UK rail fare question.
February 9, 2004 2:05 PM   Subscribe

UK rail fare question. [I, there's M]

If the restrictions on rail passengers travelling out of London using a saver ticket end at 6.15, and the scheduled 6.10 doesn't leave until 6.20, are saver tickets valid? Can you direct me to somewhere official to back up your answer? The train manager on the train tonight was making people pay up and looked as if he felt he was arguing from very doggy ground. (Eg, Q: When do the restrictions stop? A: The first train is at 6.45)

Though I had a full ticket I've got to the stage with virgin where I am happy to wade in on someone else's behalf if I know I'm in the right. I'll probably mail the rail regulator for an answer but if anyone can get it quicker here...
posted by biffa to Travel & Transportation around United Kingdom (4 answers total)
Sorry, I can't point you to an official source, but Virgin staff at Glasgow Central once trounced me in a similar argument by producing some small print (with an irritating flourish) that stated the fares are tied to the listed train departure times, so even if the 6.10 doesn't leave for three hours, it is still the 6.10, and any restrictions still apply.

(Funnily enough, I ended up paying the full fare on that occasion, then did the cheapo upgrade to First Class. The train ended up being more than an hour late, and due to an error I got a refund to the full value of a First Class ticket, so they ended up paying me to travel. Felt smug for weeks.)
posted by jack_mo at 1:56 AM on February 10, 2004

I can give you Branson's home address if you want. Well, one of 'em ;-)
posted by i_cola at 3:16 AM on February 10, 2004

Best answer: Your first stop is the National Rail Conditions of Carriage available here.

These state that your contract is with the Train Operating Company – in your case Virgin. S. 1 (A) (3) states: “You have the right to use a Train Company's trains if you hold a ticket or other authority to travel which is valid for those trains for the journey you want to make.”

There is very general information about Saver tickets offered by Virgin here – it implies but doesn’t conclusively state that its validity is restricted to “Off-peak Services”. Less than helpfully, Virgin’s advice is limited to “Saver ticket [sic] booked on a Virgin service is not valid on all Virgin Trains. If in doubt you should check the terms and conditions of your ticket with a member of staff at the station before you board the train.”

The question is as to the validity of a Saver ticket. Confusingly, as well as the National Conditions of Carriage your ticket is subject to “conditions relating to certain types of reduced and discounted fare tickets set out in the notices and other publications issued by the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) whose trains you are entitled to use” (s. 1 (A) (4) (c).)

As such, the terms and conditions of the ‘Saver’ ticket can be varied across train operators. None of the operators have their Ts&Cs of carriage on their websites – and I’ve checked Connex, GNER and First Great Western (which is none of those things but I digress.)

The Association of Train Operating Companies offers guidance with regards to ticket validity to TOCs but no dice it seems. The policy section of the website is “is currently undergoing development. We hope to have in online soon.” Tiny blue-on-blue type on the front page of the site informs us that “site was launched in July 2000. More information will be added in due course. Last updated 24 May 2002.” No prizes then for guessing where ATOC’s attention is focussed…

On ATOC’s website there are the manuals for TOCs with regards to the issue of fares. The appropriate rule is buried in Section E (2Mb .pdf). The answer to your question is contingent on the validity code on your ticket which should begin “SV”.

General guidance on saver tickets states that “Saver tickets are NOT valid: in heavy demand business traveller and commuter trains (see Validity Code tables for details).” As a general rule outbound tickets can’t be used before 9.30am. Again as a rough and ready rule return journeys can’t be undertaken between 1659 and 1831. Much depends on where you’re leaving from, which line your traveling on and which TOC is concerned.

I’m afraid that there simply isn’t a cut and dried answer available on the facts that you’ve given. You might well be able to get an answer from either ATOC or the SRA but I’d address your question to the Rail Passengers’ Committee.

Sorry not to be as cut and dried as you like. For what it’s worth I’d be skeptical as to your chances of challenging such a rule on s.11 ‘reasonableness’ grounds from the Unfair Contracts Terms Act (certainly not in the absence of access to relevant liability exclusions.) There may be grounds under Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Please feel free to take a second opinion - this opinion is given without any form prejudice anhd is not to be relied upon as formal or informal legal advice.

Much as I hate to say it, it might be a case of grin and bear it… Is one of these an option? On the rare occasions I commute from Clapham Junction into town I’m always astounded at the conditions that commuters put up with.
posted by dmt at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the comprehensive reply dmt. I got in touch with the SRA and this was their reply;

'When there are restrictions on the use of rail tickets such as they cannot be used on services leaving London before 6.15 pm. The time referred to is the timetabled departure time of the train. This is clearly specified in the Fares Manual. Technically, legally and correctly, therefore, if you board a train due to leave London at 6.10 pm but running late and not actually departing until 6.20 pm then you are in breach of the conditions relating to the ticket concerned.

In periods of disruption/late running train operators may at their own discretion relax this condition.'
posted by biffa at 4:22 AM on February 17, 2004

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