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?

- 10 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Seeing as a ticket from Birmingham to Coventry only costs about £2, and there are ticket barriers at Cov (yes, you can just leave through the Central Six exit, but not everyone knows that) then they probably don't think it's worth their while. If you stay on the train all the way to London, they usually do a complete ticket check then.

    12 Mar 2006, 17:57

  2. More importantly, why do you care? It shouldn't bother you that other people are getting something for nothing when you're paying for it. If it does bother you, don't buy a ticket and take your chances like they're doing.

    12 Mar 2006, 18:56

  3. It's just that, in my opinion, fare evasion is a form of theft. You wouldn't see a shoplifter taking something from a shop and then think 'If he's getting it for free, why shouldn't I?' then shoplift yourself, would you?

    13 Mar 2006, 09:51

  4. I don't feel any sense of moral outrage about it. It's obviously not profitable for Virgin to make it more difficult to evade fares, otherwise they'd do it. What else is there to care about here? It's not like fare evasion is stealing from old grannies is it?

    Oh and no I wouldn't shoplift, but then I didn't say "Why should I pay my fare, when other people chearly don't want to and get away with it scot free?".

    Anyway, all property is theft… ;-)

    13 Mar 2006, 10:54

  5. Don't feel too conscious stricken about Virgin trains – they get their money's worth. They invariably check my ticket when I travel to London, especially if it's during peak times, and I've seen several people receive extortionate fines simply for travelling on a train that their ticket did not entitle them to travel on (i.e. using saver tickets during the rush hour). They also usually check your ticket at New Street station. The 'train managers' are employed to supply garbled travel information and to laugh at hideous photos on student rail cards.

    13 Mar 2006, 17:41

  6. Adrian

    Youre making blanket statements about Virgin trains staff- thats not fair. I concede that there are individuals that are lazy, YES- but thats not to say the entire workforce dont do their jobs.

    26 Dec 2006, 23:55

  7. I concede I may have unfairly generalised, but it is still a fairly rare occurence, even on longer journeys, to actually have your ticket checked, or even see the ‘Train Manager’ at all.

    27 Dec 2006, 21:29

  8. A traveller

    I remember coming from Euston to New Street and missing my connection. Why? Because the Virgin train was very late (i.e. 25 minutes) leaving the station due to their “train manager” just not getting there on time. What they need a train manager for I don’t know, as when we got closer, I had to work out if there was even another connection on offer (this being 10pm), and so asked them to ring up for me. The bloke I spoke to must have been the “train manager” because he completely took the piss. He made me wait whilst he did something else, then made me wait whilst he chatted and made jokes for ages with whoever he rang to find out for me. Then I found I didn’t have a connection and so he made no apology or anything. Good thing they don’t have too many like that or they’d have to start doing weapons checks on the passengers before boarding, trust me!

    07 Feb 2007, 05:02

  9. Paul

    It is stealing and it just shows how badly managed the railway companies are in this country. In any other business you take precautions to stop theft. It is relatively easy to ensure that everyone has a valid ticket on board the train and the extra revenue gained from this could then be used to improve the frequency of services and the facilities at stations.

    13 Feb 2007, 09:59

  10. traveller 2

    A trainmanager is not just a ticket collector and in light of the recent tragic events at greyrigg you may be intrested to know that a trainmanager is put through a six month intensive training course were safety is priority ! The trainmanager is responsible for the safety of passangers onboard there train and although some trainmanagers may seem layed back and to the untrained eye not performing there duties they are paid for what they know and in the event of any accident it is the trainmanager who is responsible. It is my opinion that a trainmanager is by far a important member of staff.

    07 Mar 2007, 18:47

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