Latest Rail News

01.09.15

FGW forces passengers to hunt for cheapest ticket themselves

First Great Western (FGW) said in an email exchange that it was “unrealistic” to expect customer service and station staff to guarantee tickets were sold at the best possible price, despite knowing it would provide a more “positive experience”.

This means some passengers could inadvertently buy more expensive ‘anytime’ tickets during off-peak hours.

It added that station staff are instructed to presume customers had researched the best deals by the time they approached the booking office.

The email, obtained by the Telegraph, said: “I realise that it would be a more positive experience for our customers if our booking office colleagues do provide any alternatives or extra information at the time of booking… but they are under no obligation to offer anything other than that which has been asked for.”

Ministers reacted angrily to the “unacceptable” policies despite it being compliant with consumer law.

Claire Perry MP, the rail minister, said: “The most important part of the railway is its customers, and they must be able to trust they are getting the best possible deal every time they travel. If this is not happening it is unacceptable.

“Train companies must be better at giving their customers information about ticket options in a straightforward way. I will not hesitate to hold operators to account if they do not take this issue seriously.”

But a FGW spokesperson told the Telegraph: “We are obliged to sell the correct ticket for the journey and will ask when people are returning to ensure we are selling the best product for the consumer needs.

“That does not mean to say that it will be the cheapest. The ticket office will sell you the most direct route for the correct journey time.”

A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group also told the Telegraph that staff should tailor to the specific needs of passengers to sell them the “most appropriate” journey.

Though FGW’s policy is not breaking consumer law, a code of practice on retail information, published in March, made clear that passengers should be made aware of the “range of fares that they may be offered at a particular point of sale” or a more appropriate ticket available elsewhere.

(Top image c. Fiona Hanson, PA Images)

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