Monday, 19 January 2015

Wolverhampton Wants Me. . .

I suppose I should have got used to the internet tracking my every move by now, but sometimes some things still come as a surprise.

Yesterday I started to book a train ticket to Wolverhampton. Firstly, I tried Virgin Trains - logical as it is the operator of trains between there and Lancaster. However, having got as far as the payment stage in the on-line process I abandoned the attempt.

Although that was the end of the matter as far as I was concerned, Virgin Trains wasn't going to let me go quite so easily. Today, I received this in an email from it.

Email from Virgin Trains

I'd take issue with the "comfy seats" claim and the wifi may or may not be wonderful, but as you have to pay for it, I wouldn't know; nor can I afford to buy anything from the shop. But neither will I be buying my ticket from Virgin for two reasons:

Firstly, it charges you £1 to send the tickets through the post. You can get the same tickets - and the same fares - from Arriva Trains Wales posted to you for nowt!

But secondly, and more importantly, Arriva offers a service that Virgin doesn't. When you book an advance ticket Arriva tells you the seat number you've been allocated, even on a Virgin train - something that company can't be bothered to do for its own customers passengers. You can then check these against an online seating plan for Virgin's Pendolino and Super Voyager trains and see whether you've been allocated one of many "window" seats that don't actually offer a view out of the train.

As it happened, the seat that Arriva wished to sell me was just one of those seats that offer only a view of a blank wall, so I abandoned that attempt as well and tried again later, with more success.
But why can't Virgin offer this facility - or even go one step further like publicly-owned (but not for much longer) East Coast Trains, which not only tells you which seat you've got but also offers the option of changing it if you don't like it!


Sue said...

Cross Country also allocate you a seat which you can change before you buy.. Book early enough and you can have exactly the seat you want..

Jim said...

But do they charge to send you the ticket? I. did hear that CC even charge you to pick up your ticket from a ticket machine at the station, but when I tried to go on their website to check I have up after five minutes trying to register as it insisted that the two identical email addresses I'd entered were different!

Incidentally, did you know that Cross - Country is also part of Arriva and both are ultimately owned by the German government!

Sarah said...

I'm not bothered about a window and I always choose an aisle seat (I'll have my nose in a book and don't like feeling trapped in a corner) but I really wish they would let you specify an airline style rather than a table seat. You can request a table seat, and these are obviously more popular, but I still often end up having to sit opposite someone and avoiding getting tangled up with their feet.

Yes, Cross Country, whom I've only booked through once, like you to print your own ticket, and will charge you to collect it from the station. I tend to use National Rail to find my train, and then book through East Midlands, who are pretty efficient and remember my details nearly as well as Amazon.

It's great when coming back to Sheffield on a Sunday evening to find waiting at St Pancras one of East Midland's really ancient trains, with slam doors (which some people don't know how to open!), sea toilets, and big soft seats to sink into for the journey which invariable takes 50% longer then.

Jim said...

Sarah, I remember when those "really ancient " trains were new!

Halfie said...

If you book through East Coast they'll charge you less than any other operator (or so they claim).