Potential problem with XC Advance fare

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ValleyLines142

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Hi folks,

A thought has just crossed my mind, and I feel I should probably seek advice on here first instead of just conquering it on the day I travel.

Basically, my friend and I are travelling to Liverpool via Stafford in a couple of weeks time. I'm getting on the train at Cardiff and my friend is getting on the train at Bristol.

When I added each seperate journey, it wouldn't allow my friend to sit next to me in any seat so instead I just booked both of our tickets from Cardiff as it was only about £2 more to do so and it meant that the seat selector tool allowed us to be sat together. I've just realised, however, that these are Advance tickets and I know the T&Cs of Advance tickets mean that you must only start and end your journey from the two stations listed. The tickets in question are both E-tickets but when she shows the gateline assistant at Temple Meads, (s)he's clearly going to say something when it says from Cardiff. I know it's wrong if you go further on a ticket but as she's actually getting on later, and considering I have actually paid more to ensure we are sat together dur to an error totally at the fault of XC, I don't see why she should be penalised.

Any advice would be welcome! We're travelling on 19th March.

Thank you :)

Edit - can I point out that I did not realise this until this morning when I was making travel arrangements to get to the station. I booked the tickets almost a month ago and didn't even realise this issue.
 
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The ticket is not valid from Bristol and your friend will unlikely be allowed through the barriers at Temple Meads.
 

cuccir

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The terms and conditions of the tickets are as they are. Did you use the Cross Country website? For future reference they have a seat selector which should allow you to identify two available seats and book into those.

There are, as I see it, 5 options open to you now

  1. Book a new ticket Bristol-Liverpool for your friend to use. This is clearly the most expensive option
  2. Ask your friend to travel to Cardiff so that she can take her booked seat from there
  3. Buy a ticket from Bristol to Cardiff without actually travelling, which would cover her for the travel that she 'ought' to have done
  4. Buy a cheap single ticket to get through the barriers at Temple Meads and then join you on the train where she will have her Advance ticket
  5. Try and blag it on the day - explain the situation to a member of staff and ask for discretion

If I found myself in this situation, I'd do 3 or 4, but in suggesting this I should note that this violates the terms and conditions of the Advance ticket.
 
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najaB

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Any advice would be welcome! We're travelling on 19th March.
Your friend's ticket would not be valid to start her journey at Temple Meads.

Some thing to consider, and it may be worth contacting GWR XC to see if they would allow it - if your friend buys a ticket for a journey that starts at Bristol to get through the barriers they might be allowed to continue their journey using the Advance ticket already purchased.

This would not, strictly speaking, be legal but TOCs have been advised to allow starting/stopping short on Advance tickets where it is clear that the passenger isn't trying to 'cheat' the system.
 
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ValleyLines142

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It's okay actually, XC have personally messaged me on Twitter (I have screenshots of the conversation we've had) saying due to it being their own error it's not a problem for my friend to join at Bristol and they have told me to show the conversation screenshot to staff at Temple Meads should they have any queries. I didn't think this was allowed but as she's on the same train just getting on it later on it is apparently allowed!
 

ValleyLines142

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It indeed isn't allowed, but I would expect, absent a particularly picky RPI, if you have in writing that in this instance it is OK it will be.

Absolutely. If my friend has any problems I shall take this to the highest conclusion. Yes I should have remembered in hindsight however there wouldn't have been this problem if their seat selection tool wasn't playing up. Furthermore, irrespective of that, the situation changes now I have confirmation in writing.
 

455driver

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A sensible outcome. Well done TOC.

But against the (strict) rules of advance tickets, so not well done at all!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Absolutely. If my friend has any problems I shall take this to the highest conclusion. Yes I should have remembered in hindsight however there wouldn't have been this problem if their seat selection tool wasn't playing up. Furthermore, irrespective of that, the situation changes now I have confirmation in writing.

So somebody in the (twitter) office can unilaterally decide to rescind the strict rules which are imposed when you purchased the Advance tickets can they?

It sounds to me like these twitter teams need taking to task about the 'advice' they are giving out!
 
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najaB

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So somebody in the (twitter) office can unilaterally decide to rescind the strict rules which are imposed when you purchased the Advance tickets can they?
It is, however, consistent with the generally accepted policy of allowing starting/stopping short where there is no financial gain.
 

35B

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But against the (strict) rules of advance tickets, so not well done at all!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---


So somebody in the (twitter) office can unilaterally decide to rescind the strict rules which are imposed when you purchased the Advance tickets can they?

It sounds to me like these twitter teams need taking to task about the 'advice' they are giving out!
And the defects in the operator's own booking site are completely irrelevant then? That seems like a good outcome all ways round, for XC to avoid unnecessarily upsetting a customer and for the customer not to be upset.
 

najaB

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And the defects in the operator's own booking site...
Is it actually a defect? Is being able to choose seats that are next to each other for two different journeys in one booking something that you are supposed to be able to do?
 

35B

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Is it actually a defect? Is being able to choose seats that are next to each other for two different journeys in one booking something that you are supposed to be able to do?
Yes, there is a seat selection function. If the seat isn't taken, it should be available for selection. Either way, the OP has stated that XC have acknowledged a problem with their software.
 

najaB

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Yes, there is a seat selection function. If the seat isn't taken, it should be available for selection.
But is it supposed to work for two separate journeys on the same booking? I'd be surprised if it was supposed to work that way as it isn't something that people want to do very often. It's also entirely possible that, by design, some seats are allocated for reservations for longer journeys and others for shorter ones. Certainly if I was designing the system I would do it that way.
Either way, the OP has stated that XC have acknowledged a problem with their software.
But the 'problem' that they acknowledged could simply be that what the OP wanted to do wasn't possible, rather than it being a fault.
 

35B

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But is it supposed to work for two separate journeys on the same booking? I'd be surprised if it was supposed to work that way as it isn't something that people want to do very often. It's also entirely possible that, by design, some seats are allocated for reservations for longer journeys and others for shorter ones. Certainly if I was designing the system I would do it that way.But the 'problem' that they acknowledged could simply be that what the OP wanted to do wasn't possible, rather than it being a fault.
Fair points, though my experience is that those seat engines show seats as available or unavailable, with unavailable meaning either reserved or held back.
 

cuccir

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Neil Williams:2476054 said:
Are specific seats allocated to specific quotas?

Not as such, though the East Coast system had (has? Not sure if VTEC have fixed it) a bug which meant that the last Advance of any quota couldn't be moved. It's possible the XC selector has something similar?
 

gray1404

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A platform ticket would also open a gateline/ ensure your waved through. Are these still offered and priced at 10p? Of couse, it must be noted that such tickets are not valid for travel and ONLY permit platform access.
 

ValleyLines142

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The terms and conditions of the tickets are as they are. Did you use the Cross Country website? For future reference they have a seat selector which should allow you to identify two available seats and book into those.

I did. Well this is what I was expecting it to do. I added my Cardiff to Stafford ticket and selected a seat, then when I added a separate journey for Bristol to Stafford and selected the seat next to me it wouldn't allow me to do so, not for any seat in the rest of the particular carriage we had booked!

So somebody in the (twitter) office can unilaterally decide to rescind the strict rules which are imposed when you purchased the Advance tickets can they?

It sounds to me like these twitter teams need taking to task about the 'advice' they are giving out!

Incorrect. The TOC's decision cannot be overridden. They clearly know what they are talking about.

And the defects in the operator's own booking site are completely irrelevant then? That seems like a good outcome all ways round, for XC to avoid unnecessarily upsetting a customer and for the customer not to be upset.

Exactly so.

Is it actually a defect? Is being able to choose seats that are next to each other for two different journeys in one booking something that you are supposed to be able to do?

Yes. It wouldn't allow me to select any other seat in that carriage.

In answer to your second point, also yes. It would be exactly the same if someone booked to go from Bristol to Stafford and just so happened, by coincidence, to want the seat next to me. Just because I'm doing it in two separate journeys shouldn't make a difference.

But is it supposed to work for two separate journeys on the same booking? I'd be surprised if it was supposed to work that way as it isn't something that people want to do very often.

Yes. Anyone should be able to book a specific seat for a specific journey, regardless of whether it is all under one transaction.

najaB said:
It's also entirely possible that, by design, some seats are allocated for reservations for longer journeys and others for shorter ones. Certainly if I was designing the system I would do it that way.

No TOC cares about that, putting it in the nicest possible way. A seat is a seat, regardless of how long the journey is. In fact, a ticket doesn't even guarantee you a seat anyway so the TOC would not waste their time in altering what is already a fairly complex system just to implement such a scheme.

najaB said:
But the 'problem' that they acknowledged could simply be that what the OP wanted to do wasn't possible, rather than it being a fault.

No. It wouldn't allow me select any seat within that carriage; I would most definitely consider that to be a fault. The only other seat that potentially was free was either on the roof or with the driver! :lol:

Why would the booking systems for all TOCs have a facility to allow you to add multiple journeys but not allow you to select a seat? It defeats the point of that system.

Furthermore, I've made many similar bookings with XC, adding multiple journeys in one transaction, and have never come across this problem.
 

najaB

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Yes. Anyone should be able to book a specific seat for a specific journey, regardless of whether it is all under one transaction.
Is that 'should' based on your desire, or on the design specs for the system?

To expand on that question: I was involved in a major IT project a few years back (tens of millions of pounds). In the UI, as delivered, there was an option to enable a feature but once enabled there was no way to disable it. We raised it as a fault to the developers, their answer: it wasn't a fault as we had forgot to include it in the design spec. So they wouldn't fix it without charge.
 
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ValleyLines142

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Is that 'should' based on your desire, or on the design specs for the system?

The latter. It saves you having to go through the entire payment process again, and also works out very handy exactly in situations such as myself where my friend wanted to board the same train later on. It's also a blessing that the journey in question is operated by one of only two TOCs that have a seat selector tool, as it meant I can select a seat for my friend. If I had tried to go to a ticket office, such a procedure of booking two seats together would not have been possible as we were starting at different locations.
 

35B

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Is that 'should' based on your desire, or on the design specs for the system?

To expand on that question: I was involved in a major IT project a few years back (tens of millions of pounds). In the UI, as delivered, there was an option to enable a feature but once enabled there was no way to disable it. We raised it as a fault to the developers, their answer: it wasn't a fault as we had forgot to include it in the design spec. So they wouldn't fix it without charge.
There is a difference between that scenario, where I've been on both sides of the fence many times, and whether it is actually a defect when released to the public.

The use cases have been given and accord with my experience of the XC site - it should be possible to select a seat that is shown as free. Period.

Please stop looking for ways to undermine the agreement that has been reached by the OP, and accept that it is a reasonable conclusion that suits the OP and does no harm to XC. It is very good to see sensible customer service applied and reported, rather than a rigid adherence to rules.

I would however agree that it should be seen as a one off, not as a precedent for others.
 

najaB

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The latter. It saves you having to go through the entire payment process again, and also works out very handy exactly in situations such as myself where my friend wanted to board the same train later on. It's also a blessing that the journey in question is operated by one of only two TOCs that have a seat selector tool, as it meant I can select a seat for my friend. If I had tried to go to a ticket office, such a procedure of booking two seats together would not have been possible as we were starting at different locations.
I agree with all you've written with respect to the convenience, etc. The question I'm asking is if what you experienced was actually a fault, or was it per-design?

I don't expect you to know the answer but a lot of times at work we get complaints because our system don't do what our customers want them to do, but they aren't faults as it was never intended that it could/would/should actually do that.
 

ValleyLines142

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I agree with all you've written with respect to the convenience, etc. The question I'm asking is if what you experienced was actually a fault, or was it per-design?

Fair enough. It was most definitely a fault, because as I said previously, I've never experienced this problem before having booked similar bookings countless times in the past.
 

yorkie

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It is, however, consistent with the generally accepted policy of allowing starting/stopping short where there is no financial gain.
Agreed. The policy of the rail industry is to allow it.

XC have made a decision in line with the agreed policy, so obviously GWR gateline staff have to allow XC's customer access to the XC train.

If it was a paper ticket, there's a decent chance it would have actually worked the gates! With an e-ticket, it was certainly wise to have this conversation with XC.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
A platform ticket would also open a gateline/ ensure your waved through. Are these still offered and priced at 10p? Of couse, it must be noted that such tickets are not valid for travel and ONLY permit platform access.
True, but someone asked about access to GWR platforms recently (it may even have been regarding Temple Meads) and their policy is not to issue platform tickets.

As for seat selectors, they do not always work properly. For example on VTEC you can't change seat if it's the last ticket at that price tier, and the seat change buttons don't appear to work if there are 9 passengers, and sometimes the selector doesn't display if you have a cycle reservation (though I've not tried recently so that last one may be fixed).
 

Tetchytyke

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For example on VTEC you can't change seat if it's the last ticket at that price tier

You can, however, immediately log back into the website and change your seat reservations- free of charge- online using the seat selector, even if your ticket was the last one in the quota.
 
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