Prob­lems with dates for Great Western’s ‘over-60s’ of­fer

Rail (UK) - - Opinion -

In RAIL 813’s The Fare Dealer I wrote about Great Western Rail­way’s ‘over-60s’ zonal of­fer which ran from Oc­to­ber 2016 with an ad­ver­tised last date of out­ward travel of De­cem­ber 2 2016.

Un­usu­ally for GWR, not only was it poorly ad­ver­tised but also much of the de­tail was am­bigu­ous. I re­ceived lots of emails from read­ers ask­ing for clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

I took these up with GWR’s Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor, who con­ceded many points. For ex­am­ple, nowhere did it ad­mit that tick­ets were only valid for 14 days. Also, be­cause the tick­ets were zonal, it now seems it would have been pos­si­ble to buy a ticket from Padding­ton to Portsmouth via West­bury (the only route pos­si­ble keep­ing to GWR ser­vices), albeit only from a ticket of­fice.

Why would any­one want to? Well, it was a very cheap of­fer, and many with time to spare would have liked to avail them­selves of such a cir­cuitous route for the scenery.

There was a tech­ni­cal rea­son why it wasn’t pos­si­ble to col­lect tick­ets booked on­line from ticket ma­chines, but I am as­sured this prob­lem will not oc­cur again with any fu­ture of­fers.

How­ever, the great­est own goal for GWR was in the way it han­dled the end-date. Firstly, while the last day for book­ing was De­cem­ber 2 and the last date for travel was De­cem­ber 16, there was noth­ing to say that a day trip couldn’t be booked by the 2nd for (say) De­cem­ber 8, and many were dis­ap­pointed when they tried and failed.

How­ever, this was as noth­ing com­pared with what ac­tu­ally hap­pened. Staff were in­cor­rectly told that no ticket should be sold af­ter Novem­ber 30, even though a leaflet made clear that the last day for pur­chase was De­cem­ber 2.

Many peo­ple turned up at sta­tions on De­cem­ber 1-2 and were re­fused. Some didn’t travel, while oth­ers bought tick­ets at nor­mal prices. When read­ers told me I took this up with GWR, which as­sured me they could have re­funds. But I know in some cases it took a long time and a lot of cor­re­spon­dence, and this re­flected badly on GWR.

How many oth­ers re­luc­tantly paid up and did not think to press for a re­fund? I have been as­sured by GWR’s Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor that it has learned from its mis­takes, but these were sim­ple ba­sic er­rors that should never have been al­lowed to hap­pen.

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