Passenger rights when following staff instructions

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

  1. LowLevel

    LowLevel Established Member

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    I shall remember that in future every time any passenger on a train says 'but xyz said' regarding any matter whatsoever I must immediately comply with whatever they say without question or comment then! :s:lol:

    Alternatively I think I'll continue with my generally open handed approach to my work saving my ire for circumstances that deserve it.

    I truly do appreciate your concern regarding the issue - the railway must do as well because my company at least has repeatedly rebriefed staff on the importance of simple, consistent endorsements to avoid confusion from ambiguous verbal instruction - but I think your stance is equally far in the opposite direction to the 'black sheep' inspector in that I suspect it might struggle to stand up in an actual court case.
     
  2. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    This is why the endorsement box was introduced and I believe the requirement to use is is specifically mentioned in the internal Advance Fares FAQs. The thing is , that like many things on the railway, the intention is good but the implementation is shoddy.
     
  3. Westcoast-ting

    Westcoast-ting Member

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    It does seem that even the most passenger focused tocs don’t seem interested in issues like this ? Almost like they accept that this is part and parcel of running a railway and their is no business case to address the core issues.

    At my old toc platform staff had very basic ticket training and were not retail trained, they regularly have gave out wrong information, sometimes with good intentions sometimes to get them out their way.
     
  4. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I'm not sure if you are saying you would have acted in the same manner as the LNER Guard in the case referred to in this thread and/or how the TPE Guard in another case acted or not, but if you are saying that then such actions are unlawful and should result in disciplinary action as well as compensation for the affected customers. I trust you are not saying that?
     
  5. LowLevel

    LowLevel Established Member

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    I'm saying that if a train was cancelled or heavily delayed I would cheerfully allow anyone to travel on my own train regardless of the ticket they hold, the same as I wouldn't question a written endorsement from someone waiving a ticket condition because I choose to respect my colleagues' judgement.

    I am also saying I wouldn't accept 'someone on the platform said it was OK' to immediately waive any ticket condition or restriction on inspection without any question or determination. If the passenger is insistent then I will make suitable efforts to investigate their claim and if it's even vaguely substantiated then leave them be, endorsing the ticket myself, because that's the right thing to do.

    If I'm not happy their claim can be substantiated (IE it's very dubious) I will request payment, and if it's not given (generally it is, without even a hint of argument - you get a sense for these things) then I offer them an option of awaiting their correct service if applicable at a suitable location without further charge or giving details so I can issue an appropriate notice for them to formally dispute the matter with the company.

    I don't kick people with a ticket of any kind off trains (I very rarely kick anybody off a train at all, it's not my style) and I don't take money from them with menaces because neither method is conducive to a long and happy career and they don't make my day go any faster.
     
  6. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Thanks for confirming :) (not that I ever doubted it!)
     
  7. robbeech

    robbeech Established Member

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    It’s clear that the system in place doesn’t work properly. This makes it difficult for staff as we’d be foolish to assume there aren’t a significant number of people there trying it on when they fancy going home earlier or they miss their train through no fault of the railway.
    However, the system is what the system is, and it’s limitations should not negatively affect passengers. If by taking a lenient approach to this costs ‘the railway’ money by people trying it on then surely that in itself should be the incentive needed to implement a better system to deal with it.
    I’m afraid I can’t make any real suggestions as to what this system should be but I don’t think that removes my right entirely to suggest that the current one doesn’t work.

    As with lots of things (typically based around fare evasion) the way to ensure that genuine people are not penalised for issues caused by the railway (do note I’m not bringing ‘genuine mistakes’ into this) is to have a system that accurately and efficiently catches people that are trying to doing something against the rules. The problem is, usually that it’s cheaper for ‘the railway’ to penalise people and let them complain afterwards than to implement a useful method and system. Not psssenger focussed? Well, ‘the railway’ isn’t always, it’s just the staff on the ground so to speak that push it one way or the other.
     
  8. Solent&Wessex

    Solent&Wessex Established Member

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    The simple solution is as previously mentioned a few times above - written authorisation slips.

    This would not be necessary where ticket acceptance has been agreed and is publicised as this, in my experience, is communicated well internally. I get numerous messages each day saying about different ticket acceptance on either specific trains or whole sections of route.

    The pre-printed written authorisation slips wouldn't need lots of writing and could even be simple credit card sized so easily carried in a pocket. A simple scheme called "Back on Track" was introduced by TPE a few years ago and works quite successfully.

    Large groups of passengers wouldn't need to be issued with them as in general when large groups are displaced then they are covered by ticket acceptance anyway.

    It wouldn't be difficult to do for individuals or just a few people.

    It would also be easy to publicise internally and externally.
     
  9. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    For the reason given by Solent & Wessex I would prefer to quote the Railway Byelaws which in 17(3)(iii) & 18(3)(iii) explicitly refer to an authorised person giving permission to travel without a valid ticket.
     
  10. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    The problem, as ever with railway ticketing, would be the minority of staff who ignore well publicised instructions and do their own thing. Until such people are weeded out, which TOCs have seemingly shown little inclination to do, cases like that in the OP would continue.
     
  11. farci

    farci Member

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    The example of this elderly couple goes back to January and it took a newspaper campaign to get action. All they wanted was to get to their destination 9 months ago not the crocodile tears from the TOCs who appear to be placing their public-facing staff in a bad position.

    My experiences in France/Germany - albeit with a less fragmented railway - are that revenue staff on the failed service will authorise with a stamp and/or initials a change in travel. Presumably on receipt of an authorisation message from their control. Is there no generally agreed system in UK upon whch on-train or gateline staff can rely?

    For comparison, imagine a low-cost airline in this situation. I don't think they would casually say 'Just go to our rival's check-in, they'll let you on! Tell'em Fred said it would be OK'
     
  12. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    To be fair it's a completely different situation; we have a National Rail Conditions of Travel and all TOCs have an obligation to assist passengers who would otherwise be stranded, agreements in place to carry passengers in the event of disruption etc.
     
  13. farci

    farci Member

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    I understand your point. Given the TOCs have an obligation to assist what are they doing to help customer-facing staff meet this duty?

    See my questions above about communicating effectively. Disruptions are inevitable in a complex network and we have all suffered the frustration of different staff giving different advice, trying to be helpful but not based on concise instructions.
     
  14. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    Define stranded, I don’t use the definition as waiting 40 minutes for the next service of the relevant TOC
     
  15. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    One of the interesting things about this sort of dispute when I have seen it on the trains (where other customers are berated for having the incorrect ticket, but the customers protest that they were told they may use that train because theirs was cancelled), and what is on display in this thread from key industry insiders, is that train guards sometimes seem to take the view that their judgement is the most important thing about the situation.

    The argument seems to be (and correct me here if I'm wrong) that the guard needs to have some kind of evidence that the customer is telling the truth, and that without it the story will not be believed, or will be judged at least more likely to be a lie than the truth.

    Intriguingly, in Court the opposite is more likely to be true. If a witness statement is submitted to the Court, and if the statement seems reasonable in nature, and if the statement corroborates some other verifiable facts (for example 'my booked train x was cancelled' - this fact is very easily determined nowadays), a Judge is quite likely to accept it as being true. It is of course a serious criminal offence to submit a witness statement that contains anything that you know is not true. If there is no other contradictory evidence against such a witness statement (which there usually isn't), then it is quite likely that the Judge would rule in the customer's favour. Obviously it's better if something is written down. But you don't need something written down to assert that you are honest. The guard couldn't come to the Court and submit a witness statement saying 'I think the customer lied to me' with nothing further to add. Much would hinge on how reasonably the customer and the company seemed to have acted, though, and on the amount of the fare in question, and on how the Judge interprets the dispute (i.e. one person vs a large company with hundreds of millions of pounds annual turnover).

    Still, while I used to think litigation was extreme, unreasonable and unnecessary, the more I have read on this forum about the way industry insiders view this sort of dispute, the more I think that only customers taking train companies to the County Court will focus their minds on what their legal and contractual obligations really are.

    Ultimately: you are a large firm. Your customer is one individual. Accusing them of lying is both a seriously bad look and likely to be bad business. Why bother?
     
  16. 158801

    158801 Member

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    To me, there are serveral issues at stake here.

    The first being the definition of "an authorised person".
    The railway byelaws state an authorised person
     
  17. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    A person employed on the railway rather than a random member of the public.

    If a train company thinks that a member of staff is giving incorrect advise then that it is an internal rail industry matter.

    The rail industry needs to be much, much better at complying with contract and consumer laws. Some train companies are skating on very thin ice in this area.
     
  18. 158801

    158801 Member

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    To me there are serveral issues at stake here - all of which are the responsibility of the train companies, not the customer.

    The first is the definition of "an authorised person".
    The byelaws state "
    A person acting in the course of their duties who :
    (a) is an employee or agent of an Operator or
    (b) any person authorised by an Operator

    The National Conditions of travel state
    Where you are specifically permitted to board a train by an authorised member of staff or notice of the Train Company whose service you intend to use.

    As an employee of "Yellow trains" I am not an employee of "Green trains" nor do I consider myself to be an agent of them. They operate trains 250 miles from me and I don't think that they have given me the authority to let someone travel for free on their services nor upgrade to 1st class etc.

    I believe the only authorised people should be the guard of the train the customer wishes to travel on or the control office of the operator concerned. Otherwise I belive there is a tendency for staff at a station to tell a customer anything just to get rid of them.
    As with many things to do with the railways this is a grey area.

    Secondly I believe it needs to be made more clear when a customer buys a ticket for a specific company of what their rights are. Some simple, plain English text that states "your ticket is only valid on the operator(s) stated and you may not use the trains of another company unless you have written permission".

    Earlier in this thread there's reference to a court of law. Surely all disputes could be null and void if a customer merely said "but the man on the platform said.." yes, sometimes they would be lying but it's all but impossible to prove.

    Finally there needs to be better staff training. Maybe every enquiry where a customer asks "when is the next train to xxx please", its met with the response "could I see your ticket so I can help you better. We then ensure the ticket does have route or operator restrictions.
     
  19. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    By taking their share in ORCATS revenues, all train companies are bound by the NRCoT and cannot shirk their responsibilities on the basis that a customer is only allowed to travel by a different train company. It's not like any other industry.
    The other day a GC train was cancelled and people made their way towards my LNER train. The passengers should not have to form a queue asking the LNER Guard before boarding if they can do so; the fact that GC staff have told them they can board that train suffices. As it happens the LNER Guard welcomed those passengers on board, and reminded those with 1st class tickets that they could sit in 1st. This all happened exactly how it should be. But I have known Guards say that, because they were not informed, they'd not honour it, which is nonsense. It's an unfortunate fact that a small minority of Guards bring the industry into disrepute and act contrary to relevant laws. This needs to be dealt with robustly.
    But when disruption occurs, other companies are obliged to assist regardless of any such restrictions.

    Written permission is NOT required; verbal permission does suffice.
    LNER did not dispute the facts in this case; there is no doubt that I am aware of that the customers were advised to take the LNER train. LNER compensated the passengers. LNER did not accuse them of lying and take the matter to court.
    Staff training in the areas of contract and consumer laws is almost non-existent and should be massively improved but that's a whole new topic.
     
  20. 158801

    158801 Member

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    This is an area where we are going to differ.

    My final word s on this are an announcement I heard at a station yesterday.

    "Green trains apologise for the cancellation of the 15:01 to Toytown. The next service to Toytown is the Red Trains service from platform 1 at 15:17"

    Is this permission from an authorised person for a ticket with green trains to travel with red trains?
     
  21. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    I’m sure guards will appreciate a queue of passengers asking them if they can board during disruption, bearing in mind this will happen whilst they are performing their safety critical duties...

    What happens on DOO services?

    How do customers contact control? Do they have sufficient resource to deal with the queries? Bear in mind there are busy stations out there that are unmanned and served by DOO trains.
     
  22. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    That's your choice but if you do act unlawfully by not heeding my advice, you could pay the consequences. I don't think you'd want to be in the position of the Guard in the article in question.
    It's unclear, but it very possibly could be argued to be interpreted as giving permission to travel on that train. If a well run station such as York was announcing this regarding Grand Central / LNER trains to London they would not make it so ambiguous.
     
  23. 100andthirty

    100andthirty Member

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    I'm not an expert in any of this, but it seems to me that common sense should apply and I think the conditions of travel are trying to apply common sense in words.

    I just can't imagine a poor station person endorsing dozens of tickets. Even then a pedant might question that person's right to do so. At my local station I might encounter Virgin, London NorthWestern, Southern and security staff on watch for people in distress. How would an ordinary punter be able to distinguish which of them are able to authorise travel. Hence, the need for common sense.

    In the case of the original post, I can't imagine what was going on in the mind of the guard. Septuagenarian fare dodgers? Of course there might be people trying it on, but it is improbable in the extreme that this couple were trying it on. Amongst all the quasi-legalese, this is the point being made. Even if they had made a genuine mistake, which is not the case here, it would have been good customer service simply to advise them for next time.
     
    Last edited: 15 Sep 2019 at 17:25
  24. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    While most Guards are of course good and many are great, there is a small but extremely noticeable minority who do act like this. Their behaviour is as despicable as it is unlawful. Yet the rail industry does very little about it. They are allowing a small proportion of their staff to bring the grade, their company, and even the entire industry, into disrepute. I find that inexcusable. I could give all sorts of examples of customers being mistreated but I don't want to go off topic; join us at a forum meal if you want to hear more about how bad it can get. I can't really think what goes through the minds of some of these individuals, but nothing surprises me any more.
     
  25. etr221

    etr221 Member

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    My take on this - as a passenger - is that any member of railway staff (from any company) is possibly an 'authorised person' (in relation to any company); and they should know - in relation to any issue - whether they are authorised or not, and act accordingly. So, in this context, if I am given permission to travel, it is by an 'authorised person': if they are not, they should not be giving permission, and if they do give permission, they should expect the consequences.

    My interpretation of that announcement (as quoted) is that if you were intending to travel on the 15:01, your alternative is the 15:17, and you should travel on it, and so yes. But if there was an extra element to the announcement, that the next Green trains service was at 16:01, then no, your alternative (as a Green trains passenger) is the 16:01.

    Two things follow on this thread:
    1) Staff need to beware of giving implicit permission: the answer to 'when is the next train to...' doesn't give it; that to 'when is *my* next train...' does (they should if necessary check ticket for what it's valid on)
    2) Possibly there should be more/better communication between station and on-train staff - passing the message that 'passengers have been authorised to travel on your train', possibly with (bi directional) follow up (who? why? should they have been?)
     
  26. jumble

    jumble Member

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    My belief is that they either just don't think at all or the management find that the TOC have run the maths and will make more money from the punters who simply pay up than it costs to service the one who complain
     
  27. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    There are some people in a variety of job roles (at least those which carry some level of authority with low supervision) who think like they have a personal fiefdom and are neither considering their employer nor their customer.
     

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