Why is my ticket suddenly not good enough?
September 21, 2011 7:52 AM   Subscribe

(UK railfilter) Why would my train suddenly announce that only tickets with specific reservations were valid?

Every week on Sunday I travel from London Paddington to Cardiff. It's usually around midday, but the flexibility granted by the super-offpeak return is very helpful to me.

Last sunday. for the first time ever, there was an announcement on the tannoy of my 14.37 - "only tickets with specific reservations for this service will be accepted". This made me very nervous (my ticket had a reservation for an earlier train) but luckily no inspector checked our tickets.

Why might this have been? The train wasn't sold out, and I've never heard this message before. Will it happen again?
posted by piato to Travel & Transportation around United Kingdom (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Never heard that. I also use Off-peak and Super OP tickets all the time.

Are you sure they didn't mean Reservations plus Existing tickets? This National Rail page has more info.

The Off-Peak tickets do say "Any Permitted" and I've always wondered whether that meant "Any train allowable on this fare." or "Any train we decide to let you get on.
posted by vacapinta at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2011

Here in the U.S., Amtrak (specifically on the Eastern Corridor) makes the same announcement when they anticipate the train being sold out for an upcoming part of its route. Thus is the train was only half full from Washington DC to Philadelphia but would be sold out from Philadelphia to New York, they would no longer accept tickets for other dates/times for a trip from DC to New York.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2011

I hear this all the time at Paddington and on the trains that leave Paddington for the west country. They are very pernickety about it. Perhaps it is a FGW thing, lets face it they are utter wankers. You are lucky you didn't get checked as you would have been paying full whack for a whole new ticket, unless you could show that it was a train comapny's fault (ie your connecting train was late and you would need a valid ticket from somewhere into London to show that).

vacapinta: When Off-peak tickets say any permitted it usually means any route. For example, you sometimes have a choice of going through or around London, there are specific tickets that allow you to name a route where there is a choice and one will be cheaper than the other.
posted by biffa at 8:15 AM on September 21, 2011

On Virgin there's always an announcement about Advance tickets being only valid on the train that they are reserved for. Peak should be valid on any train (I think they call them Anytime tickets now) Off peak are valid except on weekday peak periods.
posted by brettski at 8:20 AM on September 21, 2011

It sounds like the specific departure you took was reserved-seating only.

This type of reserved-only train is very common out of and into London stations at times when trains are likely to be full. You hear this announcement all the time entering and leaving London - and its right to be nervous, as if you don't have the appropriate ticket, you can be fined and/or put off at the next station to wait for the next train.

I just did a quick search, and couldn't find any 14:37 Sunday train on which an open ticket would be available to buy, though there was a 14:15, and a 15.15 on which open tix would have been valid...but I can't be sure I was using your parameters.
posted by Wylla at 8:26 AM on September 21, 2011

The following is from the First Great Western rail site. It may just be that they have decided that the 14:37 Sunday train is sufficiently busy to justify increasing restrictions. It does depend on each railway as to what they deem off-peak and super off-peak (e.g. I think Virgin always accepts either at the weekends):

Off-Peak Tickets
Off-Peak tickets are available on all off-peak train services. Outward journeys must be made on the date shown on your ticket and the return journey must be made within one calendar month. First Class off-peak tickets are available for some journeys.

Off-Peak tickets have been introduced in the Network Railcard area for certain journeys, where the network Awaybreak existed before. These give a month in which to make your return journey, compared with five days with the Network Awaybreak.

Super Off-Peak
In addition to the existing Off-Peak fares, from 6 September 2009 we are adding a new layer of turn-up-and-go fares, called Super Off-Peak. These fares will be available on a smaller number of trains, at quieter times of day, but will offer even better value for money than Off-Peak tickets.

posted by Mattat at 8:30 AM on September 21, 2011

Wylie and Mattat may be right.

If I try to buy tickets for next Sunday on your route, I can only buy Advance tickets. The first time I can buy an Off-Peak ticket is for the 15:37 train. Perhaps they changed the restrictions?
posted by vacapinta at 8:36 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: I occasionally get a Paddington-Cardiff train on Friday evenings. The train is always packed and I always hear this announcement, or one like it. Now you mention it, I can't remember ever hearing it on the Sunday Cardiff-Paddington trains.

Anyway, from drivers occasionally drifting off-script from the official wording of the announcement, I've gleaned that it's referring to (Super-)Advance tickets. These have to be used at the specific time that they were bought for, so this announcement is to remind people to check that. I'm pretty sure that I've travelled on an off-peak ticket at the "wrong" time on one of these services without any problems.

I have seen someone get caught travelling at the wrong time on an Advance ticket. They had to buy a new ticket (the whole price for that journey, not just the difference), although I'm not sure whether they were allowed to get an Off-peak ticket or had to pay for a full Standard fare. The latter wouldn't surprise me, as it's what I was threatened with when a very forgiving guard caught me using a discounted ticket the day after my railcard expired.
posted by metaBugs at 9:51 AM on September 21, 2011

Did you hear the whole announcement, or 'tune in' part way through? I've quite often heard announcers warn holders of advance tickets to make sure that they're on the correct train (particularly from Edinburgh, where there's a point in the afternoon where two trains leave for Birmingham at the same time, one down the east and one down the west coast), and the wording is usually quite similar.

Also, when I tried to go through the barriers at Paddington recently with an off-peak ticket, but the next train to my destination--an FGW train--was 'peak', they wouldn't let me through. The barriers are moderately discriminating: I was with a friend who had an off-peak ticket for the same train, but going beyond the commuter zone (ie past Oxford), and he got through. I'd have thought you'd have had the same problem if this restriction really existed, but perhaps not.

Finally, it's early September, and it is indeed the time for the introduction of new timetables, higher fares, and new restrictions. A notice has just gone up in the ticket office of my local station (LondonMidland) warning us that an entirely new afternoon 'peak' restriction has been introduced on trains into Birmingham (previously only morning counted). The woman behind the counter was pointing it out to every customer this morning.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2011

There is also a peculiarity with this particular route around that time of the afternoon that it switches from peak to off-peak depending on time and location (and maybe even more than once) so different tickets could be valid depending on your destination, with IIRC off-peak only being valid for further stations but not closer ones like Reading.
posted by tallus at 7:18 PM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: metaBugs turned out to correct. Thanks to all!
posted by piato at 5:04 AM on October 29, 2011

« Older Help me be the ant, not the grasshopper   |   Why are my gums sensitive once a month? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.