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Buying train tickets - why so difficult?

(27 Posts)
boredofusername Wed 24-Feb-16 16:44:53

Just that really. I generally work from home but am going into London tomorrow for a course and due to childcare issues can't leave home superearly and buy a ticket before I leave, I have to wait until ds leaves the house for school, run to station and jump on train. So I needed to buy a ticket today. The ticket office stays open until about 6pm. I went at 1.30ish. It was closed for the rest of the day, no explanation. The ticket machines won't sell tickets for the next day until 3pm. So I had to jump in the car and drive to the next station along, about 15 minutes away. Fortunately I bought one there with no drama, but it obviously cost time and petrol.

Buying online isn't an option as you can't print online and at my station you have to collect tickets at the same machine everyone is queuing up at to buy tickets from so there's no advantage in doing so.

So why are ticket offices allowed to close 6 hours early if the ticket machines won't sell tickets? Or conversely, why the heck can't you buy a ticket when you want, from the place you want, to the place you want, from any machine? Or have tickets you can print off the internet?

Can anyone explain why the rail companies make it so hard to buy a ticket? Oh I could have bought one on the train, people do it all the time, but Murphy's law says the one time in my life I do it, I'll get a jobsworth revenue inspector who fines me.

LurkingHusband Wed 24-Feb-16 16:54:25

Buying online isn't an option

I grew up in the 80s, and am starting to wonder if the calendar is going forwards or backwards.

Online ticketing would have been possible, if not practical, in 1996. So, 20 years on ?????

Mind you, spoke to Virgin (Business) Media yesterday. They have no online account access, and it takes 5 days to get a bill.

Maybe it's all part of the 60s revival we were promised ? There will be families living on £10 a week next.

hooliodancer Wed 24-Feb-16 16:55:53

The actual answer to why you can't buy and print tickets is that the technology- the magnetic strip- is 1950's technology. It will be a huge big deal to change it, but they are starting to work on it.

Why they can't adjust the machines to sell tickets for tomorrow whenever the ticket office is closed is beyond me too! I think it is based on an assumption that it's people coming home from work who will want to buy a ticket for tomorrow.

You should email your train operating company about it. I will do the same as our station will be closing after the morning rush soon. It's ridiculous, and is a cost saving exercise.

But don't expect to print tickets at home any time soon...

ClashCityRocker Wed 24-Feb-16 16:56:46

I print all my train tickets when I buy them online. Is that only available for selected routes then?

LurkingHusband Wed 24-Feb-16 16:58:32

Meanwhile, I can't remember the last time I didn't print a ticket for a concert at home with a QR code (more 70s tech).

Coincidentally, I am typing this on a train smile

wheatchief Wed 24-Feb-16 17:01:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LurkingHusband Wed 24-Feb-16 17:01:06

This is of course why we had rail privatisation. If one operator won't do online ticketing, use one that does.

Or does that sort of attitude reveal rail privatisation for the crock of shit it was ?

You choose.

ajandjjmum Wed 24-Feb-16 17:04:01

You can buy the tickets online and have them sent to your phone.

ProfGrammaticus Wed 24-Feb-16 17:04:27

The crock of shit, I'm afraid. Only one set of ticket machines in this city.

GeminiRising Wed 24-Feb-16 17:09:26

Use trainline app - you can download an e-ticket to your phone.

Our local station doesn't even have a ticket machine, let alone a ticket office, so that's the only way I can buy tickets in advance.

Obviously people don't use online tickets much yet - I travelled on three different trains, they all looked a bit askance at the ticket on my phone, but once they'd had a proper look they realised it was genuine and that was it, no problems.

LurkingHusband Wed 24-Feb-16 17:09:36

Free market ? Free bollocks more like.

LineyReborn Wed 24-Feb-16 17:10:16

I can print an airline boarding pass at home, but not a train ticket.

Trainline.com emails me a code which I then have to enter into a (yes you've guessed it) ticket selling machine at a railway station, for which I will have to queue, in order to obtain my train tickets.

Or they will post the tickets to me.

As OP says, it's a major faff.

LineyReborn Wed 24-Feb-16 17:12:24

Gemini that app wouldn't work on my shit phone, but interesting info, thanks.

What does the app ticket look like? Is it barcoded?

JenEric Wed 24-Feb-16 17:15:10

I bought online tickets. They came as a barcode type thing on my phone which I flashed at the gates in Birmingham and the guard just looked at the phone on one train and scanned the code on the other.

The whole system needs a revamp though so all places can accept these. You will never be able to print tickets for stations with the gates that need a traditional ticket because science.

JenEric Wed 24-Feb-16 17:16:19

I use the train line app. They were advance tickets though for a long journey but from my local small station (too small to have any fancy barriers)

ScarletOverkill Wed 24-Feb-16 17:19:22

Depending on the type of ticket you need you CAN buy your ticket for tomorrow online then collect your ticket from the machine today. You would therefore avoid the rush hour queue tomorrow

GeminiRising Wed 24-Feb-16 17:21:07

Liney You can do it on an ipad as well using the app.

The ticket has a scanning code on it - we live in the arse end of nowhere and just have a platform at our local station, so I just showed it to the conductor when I got on the train and he was fine, didn't even scan it! I changed trains twice and only one of the conductors took my phone to have a closer look at it.

It works the same as an airline ticket if you're at a bigger station, you just scan it at the barrier as you go onto the platform.

Makes a huge difference to me - my ticket cost £11 buying in advance, if I had to buy on the train on the day it would cost me £38 so there is no way I'm doing that!

LurkingHusband Wed 24-Feb-16 17:24:38

In this day and age, you'd think you could just pay with your card (contactless, natch) and that would be that.

I think my problem, is I watched waaaaaay too much sci fi as a kid (thanks Mum) and wanted to get into science to make these things happen.

30 years on (that's over 30 years since email was invented) and some people still want to party like its 1989.

On the plus side, there is the most beautiful sunset over Warwickshire right now .....

ProfGrammaticus Wed 24-Feb-16 17:31:35

I can buy city to city tickets online. I can either have them posted to me (for a charge) or collect them from a station machine. Sometimes if they are to London I can print them myself. But around our city, or from the suburb to the city? No bloody chance. And don't get me started on the tram ....

LineyReborn Wed 24-Feb-16 17:43:39

I've also been through a few stations recently where there are barriers operating at night, but no staff. Would they have the barcode readers working?

TheFlis12345 Wed 24-Feb-16 17:55:52

The ticket machines I've used recently (both in London and out in the sticks) let me buy a ticket for any day in the next month. Most of the ones in London also let you set your departure station to elsewhere as well which is really handy.

ProfGrammaticus Wed 24-Feb-16 18:46:45

Our station machines don't let you change your departure station. Which is a right pain in the arse. They also don't accept contactless cards and they're always breaking down. Just crap really.

QueryQuery Wed 24-Feb-16 18:51:27

The phone tickets are only any good if you have enough battery. Given that none of the local trains (which actually travel up to 60 miles) have sockets you're risking it by getting train without a full battery.

Im not sure if they require a 3G signal as well? If they do you're doubly stuffed.

specialsubject Wed 24-Feb-16 19:22:49

you also need a big expensive power-hungry fragile phone.

30% of us don't have one.

BackforGood Wed 24-Feb-16 19:32:30

I've bought tickets online and printed them out (other people on the same journey seemed to have them on their phone). Is that only available on some lines then ? confused

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