Space Vatican

Ramblings of a curious coder

Replacing a Duplicate Season Ticket

Or how to waste half an hour

This weekend I lost my season ticket. Normally it’s not the end of the world — as long it’s the first time that year you can order a duplicate. If you bought the ticket in person you can do this at the station, but if you ordered the ticket from the first capital connect website (as I had) then you have to apply for a duplicate through the website.

I’d already tried and failed to find this on the website a few days ago (my ticket had recently stopped working at the barriers) but this time I had no choice but to persist. The website certainly used to have this feature — I’m not on my first lost ticket — but the website had recently received some sort of overhaul.

The short version is that you can probably call the trainline on 0871 244 1545 or possibly 0870 024 0463, but since it took me quite a few rounds of phone tag to get to the bottom of it I feel I have to inflict the full version on you.

I first tried the ‘contact us’ form on the fcc tickets website but it blew up with a generic error message. I then found a different contact form (on the top level fcc website) that seemed to work and sent them a message describing what had happened and explaining that I had bought the ticket from their website.

This morning I got the following response:

Dear Mr Cheung

Thank you for getting in touch with us. I was sorry to read that your Season Ticket has been lost.

In brief your ticket needs to be valid for at least a month and you need to visit the station where you purchased the original to make a request for a duplicate. If you purchased your ticket online you will need to contact them directly to pursue the matter.

Your request will then be considered and if successful we will issue a replacement plus an admin fee. If you find your original within a month of receiving your new ticket it is best to return both to the ticket office. This is because only one duplicate ticket is allowed over the course of a 12 month period, although there are some exclusions.

Clearly they hadn’t bothered reading past the first line of my message before pasting in a standard answer, since I specifically told them that I had purchased the ticket from the firstcc website. So there you have it, FCC telling me that in order to solve my problem I have to contact FCC.

Not deterred I figured that since the problem was that their website wasn’t doing what their FAQ claims it does, I should call the website support line. After I explainined my predicament, the person on the other end said that I needed to contact the customer relations department (the very one that had sent me the helpful email).

Not holding my breath I called them. They couldn’t help, I needed to call the season tickets department, on 0870 0240461. I complied, but I didn’t exactly leap for joy when an automated voice welcomed me to transpennine express. When I reached a real live human they couldn’t help either, but there’s obviously some relationship with FCC because they were able to give me what they claimed was the right number, 0870 0240463.

I called that number and the automated voice welcomed me to transpennine express again. The person who answered couldn’t help but after putting me back on hold, transfered me to yet another person.

I must have somehow lucked through the first tier of support because person number 6 was the first who wasn’t reading from a script and explained what had actually happened. Had I been playing Fallout 3 I would probably have unlocked an Xbox achievement at this point, or maybe a cinematic sequence.

The new website wasn’t just a new website. First Capital Connect’s ticket sales used to be handled by thetrainline, although the website was suitably skinned and hosted on a firstcapitalconnect.co.uk subdomain. As far as I, the consumer, was concerned I was buying from FCC. As of November 6th, FCC are doing their own thing. It looks like they imported data from the trainline’s backend (I could see my purchase history on the new site) but other than that the two systems can’t talk to each other.

Anyway after 1 email and 4 phone calls I was finally able to order a duplicate and get the address for applying for a refund for the tickets I’ve bought for this week’s travel:

Season tickets
PO box 23971
Edinburgh
EH3 5DA

(Send it recorded). I also got a tweet from @firstcc saying to call thetrainline on 0871 244 1545 (I didn’t try that one), so at least some of their frontline staff knew of the setup (but not all – I’d previously had a prolonged twitter conversation with a different @firstcc employee when my only problem was that the ticket wasn’t working at the barriers).

When FCC embarked on this project, they probably assumed that not many people lose their season tickets. Other than the first few weeks it only affects people with existing year long season tickets, so I understand them not wanting to (or being unable to) have some sort of deep integration between the trainline’s systems and their own. But surely the website could have said something along the lines of “sorry but you can’t apply for a duplicate of this ticket online – please call XXX”. And if that was too much effort, then FCC should have at least educated their call center / frontline staff about this. Up until the last person, no one I interacted with seemed to have any idea about the change and its implications (and even then I had to go down the route of please click here, now you should see Y to show that the website really couldn’t do it).

About a month ago I had an email from FCC indicating a change of data controller with regards to the booking system, so I could have worked this out earlier (not that it would have helped I suspect), but yet another missed oportunity for FCC to explain who to contact for refunds. All in all, unimpressive.