In the know

PUBLISHED: 18:14 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

SIR, — It comes as no surprise to learn that once again a passenger has been forced to pay the full fare to catch a train at St Pancras International. It was pointed out to First Capital Connect (FCC) when they introduced the evening off-peak fare restric

SIR, - It comes as no surprise to learn that once again a passenger has been forced to pay the full fare to catch a train at St Pancras International. It was pointed out to First Capital Connect (FCC) when they introduced the evening off-peak fare restrictions that they are confusing, complicated and ineffective if the conditions of carriage are correctly applied. True the staff are now much better trained and for those in the know about the conditions of carriage, the attempts to incorrectly sell full-fare tickets for the return journey, at least in my experience, quickly stop.

However there are still staff who do not fully understand the restrictions and the conditions of carriage.

Put in its simplest form an out-of-boundary travel card, i.e. those travel cards that are sold with travel to and from a station outside the travel card zone, consists of two tickets - a travel card valid for all zones and valid until 4:30am the day after purchase, and a cheap day return valid from the station named on the ticket to the zone boundary and return once only.

For the travel card part of the ticket there are no restrictions during the evening peak as the conditions of carriage are set by the Mayor of London and Transport for London and they must not under any circumstances attempt to restrict your use of such a ticket. You may indeed claim break of journey at any station that the train stops. This means that if you are on a train that stops anywhere between Cricklewood and Borehamwood inclusive you may claim break of journey and continue and from such stations you may travel to stations north of Radlett unaffected by the evening restrictions.

Now the conditions of travel for cheap day returns are as applied to the station of origin when you break your journey. As such if you have a cheap day return to St Pancras International for example and do indeed break your journey at Mill Hill for example and then catch another train which left St Pancras between 4:30 and 7:00, then you can still not use that ticket despite what the publicity says - although I suspect that the courts would allow this as the company has effectively told you that this is permitted in their publicity.

Now for the interesting bit. As we have seen, the out-of-boundary travel cards also include a cheap day return which is valid to and from the zone boundary. So the point of origin for the cheap day return on the return journey is the zone boundary so in theory the restrictions do not apply. Better still it is not necessary to be on a train which stops at the zone boundary to use this part of the ticket, again part of the condition of carriage, and it would be rather difficult to find a train that makes a scheduled stop between stations. In theory it would then be possible to catch a fast train from St Pancras to St Albans making the whole idea of trying to restrict the use of off-peak travelcards completely pointless.

In reality it is about time that Elaine Holt and her team admit that the whole scheme is really unworkable and can only be used to extract revenue from those who do not have a full working knowledge of the ticketing system protected by the ORR which has ruled that train operators are under no obligation to sell passengers the cheapest ticket for their journey.

As for FCC's customer services, judging from my own experiences and those of other commuters to whom I have spoken, more often than not they reject claims and you must go back to them and demand that you get the compensation to which you are entitled. As this seems to be quite widespread I would suggest that those who have had claims rejected do as I now do, take them straight to London Travel Watch. This will be beneficial in two respects:

1.) You will normally get a little more compensation for your trouble this way;

2.) It will make London Travel Watch aware of the true scale of this problem.

ROSS MIDDLETON,

Berkley Close, St Albans.

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