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I have a friend catching a train at Euston. He's got more luggage than he can easily handle by himself. I want to help him get his luggage to the train. He's being met by another friend at his destination who will help from the train.

I understand that the mainline platforms at Euston have ticket barriers. Is there a procedure to give me access to the platform to help him. Back when I was a lad one could obtain a platform ticket for this purpose. Do such tickets still exist, and how would I get one at Euston.

I found the following very reasonable statement on Department of Transport website.

At stations with a CTA, operators must make arrangements for people who are not travelling to be allowed into the part of the station covered by the CTA, if they have a good reason. This includes people who are meeting passengers, seeing passengers off or helping them with luggage

So I think it should be possible to help my friend, just not sure how to make sure that I can.

  • 7
    What does CTA mean? – vclaw Oct 2 '18 at 16:49
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    i don't know about your british train operator, but here in Germany the operator does not permit luggage that you can't carry by yourself. – Adrian Oct 2 '18 at 19:46
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    @vclaw: Compulsory Ticket Area – Gábor Oct 2 '18 at 19:55
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    @Adrian according to the conditions of travel for East Midlands trains (the only ones I’ve read) you are allowed 2 items of luggage per person, plus a single briefcase. A small rucksack or handbag is exempt from this; a large rucksack is not. I’ve never tried to travel with more, but I’ve also never seen someone refused boarding for having too much luggage. I guess if all seats and all luggage racks are occupied you might be refused. I imagine the provider in question has similar restrictions. – Tim Oct 2 '18 at 20:58
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    @RobertFurber the helpful pdf to which you link states in section 3.8.6 that Oyster may charge you the maximum fare if you enter and leave by the same station. – mdewey Oct 3 '18 at 14:52
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Ticket barriers still have to be manned, because a human is still needed to deal with tickets that have got demagnetised, those where the magstripe was never correctly written in the first place, creased/crumpled tickets, jammed readers, and so on.

Cambridge has a CTA, and I've never been refused access without a ticket to the platform when I had a reason to want to go (helping with luggage / meeting elderly or young travellers / confirming someone departed on the right train / etc.). The person manning the barrier just overrides the gate so I can enter without a ticket, then remembers me and lets me out when I reappear a few minutes later. I can confirm that platform tickets no longer exist, because I asked.

Ask (for access) and ye shall receive, I strongly suspect.

  • 4
    My only slight doubt about this is whether the big London terminus stations are the same. I agree it happens at the smaller stations just as you describe. – mdewey Oct 2 '18 at 17:07
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    @mdewey some London stations have sets of gates for small numbers of platforms, and it wouldn't be a problem to return to the same member of staff member. Liverpool Street and Paddington (from the concourse) are like this, for example. I haven't been through Euston for years so can't remember what it's like there – Chris H Oct 3 '18 at 8:20
  • London stations aren't really much different to other stations, there is really a limit to the number of platforms you can have at a single station (which is probably why London has so many terminus stations, for example, Manchester Picadilly has 14 patforms to Euston's 18, and even little old Crewe has 12, stations are all more or less the same really. – ThomasRedstone Oct 5 '18 at 5:37
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It is actually in theory still possible to get a platform ticket at most stations, but I can count on one hand the number of stations where I've required one to go through the barrier without catching a train (but I did once meet someone who collects platform tickets and had managed to get one at almost every station!).

My inclination is the same as in MadHatter's answer - to go to the barrier (some platforms have barriers, some platforms have gates staffed by Virgin employees checking tickets). Best case, it won't be manned and you'll just be able to walk through. I'd expect in most cases though the person will understand you're helping someone with luggage and let you through. You can try to buy a platform ticket from the ticket office but it's unlikely to make a difference between not being allowed on the platform and being allowed on the platform (I've certainly not heard of it doing so at Euston particularly in recent years). I imagine at Euston they get many such requests due to the number of people who will be travelling long-distance, so I imagine they'll be used to granting them. Worst case, I imagine they'll have a member of staff available to give such assistance in the event that they deny you access to the platform.

Your reference to CTAs is not strictly-speaking relevant because Euston is not a Compulsory Ticket Area to my knowledge (someone correct me if I'm wrong), even though it might act like one in practice because of the barriers!

  • 1
    May I ask how you know it's "still possible to get a platform ticket at most stations"? – MadHatter supports Monica Oct 2 '18 at 18:10
  • @MadHatter Simply that I met a guy who had managed to buy one at most stations! Any stations with a ticket office, that is. – Muzer Oct 3 '18 at 8:56
  • (If you're curious I met him around Bicester Town/Oxford Parkway area, as he was trying to get a platform ticket at each of the newly-ticket officed stations, and taking photos of diverted HST trains while he was at it). – Muzer Oct 4 '18 at 8:59
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The issue to bear in mind at Euston is that the platform numbers for many services are not announced until a relatively short time before departure, maybe ten minutes or so. Also, there's a separate entrance for each platform or pair of platforms (apart from 1-3 and 8-11 which are entered via automatic gates) and the gate may not be staffed and opened until that time.

This means that you won't know where you need to go or which staff member you will need to ask until shortly before the train leaves, and at busy times you will be among a large number of people queuing to get from the concourse on to the platform. So I would definitely advise being there in good time to check whether you can buy a platform ticket, because if you are refused entry to the platform without one you may well not have time to go back and get one.

The fact that everyone else will be boarding the train at the same time means that if you are refused entry to the platform I think there's a fairly good chance that your friend will be able to ask another passenger to give him a quick hand with his luggage - unless he's travelling on a busy route at a busy time, such as a Manchester or Scotland service on a Friday evening, in which case they may be more concerned with getting on as fast as possible themselves for the best chance of a seat. If that's the case you'll definitely do well to try and be at the front of that queue.

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I dealt with similar situations several years back at a different station.

What I did was trough a gate but make sure I nod my head "Hi" to a member of staff, on my way back I went back trough the same gate. The guy started asking me for my ticket, but by the time I opened my mouth to say "I was never on a train, just sending someone else off" He remembered he just saw me several minutes ago and let me pass.

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As a data point, we had no problems, got my friend and his luggage onto the train with no difficulty.

This is what actually happened on the day:

  1. Park in underground car park at Euston. This car park will be closed from 15th Oct 2018 due to HS2 construction - parking would then be much less convenient.
  2. Trailed our way to the lift seeing no trolleys or signs for the same. Later, I heard that there are trolleys to be had near the taxi rank.
  3. Lift to concourse, still no trolley.
  4. Various brands of ticket machine to be seen, the ones we tried had no apparent way to buy a platform ticket.
  5. Went to ticket window and were were told just to ask person at barrier.
  6. Friend was travelling to Manchester on Virgin trains - other brands have different procedures. For the Manchester train, platform is shown. Join queue. Two staff scanning barcodes, no auto barriers here. Ask permission to help friend to train: no problem, go right ahead.
  7. Deposit friend at their seat, luggage in the rack. All good.
  8. Go back past bar code reading staff, say thank you, they remember me and wave me on my way.
  9. Get stuck in unstaffed car park!

Net: If there are trolleys they are not easy to find. Virgin platform staff are helpful and seem happy to allow people to help with luggage. If one can get a platform ticket it's not obvious from where.

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