An investigation by Which? reveals passengers are losing out by using train ticket machines which fail to offer all of the cheaper fares, off-peak tickets and discounts available at manned ticket offices.
In a snapshot investigation Which? used ticket machines at 11 London mainline stations to find out what tickets were available and whether they clearly displayed validity information. Key findings from the investigation include:
- All of the machines we tested either didn’t sell tickets on the day before travel or restricted the time when you could buy1. This is not only an inconvenience for passengers but could be denying them the chance to get the best deals.
- Buying a ticket to start a trip at a different station was only possible from one of the 11 machines tested. This could leave some season ticket or Oyster holders paying twice for part of their journey
- Unhelpful ‘information’ buttons and on-screen menus were confusing meaning consumers couldn’t easily compare fares or understand the terms and conditions of the ticket, therefore risking them facing fines from ticket inspectors.
The Which? survey also reveals that using a ticket machine is the least popular way of buying a ticket, with just 15% of passengers preferring to use them.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
“Ticket office hours are being cut often leaving people with little choice but to use a machine. We are calling on the train companies to update their machines and make it crystal clear how, when and where tickets can be used. It seems unfair that machines don’t offer exactly the same tickets as manned offices.”
Which? will be sharing its findings with each of the relevant train companies, trade body Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) as well as the Department for Transport (DfT). Unless action is taken by the industry to improve ticket machines for passengers, we believe the DfT and the Office of Rail Regulation should take a closer look at this issue.
Notes to Editors
1. For example, Arriva Trains Wales and Chiltern sell next day tickets from noon, as does First Capital Connect but only for its peak tickets. East Midlands, London Midland and South West Trains sell next day tickets from 3pm, with East Coast and Virgin selling them from 4pm. Southeastern also sells them from 4pm but not on Friday and Saturdays when they are not available at all. Greater Anglia, Northern and Scotrail only sell tickets for travel the same day.