The Trainline: Redux | October 20, 2006

So some of you may remember me berating the usability of the trainline webiste. Well it turns out that their off-line customer experience is no better than their online service.

With a couple of days to go until the journey, the tickets hadn’t arrived. I contacted their support line as instructed by the booking email, only to be told that they wouldn’t re-issue the tickets or provide a refund. As far as they were concerned the tickets had been sent, and if they were lost in the post, it wasn’t their problem.

It would seem that the address the tickets were sent to wasn’t complete. The address on the confirmation had the name of the company and the postcode, but no street address. The telephone operator asserted that this was my fault and the reason behind the problem. However when logging into the online system, the profile page contained the correct and full address.

Of course it is possible that this information was somehow lost or incorrectly entered. After all, the usability of the site was atrocious and this was my 6th attempt at completing the booking. Maybe I missed a crucial step or accidentally deleted some important information. However if the address line was vital to the booking, you would have thought that it would have been a mandatory field and the lack of this crucial information would have prevented the booking from being completed. But alas no. Despite having the correct address information on my account, the tickets were mailed out with a partial address and they never arrived.

Whether it was the fault of the booking system, the mail service or user error, the trainline had the opportunity to turn the problem round by issuing a new ticket. Had they done so, my impression of the company would have gone up significantly. However they chose to put all the blame and responsibility on the customer, and force me to buy a new ticket. Because of this, they have lost me as a customer forever.

The motto for the trainline is “The easy way to buy train tickets”, and if my experience is anything to go by, this is far from the truth. The irony is, it turns out that you can buy the tickets straight from the station at no extra cost. Rather than wasting 2 hours of my time and the cost of a ticket, I could have walked 10 minutes to the station and bought the tickets myself.

You live and learn

Posted at October 20, 2006 3:49 PM


anu said on October 20, 2006 7:13 PM

Completely agree about trainline - absolutely atrocious - blogged a bad experience with them here:

Danny Hope said on October 20, 2006 10:59 PM

We were booking some tickets today, starting at the Trainline website and I have to agree, the experience is dire.

What puzzles me is how a company has so much opportunity to gain revenue and generally contribute to people’s lives can singularly fail to realize how poor their service is.

Puts me in mind of an anecdote on Andy Hertzfelt’s Folklore site, where Steve Jobs talks about reducing the Macintosh’s startup time in terms of saving lives:

Imagine if the Trainline adopted that attitude.

adrian lansdown said on October 20, 2006 11:12 PM

I agree with you 100%

my friend had a problem that her tickets didn’t come on time and they blamed it on her. They then also pointed out that she wouldn’t be able to travel that day due to the line being closed for planned works.

Are there any other online options?
I have yet to find one that doesn’t link into

John Lampard said on October 22, 2006 3:23 AM

Well it turns out that their off-line customer experience is no better than their online service.
Surely you didn’t actually expect any better though?! This is the railway system we’re talking about here! ;)

Nick said on October 22, 2006 9:37 AM

My experience with wasn’t much better, but I’m glad I’ve opted to collect my tickets from the Fast Ticket machine.

Bea said on October 24, 2006 9:49 AM

Alas, I must agree. What I thought would be an effortless and seamless exercise has turned into a nightmare. I have been trying to book trains for our forthcoming holiday in the UK for the past TWO weeks. The times and availability (when eventually you get there) are great. So is the fare section. My problem is the actual booking. I am blocked every step of the way … and ummmmm I wonder if the universe is whispering to me. Can anyone suggest another way to book “firstminute” so I can take advantage of the savings? The ZAR/GBP ROE is scary at the moment!

Ben Ward said on October 24, 2006 9:58 PM

I once emailed the Trainline about their awful website. Asked if they could improve some of the features, and so on. Their customer service rep emailed back to say that he couldn’t help me with my enquiry and that I should post it to them instead. Amazing.

On a related note, I think now is a good time to dredge up a screenshot I took of the Trainline a little while back. Best. Error Message. Ever.

dusoft said on October 30, 2006 8:58 PM

It seems to me that railway services are same all over the world - not treating customer properly.

Adam McArdle said on October 31, 2006 9:02 AM

My girlfriend had a similar experience over summer with thetrainline. She wanted the tickets delivering to work, but had massive difficulty getting her workaddress to save into the system. This mostly seemed to be due to the face that her address is something like:

Company Name
Office 20, Bigwig Towers
40, High Street

Eventually she gave up and tried to put my work address in, which is a pretty normal address. After much struggling, we thought we’d cracked it, and went ahead and booked the tickets. The surprise came when the confirmation came through saying that the tickets could be posted to (part of) he work address. Fortunately, the bits they chose to use were enough to get the tickets to her, it looks like she had a lucky escape!