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Basically because one individual was incensed at how Virgin Trains were prepared to lie and cheat for seven months rather than simply apologise and issue a refund BEFORE EVENTUALLY ADMITTING THAT THEY WERE IN THE WRONG.


Their thugs at Euston picked on the wrong victim. The people in Customer Services who lied through their teeth, with one nonsensical story after another, picked on the wrong victim.


These are not just sharp business practices. They are crooks.


The timeline of what happened is below.


Timeline and Summary


Wednesday 18 March 2009


  • Complainant was in possession of a zone 1 - 2 travelcard season ticket, stored on Oyster.
  • Complainant purchased an Anytime Day Return ticket from Boundary Zone 2 to Milton Keynes at a local ticket office for 31, saving 3.50.
  • Complainant attempted to board the 0843 Virgin departure for Milton Keynes from platform 3 at Euston.
  • Complainant was prevented from boarding train by Virgin staff who did not have the readers that most National Rail staff have to check that an Oyster card contains a valid travelcard season ticket.
  • Virgin staff accused complainant, in front of a crowd, of attempting to travel without a ticket.
  • Virgin staff claimed that complainant needed to buy an extra ticket.
  • Virgin staff refused to check whether the Oyster card contained a valid season ticket, despite repeated suggestions to do so and the fact that there are many readers available on the station.
  • Virgin staff took away both extension ticket and Oyster card and took complainant to the other side of the station, while missing a number of subsequent trains and losing a day's work.
  • Virgin supervisor confirmed their claim that the complainant needed to buy another ticket or travel with a different company (now too late).
  • Too late to travel, complainant completed a refund claim for the 31 ticket (no refund received).
  • Complainant filled in a complaint form and sent it off immediately.


30 March 2009


  • Complainant received confirmation from Transport for London (TfL) Enquiries that Virgin staff were in the wrong.


7 April 2009


  • Complainant received confirmation from Graham Orr, TfL Public Affairs Manager, via Green Greater London Assembly (GLA) members, that Virgin Staff were in the wrong.


8 April 2009


  • Complainant received confirmation from Caroline Pidgeon, Deputy Chair of GLA Transport Committee that Virgin's behaviour was "inappropriate and outrageous"; she wrote to Virgin.


7 May 2009


  • Complainant finally received a reply from Virgin to his initial complaint, in the name of Michael Saunders, Customer Relations, in which they astonishingly claimed that his ticket was invalid. They did not apologise for the appalling treatment or refund the ticket that they prevented complainant from using.


8 May 2009


  • First telephone call to Virgin Trains Customer Services, speaking to both an assistant and a manager. Complainant asked them to look at the NRCoC and explain the letter he had received. They claimed that there is a rule on their website stating that they do not accept season ticket combinations if the season ticket is stored on Oyster. Complainant asked for this in writing, since it is a breach of the NRCoC and a breach of contract.
  • Second telephone call to Virgin Trains Customer Services, having failed to find any rules on the website. This time they admitted that there is no such rule on their website, but that the NRCoC do not state that they have to accept the ticket if stored on Oyster (false: see NRCoC section 9). They likened an Oyster card to having a ticket printed on tissue paper, which they wouldn't have to accept.


9 May 2009


  • Complainant received a reply from his MP, who had written to Virgin, enclosing a letter from Alan Robey, Chief Executive's office, fobbing her off with an irrelevant map of the routes on which Pay as You Go is accepted. Pay as You Go had never been mentioned in the complaint and is irrelevant.


12 May 2009


  • Complainant received an email from Tony Ewers at the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) stating that he had written to Virgin asking them to "revisit their previous reply".


19 May 2009


  • Complainant received a letter from Sarah Brassington at Virgin Customer Relations, confirming the statement from first telephone conversation that Virgin does not accept travelcards held on Oyster and implying that the rule is on their website, despite that still being a breach of NRCoC and the fact that a subsequent telephone call had confirmed that there was no such rule on the site.


25 May 2009


  • Complaint submitted to London Travelwatch (via Passenger Focus, whose remit does not include London).


29 May 2009


  • Phone call from London Travelwatch, expressing an understanding that ATOC had written to Virgin and that there was hope of a favourable outcome.


11 June 2009


  • Email from London Travelwatch, confirming that they continue to press Virgin Trains on this issue, which they see as very important.


1 October 2009


  • More than six months after the original incident, there was no sign of progress. Virgin Trains could have spent half an hour reading the Conditions of Carriage (which they were evidently unfamiliar with), realised that they were in the wrong and apologised. Instead of which, they lied, obfuscated and stonewalled. There was clearly something bigger going on here; perhaps a dispute between National Rail operators and Transport for London over smartcard formats. The complainant is not prepared to be "collateral damage" in this war. Patience ran out and an email was sent to all concerned making it clear that there was no longer an acceptable solution and that the complainant would go public.


28 October 2009


A letter (dated 23 October 2009) was received from Alan Robey in the Chief Executive's office at Virgin Trains, finally admitting that Virgin was in the wrong and offering some complimentary first class tickets. The political background to this turnaround is a mystery.



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