VTWC being naughty again

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by Bletchleyite, 1 Aug 2018.

  1. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    I think a renaming of Advances to something like "Value" would indeed help. They are, of course, not always good value (especially if they are only marginally cheaper than a much more flexible walk-up ticket). However, differentiating Anytime, Off-Peak and Value tickets could help a lot. The standard announcement could go something like this - "If you have a ticket marked "Value" then you please make sure you are on the train you have reserved yourself on. This should be shown either on the ticket, or on the accompanying reservation. If you were delayed earlier in your journey then you are allowed on a later train."

    People don't expect Value tickets to be valid on any train, in the same way they wouldn't expect the cheapest tier of airline ticket to be flexible. Perhaps the issue with renaming Advance as "Value" is that you would also have to rename Anytime and Off-Peak tickets to something like "Flex" and "Semi-flex" to stay within the same naming 'scheme' - yet Anytime and Off-Peak is broadly quite descriptive of what the ticket lets you do.

    I think the problem in general is that two of the ticket types - Anytime and Off-Peak - describe when you can use the ticket. Yet somehow Advance tickets describe when you must buy the ticket - in advance of travelling. I think another alternative consistent naming scheme might therefore be "Flex", "Semi-Flex" and "Non-Flex", with perhaps "Mini-Flex" for Super Off-Peak tickets. Of course whilst that's a nice pattern which you can understand if you see the choice (e.g. on a poster or on a ticketing website), it then means that people who have a ticket which says "Mini-Flex" wouldn't have a clue what that actually means, as it's not very intuitive.

    So I think the real heart of the issue is two-fold. Firstly, the names of walk-up tickets tell you one thing whilst the name of APs tells you another. This mismatch can, in itself, cause confusion. Secondly, whilst the current names of walk-up tickets mean that most people can intuitively understand the rough validity, the names of Advances is very unclear as it does not imply any of the key conditions (booked train only). At the end of the day, summarising the conditions of a ticket in a few words is always going to be an exercise in compromise, but perhaps another possible naming scheme could be "Any Train, Any Off-Peak, Booked Trains Only". Yes, it's wordy and doesn't exactly roll off the tongue but it does at least impart a basic understanding of the key conditions.

    I think the rail industry also needs to take another long, hard look at making the difference between reservable and non-reservable trains much clearer to the average traveller, if they are to continue to allow people to use any non-reservable train on the relevant parts of Advance tickets. A differentiation of reservable "express" trains (whether intercity or regional), and non-reservable "local" trains, like many continental railways have, would be the first step, in my view. Heavy advertising and omnipresent explaining signage would be needed to explain that, for instance, "You can take any train shown as "local" for parts of your Booked Trains Only ticket journey where you haven't got a reservation. You must travel on the booked "express" trains, except in the case of delays."
     
  2. Gareth Marston

    Gareth Marston Established Member

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    I suspect the TOC Pricing people are worried that a more descriptive name might actually put people off buying them and undermine their Yield Management/ORCAT dodging strategies.
     
  3. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Except it isn't fixed, you can change it before the departure time. Airlines would call them semi-flexible, but we would probably apply that to Off Peaks.

    Really, it needs to be a brand that doesn't imply anything, then you can build the understanding you want for that brand. Hence the Orange "animal" phone contracts.
     
  4. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I'm not sure I wouldn't just make all trains mandatory. It's simpler and would adversely affect very few people, and of those it does affect they can just split.
     
  5. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I very much doubt it. You don't like Advances, but almost nobody seems to have a major issue with them.

    They could perhaps do with some tweaks along the lines of what some budget airlines do, e.g. a "rescue fee" if you miss the train by up to an hour (say) rather than a complete new ticket.
     
  6. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    Like them or not, the RDG and most TOCs are very much in favour of Advances becoming more widespread. I would be very surprised if the direction which Gareth might like is the one in which the industry heads.
     
  7. ThisIsSurbiton

    ThisIsSurbiton Member

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    IMO the problem with importing the flexible and semi-flexible concepts from airlines or Eurostar is that they usually refer to how easily the ticket can be changed, not how widely they can be used. On a railway where not everything needs to be reserved (as we know almost nothing *needs* to be) I think we should stick with Off-peak, Anytime (perhaps Any Time), etc. and change the advances, especially as that might only mean a few minutes in advance, to something else, I like "Value" suggested earlier. While we're at it, a change to allow some time window around a 'Value' departure might help, as TGVs do or did, possibly with a move to counted places by default. Although it messes with the yield management, there is little point to the passenger in having a train every 20 minutes if you have to get the 0720 on a Sunday.
     
  8. Gareth Marston

    Gareth Marston Established Member

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    RDG/TOC's have their own interests at heart and AP is part of Yield Management and ORCATS dodging.

    If you can't put all the relevant information about them in two separate A1 posters (see thread start) then I kindly suggest they are part of the problem of UK Rail ticketing and not the solution.
     
  9. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I think you can. I think VTWC are either (a) being incompetent, or (b) wilfully misleading their customers for pecuniary gain. I leave it up to the individual to decide which it is.
     
  10. 6Gman

    6Gman Established Member

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    That's VTWC. I recently raised four points with them - each of which contributed to my missing a train. Their reply assured me that their stations were manned (yes, I'd noticed that) and that it was unfortunate that I'd been unable to speak with a member of staff (my complaint specifically referred to my having spoken to at least three different members of staff). None of the four points were addressed.

    I think they just have three or four standard answers and use whichever one seems vaguely relevant to the complaint. Or perhaps they just use them at random ...

    On the other hand they occasionally throw in a random gesture of goodwill. This recent complaint resulted in my abandoning my journey and wasting time and money - no recompense. When I complained about the Euston scrum they sent me a free 1st Class Return to anywhere on the VTWC network!
     
  11. 6Gman

    6Gman Established Member

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    The problem with "Advance" is that it implies it is any ticket bought in advance of travel. Which it isn't. I heard a VTWC Train Manager getting tied in knots trying to explain what an Advance Ticket was, and getting it totally wrong. "An Advance Ticket is a ticket bought up to twelve weeks in advance".
     
    Last edited: 2 Aug 2018
  12. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    They were at one point just giving you a random sum of RTVs whatever you wrote in about. This worked quite well if it was something minor (other than that it wouldn't get fixed) but getting £50 worth when I'd put in for about £200 worth of Delay Repay (a couple of 2-hour full refunds, if I recall correctly) was not funny.

    Mind you that's been going on for years. In 1995 I wrote (yes, a letter :) ) to NorthWest Regional Railways expressing my dismay that trains were dropping people (me, for example) off in Manchester city centre with no warning whatsoever when the evacuation due to the bomb had started over an hour previously - in plenty of time to get the message to the traincrew at Wigan Wallgate (no mobiles back then, and I'm not sure to what extent NRN was useful for that). I got a letter back apologising for the inconvenience caused by the delays which were out of their control - when what I was saying was that the train should have been cancelled!
     
  13. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    I think the SJ ticket names and descriptions I quoted in post #43 are clear and unambiguous but, as no one else has commented, it looks like I am in a minority.
     
  14. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Having just looked back they seem quite clear to me, but they also describe a railway with a very different ticketing policy from the UK - one with full compulsory reservations which can use the airline analogy of non-flex (no refunds, no changes), semi-flex (no refunds, changes for fee plus fare difference) and flex (refundable and changeable for no fee), which is, using different words, basically what they are doing. A much simpler system to codify.

    FWIW I don't think we should go back to having the former - the budget airlines don't either. Non-refundable and non-changeable tickets just annoy people; better to allow a change for a fee, as VTWC pioneered with the Virgin Value tickets.
     
  15. Polarbear

    Polarbear Established Member

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    Whilst I can understand why a TOC might want to insist people sit in their designated seat, (especially on busy services), it's a pain for those like me who don't always have the ability to select a particular seat.

    I travel for work & whilst I can select the trains I travel on, the tickets are purchased by our support team. I've no control over which seat is allocated to me, and the booking engine used by my employer doesn't have seat selection either. Like many people, I'd rather not have to sit with back to direction of travel, with a pillar to look at, so I will sometimes sit elsewhere on a train if that's the case.
     
  16. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    Many routes/trains in Sweden do not have compulsory reservations.

    I am not suggesting we use the exact same ticket types in the UK, just pointing out that is possible to have names (and brief descriptions) which make the things clear.
     
  17. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    It would help matters enormously if all TOCs actually allowed you to reserve the seat you wanted. Many a time I have requested a window airline seat only to be told none are available and be given an aisle seat, and/or a table seat, only to find when I board that plenty of window airline seats are unreserved. Obviously I then sit in the type of seat I actually asked for ... and don't get me started on those TOCs who reserve a 'window' seat which turns out to be next to a huge pillar with no outside view at all :frown:
     
  18. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I think there could do with being a standardised national seat selector project.
     
  19. paddington

    paddington Member

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    I wish it were possible to not select a seat on advances (apart from counted place obviously). On trains that I'm taking because I want to look outside, I would prefer to stand by the door with a view than sit backwards and/or sit facing a blank space. Particularly XC where you don't know which direction it will be. (On my last XC, there were two coach As and Cs so several duplicate reservations as it wasn't possible to move to the other coaches once the train departed!)

    In fact I did this on the Irish Enterprise, I chose a seat facing forward on the opposite side to the sun, but the website had indicated the direction of the train incorrectly, so I got a seat facing backwards in the sun. I stood until there was an unreserved seat that I wished to occupy.

    As VTWC has a functional seat selector, the particular problem mentioned in this thread won't be a problem for me unless other TOCs start to apply this. But suppose I wasn't able to choose my seat in such a detailed manner. Would VTWC want to make me buy a new ticket if I'm not in my reserved seat because I'm standing??
     
  20. Merseysider

    Merseysider Established Member Fares Advisor

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    Nope.
     
  21. AlterEgo

    AlterEgo Veteran Member

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    You think this is simpler then? http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/9i

    How about the NRCoT? Should that be just a few sentences on a poster?
     
  22. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    9I is really lazy; there should be a separate one for each of those stations, as if you read it literally the Euston one adds restrictions to MKC, for example. (It doesn't; it would be a breach of their franchise agreement if it did).
     
  23. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    I think these posters are about the growth in use of e-Tickets and the fact that they are very easy to copy. There is a very strong safeguard in use to combat that but saying if you have to sit in the seat shown on your ticket is a simple way to cover off duplicate copies of the ticket being used.
     
  24. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    They aren't very easy to copy and get away with it. Once the guard has scanned one of them, it'd flag up if they scanned the copy.

    It's probably easier to fake a bit of orange card.
     
  25. herb21

    herb21 Member

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    Advance should be called something like specific train or specified. So you would have Anytime, Off-peak, Specific Train. There should then be an appropriate modifier to make it reserved. So you end up with Anytime, Reserved Anytime, Off-peak, Reserved Off-peak, Specific Train, Reserved Specific Train.
     
  26. Merseysider

    Merseysider Established Member Fares Advisor

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    Adding even more names for things isn’t necessarily the best way forward
     
  27. Essan

    Essan Member

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    Would a simple solution be to rebrand tickets as, say, Red, Blue and Green?

    If you have a Red ticket you must normally travel only on the service specified on the ticket
    If you have a Blue ticket you may travel on any service starting after/before a specified time (varies according to route)
    If you have Green ticket you may travel on any service at any time.

    They could even print the tickets in the respective colours to make it even easier to understand?
     
  28. Deafdoggie

    Deafdoggie Established Member

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    BR tried that with their “savers” total disaster and was removed pretty quickly.
     
  29. Wallsendmag

    Wallsendmag Established Member

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    I didn't say it was easy to get away with did I ;)
     
  30. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    One colour became the Saver and the other the SuperSaver I think?
     

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