Skip to content

Case studies archive

Arriva clears up advanced ticket pricing

For her birthday Mrs P used Arriva Trains Wales’ (ATW) telesales helpline to book return tickets from Manchester Piccadilly to Newport for her family. She made it clear on the phone that she wanted to get the cheapest deal for these, and sought out prices for Advance tickets, but was told she could not book these for the price advertised. She later saw a promotion for a reduced price Groupsave booking, and was offered a quote with a 30 per cent discount using the Senior Railcards she and her husband had.

Mrs P could have got a cheaper deal if she had purchased the Advance tickets. The Groupsave tickets were advertised as a reduced fare, so Mrs P expected this to be the cheapest option. Customer service staff advised that she should get the cheaper Advance tickets at her local station, and on ending the call she checked the price on the internet and went to the station half an hour later. When she got there she was told the Advances for that price had sold out.

Mrs P felt that the promotion of the cheaper Advance fares online was misleading and decided to contact ATW again. She was then quoted an even higher price for the tickets due to the number of passengers in the booking. She was then told that to obtain the cheapest possible price she would have to contact telesales and book each ticket individually. Not only was this a long process, but the price of the tickets had risen by £200 in the meantime. Mrs P complained to Transport Focus as she was dissatisfied with the conflicting advice she was given.

Our advisor agreed that the difference in prices was confusing we told Arriva that it was unfair that Mrs P had not been able to take advantage of the cheaper ticket prices despite calling them for help. Arriva explained that for large groups there are a number of ticket options available and the group bookings team could not match the online Advance prices. Whilst it sympathised with the situation Arriva said it would not be offering any money back for the booking. Our advisor continued to press Arriva for a goodwill gesture and Arriva eventually agreed to award Mrs P’s party a round of complimentary drinks. Mrs P was happy to accept this offer, and was grateful that Transport Focus had also clarified the confusion on the booking process.


Scotrail passenger is not penalised

Mrs H purchased three off-peak weekend tickets ahead of her journey from Glasgow Central to Edinburgh Waverley in August last year with Scotrail as a treat for her niece. Whilst travelling, however, the ticket inspector told her that the tickets were incorrect, and made Mrs H fill out a notice with a £37 fare to pay later. The inspector said that if she did not agree to this the British Transport Police would be called to remove Mrs H and her family members from the train.

Mrs H felt that due to the inspector’s aggressive behaviour she had no alternative but to fill out the notice. When she arrived in Edinburgh, she asked the duty manager for advice and they told her that the tickets were in fact valid to begin with and she should not have been issued a notice. She later contacted Scotrail to double check that the guidance she was given by the duty manager was correct and to request compensation. Scotrail responded that the inspector had been questioned in line with their internal staff procedures, but that it would not offer compensation, despite apologising for her distress.

Mrs H got in touch with Transport Focus, as she was not satisfied with the outcome of her complaint. We contacted Scotrail to ask that a goodwill gesture be offered to Mrs H and that an investigation into the conduct of the inspector be carried out. Scotrail confirmed that the matter had been reviewed and decided to overturn the notice. Mrs H’s tickets were indeed valid for the journey she was making. In spite of this however, ScotRail would still not consider offering a gesture of goodwill as the report logged by the ticket inspector said that that Mrs H had shown a different ticket to the one she purchased for the journey.

Transport Focus met with Scotrail to escalate this case however the answer remained the same and Scotrail was unwilling to offer compensation. We were disappointed that we could not achieve Mrs H’s desired outcome of a goodwill gesture for her experience with Scotrail, however we were happy that Mrs H was not penalised in the end.


Disabled passenger receives refund and apology from South West Trains

Mr T was due to travel with his nephew to London Waterloo on 23 March 2016. He bought two return tickets and two day Travelcards for London at the ticket desk at Salisbury station. As Mr T is registered blind, he was not aware that the tickets had been printed incorrectly and were only valid for 22 March. Mr T and his nephew remained unaware of this issue up to the date of travel. It wasn’t until they were prevented from passing through the ticket barrier at Salisbury station that they found out the tickets were not valid for that day.

As their train was due to depart in six minutes, Mr T and his nephew ended up buying another set of tickets. In order to make their train on time they had to buy tickets where were priced higher than the original tickets.

Mr T’s nephew later submitted a claim for a refund for the additional tickets, as well as the cost of the Day Travelcards which also had the wrong date printed on them. South West Trains replied that it is the responsibility of the passenger to check they have the right tickets to travel and they were not liable to offer a refund to Mr T for this reason. As a goodwill gesture, however, they sent Mr T a cheque for £46 to go towards the cost of the Day Travelcards and the original tickets.

Mr T and his nephew were disappointed with this outcome however, as they still wanted a refund for their more expensive tickets and remained over £50 out of pocket. They decided to get in touch with Transport Focus in the hope of a better outcome. We agreed that more consideration should have been given to their claim and felt that South West Trains were unfair to advise Mr T that he should have checked his ticket when he was unable to do so.

Our advisor contacted South West Trains to explain what had happened and it soon became clear that Mr T’s nephew had not told the train company that his uncle was blind. Once it was made aware of the situation South West Trains acknowledged that the case was dealt with poorly. South West Trains was therefore happy to send Mr T an additional £50 and advised that he could also keep the £46 that was originally sent to him as an apology for what happened.

Both passengers were pleased to learn that the matter had been investigated and agreed that this was a much more encouraging outcome.


Success after the introduction of an alternate timetable

In December 2015 Mr M had booked a batch of advance tickets dated every Monday from December to March 2016 from Edinburgh to Crewe. Damage caused to Lamington Viaduct by Storm Frank meant that the Lockerbie line had to be temporarily closed down for repair. An alternate timetable was put in place by train companies.

For the first leg of his journey Mr M was due to travel from Edinburgh to Preston with Virgin Trains, however due to service cancellations and the introduction of the alternate timetable, he had to alter his travel plans. Initially Mr M had been able to use his ticket to catch alternative services using Virgin Trains East Coast and TransPennine Express but this delayed him by an hour.

However Virgin then announced that it was no longer accepting advance tickets from TransPennine Express on its services and had put the same measures in place for Virgin Trains tickets. This meant that Mr M was no longer allowed to use his Virgin ticket on the TransPennine Express train and had to travel by bus replacement service for part of his journey, delaying him by a further two hours.

Mr M contacted Virgin Trains and was told that the restrictions on tickets would remain in place. Mr M contacted Transport Focus as he felt that the situation was unfair, as his tickets were purchased before the amended timetable. We asked TransPennine Express why it would not accept his Virgin ticket on its trains when it had done so on previous occasions. TransPennine Express explained that Virgin Trains had imposed restrictions on TransPennine customers’ tickets and it had therefore implemented the same measures. On this basis it would not offer compensation to Mr M.

We got in touch with Virgin, which said that due to the extent of the delays and the inconvenience caused, it would be able to reimburse Mr M in Delay Repay compensation. This thankfully coincided with the re-opening of the Lockerbie line and Mr M was able to complete the rest of his booked journeys without disruption.


Successful appeal against Penalty Fare Notice

Mr H arrived at East Boldon station ten minutes before his journey to Newcastle with Tyne and Wear Metro and tried to purchase a ticket from the station ticket vending machine.

Each time he attempted to buy a ticket, the machine cancelled Mr H’s transaction. Aware that he could be fined for travelling without a ticket, Mr H filmed his third attempt to purchase a ticket and then boarded the train he had planned to take in order to make his connection at Newcastle.

When he arrived at Newcastle, Mr H approached staff to purchase a ticket and was issued with a Penalty Fare Notice.

After Mr H’s appeal with Tyne and Wear Metro was declined, he contacted Transport Focus and we approached Tyne and Wear Metro on his behalf.

After reviewing the footage Mr H had taken of the machine not working and our appeal on his behalf, Tyne and Wear Metro agreed to waive the Penalty Fare Notice and refund the £20 already paid.


South West Trains gesture of goodwill after ticket mix-up

Miss H and her friend travelled from Gipsy Hill to Winchester. They are both in full-time education and hold 16+ Zip Oyster photocards which allow them to buy child-rate tickets within the London zones.

At the Gipsy Hill ticket office, operated by Southern, they were sold child tickets for the whole journey to Winchester after showing their 16+ Zip Oyster photocards.

When they arrived at Winchester, operated by South West Trains (SWT), they were correctly told that they should have been holding adult tickets and were charged a Penalty Fare.

Miss H and her friend then appealed without success to the Independent Appeals Service, before coming to Transport Focus for help.

We explained to SWT that we thought the Penalty Fares had been issued without considering what the passengers had been told by Southern staff at Gipsy Hill. We asked SWT to reconsider this case, which it did.

As a gesture of goodwill SWT agreed to refund the Penalty Fares and additional charges of £91, even though another train company had incorrectly sold the tickets.

Miss H and her friend were very pleased with this result.


Compensation after cancelled train

Mrs D’s son was due to travel on 24 October on the 7.30pm train from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads. He was travelling to a family wedding and was booked into a room at a local hotel. Unfortunately, all trains were cancelled due to a fatality on the line. He had a ticket refund, but Mrs D contacted us as she had had to pay for the hotel room which her son had been unable to use. She wanted a refund of £60.

When the train was cancelled, Mrs D’s son was told that the line was closed and there would be no onward services. No other options were given for him to get to Bristol Temple Meads. Staff couldn’t advise if he’d be able to get a later service so he had no choice but to abandon the journey.

Train companies do not offer compensation as a matter of course under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage for this type of situation, which they term consequential loss, but will consider claims in exceptional circumstances. We felt that he had no way of getting to the hotel to use the room and was advised that the line was closed until further notice. We asked the train company, First Great Western (FGW) to reconsider refunding the hotel costs.

FGW explained that staff wouldn’t have given an indication of when the next service would run as far as Bristol because it would be impossible to know. The disruption was due to a fatality and the line had been closed by the police. Any estimate might have provided false hope. However, FGW appreciated the frustration that Mrs D had paid for an unused hotel room and so it covered the full cost of £60 as a gesture of goodwill.

Mrs D was very pleased with the outcome.


First Great Western (FGW) goodwill after car park trouble

Mrs L purchased an Advance ticket to travel with CrossCountry from Bristol Parkway to Darlington. She attempted to park at the station but was delayed as refurbishment work was being carried out, reducing the number of available parking bays. She was then further delayed when another passenger had problems getting a parking ticket from the car park machine. All of which meant she missed her train and had to purchase another train ticket.

She complained to First Great Western (FGW) which manages Bristol Parkway station and car park. She asked for £82 to cover the cost of the replacement ticket as she felt there was a lack of communication regarding the restricted parking. FGW offered £20 worth of rail travel vouchers, but Mrs L was not satisfied with this and contacted Transport Focus (then Passenger Focus).

We contacted FGW on Mrs L’s behalf and asked it to review its offer. It explained that it had issued warnings both prior to, and during refurbishment work. This included a dedicated webpage with details of an additional car park alongside the station that passengers could use during the works. It also issued media releases and had clear signage at the station. However, it recognised the difficulties of the reduced number of spaces and had asked station staff to allow travel on the next train where an Advance ticket service was missed. Unfortunately, FGW couldn’t make sure that other operators would match this arrangement.

FGW agreed that the £20 rail voucher was not a suitable gesture and offered a cheque for £82 to cover the cost of the additional ticket.


Goodwill gesture from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)

Mrs B bought a season ticket from First Capital Connect (FCC) which included two complimentary tickets. As in previous years she requested these tickets online.

After allowing more time than usual for the complimentary tickets to arrive, Mrs B contacted FCC to complain. Apart from an automatic email response, Mrs B didn’t receive a reply. When FCC’s deadline for replying passed, she contacted Transport Focus.

During the delay in processing Mrs B’s complimentary tickets FCC had changed over to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which was unwilling to honour the offer.

We felt it was unacceptable that Mrs B’s issue and complaint had been dealt with so poorly. We discussed with GTR the importance of taking ownership of outstanding FCC complaints, which it had previously agreed with us to do.

After our involvement, GTR agreed to send £40 in rail travel vouchers as a gesture of goodwill. We had four similar cases and were able to agree suitable outcomes for each of them.


Your complaint can make a difference!

Ms V, a European Union (EU) national who lives in the UK, booked a ‘print at home’ ticket with Greater Anglia. One of the conditions of ‘print at home’ tickets is that the holder can prove his or her identity by a specified document, such as a passport or driving licence.

Ms V realised that as a form of identification, her national ID card was not valid, even though it allowed her to travel internationally within the EU. Greater Anglia said this was a national issue. The EU ID couldn’t be accepted and this decision was out of their hands. Ms V felt this was very unfair.

Ms V contacted Transport Focus and we found that as EU ID cards can be used to enter the UK from EU member states we could see no reason, nor were we aware of any national policy, which would prevent the use of this card as a form of ID.

We raised this with the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), the rail industry’s trade body. As a result, ATOC has confirmed that EU ID cards will now be accepted as formal identification with ‘print at home’ tickets and has added them to the ‘accepted document’ list.

This is a great result for passengers and demonstrates how passenger complaints can contribute to policy changes in the rail industry.


It pays to complain!

Having read one of our previous case studies, a passenger decided to complain to London Midland about his “awful” journey from Birmingham to London and contacted Transport Focus to tell us what happened.

While travelling from Birmingham to London Euston Mr W got stuck on a train at Northampton for 25 minutes before it was announced the driver was waiting for a preceding train. Five minutes later he was told the train was now cancelled because of problems at Watford Junction.

Left stranded with no information as how to continue his onward journey, and with no sign of a rail replacement bus service, Mr W took a taxi at a cost of £31 to Wellingborough. From there he could get a direct train to London St Pancras where he was booked on a Eurostar service.

On arrival at Wellingborough Mr W saw that a train was due to leave but it was running 10 minutes late. The train was then cancelled because of a failure at Kettering and by this time he knew he would not make his Eurostar connection.

Mr W then got on a very overcrowded train which arrived at London St Pancras 15 minutes late, meaning he was two and a half hours late into London. He immediately went to the Eurostar booking office and had to pay an extra charge of £78 to join a later train.

Mr W sent London Midland a completed delay-repay compensation form stating he wished to claim £110 for expenses incurred as a result of delays at two stations on the network.

As a result of his claim London Midland agreed to pay the full amount and Mr W received rail travel vouchers for the full cost of the single tickets from Birmingham to London Euston.

Mr W told us he was pleased with this outcome and the goodwill shown by London Midland and said he wouldn’t have made the claim without reading about our success on another case.


South West Trains goodwill gesture

Mr H was due to catch a South West Trains (SWT) service at 10.54pm between Poole and Southampton Airport Parkway but was alerted at 3pm, via a mobile phone app, that trains had been cancelled.

There was no rail replacement bus service provided and Mr H felt this was unacceptable as he felt SWT had sufficient time between 3pm and 10.54pm to arrange alternative transport.

Mr H also called the Help Point and was told taxis would be available but none arrived so he had to get a taxi home at a cost of £60. SWT declined to refund this cost as it was considered ‘consequential loss’.

We contacted SWT and discovered that the disruption was actually caused by a fatality on the line. This meant that British Transport Police (BTP) had taken over the track and the power was turned off to allow the emergency services to work on the area. The track wasn’t handed back until 8.23pm and SWT was unable to provide alternative transport due to a lack of availability.

However, given the extent of the disruption, as a gesture of goodwill SWT agreed to provide a cheque for £60 to cover the cost of the taxi and Mr H was very happy with this outcome.


East Coast goodwill after airport taxi-dash

Mr B arrived at Newcastle to get the 8.42am East Coast service to Edinburgh, but all trains were either cancelled or severely delayed due to a signal power failure at Durham. Mr B was informed that the earliest time the trains would start running again would be 11.30am. There were no rail replacement bus services and he had a flight to catch at 1.05pm which left him with no alternative other than to travel by taxi which cost £240. East Coast declined to refund the taxi cost as it was classed as consequential loss.

We asked East Coast to reconsider on the basis that there was no alternative for Mr B to get to his destination in time to catch his flight. Following a detailed review of the case, East Coast agreed to refund £240 and Mr B was very happy with the outcome and our support.


Goodwill from Virgin Trains and Arriva Trains Wales

Mrs C travelled from Cardiff to Carlisle for a wedding and booked a pair of Off-Peak Return tickets. Her husband found the outbound journey very hard as they are both pensioners and her husband has heart problems. So on the return leg their son-in-law brought them back by car. This meant they didn’t use the return portion of their tickets. Mrs C called about a refund and was told that she should have cancelled the tickets before her journey and travelled with single tickets. However, she did not know in advance that their circumstances would change. maintained that they could not issue a refund because no statutory compensation was due. If both legs of the ticket remained unused then the request could be dealt with by However, as the outward leg had been used, any agreement to offer a refund or partial refund would be based on goodwill and could only be issued by the train companies involved.

We therefore contacted Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) and asked for a goodwill gesture as the passengers were unable to use the return ticket from Crewe to Cardiff. ATW agreed to offer a cheque for £17.60, which was the difference between an Anytime Single and Off-Peak Return ticket. We also approached Virgin Trains for their part of the journey and they agreed to offer £140.00 in Rail Travel Vouchers which was half of the total ticket cost.

Naturally, Mr and Mrs C were very happy with the end result


Difficulties caused by over-running engineering works

Last March Mr T was planning to travel from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport. His train was delayed due to over-running engineering works and there were no alternative trains or transport provided. As Mr T had to get to the airport to catch a flight he booked himself a taxi which cost £65.

When he approached Northern for a refund of his taxi fare he was not happy that they only sent him a one-day travel pass for use on Northern Rail services. He appealed to us and we took the matter up with Northern. They agreed to refund Mr T’s taxi fare.


Compensation problems when travelling with more than one train company

A passenger purchased an annual season ticket between a station in Surrey and London. This journey uses the services of two different train companies.

When he tried to claim compensation for journeys he was delayed on, both companies refused with each one advising him it was the other company’s responsibility. He contacted Passenger Focus for our assistance after nearly six months of trying to resolve the issue directly with the train companies.

Under the terms of their Passenger’s Charter, train companies have to compensate season-ticket holders for poor performance. Compensation becomes more complicated if the passenger’s journey is made on the services of more than one company as performance is usually judged by the services of the company on the route serving the station where the ticket was bought.

He was at first refused because the passenger was delayed on the second train company’s services. Passenger Focus took the matter up with both the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Department for Transport as we shared the passenger’s view that this was unfair. We were pleased to learn that both companies have finally agreed to offer compensation to this passenger and arranged to work together to prevent the situation occurring again in the future.


First Capital Connect’s pricing error

First Capital Connect (FCC) offers an Off-peak Day Return ticket, valid only on its own services from Brighton and local stations to London Bridge. The first train available has always been the 09.00 from Brighton. A passenger discovered one morning that she could no longer buy this ticket and was charged considerably more for a ticket for the same journey or had to travel over half an hour later instead to qualify for the cheaper fare. FCC’s customer service centre was unable to verify what had happened and believed that the conditions of use had changed. The passenger was in touch with our contact team in Manchester immediately after this.

Passenger Focus contacted the train operator’s pricing manager to find out whether or not the conditions of use had been changed. This was not the case. An error had crept into the system. It was put right almost at once and reverted to the original conditions allowing travel at the cheaper rate on the 09.00 train.

The passenger, said: “Thank you for tackling this so quickly and getting back to me with this ‘best possible’ outcome. I had also emailed FCC and spoken to three of their customer service operators this morning all of whom told me ‘It’s changed, so catch the 09.34’. I felt, therefore, this was a lost cause… I have never contacted Passenger Focus before and even if your response had been that the change was correct, at least I would have felt I had received the correct information.”


Ticket refund troubles

Mrs P purchased Advance tickets from Tunbridge Wells to Truro, but could not travel on the date she booked as the line at Dawlish had been breached and nothrough train service was operating. She twice went to the station for a refund but station staff refused on both occasions. She then wrote to First Great Western (FGW) for a refund. FGW referred her to Southeastern Railway (SER) but SER’s Customer Relations also refused to refund the tickets as had the station.

The reason they gave for refusing a refund was that, although through trains were suspended, a bus replacement service was available. In view of her age, the amount of luggage she had and her cross-London transfer, Mrs P did not want to have to change again onto a bus for a 50-mile journey.

We approached both FGW and SER. FGW agreed to issue her with two complimentary first-class tickets and SER offered£14 in Rail Travel Vouchers for their portion of the journey.

Mrs P was extremely happy with the outcome as she makes this journey often to see her family.


Problems caused when a c2c ticket office is closed when it should be open

Ms T frequently buys tickets prior to the date of travel. Due to the fact that she needs tickets to various destinations for work, Ms T requires daily tickets rather than a season ticket. As her plans can change at the last minute, she often has to cancel her journey and apply for a refund at the ticket office the day before she is due to travel.
On 4 February, Ms T arrived at Benfleet station, which is run by c2c, at approximately 8.20pm. Her plans had changed for the following day so she went to the ticket office to get a refund on her tickets for travel on 5 February. Despite it being within opening hours, the ticket office was closed due to staff shortages, so Ms T was unable to apply for a refund (as she had done on previous occasions).

She went back to Benfleet station on the morning of 5 February at approximately 10am to get a refund. However, she was advised that refunds on same-day return tickets can only be processed at the ticket office before 9am on the intended day of travel. She was told that she had to take it up with c2c Customer Relations who would charge a £10 administration fee which she normally avoided by applying for a refund at the station.

Ms T approached Passenger Focus and we advised her that every refund is subject to an administration fee, including those made at a ticket office prior to the date of travel, unless trains are delayed or cancelled. However, as there had been inconsistencies in the way refunds had been processed previously, we asked c2c for a full refund. c2c reiterated that an administration fee is payable for all such refunds. However, as Ms T is a frequent traveller on c2c services, they repaid the value of her ticket in rail vouchers for use on future journeys anywhere on the national network. Ms T was satisfied with this outcome.


Lost and found Railcard on South West Trains

Miss P’s 16-25 Railcard was in her purse which had been mislaid. However, she didn’t know she had lost it.

Her father bought her a ticket incorporating a Railcard discount. On the train she was asked to show her ticket and Railcard and was unable to do so because of the lost purse.

She was required to buy another ticket, but she couldn’t as she didn’t have her purse and could not prove her identity. She was issued a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN) for £46.

Following her journey the purse was returned to her so she could prove she did have a Railcard. She appealed three times against the PFN to the independent appeals body, Independent Transport Associates Ltd (ITAL). On each occasion the appeal was unsuccessful. The reason given was that retrospective proof is not accepted.

We then contacted South West Trains (SWT). Our appeal was made on the basis that she did have a Railcard, but her missing purse prevented her from showing the Railcard and she was not aware that it was missing when she started the journey.

We sent a copy of the Railcard to SWT as proof of her holding a valid Railcard at the time of her journey.

After reviewing the appeal, it was agreed to waive the PFN and refund all charges as well.

Passenger Focus continues to press the industry to maintain an easily-accessible database of Railcards, so that staff members can check passengers’ entitlement to Railcard discounts even when the Railcard is not immediately available.


‘Penalty fared’ on FCC for forgetting Railcard

Miss S was travelling from Sandy, Bedfordshire, to London King’s Cross. She bought her ticket, with a Railcard discount, from a vending machine at Sandy station. She made her purchase at around midday to travel on the 5.15pm service.

When a ticket inspector asked her to present the Railcard and ticket on the train she realised that she had inadvertently left her Railcard in her car. The inspector issued her with a Penalty Fare Notice (PFN).

She tried to explain that when she bought the ticket she had her Railcard with her, but did not have it with her at that moment. She also showed the ticket inspector a number of other tickets in her wallet which had been bought with a Railcard and were marked as inspected, proving that she had her Railcard with her on those occasions.

She sent an appeal letter to the Independent Penalty Fares Appeals Service (IPFAS). They did not receive it so she was sent a letter threatening court action.

Miss S approached us for help and we took up the case on her behalf. We appealed on the basis that at the time of purchase she did have a Railcard which was valid when she made her journey. We also included a copy of her Railcard.

As a result, First Capital Connect agreed to not pursue the PFN or any administration charges.


Not a very First ‘Class’ TransPennine Express service

We were contacted by Mr T after he had unsuccessfully applied for a refund from First TransPennine Express (FTPE). It was for return travel from Durham to Liverpool.

On the return leg of their trip they got on the train at Liverpool Lime Street and got off at York in order to change to the 5.10pm FTPE train to Durham. They were informed that this service was severely delayed because the train didn’t have a driver. One was eventually found and they reached Durham at 6.48pm – 49 minutes after it was meant to get there.

Mr T is a diabetic and they chose to travel First Class so that they would have access to regular drinks and a biscuit should he need it. Tea or coffee was not available from the York to Liverpool portion of their outward journey, or at any point during their return journey. This was the first time they had chosen to travel First Class as they were influenced by FTPE’s advertising promoting the availability of refreshments when travelling First Class.

We asked FTPE to refund Mr T the return leg of his journey. It agreed and sent him £106 in National Rail Travel Vouchers.


Ticket vending machine problems

Mr C bought Advance tickets online to travel from Leuchars to Heathrow Airport. The tickets cost £78.94. Mr C selected the option to collect his tickets at the station.

When he arrived at Leuchars station, he had problems collecting his tickets from the ticket vending machine (TVM) and had to buy replacement tickets which cost him £130.70.

Following his journey, Mr C asked ScotRail, which runs Leuchars station, to refund him the money he spent buying replacement tickets. He was told that he would not be refunded as the tickets he had initially purchased were Advance tickets and non-refundable. ScotRail didn’t find a fault with their TVM, so would not consider Mr C’s claim.

He then contacted Passenger Focus and we asked ScotRail to refund him the £130.70 he paid to replace his tickets, regardless of whether this was due to a human or system error, as he had now paid twice for the same journey.

ScotRail reviewed Mr C’s case and agreed to give him a cash refund of £130.70 as a gesture of goodwill.


Northern Rail’s unfair Penalty Notice

Mr D boarded the 3.55pm train to Preston from Ansdell with the intention of buying a ticket on board. When he tried to purchase his ticket from the conductor he discovered that the ticket machine was unable to print tickets. The conductor told him to buy a ticket on his return journey at 9pm. When he was leaving Preston station he was approached by two revenue protection officers who recorded his details after threatening to call the police if he didn’t provide them.

This seemed unfair as he was following the instructions he had been given by the conductor. On his way back to Ansdell he purchased a ticket at Preston station at 8.58pm – so he had done as he had been told to do. Additionally, Ansdell is an unstaffed station so he wasn’t initially able to buy a ticket prior to boarding the train.

In hindsight, he admitted that he could have bought a ticket as soon as he got off the train at Preston on the first leg of his journey, but he did not do so because of what he had been told to do by the conductor. It had not occurred to him that he might be penalised.

Passenger Focus asked Northern to refund the Fixed Penalty Notice he had paid as it was not fair that this passenger was penalised due to a failure in Northern’s equipment and communication between staff members. None of this was the passenger’s fault and it was clear that he had no intention of defrauding Northern.

Northern refunded the £86.80 Fixed Penalty Notice and Mr D was very pleased with this result.


Peak ticket for an off-peak service

Mr P bought a Day Travelcard from Chiltern Railways to travel during the peak from Warwick Parkway to London Marylebone. When his train was delayed he realised that he could travel on a different train which was about to leave. This train was classed as an off-peak service for which he only needed a cheaper off-peak Travelcard. As this train was about to go he didn’t have enough time to exchange his ticket for the cheaper off-peak version, but was aware that other regular passengers had done this on seeing the delay to the earlier service.

After he’d completed his journey he approached Chiltern for a refund of the difference in cost. This was refused by Chiltern on the basis that he had used his ticket, so he came to Passenger Focus.
It was clear that had he been provided with information about the delay to his train more swiftly, he would have been able to get a refund for his original ticket and then purchase the cheaper off-peak ticket. Through no fault of his own he had paid a peak fare for an off-peak service.

Passenger Focus took his complaint to Chiltern which agreed a refund for the difference in cost. Mr P was pleased with the outcome and said: “I’m very grateful, and seriously impressed by Passenger Focus’s handling of my complaint.”


£3592 Southeastern ticket goes up in smoke

Mr C had lost his £3592 season ticket and his duplicate season ticket in the space of a couple of months – this was because he had a house fire which almost killed his daughter and because of this they had to move out into temporary accommodation. Obviously this was very traumatic and it was in this time that the duplicate season ticket was lost.

Southeastern initially refused to issue a second duplicate, which is when the passenger came to us. We told the company that the ticket was lost after a fire, and helped the customer to supply evidence of the fire, which Southeastern was then happy to accept.

Mr C received a second duplicate, plus £797.70 in additional costs that he had accrued whilst travelling without his season ticket. He was extremely happy with this.

The future introduction of smarter ticketing should make it easier to block and reissue products like these. We have some research on this area which is due to be published in the next few months.


Peak or off-peak?

Passenger Focus was contacted by Mr P after Chiltern Railways were unable to satisfactorily resolve his complaint.

Mr P bought a Day Travelcard to use on a peak service from Warwick Parkway to London Marylebone. His intended train was delayed and he realised that he could take a different service which was about to depart. This alternative service was classed as an off-peak service, so he could have purchased a cheaper Travelcard.

He did not have time to have his ticket refunded and buy the cheaper off-peak version, but he was aware that other regular passengers had done this on seeing the delay to the earlier service. After completing his journey he approached Chiltern for a refund of the difference in cost but this was refused on the basis that the ticket had been used.

Having reviewed his complaint it was clear that had information regarding the delay been given in a more timely fashion Mr P would have been able to have his original peak-time ticket refunded and purchased a cheaper ticket. Through no fault of his own he had paid over the odds for an off-peak service.

Passenger Focus took this up with Chiltern who agreed that a refund for the difference in the ticket cost should have been given, so they sent a cheque directly to the passenger.

Mr P was pleased with the outcome: “I’m very grateful, and seriously impressed by Passenger Focus’s handling of my complaint.”


Car parking charges 

Mr L contacted us after ongoing problems with car parking charges at Peterborough. He regularly parked over the weekend, but found that sessions which included days either side of the weekend were overcharged. He had been refunded the difference several times by East Coast, but had then been refused on the latest incidents.

Having reviewed the signs against what he had paid and what East Coast understood the rates to be, it was clear that the signage explanations needed review – but also that the machine was not selling the right tickets. After some communication with Customer Relations it was clear that the issue was simply not being understood.

We raised this with East Coast management and it was agreed that the signs would be revised to make charges clearer. A full review was arranged for all car parks. The passenger was offered a refund on all the overcharges, which Mr L asked them to donate to a local charity. East Coast donated the refund to The Railway Children. We will continue to work with East Coast on this and monitor future complaints of a similar nature.


Jobseeker travelcard

Nicholas is a jobseeker who has a Jobcentre Plus discount travelcard which entitles him to 50 per cent off ticket prices. He was travelling from Hastings to London to attend a job interview but was told that he could not use the card as his off-peak ticket was already the cheapest available, and that the discount was only available on the next price up. He therefore spent £15.20 instead of the £10.90 he was expecting to.

Nicholas complained to Southeastern via Twitter, but was again told that he couldn’t use the card to get discount on the lowest fare. He was not directed to customer relations –  however, he contacted us as he felt that this system did not help those seeking work.

We asked Southeastern to look into the matter, and queried whether he should have been able to buy the cheapest off-peak ticket using his discount. Southeastern confirmed that staff had given the wrong information and that those involved would be rebriefed on the use of this travelcard. Southeastern gave a refund for the additional fare Nicholas paid in rail travel vouchers, rounding it up to £5 as well as giving a goodwill gesture for £10. Nicholas was happy to accept this, and pleased that Southeastern had acknowledged the mistake.

Related content

Latest news

Rail timetable planning for 2021 – Transport Focus comment

Find out more
Latest publication

Student travel survey

Find out more
Latest post

To travel or not to travel this Christmas?

Find out more