Rail ticket message fails to get through

PUBLISHED: 17:33 04 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

TWO years after train company First Capital Connect admitted that staff were improperly charging passengers excess fares for travelling in a restricted period, the situation has not improved. FCC pledged to retrain staff and give passengers their money b

TWO years after train company First Capital Connect admitted that staff were improperly charging passengers excess fares for travelling in a restricted period, the situation has not improved.

FCC pledged to retrain staff and give passengers their money back when it emerged in August 2006 that travellers were being charged too much for travelling in the restricted 4.30pm to 7pm weekday period from stations outside Central London to St Albans.

But this week it emerged that the same problem faces passengers trying to get through the barriers at St Pancras during the restricted period - even though they might not be travelling to St Albans but to other unrestricted stops on the FCC line.

More than two years ago, FCC introduced its controversial policy of restricting travel for off-peak passengers to St Albans and Harpenden between 4.30pm and 7pm to avoid overcrowding.

But a Harpenden passenger, who did not wish to be named, said the barriers at St Pancras were still programmed to stop travellers going through at peak time with an off-peak ticket. That was despite the fact that off-peak travellers could quite legitimately be travelling to, for example, Elstree and Borehamwood Station which is outside the restricted travel area.

He said that twice in a fortnight the ticket barrier did not let him through and he was told by an FCC employee at the barrier that he needed to pay full fare if he wanted to get through and travel north.

He added: "After some minutes arguing, I was allowed through but only when a lady colleague of the man eventually corrected him. In that time two young people had been redirected by the FCC employee to pay full fare."

The traveller pointed out that what was even more curious was that the barriers at Farringdon, which he used occasionally to travel back to Harpenden, were not programmed to reject off-peak tickets in peak periods.

A spokesperson for FCC maintained that extra training had taken place two years ago when the problem first came to light and there had been regular briefing sessions for staff ever since.

He said that unlike St Pancras, Farringdon did allow travellers with off-peak Travelcards through its barriers during peak times but FCC was looking into securing uniformity at station barriers.

And he admitted that FCC was aware of the loophole which meant passengers could avoid paying a higher fare during the restricted period by getting off at stations south of Radlett and then getting straight back on again.

Customers who feel they have been inaccurately charged are advised to contact the customer services team on 0845 026 4700.

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