Ticket machines at your local train station can save you a bunch of time. But the technology is so full of jargon that the queue to speak to another human being sometimes doesn’t look so bad.
So you’re on your way to Brighton for the weekend and you need to buy a train ticket. You have two choices – queue for 15 minutes at the ticket desk, or brave the machine. It’s a tough one.
I’m happy to use the ticket machine if I’m travelling back home. That’s a journey I’ve done many a time and know the exact ticket I need. But the problem comes when I’m off somewhere new – a situation many are going to face this weekend (who’s looking forward to the summer holiday chaos?)
Ticket machine jargon
If I buy an ‘off-peak open return’, does that mean I can return within a month or do I need to come back on the same day? When exactly is peak time these days (it seems to be getting longer) anyway? Sadly the machine can’t answer these key questions for me. Off to the ticket booth then…
Research by Passenger Focus (PF) suggests the same – passengers who often use ticket machines end up rejecting them for less-familiar journeys. Instead they resort to swamping the ticket office.
This has resulted in queues at two out of five stations being longer than the rail industry’s own guidelines. Apparently you shouldn’t have to wait longer than five minutes for a ticket. That’ll be the day.
Guildford, Winchester and Basingstoke came worst off – the queues are long, but the ticket machines stand unused. In Winchester I’d expect it’s because the machine is right next to the ticket office queue, so you can’t get to the damn thing.
Are ticket machines really doing their job?
The machines may shorten our time in the station when we know how to use them – but the experience isn’t as easy as it should be.
‘When passengers ask for something as simple as the cheapest way to get from A to B, the least they should expect is just that,’ says our rail expert James Tallack. ‘Unintuitive ticket machines just add to the need for a transparent system that ensures fair and hones ticket prices for consumers.’
However, train firms think most of us are happy with the machines – PF’s own research shows that seven out of 10 passengers are satisfied with station’s ticket-buying facilities. There’s even been accusations that PF’s report is unrepresentative, looking at only a small number of stations across the country.
So what’s the truth? Do you happily brave train ticket machines, or do you prefer to queue up at the ticket office?
Are train ticket machines a waste of time?
They're alright, but they could be better (49%, 38 Votes)
Yes, I prefer to queue for the ticket office (33%, 26 Votes)
No, they're easy to use (18%, 14 Votes)
Total Voters: 78