East Midlands Trains Ticket Farce
Ah the UK train system. Surely the most expensive and complicated ticketing system in Western Europe, if not farther afield.
Last Wednesday I discovered that my £67.50 Sheffield - St Pancras return ticket wouldn’t actually let me travel at any useful times. I say discovered because it was not what I was told, which had been that I was ok after 10am when I’d enquired a few days earlier.
I needed to get back from London St Pancras. I discovered that my ticket wouldn’t allow me on the 5-6ish trains but was told I could upgrade. The ticket office said sure, a new single will be £110 please.
That’s £110 for a single to Sheffield which is all of 2 hours away or a £25 drive.
Ok, so what about a later train? There is no suitable train until 19.55, so basically 8pm. And I couldn’t have caught a train after 14.55 either.
After talking it through with multiple members of staff (“sorry sir those are the rules and we don’t like them any more than you do”) I ended up being offered tickets to take me on the peak part of my journey, after which my ticket would then be valid. I thought about it then walked off to get an interim ticket as I felt I had little choice. Besides, I didn’t have a problem paying something ‘reasonable’ extra even though I felt I’d been misinformed.
That’s when the real problem occurred. Once I’d had some fun on the trains themselves, I met a lovely ticket inspector intent on either charging the earth or chucking me off the train with no way home. Apparently I’d been given the wrong information again. It’s cheaper to get an interim station ticket therefore you aren’t allowed to do it.
Apparently it’s unfair on the other passengers (of the very empty 18.25). This is nonsense of course and a distraction. What she meant was the train company don’t want people finding ways to avoid paying through the nose so make up ridiculous ticketing rules and have a system their own staff clearly still don’t understand.
After much discussion, and to be fair she was just doing her job, she allowed me to stay on the train after paying more again, another £71 this time. At the same time, she cancelled my invalid return ticket so I can’t even use that again. Eh? But it wasn’t valid and I just paid more, so at least let me keep my stub for another time!
I asked her why the ticket office offered to sell me a ticket I couldn’t use when I had told them specifically which train I wanted. She told me it’s not up to them to sell valid tickets and that the rules are clearly written on the back of the ticket.
1) What utter rubbish. Clearly this woman has no concept of customer service. She may have been doing her job, but she should have said “if they did then it’s a mistake. You’ll need to pay now but take it up with customer services upon your return.”
2) These are the clearly written rules.
Not sure an Internet connection should be required for the basics. Indeed, I went to the link just now and you then need to download a pdf. A long pdf you can find here.
Erm… I’ll check the front.
No mention of times or the station rule, just the ‘Super Offpeak R’.
Ok, they must be being sneaky. Let’s check the side.
I did try and find a microscope but to no avail.
Here are my complaints:
Firstly, it’s 2012 and there is no excuse whatsoever for not clearly writing valid train times on the ticket. The only reason for not doing so, because I’m not going to be blind sided by technical excuses, is to cause confusion amongst customers.
Secondly, some staff clearly don’t understand the rules either.
Thirdly, the ticketing system should price in cheaper routes to allow for trains leaving at peak times. It’s frankly ridiculous not to and is leading to empty trains at some peak and near peak times - the 18.25 was virtually empty almost the entire route.
Fourthly, not withstanding the above, how can EMT justify trying to charge me £110 to leave before 19.55 on that route? It’s absolutely farcical, especially when I could massively reduce that cost with a bit of per station ticketing.
At a time when train companies are under fire by passenger groups and MPs for price gouging and packed trains one minute, empty trains the next (due to these ticketing policies), it’s quite clear some areas could be remedied quite easily.
Firstly, I’d like EMT to respond to my complaint and I’d like to see what they’re are going to do about it.
Secondly, dependant upon EMT’s response, I’ll be writing to my local MP, a certain Nick Clegg who may just have an interest in these matters, and also to any relevant rail passenger groups.