Right ticket? Wrong ticket?

14 June 2013

So rail passengers now have to not only make sure they get the right sort of ticket to the right place, but have to think about how they get hold of the ticket. Different decisions can have very different consequences.

We were alerted to this issue by BBC Radio Four’s You and Yours programme. One of their staff members had fallen foul of this problem. When you buy Advance purchase tickets online you need to think how you will get the ticket. Some passengers like Advance purchase tickets as they can represent excellent value for money. Also, given some walk-up prices, passengers can feel that they have little choice but to go down this route if they want to travel at all.

Print at home is heavily pushed by the train companies. It keeps their costs down (less station staff, ticket machines, etc) and ensures all details are immediately delivered. Passengers seem to like print at home as well – more information on ticket and a clearer presentation with immediate confirmation of your purchase.

However, what happens if you change your mind? Advance purchase tickets are tied to specific trains, but can normally be changed before the day of travel on payment of a £10 per ticket ‘administration fee’. Not however, if they are print at home. Fears of fraud and a lack of investment in new ticket reading technology means you will lose all you have paid (which can be over £100 for the most expensive Advance tickets). Having different conditions depending on how a ticket is delivered to you seems unfair.

Only one train company seems to do something different. East Coast allows you to change all tickets, including print at home tickets, up to 5pm or 6pm the day before. It seems East Coast have invested in readers so guards on trains can read print at home tickets and avoid fraud issues. Well done them. It seems the franchise replacement delays have also slowed this sort of investment by other companies.

In the meantime we think other train companies need to look and see if they can minimise fraud, but respect their passengers to a greater degree. To not do so is simply unfair.

Read our Ticket to Ride report here.

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