Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

It’s a fair cop

Posted in Business, Customer service, London by Chairman Pip on 16 September 2011

I got nabbed yesterday at Charing Cross travelling in 1st Class without having a 1st Class ticket. Fair enough, I was caught bang to rights, and paid up the £20 excess fare with no complaints. I think Mr Ian Barnes of Southeastern’s revenue protection team was a little nonplussed by the fact that I wasn’t attempting to argue, and wasn’t entirely clear how to deal with me, going through as he did with what I imagine was the standard spiel over appealing against the penalty – again, why would I want to when I’ve been caught bang to rights? But this little incident caused me to think about some things, which coalesced into a handful of points:

  • Why was I singled out? Yes, I was sitting in 1st Class as the train pulled into the platform, but what exactly made Mr Barnes think that I didn’t have a 1st Class ticket? Could it be that it is so rare for Southeastern’s trains to actually carry genuine 1st Class passengers, that their revenue protection automatically assumes that anyone sat in 1st Class does not have a 1st Class ticket?
  • Having travelled in 1st Class on various intercity trains, what precisely do 1st Class passengers on Southeastern’s trains actually get? The train I was on was a Class 375, in which 1st Class is the section between the back wall of the driver’s cab and the first set of doors – essentially about 1/5 the length of the first and last cars in each set. Further, the only visible difference between the seats in 1st Class and in the rest of the train is the seat cover saying “First Class”. There are no tables, no at seat service, no complimentary tea and coffee, no wifi access, no nothing. So how can there be a justification to charge the prices they do for nothing different to a standard class seat?

There is a difference between the kind of service that East Coast (for example) provide, and the trains they operate, and the kind of service Southeastern provide. Southeastern is a commuter operator, and the Class 375 is a relatively affluent commuter train. Personally speaking, these trains should not have 1st Class sections, especially given how many 1st Class tickets seem to potentially be sold, that means sections of the train, that could be used by commuters, will have to be empty because the passengers do not have a 1st Class ticket.

One last point – this is the second time in the last few weeks that I have been pulled up by a member of platform staff, having been confronted by an employee of First Capital Connect for taking pictures on the platform at Highbury & Islington. So, either these particular individuals are exceptionally vigilant and everyone else is useless, or these individuals are pedantic jobsworths and nobody else is really concerned with such minor things. I’ll leave you to decide.

A Class 375 at Charing Cross - this is not a train or a service conducive to 1st Class carriage


4 Responses

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  1. colin mcleod said, on 19 September 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Serves you right. Pay the propper fare the next time.

    • Chairman Pip said, on 19 September 2011 at 1:39 pm

      I might even pay the PROPER fare.

      Seriously though, I would hope this is a genuine crackdown.

  2. Chris said, on 20 September 2011 at 9:49 pm

    The reason for first class on commuter routes is simple – it gives a far higher chance of getting a seat. Wi-fi, catering etc is great for long distance but commuters want a seat. It see’s little use off-peak, but thats not such an issue.

    • Chairman Pip said, on 21 September 2011 at 9:24 am

      The only people who should be guaranteed a seat are the pregnant, the elderly, and anyone with a plaster cast on their foot. End of.

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