VT Advance and late trains

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by Goatboy, 27 Dec 2013.

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  1. hairyhandedfool

    hairyhandedfool Established Member

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    A question was asked about a potential situation, I answered it, I'm not sure how you can assume I agree or disagree with it based on that alone.
     
  2. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    There is plenty of evidence that the 1310 was behind the 1330. That evidence was clearly available to both the OP and his partner at the time via the media already described.


    Is anyone actually saying the train should be delayed ?
     
    Last edited: 29 Dec 2013
  3. dvboy

    dvboy Established Member

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    I believe I offered an a solution in the quote (give the benefit of the doubt) this was in reply to, and also explained further in the same post that while I do not expect a TM to know exact details of any delays, there should be general awareness of disruption.

    We appear to be going round in circles.
     
    Last edited: 29 Dec 2013
  4. 455driver

    455driver Veteran Member

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    Was this information instantly available to the TM?

    So how would the TM check the information is correct without delaying the train?
     
  5. dvboy

    dvboy Established Member

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    It was on the departure board, we don't know how far the TM was from one, and we don't know if checking would have delayed the train but the TM clearly had time to debate with the passenger in this case.

    Again, a solution of giving the benefit of the doubt could be appropriate otherwise.
     
  6. hairyhandedfool

    hairyhandedfool Established Member

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    Or perhaps, having engaged the passenger in dialogue, found that they had to make time they would not otherwise have had?? We simply don't know.
     
  7. andrewkeith5

    andrewkeith5 Member

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    Or, had enough time to listen to the customers question but not enough time to check facts - saying "no" takes significantly less time than finding the departure boards at Birmingham New Street or checking whether a train is on time.

    When a passenger purchases an Advance ticket, they make a contract to travel on a particular service. Irrespective of whether that service is delayed or the passenger is late, carriage on another service is entirely at the discretion of someone who has the ability to authorise what is effectively a change to the contract (i.e. the train manager, or a representative of the TOC whom has greater decision making power than the train manager).

    In the case of Advance tickets, there is no obligation for a TOC to carry the passenger on a service they are not booked onto, unless:
    - A preceeding connecting train was delayed, and a suitable connection time (in accordance with the NRCoC or whatever other official information is available) is left; or
    - The train the passenger wishes to use is a connecting train, and is not reservable

    Neither of these were the case in the situation given, and hence there is nothing to obligate Virgin to carry the passenger on the later (but not delayed) service. Whilst it would have been possible in theory for the Train Manager to permit travel, for whatever reason (none is given), such permission has been denied and therefore the passenger must wait until they can use the train they are contracted (and agreed) to use.

    EDIT: Apologies, the reason for denial was given as the Train Managers belief that the passenger had missed their original train, which has already been discussed at length and which doesn't change anything else I have said.

    On the debate of Delay Repay, the purpose of this scheme is to provide compensation for late running services. Hence, the compensation available to the customer in the event is delay repay, not the obligation to travel on an alternative service which - for any reason - may also become late during the journey. If the passenger wishes to be compensated for the delay, they can claim delay repay and suitable provisions will be made by Virgin for this. If it was so important to the passenger that they arrived at a precise time, there is room for debate as to whether they should either have chosen an Advance ticket for earlier in the day or a flexible ticket that would have allowed the desired outcome without discussion.

    I don't recall seeing any condition that says when a customer selects a train for an Advance ticket, they are allowed to use whichever train best fits the advertised departure or arrival times.

    I will freely admit that I dislike Advance tickets precisely because this sort of thing happens and the terms of the ticket are not enforced consistently across individual Train Managers, let alone operators. Advance tickets have their place, but I don't believe they are advertised properly and neither do I believe they are suitable in an awful lot of situations when they are used... but that is a different debate for another thread!

    Personally, I only ever use Advance tickets when it doesn't matter what time I arrive, and when I have at least a few hours to make sure I get the train I want. If I'm in any sort of rush at all, or there's anything more than a vague chance, I will generally buy a more flexible ticket.
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2013
  8. Goatboy

    Goatboy Established Member

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    Hello chaps,

    Didn't expect a 5 page thread, but it's been quite a lively debate! Too many different points to quote them all so I'll try and address any questions raised...

    a) At no point did she delay the departure of the train in seeking approval from the TM. The train started from New Street and occupied the platform for at least 30 minutes before that. She stood beside the train for some time until the TM came down to prepare the train for departure. Before doing this (She arrived at New Street 55 minutes before the scheduled departure) she took the trouble to try and find VT staff to clarify what she should do. Unusually there wasn't a mini-VT-gateline operation on entrance to the platform. She claims she spoke to somebody in the ticket office who informed her it was the TM's discretion and she should ask him, hence going down the platform. I wasn't there so I cannot confirm it was a VT member of staff who told her that, she says it was, I've no reason not to believe her, but I can't confirm it.

    As the train started from New Street it does seem somewhat strange that the TM would have had absolutely no knowledge of the fact there was severe disruption in the Preston area, but if that's what you guys say is likely then I'll accept that. It's sounding like this is issue is less with the TM and more with Virgin, therefore I'll direct my blame at Virgin who it would seem don't provide TM's with sufficient information. Remember, my initial question was 'Is this VT policy?'. It sounds like it is, so I therefore 'blame' VT and not the actions of the train manager (Though it does seem he was convinced she had missed her train).

    At the time of purchase the Advance tickets for every train that afternoon were the same price. I'm not sure what relevance that has, but it got brought up so I figured it was fair to clarify.

    I am aware of the concept of an Advance ticket. You commit to depart on a particular train at a particular time. If you miss it, tough luck. If your plans change, tough luck. If you want to travel earlier or later, tough luck. I was not aware this concept continued to delays to service? Does it really?

    Obviously my OP was posted just after it happened, so I was obviously frustrated, as hopefully those on both sides of the argument can understand. As a result the journey is now free of charge, which seems entirely fair enough for the inconvenience caused.

    I can't help still thinking it's a very bizarre way to deal with things though? Where is the sense in a set of terms and conditions that not only further irritate passengers caught in a delay but actually end up COSTING the TOC money?

    For me that's the most bizarre thing - VT's policy turned a potential 20 minute delay into a 70 minute delay with 100% refund. To me this appears to make little sense - it's a lose-lose for VT all-round really?

    Anyway, interesting points of view either way round and all's well that ends well! I do not intend to make a 'complaint' as I don't really see what that would achieve if the TM was following guidance, so it'll just be a standard Delay Repay form.
     
  9. Class377

    Class377 Member

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    Got to say both sides have some good points here - of course, the TM didn't break any rules and was entirely justified in doing what he did.

    However, the TM does have powers of discretion and can, of course, allow somebody to travel on their service without a valid ticket. I'd have thought it would be better to get good PR for the sake of a few quid than to push for the rules, especially if the train was empty.
     
  10. dvboy

    dvboy Established Member

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    Perhaps worth a small mention on the Delay Repay form that there was a 1330 service, and you were denied boarding, as I am aware some TOCs might dispute your calculated total delay based on the fact you could potentially have travelled on the 1330 had the TM offered this.

    If you were not on an advance ticket, I would expect them to do just that, otherwise I could claim against my season ticket for every time a train I intended to get is delayed over 30 minutes but there were other trains running in the same direction in the meantime. Obviously I don't do this because I get the next departing train.

    VT don't put the mini-gatelines very often, if at all since the new concourse opened. They can only do them on P1 anyway, where they would have to put them on both concourses, so they probably don't think they're worth it anymore (it was different when the only access to P1 was from the same concourse).
     
  11. bb21

    bb21 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    I think it is sound advice to put the fact that you were refused boarding on the 1330 down. You are highly likely to be questioned if you don't in my experience, which is another reason why it was strange permission was refused.
     
  12. IanD

    IanD Established Member

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    I doubt whether Virgin would be actually picking up the tab for the delay repay claims on this occasion.
     
  13. dvboy

    dvboy Established Member

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    No, but they'll be the ones paying out their passenger. Whoever VT source that money from in turn is irrelevant.
     
  14. drbdrb

    drbdrb Member

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    "their service" or their employer's service?

    Perhaps understanding the difference would have had an impact on their behaviour towards the customer.
     
  15. 455driver

    455driver Veteran Member

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    Not really, your point is?
     
  16. bb21

    bb21 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    The TM is a representative of their employer and have a certain amount of discretion in such cases if he/she so wishes.

    I don't see what difference it makes making that distinction.

    They are likely to be compensated by Network Rail regardless, so if a passenger claims they pay it out, and if not they get to keep it for themselves AIUI.
     
  17. drbdrb

    drbdrb Member

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    Perhaps not seeing the distinction is the problem.

    The decision may have been technically correct, but do you honestly think that their employer would have taken the same decision?

    A decision that cost their employer money and devalued the company in the opinion of the customer and everyone they tell the story to.
     
  18. IanD

    IanD Established Member

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    It may be relevant to whoever decides whether to issue a general instruction to allow travel on another service.
     
  19. bb21

    bb21 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    From your two posts, I struggle to understand what you are trying to say.

    You seem to imply in your first post that the TM have no discretion because it is their employer's service? I am confused as to who you are agreeing with here.
     
  20. drbdrb

    drbdrb Member

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    My point is the train manager is required to follow their employer's instructions. Those instructions are not rigid, since the employer has chosen to include an amount of discretion to deal with situations that are not usual.

    However that discretion does not turn the service into the train manager's service, it remains their employer's service.

    The employee should be considering their employer's interests when deciding to apply or refuse the application of a discretion that has been granted to them.

    Refusing to apply a discretion when the result of that refusal will cost their employer money and a loss of reputation, does not appear to do that.
     
  21. hairyhandedfool

    hairyhandedfool Established Member

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    So an employee should always follow the instructions of their employer.......... unless they deem it necessary to show discretion?

    It's not the discretion that makes it the train manager's service, it's the responsibility and instructions given to the train manager by the employer.

    An employee should always follow the instructions of his employer unless he deems it necessary to show discretion....apparently....

    Was the guard following the rules or showing discretion when they refused travel?

    You do not know that the judgement of the employee has resulted in a loss of revenue to the employer. In fact it could be argued that allowing travel might have cost the employer more money as the same decision would have to be applied to other travellers, who may have been charged extra on the service.

    Reputation is a funny thing as it is not just judged on the actions of the person or company, but also on what is expected of the person or company.
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2014
  22. drbdrb

    drbdrb Member

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    Do you really need it explained in more simple terms, or are you just refusing to accept one of your colleagues made a poor decision?
     
  23. bb21

    bb21 Forum Staff Staff Member Global Moderator

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    Again, why does it make any difference whether it is "their service" or "their employer's service"?

    They have a set of rules to follow, but meanwhile they have discretion that can be exercised. Does it really change anything whether it is "their service" or "their employer's service?"
     
  24. andrewkeith5

    andrewkeith5 Member

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    Thanks for clarifying a few points :) It helps a lot to understand more details! I have a few responses which no doubt will generate more discussion... Forgive me but for the sake of ease I will pracie down to the bits I'm replying to specifically.

    She did the right thing in this case by looking for a member of VT staff. The staff member also gave the correct advice. The ticket office at New Street is run by Virgin Trains so she will have spoken to a VT employee.

    With the greatest of respect, none of us know whether the Train Manager knew about the specific delay or not. Similarly, it may be that he genuinely believed what he believed, or perhaps even was trying to explain the Advance ticket terms, but did not choose the correct way of phrasing what he wanted to say thus causing a miscommunication.

    I contest the comment that it sounds like it is VT's policy to allow travel on the service. I have not read anywhere that this is the case, and I am not of the belief that such a policy exists officially at any TOC. There is nothing official in the terms of the ticket to say that anything special should be done in this situation, and in the case of a customer wishing to use an alternative service this is always the decision of the Train Manager.

    This is not strictly correct. You are not agreeing to travel at a particular time, you are agreeing to travel on a particular service. By your wording, if the train was late the ticket is made invalid. By the correct wording, you are agreeing to travel on a particular service which is timetabled to depart, but which in reality may not necessarily depart, at the time given. If the train is late, so are you - if the train is early, so are you. It is this level of inflexibility that is the reason why Advance tickets are so cheap, as they are designed to manage demand and loadings (which I realise in this specific case may not appear to be obvious!) and so rely on trains, not times, being specified.

    Of course you are perfectly entitled to be frustrated, and to be fair I think your original post is quite well written considering! As you say, the compensation offered you have accepted as "entirely fair enough", which is the way the system is designed to be.

    The terms and conditions are very clear before purchase, and this is what is agreed to - the assumption that another Train Manager will permit travel on an alternative service is a risk entirely on the part of the customer even if a precedent seems to be set. It is widely known that Advance tickets are restrictive, and in my humble opinion they are not enforced sufficiently. There has been too much precedent set now that the restrictions of Advance tickets are not understood properly by those buying them, which will ultimately only end badly.
     
  25. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    It shouldn't make any difference as long as the employee is following the employers instructions/guidance/rules. As far as I can see, we still don't know what Virgin's instructions/guidance/rules are in such circumstances. Hopefully the OP will get a reply from Virgin which does state what they are but, based in previous communications from Virgin, I won't hold my breath.
     
  26. andrewkeith5

    andrewkeith5 Member

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    The decision is correct in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ticket purchased.

    While there are other things to consider e.g. customer retention/PR, these should not be the only areas of consideration - especially as the rail industry has a bad habit of always giving in to the threat of bad PR.

    In my opinion, I would like to see the restrictions of Advance tickets enforced properly if just for a little while. Maybe that will generate enough publicity to make sure people understand exactly what they are buying and can make more appropriate decisions for their needs in the future. If that means nobody buys Advance tickets anymore, well then there is clearly a need to change the product.

    My suggestion would be to change the terms of Advance tickets to allow travel on any service within a set time - i.e. you book a 0.5/1/2 hour slot to depart in, which would solve an awful lot of delay-related problems. Either that, or allow travel on a "one of three" basis. Still restrictive enough to sell flexible tickets, but not so restrictive that this sort of thing happens.
     
  27. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    Yes, but was it in accordance with Virgin's instructions/guidance/rules ? The OP asked what these are, but no one seems to know. I do not see anyone saying the decision was against the standard T&Cs of the Advance ticket.

    It is quite possible to have a company policy of overriding certain T&Cs in exceptional circumstances. It is equally possible to have a policy of never overriding T&Cs whatever the circumstances.

    Either the TM complied with Virgin's policy for these circumstances, or they did not. As no one here knows what the company policy is, no one can say.
     
  28. andrewkeith5

    andrewkeith5 Member

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    Indeed and I have mentioned this a couple of times before.

    There is not necessarily a policy for this situation - and if there were, logically the ticket office staff would also have access to it, being Virgin Trains employees. As a result, I am inclined to believe that the official policy is that it is the decision of the Train Manager (which is, in my opinion, the only logical policy for this situation) in which case there is no issue of compliance as the TM made his decision.
     
  29. aformeruser

    aformeruser Veteran Member

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    Usually Virgin customer relations say to ask the train manager before boarding if disruption occurs and you hold an advance ticket, presumably to prevent them saying one thing and the train crew saying something else.
     
  30. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    It is certainly looking that way, But we do not know.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2014
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