You will all know about ghost trains – those services that run but do not appear to exist on the timetable.
London Midland have gone one step further – they may be the first railway in Britain to sell ghost tickets.
For the last five months the company has offered us oldies an extraordinary deal if we want to travel in peak times and have the freedom to travel round London.
If you purchase a ticket from the company’s two ticket machines at Berkhamsted station for a London travel card – you have been able to get a £7.20 reduction on a £22 peak time rail journey.
But don’t ask for such a ticket at the booking office – because until January they will tell you that no such fare exists and they can’t sell you such a ticket. As a result by word of mouth hundreds of oldies have been getting a secret third off rail fares to London before 9.30 am. Up to January tickets were legal, issued by the company and they work all the entry gates to the tube in London. No one published the deal in case the foolish London Midland changed its mind and withdrew the ticket.
London Midland obviously decided they did not want to spend the money altering the ticket machines so ghost tickets continue to be spewed out of the machine .
Now with the new fare rises the reason has become clear. London Midland had programmed Berkhamsted to accept the a new Anytime £14.80 peak travel card five months before it existed. It was to be linked with higher fares for those using evening peak trains. No wonder they weren’t going to remove them from the machines.
The extraordinary thing is this the now £7.60 reduction is still available after the fare rise and before 9.30 am from the ticket machines – though the booking office insist it is now an illegal ticket if you travel before 9.30 am.
I don’t know what trading standards would make of it. According to Passenger Focus, the independent consumer group, rail companies are not allowed to issue differently priced tickets to the same place from booking offices and machines at the same station.
The company is recouping any savings for early travellers by charging 30 per cent more if a passenger goes in after 9.30 but needs to return from London between 4.45pm and 6.45pm. In this case for oldies the fare rises from £11.15 to £14.80.
But if you do travel before 9.30 am on the ticket – the booking office say they will get you.
They say travellers will be stopped at the barrier at Euston – if caught using it -as it won’t work the machines there . However many of the rush hour trains do not use platform 8 to 11 and there not a barrier in sight on other platforms to stop you.
This is going to make an interesting test case if they do pursue people – for the name on the ticket is Anytime – which if there is any restrictions on travel is a breach of the Trades Description Act.