RAIL fares expert Barry Doe looks at the new-style tickets introduced by Northern and Virgin.
A number of readers have told me of the problems they have had using new-style tickets that Northern and Virgin Trains now utilise.
I feel Northern is the main culprit, as it seems the operator is moving to a new system of paper tickets with QR codes. That’s fine if you use them locally where most large stations have QR code readers, but it’s useless if you buy a ticket from Accrington to Brighton as the ticket won’t open the Tube gates in London.
When I raised this with Northern, I was told it didn’t matter as “not many people” want to cross London, and if they do they have to exchange the ticket somewhere en route for a card version.
To me the first statement is nonsense. And I’m sure many people from all over the North want to travel not just to London but to cross it, whether they’re heading for Brighton or just Streatham.
And why should those who do have to suffer the inconvenience of queuing to exchange the ticket? As usual in the rail industry today, the needs of the customer matter less than the desires of the operator.
Virgin’s system is far better and has different motives. Station staff are on hand to sell tickets from hand-held tablets, which speeds up transactions and reduces the need to queue.
The technology, known as Avocet, was implemented last August following trials at major stations.
The hand-held tablets are intelligent enough to know the type of ticket required. Ask at Euston for, say, an Off-Peak Return to Manchester and it will give you a paper ticket.
Ask at Manchester, however, for an OP Return to Worthing and it will notify the roving clerk that a card ticket is needed for the Tube gates. The ticket can then be printed remotely on a card-printer in the booking office and the clerk can collect it. Incidentally, tickets can also be sent to a customer’s Smartphone - although again that won’t open Tube gates.
Personally, I simply dislike the flimsiness of paper tickets and wonder why, after many years, parts of the industry are moving away from the credit card-size card ticket. I don’t see credit cards or smartcards changing size!