THIS SITE SET UP IN 2009?
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.
are not just sharp business practices.
They are crooks.
The timeline of what happened is below.
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
- Virgin staff accused
complainant, in front of a crowd, of attempting to travel without a
- 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
- 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.
- Complainant received
confirmation from Transport for London (TfL) Enquiries
that Virgin staff were in the wrong.
- Complainant received
confirmation from Graham Orr, TfL Public
Affairs Manager, via Green Greater London Assembly (GLA) members, that Virgin Staff were in the wrong.
- Complainant received
confirmation from Caroline Pidgeon, Deputy
Chair of GLA Transport Committee that Virgin's behaviour was
"inappropriate and outrageous"; she wrote to Virgin.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Complaint submitted to London Travelwatch (via Passenger Focus, whose remit does
not include London).
- Phone call from London Travelwatch, expressing an understanding that ATOC
had written to Virgin and that there was hope of a favourable outcome.
- Email from London Travelwatch, confirming that they continue to press
Virgin Trains on this issue, which they see as very important.
- 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.
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.