Southern entrapment?

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MKB

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In Gatwick Airport station, last Sunday morning at 08:35, at the escalators at the bottom of platforms 1 & 2, there were two staff with Gatwick Express (GX) uniforms on calling out to passengers that anyone for Victoria should join the train at platform 2. This was the already waiting 08:50 GX service due to arrive into Victoria at 09:20.

A non-GX service was due into platform 1 at 08:41 to arrive Victoria at 09:16 (and left GTW on time). The GX service, in contrast, ran 3 minutes late into Victoria.

Of course, all of the tourists just did as they were told and took the GX option. Not once did the staff indicate to passengers that they might hold tickets that were not valid on GX. At the very moment the GX service started to pull out, a recorded announcement was played telling passengers that some tickets might not be valid on this service.

It seemed to me the whole set-up was designed to entrap customers into boarding the GX train regardless of whether they had the right ticket. I wonder how much money Southern is making out of this little sting.

Fortunately, my ticket was valid on any route, so they caught me out by a different means.

Seeing there were two services, I'd asked three separate members of staff -- because I've learnt not to trust station staff -- which one would get into Victoria first. All insisted it would be the GX, so I boarded that. By the time I'd fired up my phone and confirmed this was nonsense, the non-GX had just started to pull out. In this instance, getting into Victoria at 09:16 versus 09:23 made no difference to me, (but other times it can mean making an earlier connection rather than one an hour later). Even so, I strongly resent staff blatantly giving me information that is simply untrue.
 
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GB

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Perhaps they thought what they told you was true. Not everything is a conspiracy.
 

Captain Chaos

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I don't think the station staff are doing it deliberatly. There are always minor anomolies in Timetabling somewhere. It could be that it is booked to go via a different routing, being regulated for another service, lack of paths meaning a slightly different arrival time. Could be anything really. These anomalies will always exist and it's not always possible to always remember all of them.

There are a few anomalies on Reading to Gatwick where some arrive at slightly different times and times where catching the Redhill stopper will not be any quicker than catching the direct service to Gatwick (because the train from Reading is the next service to Gatwick). But we cannot remember them all. Even I know of them very well and sometimes forget.

I feel really bad if I realise I have given out wrong information to someone because of course that wasn't my intention. I'm sure this is the case for the vast majority of staff, if not all. I'm sorry if you have had any bad experiences.
 

Deerfold

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I don't think the station staff are doing it deliberatly. There are always minor anomolies in Timetabling somewhere. It could be that it is booked to go via a different routing, being regulated for another service, lack of paths meaning a slightly different arrival time. Could be anything really. These anomalies will always exist and it's not always possible to always remember all of them.

There are a few anomalies on Reading to Gatwick where some arrive at slightly different times and times where catching the Redhill stopper will not be any quicker than catching the direct service to Gatwick (because the train from Reading is the next service to Gatwick). But we cannot remember them all. Even I know of them very well and sometimes forget.

I feel really bad if I realise I have given out wrong information to someone because of course that wasn't my intention. I'm sure this is the case for the vast majority of staff, if not all. I'm sorry if you have had any bad experiences.

Given the vast number of available tickets from Gatwick it might be as well to make it clear that a GW express-valid ticket is required even if they weren't sure which train would arrive first.

At any given time there is usually very little time difference to Victoria between the next GX and next other service.
 

Schnellzug

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I've never understood this, it's been run by Southern since they changed it all last time hasn't it, so why do they still call it a seperate "Gatwick Express"? It doesn't make any sense to me.
 

NSEFAN

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Schnellzug said:
I've never understood this, it's been run by Southern since they changed it all last time hasn't it, so why do they still call it a seperate "Gatwick Express"? It doesn't make any sense to me.

Two words. Cash cow.
 

AlterEgo

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I've never understood this, it's been run by Southern since they changed it all last time hasn't it, so why do they still call it a seperate "Gatwick Express"? It doesn't make any sense to me.

It's to appeal to tourists, and nothing else.
 

CNash

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Also, it's a far snappier title - easier to market "Gatwick Express" than "the fast service from Gatwick Airport to London Victoria", and it conveys almost all the information you need, too. (Almost - I'd call it the Gatwick-Victoria Expres if it were up to me...)
 

Drsatan

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Of course, the Gatwick Express title makes no sense as 'Gatwick' has been removed from all interior branding, and 'Gatwick Express' trains now run to Brighton and Eastbourne. Southern should be forced to give up the Gatwick Express brand and stop selling tickets marked 'Valid on Gatwick Express Only' <D
 

MKB

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Perhaps they thought what they told you was true. Not everything is a conspiracy.

Conversation with first member of staff at barriers:
Me: "Will the 0841 or the 0850 train get into Victoria first?"
Him: "The 0850."
Me: "Are you sure?"
Him: "Yes, absolutely".

Joint conversation with two members of staff at platform:
Me, trying different tack: "What time does the 08:41 arrive into Victoria?"
Staff 1, without knowing my ticket type: "You need this train for Victoria" - points to GX.
Me: "Yes, but that one" -- I point to the other platform -- " leaves 9 minutes earlier and has only two stops. Won't that get in first?"
Staff 1: "No, this one will."
Staff 2: "The others all take at least 45 minutes. You have to take this one."

A cursory timetable enquiry for next Sunday morning shows me that loads of non-GX trains take < 35 minutes.

Either these three members of staff are displaying incompetence of the highest order, or they are deliberately telling people stuff they know is untrue.
 

Surreytraveller

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Bit ilke the CIS tells you you can sit in first class with a standard ticket on the 04.00 up from Brighton. It is only on metro trains where this applies.
 
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It's to appeal to tourists, and nothing else.

Here take these shoes, walk a mile, then see how wrong you are ;)

Has it never occured that a large number of GX customers make an informed choice? Haven't been issued with cattle prods and thumb screws just yet.
 

Wath Yard

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Seeing there were two services, I'd asked three separate members of staff -- because I've learnt not to trust station staff -- which one would get into Victoria first. All insisted it would be the GX, so I boarded that. By the time I'd fired up my phone and confirmed this was nonsense, the non-GX had just started to pull out. In this instance, getting into Victoria at 09:16 versus 09:23 made no difference to me, (but other times it can mean making an earlier connection rather than one an hour later). Even so, I strongly resent staff blatantly giving me information that is simply untrue.

There are printed timetables at Gatwick Airport. If you had time to ask not 1 but 3 members of staff which train got to Victoria first then you had ample time to find a timetable and get the information yourself.
 

cle

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It's still a stupid situation. The product isn't much different, especially now that the Gatwick Express can be full of Brighton people and not be non-stop.

They should just whack on a Gatwick surcharge (£2?) to get off there and charge the normal fare. So it'd be cheaper to go to Three Bridges for example.

FCC still cheapest for now! And with some 29 min journeys to London Bridge, it's the quickest too. Shame the franchise will be merging and no doubt the sub-£10 ticket from FCC will be long gone.
 

Dumpton Park

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The number of times I have sat on Easyjet aircraft and watched tourists readily part with 70 quid for two Gatex returns, when you can easily do the same journey for about half the price (or less, even) is something to behold.

BUT, if I was, say, a Spanish tourist, with no knowledge of the UK, with almost no English knowledge at all, flying in there for the first time, I'd be very tempted to take the easiest option and avoid any hassle - and once you know how intimidatingly complex the ticketing from Gatwick is that reinforces the argument! Southern know this is what gatex is (or has become), hence charge accordingly.

Two Xmases ago Ezy were even selling Gatex tickets on days when the service wasn't even running - we pointed this out to them and radio chat with someone in the UK clearly followed - no more Gatex ticket sales on that flight!

Dp
 

A-driver

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The number of times I have sat on Easyjet aircraft and watched tourists readily part with 70 quid for two Gatex returns, when you can easily do the same journey for about half the price (or less, even) is something to behold.

BUT, if I was, say, a Spanish tourist, with no knowledge of the UK, with almost no English knowledge at all, flying in there for the first time, I'd be very tempted to take the easiest option and avoid any hassle - and once you know how intimidatingly complex the ticketing from Gatwick is that reinforces the argument! Southern know this is what gatex is (or has become), hence charge accordingly.

Two Xmases ago Ezy were even selling Gatex tickets on days when the service wasn't even running - we pointed this out to them and radio chat with someone in the UK clearly followed - no more Gatex ticket sales on that flight!

Dp

To be honest though if I go to another country on holiday I do research first and work out transfers etc and look up different travel options and find out the costs and journey times, not at all hard with the Internet. If I just turned up at a station in another country with no knowledge of how tickets work etc then I would expect to be ripped off.

If tourists are that unprepared then they deserve it. Italy has similar complex fare systems with some tickets not valid on express trains etc yet I spent half an hour online before I went there last summer to work out which tickets I needed and what trains I could take with them etc.
 

LE Greys

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Well, my views on a supplimentary-fare service are that TOCs have every right to run them, provided they point out that they are a supplimentary-fare service and there are alternatives available. In the past, I've done GatEx on Network Awaybreaks, Supersavers, CDRs and OPRs, usually because I'm travelling through from somewhere on the other side of London, and even then only to make sure I could have lunch at Victoria and avoid the walk down Pentonville Road. Really, the sensible thing would be to either charge the suppliment on-board when the ticket is inspected (the way it was done on the Brighton Belle, IIRC) or on entering-leaving the platform at Gatwick (although that would cause nightmare congestion). Basically, any ticket would be valid with the suppliment. A pre-pay option should also be possible. Surely that would make more sense, although people like me would lose the option of getting on with an OPR.

I once found myself making up a party of four, including one stunning young lady called Aimée from Marseille, for a discounted ticket from Gatwick to London, back when it was still a separate franchise.
 

Greenback

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Gatwick to London and vice versa is a bit of a mess, both fares and service wise.

In BR days, the fast trains were introduced to segregate airline passengers with their luggage on to dedicated trains so as to allow more room on other services for travelelrs between the other stations on the line. Revenue considerations were secondary.

All of this changed in the run up to privatisation, when BR wer einstructed by the government of the day to introduce seperate fares from the various London Termini as a prelude to competition.

Since then the reason for the existence of the Gatwick Express became blurred, and people began to question of using precious paths to run a 'premium' service. The result of this was the Route Utilisation study which was criticised by many people for not really doing one thing or another.

Despite the changes over the years, there is still a perception among many staff, passengers and probably the DfT that the Gatwick Express service are the fastest way to reach Central London. Perhaps this is why some staff automatically send people to those trains/ Perhaps this is also partly born from a desire to keep airport passengers for Victoria largely seperate from the services that serve more intermediate stations. Maybe it is also partly down to revenue, who knows?

Whatever the reason, it all needs to be sorted out!
 

yorkie

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It seemed to me the whole set-up was designed to entrap customers into boarding the GX train regardless of whether they had the right ticket. I wonder how much money Southern is making out of this little sting.
The only tickets I can think of (see previous threads regarding Gatwick Express services operated by Southern in the FT&R section) where a charge could reasonably be made would be FCC Only tickets.

Anyone holding an FCC Only ticket should not be going to Victoria, so I really don't have a problem with this.

I am aware of around a dozen passengers using Southern only tickets on this service, that is operated by Southern. In about 3 cases the passengers were charged an excess fare (of around £6), and in all cases they got their money back successfully by writing to Southern Customer Services. All 3 incidents were back in the days when ticket examiners (working for Southern) checked tickets on-board.

Since December 2011 on-board checks are not routinely made and barrier checks are made instead. I suspect the ticket gates at Victoria would normally be set up to reject FCC Only tickets (though I could be wrong!) so anyone with an FCC Only ticket would likely be caught on arrival at Victoria, regardless of which train they took to Victoria.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I've never understood this, it's been run by Southern since they changed it all last time hasn't it, so why do they still call it a seperate "Gatwick Express"? It doesn't make any sense to me.
Indeed. The Stansted Express service is a brand name with the same status as Gatwick Express, and the screens correctly describe this as a Greater Anglia service. There's no reason why a service can't have a brand name (Brighton Express is also used) but it should never be displayed on screens in the field that normally describes the Operator.

Fortunately the NRT was recently corrected and correctly shows these services as operated by 'SN' (Southern) as of May 2012. However Southern refuse to change their pocket timetables, and National Rail Enquiries also incorrectly claim on their website that Gatwick Express is a 'Company', which Companies House and the DfT confirmed has not been true since late 2008.

Feel free to write to them. I am happy to proof read.
 

Fincra5

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It's still a stupid situation. The product isn't much different, especially now that the Gatwick Express can be full of Brighton people and not be non-stop.

They should just whack on a Gatwick surcharge (£2?) to get off there and charge the normal fare. So it'd be cheaper to go to Three Bridges for example.

FCC still cheapest for now! And with some 29 min journeys to London Bridge, it's the quickest too. Shame the franchise will be merging and no doubt the sub-£10 ticket from FCC will be long gone.

I'll be happy when it does... Enough saying "That ticket isn't Valid on Southern services..." and then explaining why, quite boring after a while.
 

yorkie

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Also, it's a far snappier title - easier to market "Gatwick Express" than "the fast service from Gatwick Airport to London Victoria", and it conveys almost all the information you need, too. (Almost - I'd call it the Gatwick-Victoria Express if it were up to me...)
But no-one has any issue with the brand name, do they? Stansted Express is also a brand name that is used by Greater Anglia (formerly NXEA). The difference is, if you look in the Greater Anglia timetable or on the departure boards at any of the stations, the Stansted Express services are shown as operated by Greater Anglia, which is correct. However Southern do not do this, and that is what's wrong with the Gatwick Express, not the name.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Either these three members of staff are displaying incompetence of the highest order, or they are deliberately telling people stuff they know is untrue.
Write to Southern and if you do not get a satisfactory answer, write to Passenger Focus.

SN have been quite badly behaved at Gatwick, for example a passenger wanted to go to a station in the South East of London that can be reached with a simple change at London Bridge. They were told to buy an "Any Permitted" ticket to Victoria and then use the tube to get to London Bridge!

Someone else asked for the "cheapest" ticket to "any" London Terminal, and the "helper" selected the vastly-inflated Any Permitted Anytime Single button. When he asked if this was really the cheapest as it seemed costly, they walked away.

And when you ask them what company operates the Gatwick Express services, they give different information to what is correct, and can contradict themselves. One member has evidence in the form of a recording by phone of a discussion with Southern where they changed their mind as to whether or not Gatwick Express was a "separate company" or not.

A manager at Southern once admitted they are not familiar with the National Rail Conditions of Carriage.

Some staff make things up as they go along, and the fault is not with the individuals on the ground, it's with people high up, right up to Chris Burchell, who is vastly over-rated by some as being an amazingly good CEO for some reason.

You can try writing to him, as many others have done, but you just get a load of drivel from Liam Ludlow and refuses to accept any responsibility whatsoever.

On the plus side, everyone so far who has been charged an excess, has got their money back, so it's not all bad ;)
 

jamesr

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To be honest though if I go to another country on holiday I do research first and work out transfers etc and look up different travel options and find out the costs and journey times, not at all hard with the Internet. If I just turned up at a station in another country with no knowledge of how tickets work etc then I would expect to be ripped off.

If tourists are that unprepared then they deserve it. Italy has similar complex fare systems with some tickets not valid on express trains etc yet I spent half an hour online before I went there last summer to work out which tickets I needed and what trains I could take with them etc.

When I travel abroad, which I do very often, I tend to look up routes, but I don't tend to look up ticket combinations, because in the vast majority of situations, it really isn't difficult to get to the airport and buy a sensible ticket.

Gatwick to London is an absolute nightmare. I live in the Isle of Man, and travel to London on business fortnightly. I normally travel with other colleagues. If left to their own devices, or travelling alone, they will almost always select the wrong ticket from the ticket machines. The number of options that come up when you look for a return to London are quite staggering.

You can draw your own conclusions regarding the intelligence of my colleagues, but I genuinely sympathise... to those with no great interest in the rail industry who don't travel every day, the Gatwick Express is the train to London, and tickets marked "Southern Only", or "FCC Only" come with all kinds of risks and restrictions that one needs extensive experience in rail franchaising to understand.

All my colleagues are English speakers. God knows how those less proficient in the language cope. Judging by the length of time it takes an average person to get a ticket out of the machine, not well. It's a really terrible first impression to give of the country.
 

sheff1

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Someone else asked for the "cheapest" ticket to "any" London Terminal, and the "helper" selected the vastly-inflated Any Permitted Anytime Single button. When he asked if this was really the cheapest as it seemed costly, they walked away.

This is sort of behaviour you expect from touts at airports in lesser developed countries. The only difference is that there they don't walk away when challenged !

I was approached by one of these 'helpers' at a TVM at Gatwick. They were most put out when I informed them I was about to purchase a Not Underground ticket to St Pancras.
 

yorkie

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I was approached by one of these 'helpers' at a TVM at Gatwick. They were most put out when I informed them I was about to purchase a Not Underground ticket to St Pancras.
Interesting, but I'd have been tempted to state my destination as St Pancras and ask what ticket they'd recommend. ;) If they gave a suitable recommendation, I'd thank them and make the purchase. And if not, some further questions would be asked to determine why not.

Anyone know if they are required to be impartial? If they are not, then they should make it absolutely clear.
 
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It's still a stupid situation. The product isn't much different, especially now that the Gatwick Express can be full of Brighton people and not be non-stop.

They should just whack on a Gatwick surcharge (£2?) to get off there and charge the normal fare. So it'd be cheaper to go to Three Bridges for example.

FCC still cheapest for now! And with some 29 min journeys to London Bridge, it's the quickest too. Shame the franchise will be merging and no doubt the sub-£10 ticket from FCC will be long gone.

Sighs....

No it isn't, travelling before 09:32 4 people to Victoria on Gatwick Express is £37.80.

4 people travelling to London Bridge/St Pancakes @ £9.90 each is £39.60.

(No-one ever lands at Gatwick before 09.30 or travels in groups of 4)

I could go on, but it seems the verdict has already been reached. The Gatwick Express is bad and all the staff are liars, cheats and charlatans :roll:
 

jamesr

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Sighs....

No it isn't, travelling before 09:32 4 people to Victoria on Gatwick Express is £37.80.

4 people travelling to London Bridge/St Pancakes @ £9.90 each is £39.60.

(No-one ever lands at Gatwick before 09.30 or travels in groups of 4)

I could go on, but it seems the verdict has already been reached. The Gatwick Express is bad and all the staff are liars, cheats and charlatans :roll:

That's really interesting, Caped Crusader, because on the trips I stated above, my flight lands in Gatwick at 0820, and I occasionally am travelling in groups of 4... I had no idea that price was available on GX and always go straight to the "Southern only" fares! Shows I don't know as much as I think I do. Also, I am obviously not spending long enough at the ticket machine reading the finer details of the full two screens of ticket options presented to me.

This is probably my fault for trying to be clever and using the machines rather than queuing up to speak to a real person. Although I'm going to blame the silly fares system.
 

jon0844

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I know competition encourages multiple ticket types, but I don't think that a major airport with most people wanting to get to London should have so many different tickets.

All people want to know is how to get to London, and possibly the best station(s) to go to - Victoria, London Bridge, St Pancras or any other station for an interchange to other lines/tube.

At this point, they'll buy a ticket there or on to their final destination (perhaps buying a travelcard instead). In an ideal world, they'd be able to get their Visitor Oyster card out and use that...

The problem with TVMs is that a TOC can choose the order of the tickets to promote certain tickets, and the info box with the restrictions is very confusing. And if you ask for a ticket, it doesn't take more than a couple of leading questions to get a tourist to answer what you want them to say to sell a more expensive ticket.

All you need to ask if they say they want to go to London is if they want the fastest train, or one with room for luggage, then sell a Gatwick Express ticket. How many tourists would say 'ah, but only if that's not more expensive than other options.. can you tell me what they are?'.

Many people won't even know where Gatwick is in relation to London, even if they have a guide that might not extend out that far.
 
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There are also other ticket outlets available apart from the Main station concours:

North Terminal:
Airside arrivals in baggage reclaim, operated by Southern.

South Terminal:
Arrivals Hall (along back wall just after main doors into Public Meeting Area) to the left of Excess Baggage and Costa Coffee, next to Easy Bus and National Express desks.
Two desks operated by Southern and FCC usually staffed between 07:00 and 22:30.

There are also 2 new virtually unused TVM's by the gateline to the lifts accessing Platform 3-6 (By Zone J/Monarch desk in the main Check In area)
 
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