Ticket Sellers, Please

An unusual outbreak of sociability in my life means that tomorrow evening I’m off to the South Bank to meet a couple of friends for a drink and a bite or two to eat. But how to get from Kew Bridge to the SouthBank Centre (nearest station London Waterloo)? Curiously enough, despite the fact that my regular train home terminates at Waterloo, I was actually considering some convoluted combination of the District line and Bakerloo, despite the fact that taking the overland would be much faster and more convenient than sitting on the District line and watching it chug slowly into central London*. Why? Because I couldn’t see a way of doing it legally. My ticket (zone 2&3 travelcard) takes me to Vauxhall but no further. SouthWest Trains don’t accept Oyster Pay as you Go, so that’s out. Back in the good old days before the penalty fares I could have simply stayed on the train and paid the extra at Waterloo but doing so now risks encountering someone with a mean streak and a quota to fill, and ending up with a 20 quid fine and a criminal record – and frankly, if I’m going to get one of those for a night out on the town, I’d be aiming for something like Drunk and Disorderly not fare evasion.

So what to do? The platform ticket machines only sell tickets from the station they’re on, so the Kew Bridge one will want to charge me for the whole journey from Kew Bridge not just the Vauxhall to Waterloo leg. I could get off my nice comfy train at Vauxhall, go down the stairs and out through the barriers on my oyster, buy a ticket, go back through the barriers, find the platform for the next Waterloo train and try and catch that one, but that’s just madness, and I’m not going to. I could ask the nice person at the Kew Bridge station ticket office to sell me a ticket from the edge of zone 2 to Waterloo, which would be my preferred option if there was such a thing as a ticket office at Kew Bridge, with or without a nice person in it, except that there isn’t and there hasn’t been for years. So I have come up with the cunning plan of remembering to buy my ticket to Waterloo in the morning when I am at Vauxhall and within reach of a ticket machine that will do this. People who know me well may already have spotted the fatal flaw in this plan. For the rest of you, if you see me walking into Vauxhall station with a big yellow post-it on my forehead saying ‘REMIND ME TO BUY A TICKET TO WATERLOO’, then do me a favour and do so. For I will surely have forgotten.

Meanwhile, I still think it was a mean trick to put in penalty fare zones for stations where you can only buy a ticket from a not-very-flexible machine. Bring back the ticket office, I say. Like that’s ever going to happen…

*as, indeed, would almost anything


10 responses to “Ticket Sellers, Please

  1. tcha! those machines are completely gnomic. at warwick parkway they have to have someone there full time just to explain how to use them!

  2. here in The Netherlands, the ticket machines allow you to buy a ticket from any departure station to any destination station, including some in neighbouring countries. They have been increasing the numver of machines at stations and closing ticket offices down – if you do want to buy a ticket at a ticket office, you have to pay a 50 Eurocents (35 pence) surcharge.

  3. Rivergirlie – somewhat ruins the point of having the machine, I would have thought
    DutchCommuter – shh! if they have the idea of charging us to talk to an actual human they will. But without upgrading the machines to be at all useful. Plus I bet I’d always get stuck in the queue behind someone trying to buy a ticket for four sleepers on the Trans Siberian Express.

    Update: I did not forget but I did not have time to buy the ticket this morning. I’m about to go and throw myself of the mercy of a nice ticket collector in Waterloo…

  4. Why not just buy the ticket from Kew to Waterloo, it can’t be that expensive, surely…. oh… yeah…ignore me 😀

  5. Yeah well that’s what I ended up doing – it cost an extra 90p…

  6. What a load of rubbish. “Quotas to fill”… rail operators work under a very strict legal framework when it comes to penalty fare charges on train services. The idea of quotas, or commission on penalty tickets for that matter, is as preposterous as it is believable. Just buy a ticket for your whole journey, then claim back the balance later.

    Incidentally – it is impossible to be charged a penalty fare *and* receive a criminal record for the same offence. By issuing you with a penalty fare, the rail company has discharged you of the criminal offence (it is, for the record, a criminal offence under Railway Byelaw 18 to be present on a train for the purpose of travelling without a valid ticket) and has decided to treat the offence as a civil matter.

    One other point for your information – it would be illegal for the train company to charge you a penalty fare if it did not provide the reasonable means for you to purchase a ticket before you started your journey. The simple solution – when you are accosted by a ticket inspector, tell him or her that you tried to pay by credit card/£10 note etc. but the machine wouldn’t accept it. As long as you can then present the credit card/£10 note to the inspector, he will be obliged merely to charge you the excess fare. He can’t charge you a penalty, as the means to pay weren’t provided, and he can’t prosecute you, as you have the money right there in front of him. Quite a neat trick.

  7. hi Roydburn – thanks for the clarification & the tip… I did buy a whole ticket but I doubt I’ll bother claiming back the 90p extra it ended up costing me…

  8. I had some adventure today. I arrived at Hampton Wick to travel to Clapham Junction to discover a woman struggling with the vending machine. Apparently the machine had eaten her credit card because she didn’t that see the dimly lit LCD portion of the card reader was showing ‘out of service’, though the rest of the machine was totally oblivious to this fact and attempted to sell her the ticket without informing her that it wasn’t accepting cards.

    After trying to help her (unsuccessfuly) to retrieve her card, I went on my way to catch the train, unable myself to purchase a ticket because its card reader was faulty and I had no other means of payment.

    Upon arrival in Clapham Junction, I explained to the gate agent that I had tried to purchase my ticket in Hampton Wick, but that the machine was not working and the station office was closed/unmanned. They refused to accept my attempt to buy a ticket at this point, instead assessing a penalty fare, which I refused on principle to pay. So I walked through the exit gate and went straight around to the other side fo the station, where I used a machine to purchase a ticket. I then entered the station and went back to the agent who’d refused my request to buy a ticket to show her that I was not attempting to evade paying my fare when I left the station.
    As soon as I turned up to do that and showed her my valid ticket, she got the police to arrest me on the spot. They dragged me to the temporary police holding cell and chucked me into a 2ft by 2ft room, which caused me to experience a panic attack. When they heard my screams they finally transferred me to the proper station in Victoria and eventually, they released me.

    The lying police officers not only stole my valid ticket, which I had purchased (fortunately, they didn’t manage to get my receipt, which proves I did buy a ticket), but they also claimed that there was no requirement to prove intent under the law with the offence of fare evasion as that was an ‘automatic’ offence.

    When I spoke to my solicitor from the police station, she told me that they police had lied about this.

    So all of this nonsense for what? Because a LAW-ABIDING and HONEST citizen went out of his way to pay for a ticket and to do the right thing by demonstrating to SW Trains staff that he’d actually purchased a valid ticket.

    It seems to me that the police are in cahoots with the corporate thieves at SW Trains.

  9. hey 🙂 anyone have any idea of how many ticket machines there are in waterloo station?? i need help on an assignment and you guys seem pretty educated on this kind of matter 🙂

  10. Sorry solar – no idea on that one. A lot, but most of them will be broken at any one time…

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