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Rail booking and travel is a nightmare

(34 Posts)
ayse Tue 25-Oct-22 12:19:19

My DH and I have both got rail cards to travel to Bristol and return over Christmas. OK, I know train travel is expensive but otherwise it’s drive and hope the weather is OK.

I want to have a BIG grumble!

I really dislike having to use mobile phone tickets. I’m ok to book online and don’t mind printing tickets off as a backup. Today, I booked for us on Cross Country website. There was NO CHOICE and I ended up with mobile tickets with no seats booked (although I did tick the boxes).

I called their customer service. Apparently there are some ‘services’ that now only have mobile tickets. Additionally you are not able to book seats on the “Manage my tickets” section for either journey. I’m absolutely disgusted, p****d off with the cost and the lack of customer friendly apps.

The only good thing was that I was quickly put through to a ‘customer service’ person. They were unable to help me. The best they could do was to refund my ticket and try to rebook the same tickets. The operator told me I’d selected the wrong choice. I had to point out that there was no choice available.

My blood’s still boiling and I’m sorry for the rant but online services seem to me to be an excuse for dumping good customer relations. I feel somewhat held to ransom by all this. Surely these companies who are making massive profits could at least continue to give customers a choice, especially as the cost of using the train is enormous

MayBee70 Tue 25-Oct-22 12:22:47

I’m a complete technophobe and wouldn’t know how to do that. I’m sure a lot of people my age are even more technically inept than I am.

Dottydots Tue 25-Oct-22 16:09:42

I'm 80. I only travel on a train with my son now as booking a trip for myself is a nightmare and has had me in tears. I am lucky that my son realises this and sorts everything for me.

silverlining48 Tue 25-Oct-22 16:20:08

Sounds absolutely dreadful. I am not tech either and my old iPhone is mostly used as a camera.

ayse Tue 25-Oct-22 16:34:28

I can’t say I’m a technophobe but it’s really off putting. I wish someone would renationalise the railways. It couldn’t be any worse than it is now! Oh for the time when I could go to the station, buy a ticket and know exactly which one to buy. It’s choice gone made until you just want a paper ticket.


Chestnut Tue 25-Oct-22 17:25:31

I haven't booked a train for some time but I always booked through Red Spotted Hanky. You need to set up an account but then you can always book through them. I believe some trains do not have reserved seats.

ayse Tue 25-Oct-22 17:29:29


I haven't booked a train for some time but I always booked through Red Spotted Hanky. You need to set up an account but then you can always book through them. I believe some trains do not have reserved seats.

Thanks Chestnut. I used to book through the Trainline but swapped when this got more difficult with printing tickets. Cross Country is going the same way. It’s especially bad if you use the App! The train I booked asked me to book seats!

Anyway thank you for the suggestion

Wheniwasyourage Tue 25-Oct-22 17:38:11

Sounds as if ScotRail isn't as bad as we thought... We are fortunate enough to live within walking distance of the station and so get (paper) tickets and sometimes reserve seats there. Usually we don't reserve seats as there is almost always an unreserved coach on which you can take your chance. Also if the type of train is changed at the last minute the reservations don't transfer and are just unavailable.

Prentice Tue 25-Oct-22 20:19:56


Sounds absolutely dreadful. I am not tech either and my old iPhone is mostly used as a camera.

I am not tech savvy either, there are many older people who are not.
It does sound a nightmare now, booking a ticket and having to show this ‘ticket’ on an app to show you have it.Booking services will all be online in the near future and ticket offices a thing of the past, just as online banking is taking over and online shopping.
Oh it did used to be so easy, just strolling into a station and buying a ticket for the next train to wherever you wanted.
It is one of those things that is done for the convenience of the service and not the customer.

HettyBetty Tue 25-Oct-22 21:05:29

When I wanted to book tickets recently I had a look online, got completely baffled, and caught a bus to the station.

There, a very helpful man sorted out the best price, reserved seats and gave me a bunch of actual tickets.

I was so pleased to be able to do it the old fashioned way.

CanadianGran Tue 25-Oct-22 21:59:08

I sympathize with you. I always prefer to have a paper ticket as back up, and fear customer service is going more and more on line, leaving out people with no cell phone, or tech savvy.

The only time I relied on a boarding pass on my cell, my network could not download the form and I ended up being the last person on the plane. Lesson learned! Always have a paper backup.

Grammaretto Tue 25-Oct-22 22:12:07

I'm about to book a train to see my son down in the East Midlands next month.
I want to use the vouchers I was given by Cross-country after the dreadful journey last year.
Despite booking in advance and reserving a seat, the return train was so crowded there were women with babies standing in the bit by the door which was where I stood for the first hour.
I managed to prise someone's bag off a seat and sit down but then we stopped dead outside Darlington for 2 hours while a broken down train was moved.
I never did find my reserved seat.

By the time we got into Edinburgh it was very late and I still had to find a bus home.
Others weren't so lucky and were having to change for Dundee.
Do I really want to go through that again?

And there are strikes in the offing.shock

lixy Tue 25-Oct-22 22:12:56

Oh goodness. I won't be able to travel by train then as I don't have a phone that'll manage having a ticket.
At the moment I book through trainline and select the 'collect from station' option. Then collect tickets from the machine at the station.

Ayse your grumble is totally justified!

Grammaretto Tue 25-Oct-22 22:14:53

HettyBetty I may copy you and try that except I have a nasty feeling the booking desk has gone at Waverley Station.

Casdon Tue 25-Oct-22 22:29:43

If you don’t like your ticket to only be displayed on your phone, you can also screenshot the online ticket and print it out, it will work for the ticket machine at the station. I always print it out as a back up in case my phone gets stolen or lost.

Joseanne Tue 25-Oct-22 22:42:37

If I am doing one direct journey I am happy to simply use my mobile phone ticket. If, like next week, I am doing 3 or 4 legs, Plymouth - Paddington - Liverpool St - Colchester, then I prefer to collect my tickets from the machine at the start which I have to do anyway because they are different train companies.
I'm looking forward to going on the Elizabeth Line for the first time, now only an incredible 10 minutes.

SpringyChicken Tue 25-Oct-22 23:11:53

I book online with GWR and print tickets from the ticket machine. My phone is too old to support the app for electronic tickets. Even if it could, I'd prefer to have printed tickets.

Chestnut Tue 25-Oct-22 23:30:45


I haven't booked a train for some time but I always booked through Red Spotted Hanky. You need to set up an account but then you can always book through them. I believe some trains do not have reserved seats.

Just to add, if you book in advance then Red Spotted Hanky always send you real tickets in the post. On the website it says:
'Tickets will be processed and dispatched by First Class post within 24 hours of booking. Tickets must be booked at least 6 working days prior to travel.'

SuzieHi Wed 26-Oct-22 02:57:26

As mentioned above save ticket phone then take a photo of it ( screenshot). Save then print. Works for plane boarding passes and Covid health documents too.
Get a Revolut card for swiping on the underground(- minimal loss if you lose it or have it stolen)
We traveled in peak times by train this week- impressed as youngsters all jumped up to let us sit down on every train which we’re full. We’re in late 60’s- dh uses a stick & is a bit wobbly but I’m not!

Grantanow Wed 26-Oct-22 08:56:21

And then there are the strikes which have put me off travelling.

Maggiemaybe Wed 26-Oct-22 09:17:25

Diverting slightly, but it’s not only the trains. I booked 4 tickets yesterday for us and two single friends to go to a local event. I’d offered to book at the venue as I was in the area. They had no actual tickets, so they’d be sent by email, but I was told I’d have to print them out as they were having trouble with their entry system recognising the mobile tickets. Not only that, but when I got the email it was just one ticket for 4 people and I’m told we all have to arrive together, which we weren’t actually planning on doing! angry

Fleurpepper Wed 26-Oct-22 09:40:10

Booking has been a nightmare ever since the train lines were privatised and split into several, non connecting, private companies. In most European countries, this is not the case. You can book all train and connecting bus travel very simply, with integrated timetables and prices/tickets.

We recently travelled to France, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and Austria- with great ease.

Cabbie21 Wed 26-Oct-22 10:26:32

Last time I travelled I booked online but collected my tickets from the machine at the station. It meant I could just put the relevant ticket into the machine at the tube station to cross London.
On a previous occasion with a ticket on my phone, I could not access it. The conductor on the train accepted my email receipt, however, so I was lucky that day.

annodomini Wed 26-Oct-22 10:39:49

I've usually booked my train tickets on line and managed to overcome a few obstacles. However, on the advice of several friends, I've recently gone to the ticket office at a nearby suburban station - my small local station is unmanned - and found the lady there exceptionally helpful. A few taps on her keyboard got me a better deal than I've ever had on line - still pricey but better. Annoyingly, there has recently been a move from the Department of Transport to close these ticket offices and many local travellers are up in arms. Those who work there are hoping that now that the cabinet has been reshuffled, that plan might be shelved. hmm

Urmstongran Wed 26-Oct-22 10:41:19

And the price of tickets are eye watering! A friend & her daughter wanted to go by train from Manchester to Bristol. The daughter went on line and was horrified to find the cost was £152 EACH - and that was only one way - not return. Reluctantly they decided to go by car as £600 was out of their budget. Ridiculous prices.