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