Fare Dealer

Rail (UK) - - Contents -

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!

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