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I would like to share my TGV Lyria experince and see if my complaint is reasonable.

A few month ago I was traveling from Paris to Zurich and I missed my train. I bought the standard ticket which could not be exchanged once the train departed. I was maybe 2 minutes late and they didn't allow me to pass the gate. I went to the custom service and then the train departed. Later I argued with them and they insisted that I should buy another ticket. I ended up paying two fixed tickets for this trip. From this I learned that next time if I know I would miss the train I should stop running and quickly exchange the ticket for free in the app.

This was not the complaint because today something even more frustrated happened:

So my friend planned to come visit me this weekend from Paris to Zurich. I bought one ticket for him on the OUI.sncf app and sent him the screenshot of the ticket. He missed the train exactly the way I did (saw the train there but couldn't enter the gate). Later that day there was another train and he went to the custom service and he was asked to buy another ticket. He paid the same money (130 euro) and bought a ticket for later time.

When he chatted with me about this I was very upset because it happened again. I went to the app and trying to figure out how to complaint. And then I saw that I could click my ticket and refund and it worked?! I chatted with my friend and said "no worry I refunded my ticket and only 30 euro was lost." At this time my friend was still waiting in the train station for the next train. Later he scaned his new ticket for the new train and it didn't work (I didn't know how he bought the new ticket), the people on the gate let him through.

Things seemed a bit positive until later that time my friend called me that he was asked by the ticket inspector on the train that his ticket was invalid due to refund? I started realizing that the ticket on my app was my friend's new ticket. We both thought it was my old expired ticket. The conversatoin with the ticket inspectors were not so successful, they assumed my friend intented to skip a ticket. They tried charging him 240 euro (I guess it's full fare maybe plus fine). The credit card machine was not working after 4th or 5th tries and they assumed my friend's credit card had no money. They asked my friend's passport and address and said that they would send the fine by mail and maybe put it on some record. My friend asked them repeatedly to provide another credit card machine and in the end one of the inspector found one and charged in CHF instead, they charged 299 CHF (209 CHF for full fare and 90 CHF for maybe fine). My friend later kept asking them whether they remove the record and the ticket inspector said yes.

The whole thing was so frustrated that I just keep thinking about it. I admitted there are issues on our side (late for train, clicked refund button). But I still felt something wrong here:

  1. For my train experience in Switzerland/Italy/Germany I didn't see that you cannot quickly exchange the ticket when you are just late to catch the train. Also for flights it happens as well. I know the terms are written on the ticket but still I feel it wrong and a fully flexible ticket is 50 euro more and the only thing it does it's that you can exchange free 2 hours after it departs.

  2. It's my mistake that I didn't check what ticket I was refunding. The fact is that I couldn't tell. The code was the same and only the time updated and which I missed. (update) My refund was sucessful before the train depart so my friend was using a refunded ticket and couldn't pass the gate, he didn't know his ticket was refunded and asked the people there and they let him through. From this I think it's not just our mistake and they also didn't check carefully and they have a gate!

  3. For this trip due to all the frustrated things we've at least paid 130 (1st ticket) + 30 (refund fee) and we still didn't have a valid ticket and had to pay 299CHF on the train. And the inspector was like oh you didn't have a ticket and I would let you pay. I know it's their jobs but I would be less upset if they could try to understand what happened and not treated us as someone who didn't want to buy a ticket. It was my fault and I was very upset for the trouble caused to my friend.

I post here just want to hear your opinion/suggestion and maybe more objective. After talking to my friend my claims are more clear now:

  1. Confirm there is not any sort of record as we were not intent to skip a ticket. And besides we are allowed to go on the train with an invalid ticket (which we were not aware of) and this was not our fault.
  2. As we were not intent to skip a ticket I would like to request removal of fine. I would be ok to pay the extra 130 euro due to our mistakes but 299 CHF was too much.
  3. My friend was treated very bad by those two ticket inspectors who might just do their job. I would like to ask some sort of apologies but honestly I think it would be hard.

Thanks for all the comments and after syncing with my friend I've made it clear my claim and updated the above text. I would reach out to them and see what would happen.


Sep 21, 2021:

Just want to give you some update that I reached out to TGV Lyria custom services and they did reply and

  1. Confirmed there was no fine/record as the fine was paid on board

  2. The fine was paid in CFF but not in SNCF system so that they could not remove the fine easily and instead they offered some 100 CHF vouchers.

  3. They acknowledged my feedback and would share the feedback with the team.

I think it's great that I heard from them and they acknowledged that it was (largely my) mistake but not intention.

Thank you all for the feedback and thanks TGV Lyria for the response.

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    What were the terms of the ticket? They were nearly certainly explicit shown to you before booking, and possibly written on the ticket itself. If you were both late and the tickets were not exchangeable/refundable after departure, it’s perfectly normal you had to buy new tickets, as you were no shows. You didn’t want to pay more for flexible tickets which could have been exchanged or refunded after departure, the same thing would have happened with equivalent fares on any other train company or airline.
    – jcaron
    Sep 11 at 20:19
  • I usually bought ticket on the app and I did understand the term and it clearly says not exchangeable/refundable after departure. So +50 euros for 2h flexiable is totally normal?
    – code6
    Sep 11 at 20:23
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    What, in your opinion, did the train company do wrong, exactly?
    – Berend
    Sep 11 at 20:37
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    Note that it is a common scam for people to board the train and then cancel tickets which allow cancellation after departure (flexible fares allow you to do so online within 30 or 45 minutes or so of departure), hoping not to be checked on board (which is more frequent when there is a check before boarding). I've seen people do so, try to plead an error, but be faced by a wall. Having a cancelled ticket is the same as having no ticket at all, and usually results in a fine.
    – jcaron
    Sep 11 at 23:52
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    My opinion is that you shouldn't buy fixed-time tickets anymore. The flex-time tickets exist for a reason. They're a bit more expensive, but I'm guessing they're nowhere near as expensive as buying two fixed-time tickets. Trains in Europe are non-negotiable on departure time, so if you find it difficult to make it to the gate on time (due to Paris traffic or whatever), buy a flex ticket and take a load off your mind. I've bought fixed-time tickets before and lived to regret it. Now I always buy the flex price and don't worry about the unexpected.
    – Kyralessa
    Sep 12 at 11:16
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In my experience, you are unlikely to get anything for the trains you missed. I know people who got lucky by pleading their case with a Thalys employee on the platform but this all seems in line with SNCF rules and practices.

Note that if you were able to pay for a ticket on the train, the train guard was in fact showing some understanding for your situation. If they didn't, they can impose a €50 fine on top of the regular fare (more if they suspect deliberate fraud). Legally, this €50 fee is an actual fine (contravention in French), which can be collected by the French tax office (unlike, e.g., fees imposed by banks or utilities).

It's true that it can be frustrating and that train travel works differently in different European countries (or even between different operators or different types of trains) but that's not going to change the outcome.

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  • Thanks for your answer! I need to check with my friend for whether there was a fine. It seemed he had to pay more but I need to double check. Well again it might be hard to challenge.
    – code6
    Sep 11 at 20:49
  • @code6 If there was a fine there is a slim chance to get it removed. Be apologetic, insist that it was an honest mistake and that you are happy to pay the full price of the fare as evidenced by your other purchases, etc. Don't dwell on the fact that you were only late by x min, could still see the train or that it works differently in Germany or anything like that.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 11 at 20:52
  • I just synced with my friend and he did pay more (300 CHF) and the ticket inspector was taking his passport and threating to add some record. According to my friend they (two of them) were hard to communiate with and assumed he intented to not buy a ticket. I will talk to the custom service and try to phrase as you suggested.
    – code6
    Sep 11 at 21:48
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Sorry, I understand your frustration but I don't see what the train company has done wrong.

  1. You were late. If you are not at the boarding gate at the gate closing time or on the platform at departure time there is no obligation to wait.
  2. If you have a fixed time ticket and you don't show the ticket is invalidated as spelled out in the terms on conditions that you signed and agreed to when you bought the ticket. If you don't like this terms, you need to buy a flex ticket. Yes, it's substantially more expensive, but it also represents more value.
  3. You cancelled and refunded the wrong ticket.

What exactly do you think the train company did wrong here? Do you feel that there are any rules or terms of the contract that they didn't adhere to?

but I would try to reach out to the custom service team to see what would happen.

In all likelihood nothing would happen. They will simply ignore it or maybe send you an automatic form letter along the lines "we are sorry you had a bad experience, we'll try to do better next time".

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  • Thanks for your answer! I totally agree with what you said. For "What exactly do you think the train company did wrong here? Do you feel that there are any rules or terms of the contract that they didn't adhere to?" yeah I don't seem to have valid claim.
    – code6
    Sep 11 at 20:46
  • I've updated my claim and identified one thing I think they did wrong, they have a gate and they allowed my friend to pass the gate with an already refunded ticket. We didn't know the ticket was refunded and I think this was their mistake, they should have identified and told my friend that the ticket was invalid.
    – code6
    Sep 12 at 14:12
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What went wrong here is you bought "the cheap seats" and did not read or understand the terms and conditions, aka the "fine print", or think all that much about what makes them the "cheap seats".

a fully flexible ticket is 50 euro more and the only thing it does it's that you can exchange free 2 hours after it departs...

That feature is specifically for people who like to "shave it really close" on arriving at the station. And it doesn't take a whole lot of introspection to realize that's definitely you - I bet you do that all the time, have honed it to a fine art, and are even a bit proud of the skill!

Believe me, I know how that can be - so many lovely things to do near train stations in places that are not Ohio, and smart-phone clocks are so accurate that you know exactly the time you have to spare.

So it sounds to me like you were caught off-guard by the early-arrival requirements, and the existence of that flexible ticket didn't sufficiently clue you into the use-case for it.

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When it comes to train travel France is different from Switzerland. In Switzerland it is perfectly Ok to be on the platform 1 second before the doors close. The conductor will even hold the train a few seconds so you can still get on. And it is normal that tickets can be used on the next train when you miss one. And there are no gates to slow you down from the street to the train.

Buy a TGV ticket in France however, and the ticket says clearly that you have to be on the platform at least three minutes before the train leaves. And Gare de Lyon has gates. And these close a few minutes before departure. So planning to be at the station at the last moment is in France never a good idea.

The railway did not do anything wrong here. This is just a case of certain expectations not being met by reality.

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  • Are you certain this text appears on the ticket? I looked for images of TGV train tickets but I couldn't find one that stated (in French or anything else) that one has to be at the platform 3 minutes before departure.
    – Kyralessa
    Sep 12 at 11:21
  • Yes I did see that the ticket on the app explicitly mentioned that we need to board 2 mins before departure. And indeed we get used to trains in switzerland as normally long distance train you pretty much get a ticket for the whole day and you can take whatever train suitable for you. And there is not gate at all. For what the railway did wrong I think they assumed we intented to skip a ticket and did fine us 300 CHF on the train (and threatened a record). This might be as well as regular practice but I find it too hard to accept and I will challenge this.
    – code6
    Sep 12 at 11:53
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    Even in Switzerland, there are tickets which are only valid on a specific train. If you miss it, you can't hop on the next one without buying a new ticket. In France this varies with the type of train, but all TGV services have compulsory reservation and all TGV tickets are associated with a specific train.
    – jcaron
    Sep 12 at 14:21
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    These supersaver tickets are however a recent thing, and most people still buy tickets they expect to be useable on any train on a route. Sep 13 at 15:21

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