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.