No-one is surprised that train companies are not printing timetable booklets at present. Nothing is permanent, nothing worth printing. But even pdf timetables can be difficult to find on train company websites. A worrying movement says people can look up times on phones, so there is no need to bring back printed booklets. Wrong. Paper timetables can be browsed in a way that can’t be done on your pocket digital friend. And instead of leaving in ticket offices used by people who already know what time the train is they could be distributed in local shops, cafés, and other community outlets. Station adoption groups could help with distribution.
We also fear ticket offices are about to be run down as more people buy on line or use ticket vending machines (TVMs). But Halifax’s always seems to have customers, and staff can make sure passengers get the right ticket at the right fare. A recent trip up the valley, with queue in booking office, involved more than 20 touches of the TVM screen; this was a railcard return to Todmorden, not Tonypandy!
You can’t beat the human “touch” – even through a glass screen!
ONE DAY the whole of the North will have smart ticketing. Touch in, touch out, “pay as you go” and the system will cap your total fare daily and weekly at a reasonable maximum price for the zones you travelled in. Just like they’ve had in London with Oyster for nearly two decades. Smart travel in most of the rest of the country is laboriously catching up, every authority seemingly reinventing the wheel. West Yorkshire Ticketing Company Ltd runs the MCards now familiar as replacement for the old MetroCards. So, for example, a pink MCard can be loaded up with weekly or longer period travel for the zones you want, rail+bus or bus only. But it seems sales of rail+bus multi-modal tickets have fallen relative to rail-only daily/season tickets. Work patterns are changing; the “9 to 5”, 5-day week is not what it was. And if your train is seriously delayed you can claim “Delay Repay” on rail-only but not multimodal tickets.
Pay-as-you-go could be (sorry) just the ticket. But we need the technology installing.
“Delay Repay” is available on Northern if your train is more than 15 minutes late, though the last we heard it still only applies to rail-only tickets not multi-modal passes like the MCard. Hang on to your ticket to claim! We’ve heard of at least one passenger being refused because their used ticket was captured by the station exit gate. Separate proof of purchase and photo of screen showing train cancellation were not accepted. Surely rather harsh, since it’s not always obvious the automatic barrier is about to confiscate your ticket. Gates should always have staff present to help.
Header Image: “Leeds Station” flickr photo by OliverN5 https://flickr.com/photos/mtl_shag/4515194671 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license
Paper MetroCards in West Yorkshire are now fully replaced by the smartcards. You can top up your MCard with weekly or monthly travel, based on the MetroCard zonal system, at rail station ticket vending machines (TVMs) across the county. But you have to get your original MCard from a Metro travel centre or Payzone outlet (Payzone charges a fee for the card). It’s a shame the full range of Metro tickets is not available at train stations. We’ve asked why—maybe we just have to wait for a technology update? Surely Northern should expand rather than cut the range of retail services. On Merseyside there are station ticket offices that are also shops selling food and travel goods. We welcome news that our train company is to increase station staffing, but await details of how this will work — probably “roaming” staff rather than behind a glass screen. All well and good but surely traditional office or modern “shop-style” retailing of tickets and other travel products remains vital at key stations. Counter staff can serve in a way not easily delivered either by TVMs or by roaming colleagues with hand-held devices.
And, we might ask, is it always easy enough to get the correct fare from the machine? We found Manchester fares on the TVM at Bradford Interchange defaulted to the “any permitted route” prices, valid via Leeds, asking a startling £22.70 for an off-peak day return instead of the £12.10 for the direct route via Hebden Bridge. Finding the cheaper fare involved delving further into options on the machine. Booking office staff can also have the resources to help with complex journeys that can be difficult with on-line booking if you don’t know with the system.
Good new on fares is that quite a lot of off-peak prices went down in September. For example Halifax-Manchester off-peak day return via Hebden Bridge is now £9.90 (previously £11.70).
But off-peak day returns within Greater Manchester all went up!
Header Image: flickr photo by Tim Green aka atoach https://flickr.com/photos/atoach/3994240224 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license