South Eastern Railways Ruined Our Family Day Out

Hi Speed Saturday Saver

Hi Speed Saturday Saver

We had a leaflet through our door last week. Save on high speed Saturdays. Seemed like a good treat for the boys. They thought so too. It was agreed. Lets get the speedy train to London this Saturday

Come Saturday off we all went down to the station. All six of us. Me and Monica and the four boys.

We got to the station at about 10.45. The next train was at 10.59. There was a long queue at the ticket counter. Only one window open. Try the ticket machine was the obvious thing to do. Well for whatever reason that had not been programmed to recognise the offer and the price came up at around £53.00. The ticket fella on the gate was no help. “Dunno mate. It don’t recognise some offers. You’ll have to queue up.”

I joined the queue The clock ticked. 10.59 came and went as did a hi speed train. At last it came to my turn at the window.

“I’d like some Speedy Saver tickets please”, I said with a smile pointing to the promotional poster on the wall.

The lady behind the counter sniggered.

“Two adults, and four children, two of them are under 4. We want to go to St Pancras and back. How much do you need?”.

She looked a bit puzzled. Not really sure she said. It’s a new offer and we’ve not been told much about it. Hold on a minute. She uses her keyboard and reads her screen. Ahh yes she says I think I know. £30.00 please.

Good stuff says I. Payment made. Tickets printed.

Err… she says. It says they are not valid on the high speed service. Don’t worry though.  They are valid. It’s a problem with our ticket machine. I remember seeing an email about it.

Hmm thinks I. Kids are being patient but excitable. The queue is getting longer.  OK I say. No problem. Thanks. We go and wait for the next train.

The train comes. We get on. The boys are happy. It’s all good.

The ticket inspector (he’s called the train manager) comes along. I show him the tickets and explain what we were told. But these are not valid on the high speed service he says. I repeat the explanation and gesture towards the family emphasising it’s unlikely that I would be trying to be dodgy with all of them with me.

OK he says. No problem. I will come back when we get to St Pancras and get you through the barriers.

The train speeds along and sure enough we get to St Pancras in double quick time. Lovely.

We've Just Arrived at St Pancras on this Speedy Train from Chatham.

We've Just Arrived at St Pancras on this Speedy Train from Chatham.

The train manager is true to his word and explains to the guy at the barriers in St Pancras. We are let through without issue. We were not even asked to show our tickets.

We have a walk, have something to eat blah blah blah and back to the station for the train home. Here’s where the nonsense really began.

The boys walk straight through the barriers which are open. I follow closely behind and show my  tickets. Oh sorry mate but these are not valid for the hi speed service. The barrier closes. Me and the three oldest are on the platform side and Monica and the baby are shut out. Repeated explanations get us nowhere. The people in uniforms know what they know and refuse to concede to our point.

Both Monica and I make it clear we would not be going anywhere and neither would be paying for any “upgrade”. The uniforms stand firm. A stale mate is reached. A family divided by a ticket barrier and a few jobsworths.

By chance a friend of ours from Chatham who works on the Eurostar happens to be at the station, sees us and comes over to see what’s up and offer us his support. They never listened to him any more than they would listen to us. One fella kept saying he was trying to help us but… well we had to buy an upgrade.

Now I know at this point some may say why not just get of your horse, buy an upgrade and complain about it later. Well I suppose that would have perhaps been a sensible compromise but… well you know… principles, righteous indignation and all that!

I point out that if it comes to it we will remain at the barriers, on either side for as long as it takes for them to allow us to carry on our journey or until the station closes and they call the police to remove us. Not great publicity perhaps for the first day of the new service. So be it. There choice. It looks like there is some dissent fermenting within their ranks but not one of them is brave enough to stand up an be counted.

Jobsworth : After the Event

Jobsworth : After the Event

Anyway the nonsense goes on for a while until our friend uses his pass to swipe and open the barrier and says to Monica there you are, off you go. Nice one Rasheed. We’re all back together. Yay! Off we go up the platform and on to the train.

The guy at the barrier that was so keen on telling us he wanted to help turned out to be the train manager.  “I was only trying to help you know. I didn’t want to you get into trouble with our revenue officers. They’ll be waiting for you at Chatham. You may have to pay a fine”.

No problem I say. I’ll refuse to pay. They can take me to court and I’ll argue my case there. Thanks for trying to help. See you.

We get to Chatham. No revenue officers about. We decided it would be sensible to go to the ticket office and see what was what.

The lady that sold us the ticket had finished her shift. The lady who was now behind the counter was very helpful. We explained everything. She explained that she understood what had happened and was able to tell us why there was a problem with the tickets. Her colleague had sold us the wrong ones. We had been undercharged by £5.40. Simple as that. She explained it was a new offer and that the information provided to staff had been lacking. In addition to that there had been an error regarding the ticket production process which had yet to be resolved. She offered her apologies and said that perhaps there was come comfort in that we had saved a bit of money. She hoped our day had not been spoiled.

What a bloody carry on. SE trains sort your act out. You should be ashamed. Staff are poorly trained. You don’t provide them with adequate information to enable them do their job properly.  Your ticket systems are shoddy. Some of your staff are unable to make sensible customer service decisions. Some of them are insensitive jobsworths who should be sacked.  You did ruin our day. £5.40 does not make that better.

If you’re wondering or going to suggest it;  yes I know and I already have.

32 Comments

  1. Why do I still feel embarassed on their behalf? It’s nine months since I left Southeastern and yet everytime I read something like this I feel ashamed. The thing that gets me is that I can recall about 25 years of staff not being fully aware of the products available, this just seems to be something that large companies never seem to get right.

    I recently purchased a new car and had a similar problem, the agent explained that the mistake was due to this being a new option and I was the first person to request it and they didn’t fully understand how it worked! So, not just the railways with poor product knowledge.

  2. you don’t go looking for trouble and it isn’t your fault you find it but you do stand up for yourself unlike most people, and it is probably for that reason that everything is operated by idiots.

  3. Southeastern Railways Reply:

    Thank you for your website comment dated 21 November.

    I am very sorry about the difficulties that you encountered during your journey. I recognise that this occurred as a result of the ticket that you were sold. I realise how disappointing this must have been. I also regret the problems that resulted.

    Our ticket office staff should try to sell passengers the most appropriate ticket for their journey. Considering this I am very sorry if this was not the case. So I have brought your experience to the attention of Caroline Wilson, the local Station Manager who will arrange further training for the ticket office staff to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. So I do hope that we don’t let you down again.

    Of course this doesn’t excuse the fact that you were badly inconvenienced and I would certainly want to restore your faith in us at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, I will see to it that £10 in National Rail Travel Vouchers are sent to you under separate cover, as a gesture of goodwill. The vouchers are valid for 12 months and I hope you will use them towards a more successful journey experience with us.

    I will also add that our staff were correct in not allowing you to travel home that evening (as unsympathetic as that sounds). The fact of the matter is that it is a requirement of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, that passengers must hold a valid ticket or authority to travel (i.e. Permit to Travel) before boarding any train, where the facilities exist. Otherwise, they may be liable to receive a Penalty Fare. Of course, this is a complex issue and, for our part, we have tried to be sensitive to all the nuances. However, we must treat all passengers alike. The last thing that our staff in such a situation would want is to allow anybody to travel and then for them receive a Penalty Fare, either during the journey or at the destination station.

    Thank you for taking the time to bring your experience to our attention, and I’m very sorry you needed to do so.

    Yours sincerely

    David Geraghty
    Customer Relations Officer
    Southeastern

  4. Pingback: Southeastern Railways: a speedy reply | monaxle : blog

  5. 1. I use the London – Ashford – Brighton service frequently, usually at weekends.
    Two minutes before the Charing Cross train arrives at Ashford, the Ashford to Brighton train leaves Ashford. It means a very long and often very cold wait for the next train. This is ludicrous and shows that the customer is not catered for foremost.
    2. Every Christmas the last trains at Hastings leave for Ashford much later than scheduled because the driver is talking to his friends. It happens time and again. It puts those waiting for those on the trains out and causes trouble the other end. Again, the customers are secondary.
    Why should we put up with it?
    How do we complain?

  6. I’m collecting information like this on a forum site which is hopefully going to be used in a campaign to highlight how atrocious southeastern are.

    Please, please, please! we need your stories – both good and bad to make Southeastern take responsibility and start providing the service that ALL OF US are paying for.

  7. i’ve read gary’s blog and it’s eerily silent in there. he looks like a man with no life and none of the old british spirit. boo hoo for 4 minute delays! get a life garrrrry!!!

  8. Hey SunnyD,

    It’s not the 4 minute delays that are the issue, it’s 45 minute delays and the missed connections that annoy me! Maybe nothign will come of it but I you can’t say it’s against the British spirit to try!

  9. whatever gaz. i’m sure there are better things for you to focus your efforts on…ever thought about dating? (tongue firmly in cheek!)

  10. 380 out of how many gary???????????????

    don’t get me wrong, i “suffer” from problems day to day on the trains too, but one perspective i have is that when i was driving to work, i had noone to blame for the congestion (apart from idiot drivers! lol) but i still got it in the neck from the boss when i was late. at least with the trains, if i’m unavoidably late i (and my boss) know there is nothing i can personally do about it. i saw the lion king in london today (and thankfully the trains ran fine!) but i guess the scene where the wart hog and rodent tell simba that [email protected] happens and “hakuna matata” springs to mind. when the trains are delayed (and likewise when i’m in a queue in the shops or pub) i take it stoically and use the time to meditate*

    * (but you can insert any other positive actions here)

  11. It’s interesting that you had such a bad experience. I love using Ashford International to travel to work in London, because the high speed services to St Pancras are just so much quicker and easier for commuting. We live near the station so we’ve been on holiday via the euro trains quite a lot and have always enjoyed ourselves.

    Emily

  12. I really think you guys need to get a life, you only live once and all you spend your time on is complaining about train delays!! I seriously think that you should consider getting yourself a hobby, maybe the gym? That way…you wouldnt be stuck at home looking in the mirror feeling sorry for yourself everyday. I’m not being harsh, just realistic…..so get yourself a life you soppy redneck!

    Don’t you think train drivers get fed up with the delays also, they cant be helped on many occasions! They have families that they have to go home to just like everyone else (bar yourself).

    So just take one good look at yourself and think…..is it really worth complaining?

    Once again, get a life.

    Yours faithfully.

  13. And what hobby would you suggest for a 40 min wait in the freezing cold for a connection all because the train is late in?

    Obviously, most people posting here have had very positive experiences of Southeastern and that’s absolutely fantastic. In fact, I’ve decided to leave the forum up until 1st June. If no one posts, good or bad stories then I’ll remove it.

    Fair enough?

  14. Sounds like Mr. Sinclair is the one who needs to get a life rather than criticise other people for speaking their minds. I would like to be charitable and think he was attempting to be a bit tongue-in-cheek in his choice of words but, in my opinion, the post just comes across as just being loaded with rudeness and bad manners. Calling someone a “soppy redneck” is hardly calculated to win friends and influence people.

  15. I wouldn’t say that I have had “positive” experiences of Southeastern – other than the fact that their trains get me from Maidstone to Sevenoaks quicker (and cleaner) than my car. But, as a former (reformed) season ticket holder, I’ve learnt to play them at their own game. They post the daily performance info on their webite, so when i see a delay over half an hour I try and claim compensation with my weekly ticket.

    Their service tends to do what it says on the tin, but with many years of commuting behind me, I understand that when you buy a ticket you enter into a contract – the dreaded National Rail Conditions of Carriage (it says as much on the back of the ticket). The NRCoC state that the ticket remains the property of the train company (which negates any complaints about “defacing” tickets). More importantly, the NRCoC set out the legal position between a passenger and train company. It’s not easy reading, but interesting and eye-opening. For example, they reserve the right to replace trains with buses (they sell you a ticket to get you from here to there – not necessarily a seat – nor even a train!!!) and if they fail to get you to “there” they can safely say that they aren’t responsible for events which are beyond their control.

    In a similar vein, insurance companies tend not to pay out if you’re injured (fatally or otherwise) in an act of terrorism. They see it as an act of war (they also exempt “acts of god” – i suppose that’d mean an avalanche). When it’s those very things we’re trying to insure ourselves against. A bit of a joke really.

    I suppose I realise that purchasing a train ticket fools the passenger intop having some peace of mind that they’ll be safely ferried from here to there – but, as you well know Gary, the truth is that every day is a lottery – as much as we’d (and I believe the train companies would probably back us up on this) like to hope otherwise.

    it’s a house of cards. always has been and maybe always will be. i admire the fact that you set the forum up, but i suspect that it was borne of utter frustration and i would hate to see that frustration ferment as a result of a lack of interest. i agree it’s a good idea to draw a line under it if noone posts – but honestly, will you really be happy if people post positive stories? it’s for that reason that ‘ve refrained from joining.

    i apologise for saying things like “i suspect he has no wife…” etc. but i tend to speak my mind and call it as i see it. i type my stuff and press “send” without censoring/reviewing what i’ve said (apart from a bit of a proof read for spelling errors). but if i could wave a magic wand, i’d turn you into a buddhist commuter type person, like i aspire to be, because canute tried to fight the tide and it didn’t work. at least when i’m breathing amidst the angst of passengers, i feel some modicum of peace.

    sometimes all we have is the breaths we take (for granted) – a highly underrated bodily function (as are heart beats)

    sorry if this sounds hippy-ish, and i wish you all the best.

    how were your recent journeys?

    D

  16. My journeys this week have been fairly good. No heating on the medway valley line and no seats out of Waterloo east a few times but you’ll notice that I don’t complain about that. I fully accept that travelling on the train can be something of a lottery but shouldn’t we expect better? shouldn’t we ask for better? Shouldn’t we DEMAND better? We are, after all, a first world country so is it too much to ask for a fair service?

    I say yes to that but the majority of people (as seen from some of the sharp comments I’ve received) seem happy with a mediocre service and I’m absolutely fine with that. If mediocre is all people want and expect then I think we are setting our sights too low but I’m not going to preach and fight a fight that no one is interested in hence my comment to leave the forum up until 1st June. If it stays as quiet as it currently is I’ll remove it and be a good little commuter. I might even move back to London and buy a bike.

    It’s a shame that we are turning into a laissez faire society where mediocre is good enough but that is where we are.

  17. oh and SunnyD, yes, I’d be very happy if you posted positive stories on the forum. that’s half of the reason for having it but if you don’t believe me and don’t want to take that risk.. *shrugs*

  18. First world country – but with a pre-victorian rail network. if only the germans had done a better job with their luftwaffe bombs…

    the railways were stretched to breaking point during the war effort and years of under-investment have lead us to where we are now. given the circumstances, i think southeastern and co do a pretty good job with the tools available

    may all your troubles be little ones

  19. he’s the guy who axed a lot of railway lines….? (post war)

    am i right?

    if so, i certainly wouldn’t condone taking up arms against him. he probably thought he was doing the right thing (either that or he was doing his master’s bidding, i’m sure)

  20. Gary W, We are running a similar petition campaign about SETrains currently running at over 900 hits. Aimed at London – Ramsgate/Ashford/Maidstone but here is the link if you want to join. Do not believe it is the same one. We have a depth of feeling for Season ticket holders that we should be better compensated for this service under made up figures. http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SETrainservices/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.