Don’t you hate it when a rail ticket machine won’t sell you the ticket you need? Ticket machines should cut queues and make buying tickets easier, but we found they don’t always sell the tickets passengers want to buy.
I recently told a friend about the low-cost way I travel to London on the train. I buy two tickets – one to a station half-way to London, then another for the rest of the journey. This saves me around 20% on the price of a direct ticket.
He tried to do the same thing but wasn’t able to, because the ticket machine at his station couldn’t sell a ticket that started from somewhere else or another start-station. So, to get the ticket he wanted, he joined the queue for the ticket office.
And he’s not alone – our latest research reveals that of the 28% of train passengers who use ticket machines to buy tickets, only 15% prefer using machines instead of the ticket office.
The trouble with ticket machines
In our video below, find out the top five ticket machine nightmares uncovered by our recent investigation.
Providing ticket machines that don’t sell all train tickets seems wrong to me. With so many ticket office hours being reduced – more than 500 offices since 2005 – why do train operating companies think it’s OK for their ticket machines to sell a limited range of tickets?
This means that if you use an unmanned station or a station where the ticket office is hardly open, you’ll almost certainly be getting a second class service.
Make ticket information clearer
The other big problem with ticket machines is the lack of information provided about where, when and how you can use the tickets they do sell. In fact, one in three ticket machine users in our survey thought that information about the trains they could and couldn’t travel on wasn’t displayed clearly.
If you buy a ticket and end up on the wrong train because of the lack of information provided by the machine, you could end up paying a penalty fare. To help people avoid penalties, train operating companies really need to be doing more to make validity information much clearer.
Do you find that ticket machines make the difference between catching-and-missing your train? Or do you always head for the ticket office if there’s one available? Please come and share your train gripes to help us demonstrate the extent of the problems on the rail network.