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24 February 2011, 06:00 | Updated: 7 March 2011, 16:57
Some train passengers in the Thames Valley are paying almost double the cost of tickets because of poor advice from station staff, according to a report by Which? Magazine out today.
Heart has been told 9 out of 10 passengers hoping to make two round trips from Oxford to Cardiff a week were advised to buy two returen tickets costing £200 each, while if they had bought a weekly season ticket, they would have saved £112.
Which? said that 59 percent of station ticket clerks and 43 percent of operators on the National Rail Inquiries' line failed to advise passengers about cheaper options available.
Researchers questioned 1,515 people who had travelled by train in the last 12 months, as well as going undercover and pretending to be passengers themselves. Only half of people questioned said they felt confident they knew how to get the best possible fare for their journey, while 54 percent were satisfied overall with train services.
Which? Chief Executive Peter Vickary-Smith said, "Train operators seem blind to the fact that their ticketing systems are too complicated.
"If people who do this for a living can't find the cheapest fare, what hope to passengers have?"
But First Great Western and the Association of Train Operating Companies do not agree.
In a statement given to Heart they told us:
"This research is seriously misleading and misrepresentative.
Which? claims that two out of five passengers are not offered the cheapest tickets by rail staff and National Rail Enquiries, but crucially fails to mention that most of the questions used in its research specifically exclude the cheapest fares.
Which’s claim that only 54 percent of passengers are satisfied with train services needs to be treated with a great deal of caution. Even though the magazine only surveyed 1,500 people, it claims its research is ‘more accurate’ than that of the independent watchdog Passenger Focus, which twice a year samples more than 27,000 passengers and whose latest survey found that 84 percent were satisfied with train services."