Phil McCafferty, good friend of fbb, is on the verge of being arrested for the heinous crime of (allegedly) travelling in a First Class carriage with a Second Class ticket. His offer to pay a "Weekend First" upgrade (which he has paid happily on previous occasions) has been refused; his offer to move to "Standard Class" accommodation has been refused. He has been told he may either pay a penalty charge of £20, leave the train at the next stop and/or face "handcuffs and a night in custody".
"Together we are part of National Rail"
But "Southern" staff obviously don't know what is going on elsewhere. If they did, this whole horrid saga might have been nipped in the bus before it escalated to a farce.
Clear as mud!
In summary, you, the customer, have rights; but the Train Companies can take them away from you whenever they choose. Outside of legal circles, these conditions are pretty-well meaningless as well as being hidden away in the small print. We all tick the box, agreeing to accept these "conditions", but who ever reads them? Or understands them? Are they readily available, on request, at your local station? Try asking!
Now we are all going to do that, aren't we?
But many fbb blog readers are made of sterner stuff, so they may enjoy the full 30 page version in downloadable PDF glory here.
To add to the overall confusion, Southern states clearly in their summary conditions that you may upgrade to First Class!
So the tale continues in Phil's own words, edited slightly by fbb to save space.
The revenue officer then demanded to see my driving licence, which, I believe, he has no right to do. The Police Officer suggested that I should comply, which I did under protest. The revenue officer also asked me where I was born (!) and used blasphemous and excitable language. This whole process caused the train to be held at a East Croydon station for nearly 15 minutes with consequent delays to other passengers, some of whom would have been travelling to Gatwick for onward connections.
Phil also reported that the guard announced to the whole train that there would be a delay because a passenger was refusing to leave and it would be his fault if they missed their plane.
[fbb comment : and what about the delay to dozens of other trains?]
At the advice of the off-duty civil police officer the Southern staff backed down and allowed me to continue the journey, having filled in the relevant incident documentation. I was given no copy of any Penalty Notice, merely a small slip allowing me to continue my journey in exchange for my (valid) ticket which your staff confiscated.
The Police Officer decided to contact his superiors who advised him (correctly) that this was not a Police matter and he left the train.
Many passengers then were verbally abusive to me for delaying them.
To complete Phil's wonderful (and full-fare) travelling experience, he reports
After all this hassle, the train was cancelled at Hove, due to a problem on the line. After half an hour's delay we were told to walk about 15 minutes to the sea front (some passengers were physically unable to manage this) where a route 700 service bus, not even a special replacement coach, ...
... would convey us to Littlehampton for an onward train to Portsmouth. Some passengers were actually charged a fare for the bus ride!! Total journey time was 6 hours and 25 minutes instead of 2 hours. No compensation claim forms were offered at any point in the greatly delayed journey.
At least one rail company has an official policy for its guards to "walk away" if a situation arises (e.g. fares) where no immediate harm or distress is likely to be caused to other passengers. Taking the troublesome traveller's name and address and dealing with the matter by post makes good sense, especially if the "client" is only too willing to provide that information, as in this case. It is very likely that Phil was in a stroppy mood (he often is) so further provocation was, predictably, counter-productive.
And finally ...
A seasonal message from Southern Railway.
Copies of these blogs will be sent to owners GoAhead, subsidiary Southern Railway and selected trade magazines. fbb will be pleased to publish their comments when (and if!) received.
"Phil McCafferty" is a pseudonym.