Rail operators forced to tell passengers how to get cheapest fare - Telegraph

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Mike@Raileasy

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All done in my spare time :p.

I had a lady come to my window the other day asking for an open return to Brighton. I gave her the price and she wasn't happy - she claimed she always paid less for this journey. She was adamant that I should do some typing on the computer to find a cheaper fare. I tried asking which ticket(s) she had bought in the past, or how much she had paid in the past but she couldn't tell me either. Looking for the price of two singles instead was about as far as I was prepared to go without any further input from her - in this case, it wasn't cheaper.

Later, I found that splitting at Gatwick would be cheaper, i.e

Coulsdon South to Brighton SVR is £28

2x Coulsdon South to Gatwick SDS @ £5.20 each is £10.40
Gatwick to Brighton SOR is £10.00

So there was a saving to be had. However I wasn't about to go investigating split ticketing options - there are only two windows where I am and more often than not mine is the only one open! That said, I do get quite a few people ask for me specifically to find splits for them for some reason :?. Sometimes people are even happy to go down the road to the shops whilst I look for them. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't help one chap find a good deal on a single to Redcar - I was stupefied that a Super Off Peak single was in the region of £125! Best I could do was save a tenner or so by using a GC only ticket for part of the way.

There are also times where I might suggest rookie level splits if people compain about the price. Singles to FGW territory for example. A Super Off Peak single from my station to Cardiff is now £76.50 - but a Travelcard + single from Paddington is £55. A £30 premium for a cross London journey is a bit on the steep side. Occasionally I might suggest a cheaper Travelcard instead of a single. For example, a Coulsdon South to Milton Keynes single is £30 - but Off Peak Milton Keynes Travelcards are priced between £20 and £28.70. It all depends on the situation.
great work, a £10 saving is still good :)
 
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jon0844

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I think the most a customer should be asked is if they want to consider a cheaper ticket that is locked to a specific train, and do they know the exact times they wish to travel? The computer will give staff some sort of notification that cheaper fares exist, without actually listing them all there and then.

And even then, you tell the customer prices for the times they've stated, rather than come up with a list of fares, the times, and then expect everyone in the queue to wait for said customer to pull out their diary or start making phone calls to decide the best time or make changes to their plans with friends/family, rescheduling a meeting etc.

Perhaps you can make it so staff can print out a list of advance fares for a given day for that route, which they can take away and look at while other people are served.

Many may probably decide they want some flexibility and just buy a normal single or return. I am sure a fair few people do still want flexibility and are prepared to pay more.

Ultimately, I don't expect staff to offer split tickets but just suggesting that there might be cheaper prices but with restrictions is fine. Then continue to sell the cheapest 'standard' tickets as normal.

As said above, doing this at the very least might help retain jobs, but nobody should expect staff to do all the hard work when many stations may only have one window open. Now if customers are prepared to do some work before they get to the station, or step aside to let others get served and come back, I don't see that as a problem.. but you just know that some people would refuse to do that and not care in the slightest about other people.

It cuts both ways.
 

Greenback

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I think the most a customer should be asked is if they want to consider a cheaper ticket that is locked to a specific train, and do they know the exact times they wish to travel? The computer will give staff some sort of notification that cheaper fares exist, without actually listing them all there and then.
The first question is one I used to ask a lot, and there was usually a prety conclusive answer given in return. The second question was usually a bit more probematic,

And even then, you tell the customer prices for the times they've stated, rather than come up with a list of fares, the times, and then expect everyone in the queue to wait for said customer to pull out their diary or start making phone calls to decide the best time or make changes to their plans with friends/family, rescheduling a meeting etc.
And the problem was that this is exactly what would happen, either because the times answer was vague, or because it was in the negative eg ~I'll go whenever it's cheapest'!

Worse still, this sometimes used to lead to a battery of questions from the passenger about would it be cheaper to go on a different day, or a different route, or a dozen other things that had come into their mind because of the questions I'd asked!

It wasn't too bad in the Travel Centre, where there seats in the warmth of an office for people to wait if they couldn't be served immediately, rather than having to stand in a noisy and chilly concourse.

Perhaps you can make it so staff can print out a list of advance fares for a given day for that route, which they can take away and look at while other people are served.
That sounds like a good compromise, and may work in some places, but in my experience once passengers started being served the majority expected to continue until their transaction had been concluded. I must say I see their point.

Many may probably decide they want some flexibility and just buy a normal single or return. I am sure a fair few people do still want flexibility and are prepared to pay more.
You're spot on, and you normally won't find out unless you ask!

Ultimately, I don't expect staff to offer split tickets but just suggesting that there might be cheaper prices but with restrictions is fine. Then continue to sell the cheapest 'standard' tickets as normal.

As said above, doing this at the very least might help retain jobs, but nobody should expect staff to do all the hard work when many stations may only have one window open. Now if customers are prepared to do some work before they get to the station, or step aside to let others get served and come back, I don't see that as a problem.. but you just know that some people would refuse to do that and not care in the slightest about other people.

It cuts both ways.
I agree, as you've pointed out there are practicalities that have to be dealt with. The great difficulty for many staff is getting the balance right. After all, you often have to ask at least some questions while continuing to try and get people served at busy times.
 

jon0844

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The obvious solution is having more than one person working, and having one person only doing 'walk up' tickets and simple stuff*. Oh, and making TVMs offer all tickets. Oh and having maybe TfL style quick fare machines so people don't have to wait if they're only wanting a Travel card or to collect tickets.

But all that costs money.

* Edit: in our modern society I also expect people would still ignore any signs about that, and demand to be served - and staff wouldn't be able to refuse, thus eventually you'd have both desks (or more) dealing with everything.
 
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CyrusWuff

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The obvious solution is having more than one person working, and having one person only doing 'walk up' tickets and simple stuff*. Oh, and making TVMs offer all tickets. Oh and having maybe TfL style quick fare machines so people don't have to wait if they're only wanting a Travel card or to collect tickets.

But all that costs money.

* Edit: in our modern society I also expect people would still ignore any signs about that, and demand to be served - and staff wouldn't be able to refuse, thus eventually you'd have both desks (or more) dealing with everything.
As nice as it would be to have a dedicated window (be that for immediate travel or advance tickets), the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement currently requires 51% of open windows to offer a full service, so you'd need a minimum of three windows open to have one dedicated one.
 

Greenback

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The obvious solution is having more than one person working, and having one person only doing 'walk up' tickets and simple stuff*. Oh, and making TVMs offer all tickets. Oh and having maybe TfL style quick fare machines so people don't have to wait if they're only wanting a Travel card or to collect tickets.

But all that costs money.

* Edit: in our modern society I also expect people would still ignore any signs about that, and demand to be served - and staff wouldn't be able to refuse, thus eventually you'd have both desks (or more) dealing with everything.
As nice as it would be to have a dedicated window (be that for immediate travel or advance tickets), the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement currently requires 51% of open windows to offer a full service, so you'd need a minimum of three windows open to have one dedicated one.
Absolutely right, both, on all counts!

Though as I understand it, there's nothing, in theory, to prevent the TSA being amended should there be sufficient interest and support for doing so...
 

Tetchytyke

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Perhaps you can make it so staff can print out a list of advance fares for a given day for that route, which they can take away and look at while other people are served.
And then you'd get the person come back to the queue and kick off when the advance price tier had sold out whilst they were away!
 

Clip

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I merely sought to highlight that, as yorkie succinctly put it, we have to accept a discrepancy with that journey, that we should not have to accept such conditions in some cases and not others. I reject the accusation of 'hyperbole' and contest the implication that I am not a valued passenger. In conclusion I point out that although my views are perhaps a tad unorthodox, I don't engage in personal slander. Clearly my contributions to this forum are not well valued.
No one said you were not a valued passenger nor are your contributions not of value to this forum - of course they are.

What you need to understand is that all these complex ticketing 'loopholes' and 'split-ticketing' have come about because of the way the railway is now - even though apparently ATOC 'Simplified' them years ago. And it is because of this that the savvy traveller can find dirt cheap tickets by various routes and splits.

The other alternative is to not allow such things which I think you will agree will be of detriment to the passenger - which is also why the best loopholes for a lot of journeys are now carried over the PM mechanism so that my pricing manager doesn't get to see them and close them down. As happens when guards take umbrage at certain tickets and a week or two later they have gone - users on here can confirm this as it happens to them.


Using words such as 'Unfair' 'Outrageous' and other such words are in fact hyperbole and are used because people don't get what they want. I'm sorry to say that we never do get everything we want from our goods and services and I take offence that people on this forum(not just you) seem to think that my staff and others on the railway should seemingly bow down to yours and other passengers whim when they do not have to. In the case of finding splits and such like we really don't have to no matter how 'Unfair' you may think it is.

I don't mean to come across as having a go at you all the time when I seemingly pull you up and this sort of stuff but you need to understand what we are required to do and by rights we don't have to do anything more.

If you would like to see a change in that then please, write to PF and your MP about these issues and other such groups and work towards a change so that you can get the journey you want for less than the advertised ticket price. I have no problem with that.

But be careful what you wish for because the outcome could be far far worse for yourself and the rest of the travelling public.
 

Baxenden Bank

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I think the most a customer should be asked is if they want to consider a cheaper ticket that is locked to a specific train, and do they know the exact times they wish to travel? The computer will give staff some sort of notification that cheaper fares exist, without actually listing them all there and then.

And even then, you tell the customer prices for the times they've stated, rather than come up with a list of fares, the times, and then expect everyone in the queue to wait for said customer to pull out their diary or start making phone calls to decide the best time or make changes to their plans with friends/family, rescheduling a meeting etc.

Perhaps you can make it so staff can print out a list of advance fares for a given day for that route, which they can take away and look at while other people are served.


Many may probably decide they want some flexibility and just buy a normal single or return. I am sure a fair few people do still want flexibility and are prepared to pay more.

Ultimately, I don't expect staff to offer split tickets but just suggesting that there might be cheaper prices but with restrictions is fine. Then continue to sell the cheapest 'standard' tickets as normal.

As said above, doing this at the very least might help retain jobs, but nobody should expect staff to do all the hard work when many stations may only have one window open. Now if customers are prepared to do some work before they get to the station, or step aside to let others get served and come back, I don't see that as a problem.. but you just know that some people would refuse to do that and not care in the slightest about other people.
It cuts both ways.
Regarding the underlined bits.

I was at Windermere once, waiting for some time as I had an Advance ticket. Probably a good half hour before the next train was due, a man arrived with just that sort of query 'if I travel earlier / later / the day before / after, what are all the prices and connections and so on. Other people started to arrive and a queue formed, the first enquirer remained at the single counter (and the clerk did not suggest the customer move to one side as far as I could tell), by the time the train arrived he was still there and none of the other people were able to purchase their tickets (there is now a TVM at Windermere but there wasn't at the time).
 
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