All entries for Sunday 12 March 2006

March 12, 2006

Do Virgin Trains Care About Revenue Protection?


Yes, thank you, I got home safely last night, and the journey was pleasant, with everything running on time (partly due to a load of slack in the timetable – the train was 5 mins early arriving in Coventry, plus we were at Birmingham New Street for nearly 15 minutes – but that's another story!)

The point of this entry is to highlight what I feel to be major deficiencies in Virgin Trains' fare collection policy. Of all the occasions that I've travelled on their trains in the last year or so (admittedly, I don't use them very often) I can only recall having my ticket checked on board the train on a couple of occasions. Last night, with the exception of the ticket gates at Coventry station (which are easy to get around), my ticket wasn't checked at all during the journey. I'm slightly irritated that there will have undoubtedly been people on the train who intentionally won't have paid their fares, and ended up with a free ride (at mine and other fare-paying customers expense) as a result.

Why should I pay my fare, when other people chearly don't want to and get away with it scot free? Virgin are clearly the worst TOC, when it comes to this issue (Central Trains, for example, are much better, with several ticket-collecting staff on many of their trains).

To make matters worse, and which frankly I found quite shocking, was that during the journey, when I went to get food from the on-board shop, I passed the conductor's (sorry, they're called 'Train Managers' now) office thing, which has a see through door. Through this I spotted the conductor sat, headphones in ears, watching his portable DVD player! And it wasn't as if he was taking a break, we had just left Birmingham New Street at the time, which was surely the optimal time for checking tickets, with a load of passengers having joined the train there. Plus, when he made announcements, he clearly didn't sound bothered at all, with a very monotone voice, and only a few stations actually got running in/welcome aboard announcements. It seems quite worrying in a way that the person who is partly responsible for the smooth and safe operation of the train isn't motivated or even willing to do the activities that he is paid to do.

Having said this, Virgin have worked wonders on the West Coast and Cross Country routes in my opinion, with vast investments in new trains (admittedly, at the leasing companies expense, not Virgin's), and punctuality and reliability are ever-improving. But why waste all this effort with poor customer service and missing opportunites to maximise collection of unpaid fares?

Any other opinions on this subject?

March 2006

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