Read all about Phil's experiences at Baldock Station.
Taking my 8 year old nephew from his grandmothers in Baldock to Kings Cross for a connection at Euston should be an easy task at half term. Yes, the train ran perfectly but at what cost to First Capital Connect (FCC) whose slogan is ‘Transforming travel’?
Baldock booking office is only open in the morning rush hour which leaves the buying a ticket away from these hours ‘interesting’. On June 1st, the self service ticket machine was out of order which meant a rapid appraisal of options as the train was due in a few minutes. The helpful out of order ticket machine display said to buy your ticket from the ticket office and a printed notice advised that if the machine was out of service, to inform a member of staff. Both instructions are a bit tricky to comply with while the station is unstaffed.
The options were quickly distilled into two, going without a ticket and risking a Penalty Fine, or using the permission to travel ticket machine - which does not accept plastic cards or notes, only coins. It also offered a helpful instruction to insert the exact fare using coins only.
Not having bought a ticket for this journey before, I had no idea what the fare was and there was no way to find out. Also the only coin available was a one pound coin which was duly inserted and a permit issued. The permission to travel machine displayed a notice that said, for conditions of issue and use of permits, see a separate notice, which could not be found.
The plan was to pay whatever was due to the Guard on the train who would issue the ticket. Except there wasn’t one on the train as it was driver only operated. Ok, we will have to explain things at the barrier at Kings Cross at 1740hrs - the height of the rush hour, with limited time available to get to Euston.
The train arrived on time (which was good) at Kings Cross into platform 7 which has no ticket barriers and had no staff in attendance. So other passengers from Baldock with similar permits to travel or perhaps no tickets at all, walked off the station without paying any more.
While waiting for the train, the poor condition of the station was noted, most of it boarded up and with shabby stairs up to the London platform where the platform message board was not working. Not a travel transformation at all from First Group who have decided to hand back their Great Western Franchise three years early because they will lose too much money if they continue to operate it.
So one wonders, how much revenue is being lost by people playing the system as opposed to those who really tried to buy a ticket!
Posted on Tuesday 2nd April 2013 | 12:49 PM
Sadly, I can only confirm the statements; ticket machine unreliable, booking office inadequately staffed and last autumn, a waiting room out of action for a couple of months due to a broken window which FCC said was due to vandalism - 2 months to fix a window; come on guys. Worst of all in when they send in the revenue enforcement team in the evening rush hour. This entails being delayed in the urine scented underpass from platform 2 to platform 1; sometimes for as long as 5 minutes while the Police protected staff try their hardest to find something wrong with tickets.