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Passing Go

Network rail discount cards are not valid before 10 am. It says so on the posters. It says so on the pamphlets. It says so on website.

I was on the 6:25-ish am bus this morning between the two Stratford stations, and the Guy with the Portable Ticket Machine (GwtPTM) wanted me to buy my tickets then-and-there rather than waiting for the station. Justifying his job, perhaps? In any event, he asked the usual questions. "Destination? Day return?" and then "Network railcard?".

Me: "But they're not valid before 10 am."
GwtPTM: "I think you could use one earlier, but there's a minimum price."
Me: "Really? I would love that. Are you sure?"
GwtPTM: "Maybe you should ask at the station to be sure."

Later, I'm back at Stratford International, a decadently tranquil station with very few customers and lots of service. (This won't last.) It's after 7 pm and, as usual, it's quiet. I go to ask the Guy with the Cash Register (GwtCR) about the tantalizing lure of an improbable Network rail card.

Me: "I was under the impression that Network rail cards are not valid before 10 am."
GwtCR, heartily: "That's right!"
Me: "But the GwtPTM this morning said I could get one for my 6-something am commute."
GwtCT: "You can use them, but there's a minimum charge." *checks out minimum charge for my route-of-choice*
GwtCT: "The minimum charge is £13*. If you bought a Network rail card, you'd save a third on your morning trip."
Me: "Even though it's not valid before 10 am?"
GwtCT: "There's a minimum charge."
(As opposed to what - free trips after 10 am? Not that I've heard of.)

I bought the railcard. It says in clear, sharp letters, "Not valid before 10 am."

I'll find out on Thursday if I've just saved myself large sums of money or thrown away £25. After all, I'll be traveling before 10 am.



( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
Gotta love bureaucracy... here's hoping it works!
Feb. 1st, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
If it does work - I could have been saving money on these tickets for the last YEAR! Convenient that it comes along when my ticket expenses have just crept up a little thanks to the dazzling convenience of the fast trains.
Feb. 1st, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
So far as I can tell you've been missold. The minimum charge applies Mon-Fri (all day) except for public holidays. Network Railcard discounts only apply for travel started after 10am, with these exceptions:

Feb. 1st, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's my worry too. I see nothing there to support anything like the earliness of my usual trains. But I was in no way unclear to these representatives of Southeastern rail about what time in the morning I was catching my train!

I suspect the card will still earn its keep, but not for a long time to come.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
Mind you, National Rail Enquiries claimed - last I checked - that only first class tickets are allowed from Stratford. This was seriously confusing when I was first starting to realize it might be a commuting option for me, because it's wrong. (In that case though, they were failing to advertise, rather than misrepresenting.)
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
Do you buy singles or returns? It might be possible to save by using the card for the return leg, perhaps?
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
No, I think the day return is easily cheaper than two singles, even with the discount on the second leg. The outbound single is only about three pounds less than the day return.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing the only way to get it cheaper doing singles would be advanced tickets, but that is rather harder from a planning perspective.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
That wouldn't help make use of the railcard anyways:

"A Network Railcard will not give you discounts on Advance tickets, Season Tickets, First Class tickets, Gatwick Express tickets (between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria), Oyster pay as you go, Eurostar tickets, special excursions or charter trains, or in conjunction with some Train Company special offers. "
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
A fair point (pun resisted, but only just).
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
You know, I was aware of the time restriction on discount cards but I distinctly remember getting a discounted ticket from Preston to London on at least one 6am train.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Were you using a Student discount card? They're more flexible.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
Oddly, Senior Railcards are even more flexible than Student ones. I was catching a train with my mum a few months ago at about 9.30am and she got a discount but I didn't. It's all completely irrational as far as I can see.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
And extremely confusing.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Sounds so bloody typical of ticketing agents. NO clue what is going on. Ever.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
I shouldn't have believed them, I now think. But they agreed with each other!
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
In the case of my student railcard, it is valid at any time for fares over £13; in effect it allows me to buy an off-peak ticket for any journey as long as it's more than £13, which is great news for someone studying in Manchester. Rather disconcertingly, the ticket machines still display the off-peak restriction times when printing the ticket, but I have checked with station staff and these restrictions don't apply.

What I would suggest doing is seeing what the national rail website says when you enter your railcard; if it displays the off-peak price for an on-peak journey, you're safe.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
I just tried that, and it doesn't display discounted ticket prices until after 10 am. As per what it says everywhere. (The student railcard is generally far more empowering!)
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
Ah, OK. The intersection of various railcards and peak/off peak times does get ridiculous at times...
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
When I was working on the railways I frequently had to point out where in their rule book it said my ticket was valid.

I would check carefully with your normal operator as they keep changing these things and it's not up to Network Rail so their details may not be right/up to date.

If you have been mis-sold complain and get your money back.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the advice. I'm increasingly sure I was missold the Network card, but there's that residual lingering doubt that perhaps, just perhaps, there's a webpage out there to the contrary.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
It's not valid, the people you spoke to are morons.

Minimum fare applies after 10 am Mondays-Fridays. No reduction applies before 10 am Mondays-Fridays. If you try to purchase a Network card ticket from a machine before 10 it will not allow you to do so. If you are sold one by a ticket operator, it will not work the barriers. And if you flash a Network card ticket before 10 am at the staff on SouthEastern, where they are not morons, they may charge you a penalty fare.
Feb. 1st, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
If only they hadn't BOTH believed it! I'll see if I can get a refund. If I can't, well, I'm sure I'll take just enough off-peak relevant trips to justify it eventually.

Thank you - oh experience SE Rail User - for confirming.
Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
The minimum fare - like most people are saying - is for trips after 10.00 Mon to Fri. The fact that this minimum fare went up with unremarkably little publicity is annoying; most of my Kent trips come in between £8 and £12 and thus don't qualify. I recall getting to Bexhill for under a tenner, now it's more. Grr. It's still valid for London trips, but more expensive.

What I don't find clear is whether Southeastern trains have a second peak hours section between 4.30 and 6. I saw something on their webpage tp suggest it, but nothing on posters.
Feb. 2nd, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
Or then again: Please note our peak services run Monday to Friday, 06:59 - 09:59, and 16:00 - 18:59. Our off-peak services run at all other times.

If you travel before 7am...

ETA: but off peak might not mean that the Railcard is valid.

Edited at 2010-02-02 10:00 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2010 12:39 pm (UTC)
Off-peak doesn't mean that the Railcard is valid, so far as I know, or I would have bought one last year when I was traveling after 9:30 am but before 10 am when railcards become valid.

On the other hand, if off-peak did equal use of network card is okay, then my train qualifies. It's at 6:47 am. (But I arrive within the peak period.)
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )