A recent investigation conducted by Which? revealed that rail staff may be giving passengers poor advice that could result in them paying as much as twice the amount that they need to.
The investigators asked rail staff for the cheapest ticket for specific journeys at both the National Rail Enquiries call centre and several ticket offices. More than half of the answers given by clerks and call centre operators were incorrect, with staff failing to advise the customer of the lowest price.
Four out of ten call centre employees and two thirds of the staff at the stations gave fares that did not reflect the lowest price.
In instances when there was more than one train company to choose from, Which? investigators were quoted a higher priced fare for more than 505 of the enquiries. In some cases, the price given was more than twice the cheapest possible fare.
When investigators inquired about taking the same journey two times in a week, two thirds of the staff quoted the price for two return trips, even though a rover or season ticket would have been cheaper.
When the asked about breaking a journey en route to get a lower fare the rail staff got it wrong half of the time. And when the question was regarding a trip near the end of a peak period, the staff neglected to mention the savings that could be had by slightly delaying the departure time, even by just a few minutes.
According to Martyn Hocking, Which? magazine editor, it is expected that station clerks or staff at the rail enquiries helpline should be able to tell people the least expensive way to take a journey to any given location. It is simply unacceptable that rail passengers appear to be paying much more than necessary, simply because they are being given poor advice. Rail companies need to train staff to properly handle enquiries and fare information should be made clear.