10

So I always try and buy the cheapest, off peak ticket - i.e super-off-peak.

Sitting here at my desk on a long Thursday, I really want to get that earlier train which is "normal" off peak - but alas, I bought a super off peak which means I need to hold off for another hour.

The difference between the tickets is only £7 - a price I am willing to pay to get into my lovely bed on the other side of the county and start my weekend. So the question is:

Would I be able to get that slightly earlier train and pay the difference?

Or would I have to buy a new ticket (obviously I'm aware I could refund the old one, but that would make the upgrade a total of £17 more after you take the admin fee).


Specifics:

  • Padding - Cheltenham Spa
  • Super off peak single - valid only changing at or passing through Stroud (but I often get the return version)
  • Mobile ticket - bought via TheTrainLine
  • Usually a GWR train
  • 1
    I was about to write an answer involving a simple procedure at a ticket office, but since you've specified you have a mobile ticket I don't think this is possible (unless you can get them to sell you an excess for a mobile ticket at a ticket office). With a paper ticket it would be possible with no additional charge/admin fee over the fare difference. Paper tickets also cost no more than mobile tickets. Paper tickets may be boring and old-fashioned but they maximise your rights. – Muzer Dec 6 '19 at 10:06
18

The answer appears to be yes as long as you do so before boarding the train (otherwise you'll be travelling with an invalid ticket).

The National Rail website about Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak ticket terms and conditions says:

Changing the time or date of travel

If you wish to change your time of travel or class of the ticket, you can pay the difference between the cost of the ticket held and the cost of the ticket that is most appropriate for the journey you need to make.

In many cases, if you are still travelling at a time when your ticket is not restricted, no additional fare is payable.

If you wish to change the date of travel, or the origin or destination of your ticket, it may be necessary to buy a new ticket and apply for a refund on your existing ticket.


Update:

If you have an account it seems that you can do it online, see GWR's Changing your ticket. Otherwise at the station.

But there is also a £10 administration fee.

  • The administration fee is only for refunds, right? – Mast Dec 6 '19 at 11:11
  • @Mast the GWR link I posted says "Super Off-Peak, Off-Peak and Anytime tickets can be changed for a charge of £10 each, plus postal fees if applicable; if you bought online, or with our app, you’ll need to claim a refund and buy a new ticket." This follows the paragraph about "Advance" tickets, so it is not about that type. – Weather Vane Dec 6 '19 at 11:20
  • Ah, right. GWR does say so indeed, if you look at the National Rail page it only talks about fees in case of refunds. – Mast Dec 6 '19 at 11:25
  • 1
    The National Rail Conditions of Travel linked by @RailPerson goes on to say in the next section that some train companies may charge a penalty if 10.2.3. You travel on a train service at a time when your Ticket is not valid. Section 9.5 which was referred to does not say on the train but simply "charged the difference", in other words can be upgraded. – Weather Vane Dec 6 '19 at 12:19
  • 1
    Going further, most of that post is a rant about customer service. If it were permissible to board a train without a valid ticket and then buy one when asked, then nobody would bother buying a ticket first (some with the hope that they won't be checked). Apart from buses, I have only ever used one mass transit system that didn't require a ticket to be held when boarding: the BA Heathrow-Glasgow shuttle in the days before heightened security. One could board 5 minutes before departure and buy the ticket after take-off. It was literally an air bus. – Weather Vane Dec 6 '19 at 12:51
6

According to https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/railuk-fares-ticketing-guide-section-4-excesses-upgrades-supplements.70374/#post-1185795 yes you can, and there is no penalty for doing so on-board.

Note that for a return ticket, the price charged for the excess is the full difference between the original return ticket and the return ticket you are excessing to (unlike a change of route excess where you can excess half of the return ticket for half the difference in price). In some cases it may be cheaper to buy a new single ticket than to excess a return.

  • 5
    That link says specifically "if there is no opertunity to pay before boarding" which usually means that you need to have gotten on the train at a station with no working ticket machine or office – Bee Dec 6 '19 at 8:23
  • also, good luck getting past the Paddington barrier staff with anything they even think might be wrong – AakashM Dec 6 '19 at 9:21
  • 2
    @AakashM Huh, in my experience the Paddington barrier staff barely glance at the ticket and just let almost everybody though. – gerrit Dec 6 '19 at 9:40
  • "If bought on board where there was opportunity to pay before boarding: As above: there is no penalty on board with this type of excess." – Peter Green Dec 6 '19 at 11:00
4

Contrary to what others have said, there is no administration fee to pay to obtain an excess for a flexible but time-restricted ticket. That would only apply if you held an Advance ticket (i.e. fixed to one or more specific trains) and wished to travel on a different train to that which you had booked.

Indeed, if it were not for the fact that Paddington station has ticket barriers on almost all platforms, then you would perfectly well be entitled to get the excess on-board the train - regardless of previous ticketing opportunities. This right is given by Condition 9.5 of the National Rail Conditions of Travel.

So in your case you should be charged the difference to the £44.10 Off-Peak Single route "via Stroud" if that's the one that is valid at the time you want to travel. So that would be £11.50 assuming you don't hold a relevant Railcard.

In practice I agree that many ticket office staff will claim that this is not possible due to a variety of spurious excuses, such as you having bought the ticket from another retailer, the fact that you bought it online, or the fact that it is a non-paper ticket. Some may even claim that you can't obtain an excess for time restrictions at all! A few of these reasons may be physically true (i.e. the clerk would get in trouble with their manager if they sold the excess contrary to internal company policies) but none are legally valid reasons to refuse to sell you the excess and to refuse to let you travel.

If you do, therefore, wish to travel during a time your Super Off-Peak ticket isn't valid, and you are unable to extract the required excess from a ticket office, I would make sure to have some kind of record of this (e.g. covert audio recording - contrary to popular myth this is not illegal in any way, even if some may find it discourteous). Then pay whatever they claim it is you need to pay, and raise a complaint afterwards seeking to recover the overpaid amount (and escalate this as required).

It's shambolic and unacceptable that there are cases where passengers have to be out of pocket to exercise rights the industry has chosen to give them, but poor training or misinformation is rife across the industry and the only recourse, in some cases, is to ultimately resort to the County Court. Unfortunately.

  • Paddington doesn't have ticket barriers on platforms 8 and 9. – Muzer Dec 6 '19 at 10:44
  • 1
    "if it were not for the fact that Paddington station has ticket barriers on almost all platforms, then you would perfectly well be entitled to get the excess on-board the train" Is this accurate? 6.1 states "You must have a valid Ticket to travel before you board a train where there was the opportunity to buy one" – Michael Dec 6 '19 at 11:51
  • @Muzer the cheltnham/swansea trains which are the ones I need to get in order to get to my destination seem to not have a set platform, even getting the exact same train one week to the next, sometimes there are barriers – Bee Dec 6 '19 at 11:56
  • Also, yes I do have a rail card, hence the difference between my number and the one on the answer, idea still holds I believe! – Bee Dec 6 '19 at 11:57
  • @Michael I can see why, if taken on its own, Condition 6.1 would appear to make it impermissible, or perhaps even illegal, to board without the excess where you had the opportunity to obtain it (and this is assuming that is the case - it's by no means guaranteed by the presence of a ticket office, as discussed in my answer!). However, you have to consider Condition 6.1 in the context of the NRCoT as a whole. In particular Condition 9.5 sets out the penalties for various types of ticketing mis-deeds. It specifically states the penalty for boarding with an invalid time-restricted ticket is 1/2 – RailPerson Dec 6 '19 at 14:42

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