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Poor advice costly for rail passengers

Poor advice costly for rail passengers

Category: Money

Updated: 20/08/2009
First Published: 20/08/2009

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Poor advice from rail staff is causing some passengers to pay well over the odds for train fares, an investigation has found.

Which? asked staff at ticket offices and National Rail Enquiries call centres the most cost effective way to pay for specific journeys. However, two thirds of station clerks and four in ten call centre employees failed to quote the cheapest fare available for that journey.

In total, 200 questions were asked, with the correct answer given just 93 times.

When faced with a choice of train company, staff quoted the more expensive fare 27 out of 50 times, with four in five ticket offices ignoring the cheapest option. On some occasions, the fare quoted was more than double the cheapest on offer.

When asked for the cheapest option when making a particular journey more than once a week, two thirds of staff advised the price of two returns, even though rover or season tickets were more cost effective.

Staff also tended not to mention that delaying a departure time could mean cheaper tickets because of off peak prices, even in cases where taking a train just minutes later would have meant substantial savings.

"If you just want to know the cheapest way to get from A to B, you'd expect staff at the station ticket office or on the end of the national rail enquiries helpline to be able to tell you," said Martyn Hocking, editor of Which?

"It's not acceptable that passengers could be paying well over the odds because of poor advice. Rail firms must ensure that staff are properly trained and that fare information is clear."

There is some brighter news for passengers, as almost half of rail fares will fall by 0.4 per cent next year. Regulated rail fares are based on July's Retail Price figure -1.4 per cent - plus one per cent.

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