I have used the trains for my entire working life (so far 12 years) and most of that time I have had a season ticket of some description.
I went on holiday recently, so I let my usual monthly ticket from Tilehurst to Basingstoke run out, and replaced it with weekly tickets until my departure date. I was surprised to find that I was unable to purchase a weekly ticket any sooner than the day before it was due to start. Because of the tight changes in my journey (not made any easier by FGW's inability to run the early morning trains between Tilehurst and Reading on time) and my long working hours, I do not have the opportunity to buy a ticket at any time other than at the weekend. Although I wanted my ticket to start on a Wednesday, when my monthly ticket ran out, I had to buy one that started on the Monday, giving me two days unnecessary overlap, because I couldn't buy a weekly ticket any earlier than Tuesday, and I wasn't available to attend the ticket office to buy a ticket, any later than a Sunday.
I had a similar issue when I came back from my holiday and wanted to purchase my usual monthly season ticket. I needed it to start on the Thursday when I returned to work, but wanted to buy it on the Tuesday. I was told by an extremely defensive and surly member of staff at Reading station that I couldn't buy a new season ticket (i.e. not renewing it during the period of the previous ticket) any sooner than the day before. Luckily, as I was not at work, I could return to the ticket office the following day where I was served by a significantly more pleasant member of staff, who was very apologetic that he couldn't serve me until after midday.
I did eventually purchase my ticket at five minutes past midday on the Wednesday. However I wish to complain about this ridiculous restrictions you put on ticket purchasing. Unfortunately not all of your customers have limitless free time in order to schedule trips to the station ticket office at the times that you have prescribed for them to be allowed to purchase tickets. Given that ticket barriers will not operate if a ticket is out of time, I don't understand why this limitation is in place. It is just adding an additional frustration to rail passengers already struggling with rocketing prices and severe network unreliability.
I would also like to complain about the first member of staff who served me. I don't have her name unfortunately, but if she is representative of the standards you seek in your customer-facing staff, I am very disappointed. It's normally prudent to avoid insulting your customers.
- By Kathryn Whittington on 22 Oct 2012
- Sent to First Great Western Railway on 22 Oct 2012
Kathryn Whittington added an update
12:22 24 Oct 2012
I've had this response to my email account, rather than by the website
First Great Western
Customer Services Team
Tel: 08457 000 125
Fax: 08456 008 363
Dear Ms Whittington
Thank you for your email of 22 October 2012 about purchasing a weekly Ticket. I was sorry to read that you were unhappy that these tickets can only be purchased a day in advance. This policy Is not unique to First Great Western, and is something all train operator companies adhere to.
To stop fraud, it is not possible to purchase them in advance because Weekly Tickets have only the expiry date and not the start date printed on them. So if we sold them in advance someone could buy a ticket several weeks ahead and use it straightaway, rather than for the period they paid for.
Whilst this may sound unlikely, it's the sort of thing that can happen, and we have to be vigilant about potential fraud and fare dodging. Any revenue lost is money we don't have to reinvest for our customers, in new trains, station improvements and other service upgrades.
Once again, thank you for asking. I appreciate this may not be the answer you were hoping for, but I hope I have managed to explain the reasons behind our policy.
I also note your comments about a rude member of staff at Reading. So that we may investigate this matter, please oculd you provide me with the time and date of the incident, and if possible a name and/or description of the member of staff you spoke to. Please could you also provide details of what happened during this incident. Please send these details to the above address, quoting reference 6766790 at your earliest convenience.
Thank you again for your email.
Customer Services Advisor
Kathryn Whittington added an update
12:28 24 Oct 2012
I have just sent back the following response
Thank you for your email. You have addressed one of my concerns, but have totally ignored the issue I had with purchasing a monthly ticket, described in my original communication (if you no longer have it, you can read it again on the fixmytransport website where I recording the process of this complaint, and others (http://www.fixmytransport.com/problems/5572).
Please can you address my monthly ticket issue.
I don't have the name of the member of staff concerned (as I said in my original email) when I had problems purchasing my MONTHLY ticket. The incident happened on Tuesday 16th October at roughly 4 - 4.30pm. When she said I couldn't buy my ticket until the following day and I tried to ask why, she shouted at me, talked over and refused to let me speak. When I asked how long this policy had been in place she sarcastically replied 'oh, only about twelve years' which is (guess what? As I stated in my original email....) roughly the same time I have been buying season tickets without ever having encountered this issue.
Please address ALL of my issues this time.
Peter Dixon added an update
13:39 24 Oct 2012
I am one of the FixMyTransport Volunteers. For season tickets over a month, you can buy them for any duration, so you don't have to drop down to weekly tickets if you know when you are going on holiday. So if you are going on holiday and you know the date more than a month in advance, you can buy them for six weeks or so.
However, your issue shows that weekly tickets restrictions could be made easier
- 4 Shaun McDonald added an update close 22:53 24 Oct 2012
- 5 Shaun McDonald added an update close 23:29 24 Oct 2012
Dave H added an update
20:57 26 Oct 2012
Basically we have a national rail ticketing system which is old and has growed like Topsy, and it is a rather frightening prospect to get it sorted out. The last major attempt resulted in a melt-down that left seat reservations and advance ticket allocations in tatters for around 6 months, as it was patched up.
A lot does not work well. In therory I should be able to buy any ticket for a journey anywhere in the UK but I cannot buy rover tickets online - for similar potential fraud issues, and cannot buy them from some portable machines/stations but can from others.
There is an interesting group developing to discuss Open Rail Data and how the system can work better https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/openraildata-talk.
Meantime the development to watch is the smart ticket, which can offer a 3-day season ticket, and variable charges for stored value - if you can make some commuting trips outside peak hours you get a credit (or are charged less for those journeys).
Railway ticketing is a very complex issue, made worse by the fact we now have to divvy-up the ticket prices proportionate to the amount of travel deliverd by each separate company, using a company set up to do this when the railways were privatised. No wonder the privatised system costs so much more.