Sunday, 27 November 2011

Complaining about First Great Western

I've just posted in a complaint to First Great Western about their revenue collection efforts. I generally don't talk down public transport as it is so important that people do have confidence in using it. However, this particular issue is so bizarre, I felt it warranted a short blog post.

In essence, First Great Western seem to want to make it ever more difficult to actually buy a ticket for their trains. My story goes like this...

I decided on Wednesday evening that I was going to go to Bath (to watch Bath City leave the FA Cup, as it happens). I went to catch the 5.31pm train from Clifton Down to Temple Meads, to go on to Bath Spa.

The first thing was that the ticket machine was out of order. I heard from a resident that it was giving out the wrong tickets for the wrong money last week, so someone had thoughtfully covered it in hazard tape in the meantime.

Remembering how things worked before the machine was installed, I went to the back of the train to find the guard. The guard, however, seemed determined not to sell any tickets, ducking back into his cabin immediately after every station. It was busy on the train, but not so busy that he couldn't get down the aisle to check and sell.

So, I arrived at Temple Meads and did what any respectable passenger should: I went in search of the unpaid fares desk by the exit barriers. And, guess what... no-one there! So, I'd tried to buy a ticket three times between Clifton Down and Temple Meads without success. Finally, I did manage to get a ticket on the way out at Bath Spa, but it makes you wonder how many people would have bothered.

Come on FGW - please make it easier for passengers and let them buy tickets when they want to! It makes me very nervous getting on a train without a ticket, even when I know it's not my fault and this is neither fair nor good business.


Neil Harrison said...

I've now had a reply from FGW apologising and promising to do better. For reasons that I don't understand, they've asked me not to publish it, so I guess you'll just have to take my word for it! Very strange.

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar experience earlier this year. It was in fact before the ticket machines were installed at Clifton Down and the ticket inspector never managed to reach me as the train was so busy. AT Temple Meads the man at the ticket barrier told me to board the train to Bath and buy one there as he couldn't sell me a ticket and the queue was very long. I arrived at Bath, found the ticket inspector who issued me with a fine for not having a ticket and refused to listen. On the way back to Bristol I saw the same man at the station who had been unable to sell me the ticket. He told me his name and told me to write to the complaints department and that he would confirm what had happened. I got a standard letter back in which they didn't address anything I'd raised, nor made any attempt to contact the rail worker. I really don't like knocking public transport either but the whole episode left me feeling badly, and unfairly treated.

Neil Harrison said...

Anon - that sounds dreadful. If you want to e-mail me with details (, I would happily take this up with FGW. What happened to you could so easily have happened to me.

Neil Harrison said...

Anon - I've just had another response from FGW that strongly suggests that you were treated incorrectly. Do let me know if you want me to follow your specific case up.