude to revenue protection, and O.P. has every right to be affronted at having been treated with such disrespect and not even offered an apology.
 

Starmill

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I have read it - the RPI had reasonable grounds that a crime had been committed- they investigated further and found that it hadn't. It happens on a regular basis with the police, not a pleasant experience but no system is 100% fool proof.
It does not happen on a regular basis. The police consider the evidence they've found, and don't accuse anyone until charges are being considered.

Northern's staff conduct their investigation and speak to the public in a very different way to the police.
 

WesternLancer

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I really don't think it's fair to say that knowing a block was going on is "reasonable grounds [to assume] that a crime had been committed". The assumption could quite easily have been one of good faith - perhaps a wording along the lines of:

"Sorry to bother you, sir, but I just wanted to check with you whether there had been any staff at the station when you started your journey [...] Would you mind waiting for a moment while I check that with the staff at the station? Once again, sorry for the inconvenience; this very likely the fault of our communications systems."

Frankly, there are a small minority of railway staff who do take an unacceptably cynical and guilty-until-proven-otherwise attitude to revenue protection, and O.P. has every right to be affronted at having been treated with such disrespect and not even offered an apology.
exactly that - I bet it was the manner that the OP was spoken to that annoyed the OP. EG did the staff at the end apologise, explain that they had made an error due to their own systems being at fault, and hope the passenger concerned understood the difficulty they face with people who do pretend they just got on at that station.

But similarly I do sympathise with staff who have to put up with every sort of lie and excuse from people perfectly able to buy a ticket.
 

najaB

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That's easy to say - but what would have happened if the block RPIs had insisted they had been ever present on duty and had agreed to lie in tandem?
I never understand why some posters jump to the conclusion that rail staff are acting with malice when their actions are perfectly explainable by incompetence. Never mind suggesting that they are involved in criminal conspiracy...
 

farleigh

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I agree with Naja B that it is staggering incompetence by the staff rather than any malicious intent.

However, if one gets a fine or worse then incompetence is no better than malice.
 

sheff1

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Other companies seem to manage just fine to protect their revenue without the need to give the implication that people who have not done anything wrong have committed an offence.
Northern even manage to make false allegations of criminal behaviour via messages displayed on their ticket barriers when a valid ticket is rejected - Leeds takes number one spot for the times I have been so accused.

2. Operating a block - even if the staff operate it properly - when there is no working ticket machine seems remarkably stupid.
Quite ... but this is Northern.

I bet they were just as mad as you were that in carrying out their job they were let down by their colleagues and made to look silly.
.... but not professional enough to give an apology.

I never understand why some posters jump to the conclusion that rail staff are acting with malice when their actions are perfectly explainable by incompetence. Never mind suggesting that they are involved in criminal conspiracy...
Presumably for the same reason that some posters jump in to state that another poster has committed a criminal offence when there is no evidence that that is the case.
 

najaB

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Presumably for the same reason that some posters jump in to state that another poster has committed a criminal offence when there is no evidence that that is the case.
Which is going to be more likely to be the case? That a passenger has inadvertently or otherwise committed what is usually a strict liability offence, or that railway staff are (again, I feel the need to point this out) engaged in a criminal conspiracy to frame passengers, with absolutely no net benefit to themselves?
 

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