Occasional upgrading to First Class

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Shimbleshanks

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My dear lady wife commutes on a London Zone 1-6 Travelcard from Purley to London on Southern/GTR every day. She is going to be undergoing some medical treatment and has asked me is it possible to upgrade from Standard to First class on an occasional basis - probably when the train is full and she doesn't feel up to standing. However, she'd rather not have to buy a First Class Travelcard (should there be such a thing).

Am I right in thinking, if she just goes to sit in First Class she'll get hit with a penalty fare? Is there some sort of excess ticket she could buy from the machine or the ticket office? (However, that wouldn't be entirely satisfactory - if it then turned out that there were plenty of seats in Standard, the money would be wasted.)
 
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talldave

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Although I can't answer the First Class question, she might be eligible for a Priority Seat Card, which she could apply to Southern for enclosing an appropriate Doctor's note.
 

greatkingrat

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The excess due is the difference between a Standard Single and a First Single for the journey made. This would be £3.50 and would need to be purchased at the ticket office before boarding.
 

Shimbleshanks

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Although I can't answer the First Class question, she might be eligible for a Priority Seat Card, which she could apply to Southern for enclosing an appropriate Doctor's note.

That's an idea. Given that Standard and First on Southern are identical seats, that could be the best solution. The only question is whether she would feel comfortable turfing someone else out of their seat.
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The excess due is the difference between a Standard Single and a First Single for the journey made. This would be £3.50 and would need to be purchased at the ticket office before boarding.
Having to queue up at the ticket office would be almost as much a strain as having to stand on the journey - unless it was possible to buy a stock of undated excesses in advance?
 
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maniacmartin

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Having to queue up at the ticket office would be almost as much a strain as having to stand on the journey - unless it was possible to buy a stock of undated excesses in advance?

You can't buy them undated in advance. I see no reason why you can't buy them dated in advance though (admittedly with the loss of flexibility that comes with this)

Regarding first class travelcards, if the original travelcard season was purchased from a TOC (not London Underground), you could do a season ticket changeover to a 1st class one. Very few stations in the zones have them, but Sanderstead to London Zones 1-6 does, and would be valid from Purley.

If your wife is commuting on the ex-Horsham services, these trains have guards, so if she can locate them on the train before taking a seat in first class they might let her buy the excess on board
 

Bletchleyite

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I must admit I would upgrade to 1st a little more often if it was possible on seeing Standard was a bit full. I often *do* do it that way on weekends when Weekend First is available. But I am aware of the revenue protection "pay if I'm challenged" issue.

Perhaps it's something that would work well as a mobile ticket option - you could upgrade provided you did so within, say, 5 minutes of departure time. That would get rid of most "pay if challenged" people, and the level of abuse that would be possible on a 5-minute journey is noise level.
 

tsr

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This is exactly the sort of thing Priority Seats are meant for. As above, services to/from Horsham (and, during the peaks when some call at Purley, Reigate/Tonbridge services) have conductors who can assist in sorting such seats out if the passenger feels unable to.

First Class upgrades are not officially available onboard during the week, but some conductors may choose to allow an excess in exceptional circumstances, as it is theoretically possible to issue one. Actually, the seating does vary and is at the very least going to be equally comfortable in First as it is in Standard, if not more so.

Trains to/from Caterham and Tattenham Corner may be formed of stock which has First Class seating, but it is declassified on these services. In practice, slightly fewer people usually sit in these seats from Purley as they are unsure if First is enforced, so you may find that seeking out those trains is the best bet.

First Class Travelcard seasons are not unheard of and, for those travelling out of London in the evening, are the surest way to get a seat on a train where First is enforced. Be aware, though, that on all peak time trains, conductors may be extremely limited in where they can work the train from, due to the intense overcrowding which can be experienced; it is best to be seated towards the middle of the train in these cases, as most station dispatch positions are viable from the middle cabs where the conductors often have to go. This also means they can be found there, for assistance with priority seats/First Class etc.
 

Bishopstone

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Can you reliably get a seat in First, from Purley, taking into account:

i) Genuine FC ticket holders who have already joined.
ii) Those who just 'help themselves' - which was always quite a number from East Croydon, when I commuted on Coastway trains.
iii) Tales I hear of over-crowding on ex-Redhill trains, particularly to London Bridge, which must make revenue protection quite difficult?
 

Harlesden

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Contact Southern, attaching evidence of your medical condition and ask them for a confirmation letter to show to any Revenue Protection officer informing them that only a straightforward Excess fare should be charged.
 

gray1404

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Also bear in mind that a priority card is merely a request to vacate a seat. No other person or rail staff member can force a passenger to move out of a priority seat. They are not reserved seats as per normal reservations.
 

tsr

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Also bear in mind that a priority card is merely a request to vacate a seat. No other person or rail staff member can force a passenger to move out of a priority seat. They are not reserved seats as per normal reservations.

If a member of railway staff can see that it is going to cause someone's journey to become unsafe if they cannot sit down, they can ask somebody to move and, as it's on the basis of safety, that person cannot refuse without a pretty good reason. As per the Byelaws.

If it's just a matter of comfort rather than physical safety (eg. not actually aggravating a serious medical condition) then it could be a different matter.
 

All Line Rover

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I must admit I would upgrade to 1st a little more often if it was possible on seeing Standard was a bit full. I often *do* do it that way on weekends when Weekend First is available. But I am aware of the revenue protection "pay if I'm challenged" issue.

I am not in favour of DOO. I believe that, where a train has a ticket inspector on board (I avoid using the word 'guard' deliberately), one should be allowed to upgrade to first class providing one approaches the ticket inspector first. London Midland does not allow this. Could it be because a sizeable number of its guards (not all of them, but a not insignificant number) have a habit of hiding in the rear cab and do not answer the door when a passenger comes knocking?
 

Abpj17

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She could also - if possible - negotiate different working hours so she isn't travelling during rush hour.
 

Bletchleyite

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I am not in favour of DOO. I believe that, where a train has a ticket inspector on board (I avoid using the word 'guard' deliberately), one should be allowed to upgrade to first class providing one approaches the ticket inspector first. London Midland does not allow this. Could it be because a sizeable number of its guards (not all of them, but a not insignificant number) have a habit of hiding in the rear cab and do not answer the door when a passenger comes knocking?


As a result, and given that on train RPIs on LM are just about unknown, most passengers in 1st have probably not paid for it. Or indeed paid for anything.

It is my experience that LM's penalty fares scheme is decidedly theoretical, as there are so few staff who can actually issue them.
 

Shimbleshanks

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Many thanks to everyone for their interesting and helpful suggestions.

We've decided to apply for a Priority Card and she may also start work a bit later to avoid the rush. We'll see how it goes from there.

Trying to occasionally upgrade to First looks to be more trouble than it's worth, tbh. However, I did read in our local paper something to the effect that guards will now allow standard class ticket holders with priority cards to use the priority seats in 1st class if they cannot access standard class.
 

Bishopstone

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However, I did read in our local paper something to the effect that guards will now allow standard class ticket holders with priority cards to use the priority seats in 1st class if they cannot access standard class.

This matter was the subject of a question in the GTR passenger panel session last week, and I've copied the official response verbatim, below:

'We have always expected our staff to use discretion when appropriate and in this situation we have reminded our staff to exercise discretion in specific situations regarding first class. First and foremost our staff should be locating a priority seat in standard class for the priority seat card holder – if a priority seat is not available in standard class then our on board team are reminded to use discretion when appropriate if a priority seat card holder is sitting in first class. This is not a policy that simply allows a priority seat card holder to travel in first class and communicating it as such would only cause further confusion. This is about clarifying and reminding our staff of what discretion they can use and in what situations.'

One of the qualifying criteria for a Priority Seat Card is age (65 plus) irrespective of general health, so any policy of 'discretion' has to be quite tightly controlled, or First Class could fill with pensioners who know their rights...

The question of whether Standard class is 'full' will also need the application of discretion, as often there are seats available towards the front or rear of a train. But for the severely mobility impaired - as opposed to those who just happen to be age 66 - it might be considered unreasonable to ask them to walk through six coaches to a Standard seat.
 
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