Friday, 15 April 2005

Charity being stung by railway company

Readers may be interested to know the sort of day to day trials and tribulations that a small charity such as the World Land Trust has to contend with. The following is a letter I sent today and is largely self explanatory. After it I have appended some other notes, which may be interesting to anyone living in East Anglia, or perhaps other parts of Britain.

Commercial Manager
ONE Railways
Burrell Rd
Ipswich IP2 8AL 14 April, 2005

Dear Sirs,

I wish to make a serious complaint about the 'One' ticketing Wednesday 13 April I travelled to London accompanied by two members of staff. We travelled on the 09.30 from Halesworth to London, purchasing saver returns (enclosed). We returned, on the 16.30 from London as is often the case, changing at Ipswich. We were aware that if we had travelled on the 17.00, which is the connection to Halesworth, this would have been subject to a surcharge, which is why we travelled on the 16.30. The ticket inspector checked tickets just before 17.00 hours and informed me that we were subject to a surcharge as we were travelling on saver tickets. I argued that this had never previously been the case, and the conductor seemed very confused, spent many minutes consulting his handbook before finally contacting a colleague by phone. He was then insistent that a surcharge was payable. So I paid. I asked for a leaflet showing the charges and availability of tickets, but was told he did not carry any. On alighting at Ipswich I went to the ticket counter and showed the salesman my tickets and the surcharge vouchers, and was informed quite simply 'You've been diddled'. I asked for a leaflet outlining the ticketing, but was informed none existed. I have several serious concerns which I would like addressed:

1. The lack of printed information concerning the availability of tickets.

2. The conductor identified the Train as the 17.06. There is no such train, this was the time he took payment from me.

3. I have wasted a considerable amount of time dealing with this matter, which were it not for the fact that I am a regular traveller, and well informed, would have gone unquestioned.

4. I, and my colleagues travelling that day, work for a small charity, which can ill afford to pay charges which are not appropriate.

5. As I am about to travel abroad you may wish to phone and speak to me today about this matter.

Yours sincerely,

John A Burton
Chief Executive, WLT

In fact the little information available (on the 'One' website) is quite confusing. It states that the return portions of saver tickets are not valid on trains departing between 17.00 and 19.00 hours, and after talking with colleagues it appears that different conductors have different interpretations of this. It is not clear if travel is permitted on either the 17.00 or the 19.00 hour departures, or both (think about it, it has to be at least one of them). And despite a clear statement on the 'One' website that the close-out period does not start until 17.00 it is frequently broadcast on the train that travelling on a saver is not permitted on the 16.30.

How many people have been ripped off by 'One'? How many people have got off the train and wasted time waiting at Liverpool St station until 19.00 pm?


  1. Railway pricing is in a complete mess at the moment - I recently got a train to Cardif from London and it cost the charity I work for £120 for an open return. On the same train the guard actually put a passenger off the train at Didcot (an unpleasant place to be marooned at the best of times) so that they could wait an hour and then get on another train when their ticket would be valid. Many tickets issued refer to terms and conditions which are never displayed at stations. Another casualty of breaking up the railway companies is that its much more difficult to get train timetables - fortunately a volunteer has written a site which gives accessible train times.

  2. It is now the 28 April, and I have just returned to the office, having been visiting our projects in India. I find that we have not yet received a reply from the railaway company. Not even an acknowledgement. I presume trhis is because they get so many complaints.

  3. Over two months after the original event I received a refund of the overpayment, plus a £10 'compensation' voucher. Hardly compensation for the amount of time wasted chasing it up. But 'One'were still unable to give any information as to where I could find a printed version of their fare charges. The best they could offer was to ask -- but since their ticket collector was the person who overcharged in the first place, hardly satisfactory. Furthermore, I still have no idea how many other scores of people, less well informed than myself have been overcharged. It's a mess.