Have you ever considered what you would do if your usual transport route was suddenly blocked? How would you get to your destination? How much would it cost you? The aim of this blog post is to help you come up with a Plan B – just in case.
On Friday Morning (5th October 2012), thousands of commuters using the Tyne and Wear Metro to Newcastle were delayed because of power supply problems between Four Lane Ends/Regents Centre and Gateshead. The line was closed for seven hours and many passengers had unnecessary delays because they had not planned for a closure and the alternative options available to them.
As a regular traveller on a specific route, you should look at the available alternatives. FixMyTransport often receives problems from passengers who get caught up in delays – and they are usually complaining about a lack of information.
But if you plan ahead by following the points below, you can minimise the stress that transport disruption causes.
What can I find out?
It’s smart to check your service before you travel.
Twitter Most operators are on Twitter. Even if you don’t follow them (updates about the service can become tedious) you can still check their page just before you set off.
Twitter also offers a great way to find out the nature of any disruptions, and what alternatives are available. If you use trains, find out what your route is called and the three letter codes for your stations – that will help you grasp your operator’s updates more easily.
It’s not only the operators who have the latest news – sometimes commuters themselves are the most immediate source. It’s worth ‘getting to know’ a few frequent travellers on Twitter, and then you can all inform one another when you come up against an issue.
Phone numbers If your operator is not on Twitter, they will at least have a phone number clearly displayed on their website or print materials. Save it to your phone. To be extra safe, find out who alternative providers are, and save their numbers too.
News Keep an eye on places like the BBC local news, your local newspaper’s website, the operator’s websites or Facebook page, BBC Travel, or National Rail. It can be helpful to check just before you depart that your route is running OK.
With this information before you travel, you can make better plans to avoid the issue. This may involve staying at work/home, getting dinner somewhere else or setting off later/earlier.
What are the alternatives?
Tickets Can your ticket normally be used on other forms of transport? Check the terms and conditions while you have the leisure to do so – that kind of knowledge is invaluable when your habitual means of transport breaks down.
Cash If you needed cash for a bus or taxi, where would you get it? In city centres, it is easy. Rural areas are a lot more difficult, so plan ahead.
Food and drink If you are forced onto an alternative, maybe longer, route, you may want to pick up some food or water for the journey. If you’re in no rush, consider eating out near your departure point – then you can avoid the rush hour, or let any crowds clear.
Trains If the line was closed, could you go to a different destination, or is there any way to avoid the place where the disruption has arisen – eg could you get a taxi, or a lift, to a point further down the line? If Rail Replacement Buses were operating, do you know where you would go to pick up the bus?
Buses Research and make a note of the bus routes that run reasonably parallel to your transport route. Check the frequency. If they run every few minutes then you won’t really need a timetable, but if it is only hourly, you may want to look at other alternatives as well. Link to their timetable on your phone and you may want to add their phone number too, so you can find out if they are running.
Taxis Don’t be afraid to look at taxis if they can get you in and out of the area that is causing you a problem. Store the phone numbers of taxis at both ends of your journey. There is nothing worse than getting to a station after the last bus has gone and not knowing the number for the taxi.
Cycle If you’re travelling with your bike, you might be able to cycle part of the route – but if not, look around. It’s not just London that has a bike hire scheme. Other cities are catching on – see, for example, Brompton Bike lockers – or just find the nearest cycle-hire shop.
Walking It’s worth considering: could you walk between certain stops?
Parking If you drive part of your regular journey, can you park at an alternative stop or station? Will this cost more money?
Learn from your experience! Did your back-up plans work? Was there anything else that you could have done or did you discover something new?
Tell the operator If you were affected by any major delays, raise the issue with the operator. On the railways, they should provide you with some money back. On the buses, some operators are starting to provide refunds for delays that are their fault.
Jenny uses the Tyne and Wear Metro between Four Lane Ends and Newcastle Central every day. She is a five minute walk from Newcastle Central. She usually parks her car in the car park at Four Lane Ends.
Information Check BBC Newcastle/BBC Travel/Evening Chronicle Website/@my_metro
Tickets Jenny has a two zone Metro Season Ticket.
Alternatives There are carparks in other places on the Metro network (Regents Centre, Kingston Park and Northumberland Park) and Newcastle
She could take a train to Newcastle round via the coast
She could consider buses from Four Lane Ends to Newcastle(Stagecoach) or Go North East – X5, 55, 62 and 63
Taxi – Four Lane Ends is service by a number of taxi firms.
Cycle – Whipbikes operate cycle hire in Newcastle.
Walking routes – Not really an option for the full route although she can walk out of Newcastle into Jesmond or South Gosforth to Four Lane Ends.
Food/Drink – plenty of shops for snacks. Wetherspoons near Central for a meal.
I hope that this post has achieved its aim of making you think about alternative options if your regular route were blocked. I would love to see your plans and suggestions so please post them below, email or tweet them.
Photo Credit – Roger Price
Image credit: Sarah G.
It is an awful feeling when you realise that you have become separated from your property whilst travelling on public transport. It is a common issue on FixMyTransport, and that’s why we have created this useful guide for you.
If you are viewing this before or just after losing something, and you are still on transport premises, my first piece of advice is to inform a member of staff as soon as possible. They can offer useful tips, and some are extremely good at locating lost property because of their contacts (whether it is getting a colleague to check the vehicle at its destination or contacting an onboard member of crew to check the seat you were on). There are a lot of good Samaritans out there who hand things in. If you experience one, please do thank them.
You can report lost property through FixMyTransport but to be honest, you’ll get better and quicker results by contacting the operators through their dedicated lost property channels, particularly by phone. My advice would be to phone them first and follow it up with an email or fill in the form provided (see the details below).
Lost property comes in all shapes and sizes, as you can see from the picture above. However, a significant majority of it is tickets, electronics and cycles. The first is because they’re small, and everyone has one. The law of averages says that a certain proportion will get mislaid! Sadly, the latter two categories are often not lost, but stolen.
A good piece of advice is to write your phone number on your ticket-holder – quickly done, with a black marker, perhaps on the fold. You may want to add your postcode too, in case your phone disappears with your ticket.
The British Transport Police have a number of useful tips on their website that tackle mobile phone theft and loss.
Note down the important details of your phone and keep them in a safe place (IMEI, SIM card number and phone number). In addition, get it registered with Immobilise, which numerous police forces support.
The British Transport Police offer cycle crime awareness sessions to show how to reduce the risk of bike theft. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed (@btp_uk) to see when they’re in your area.
Chief Inspector Derek O’Mara provides further advice:
“There are a number of measures cyclists can take to reduce their chances of becoming a victim, lock your bike whenever you leave it, preferably with a D Lock, which is a heavy steel lock in a D or U shape. When you lock your cycle, try to fit the bike stand, the rim of one of the wheels and the cycle frame into the D, this will make it harder for thieves to take and there’ll also be less space in the D which will prevent thieves from inserting bars or jacks to lever the lock.
“Wherever possible leave your bike in a busy, well-lit area which is covered by CCTV and please also ensure that your cycle has been property marked and fitted with an electronic tracing system or tag to help locate it in the event of a theft.
“Make sure your cycle is insured, keep a photograph of it and note the frame number and any markings which will help police to identify any stolen bikes that are recovered.”
Reporting lost property
These links were last checked in September 2012. If you spot a broken link or an error, please contact the FixMyTransport Team.
Arriva Trains Wales – http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/lostproperty/
C2C – http://www.c2c-online.co.uk/on_board_trains/baggage_information/lost_property
Chiltern Railways – http://www.chilternrailways.co.uk/help/lost-property
Crosscountry – http://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk/customer-service/lost-property
East Coast – http://www.eastcoast.co.uk/on-board-our-trains/baggage-and-pets/lost-property/
East Midlands Trains – http://www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk/site-information/contact-east-midlands-trains/
Eurostar – http://www.eurostar.com/UK/uk/leisure/travel_information/at_the_station/baggage.jsp#l
First Capital Connect – https://www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk/customer-care/lost-property/
First Great Western – http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/About-Us/Customer-services/Lost-Property
First Transpennine Express – http://www.tpexpress.co.uk/contact-us/
Gatwick Express – http://www.gatwickexpress.com/en/contact-us/customer-services/lost-property/
Grand Central – http://www.grandcentralrail.com/contact-us
Greater Anglia – http://www.greateranglia.co.uk/contact-us/contact-form/lost_property
Hull Trains – http://www.hulltrains.co.uk/FAQ.php#FAQ12
Island Line – Ryde Esplanade Railway Station or 01983 562 492 – http://onthewight.com/2012/02/27/island-line-train-lost-property-where-to-find-it/
London Midland – http://www.londonmidland.com/contact/lost-property/
London Overground – See TfL
Merseyrail – http://www.merseyrail.org/your-journey/lost-property.html
Northern Rail – http://www.northernrail.org/northern/lost_property
Scotrail – http://www.scotrail.co.uk/travelinfo/faqs.html
Southern Railway – http://www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/customer-services/lost-property/
South Eastern- http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/your-journey/lost-property/
South West Trains – http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/Lost-Property.aspx
Translink – http://www.translink.co.uk/Enterprise/Footer/Enterprise-FAQs/
Virgin Trains – http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/contact/
Buses (outside London)
Due to the number of operators, I have not listed each operator’s lost property webpage. My advice would be to search for who operates your route on FixMyTransport, then Google for the operator’s website and find a phone number. If you are trying to do this out of office hours, you should also email them.
Transport for London
TfL have the following useful page for Lost Property.
I used the FixMyTransport website to find out more about what you should do if you lost your Oyster Cards. Rishi Ganjuly from the Oystercard Helpdesk gave me this advice:
For issues regarding lost or stolen Oyster cards, customers should be directed towards the following page on the Transport for London website.
Customers may report an Oyster card lost or stolen via their Oyster Online account. Once a customer has logged in they will see a heading on the left that states: ‘Lost or stolen card’. Click this and follow the instructions.
Alternatively, customers may call our Oyster card Helpline on 0845 330 9876 with their Oyster card number and answer to the security question. Our telephone agents will then be able to talk them through the process and arrange for the Oyster card to be deactivated.
Theft and Stolen Property
Theft and pickpocketing are crimes that occasionally happen on the UK Public Transport network. Although the British Transport Police focus on the railways (National Rail, London Underground, Midland Metro, Croydon Tramlink, Sunderland Metro and the Glasgow Subway), they have a number of useful pages that are helpful to all public transport users in the bid to combat crime.
In an emergency
British Transport Police: 0800405040
Local Police Force: 101
Ticket offices are opening for shorter times, and it’s more common to buy tickets online for collection from a station these days. Consequently, ticket machines are becoming more and more important – and have more potential to frustrate the unwary passenger.
FixMyTransport users have reported a wide range of ticket machine issues. The good news is that they often relate to problems that are easy to fix, and we have had some good results in this area.
So, what causes passengers frustration? Well, there are ticket machines with screens that are impossible to read. There are ticket machines that are out of order, although in this case SouthEastern do explain how this is handled and how the passenger should not end up paying more than the original fare.
There can be long queues when machines are out of action, raising the question of whether it is reasonable to abandon the queue and buy a ticket on the train. Despite rail companies specifying maximum queueing times in their passenger charters, it is unclear whether this gives passengers any rights to abandon a queue. Passengers are also rightly concerned when little seems to be done to make sure they are travelling with valid tickets.
Finding out who is responsible for problems at a particular ticket machine can also be a challenge – but one we can help you with.
Then there’s the issue of collecting pre-paid tickets from machines.
Some stations allow you to pick up pre-paid tickets at the ticket office; some insist you only use the machines. Some companies will allow you to travel with just the booking information if you join a train at an unstaffed station with no machines (Greater Anglia recently said they allow this, and you can travel until you get to a station where you can pick it up), whereas other companies don’t. If you know the policy of your local operator, please tell us in a comment below. It’d be great to compile a definitive list!
Unfortunately for passengers at stations such as Liverpool South Parkway, there are no ticket machines, and even if there were, none of Merseyrail’s machines support pre-paid ticket pick-up. And even if you find a machine at your station, it is easy to pick the wrong ticket due to the complex fares system.
Buying a ticket in advance is not always the solution: many machines will only issue tickets for travel on the same day, and those which do sell tickets for the next day often limit them to expensive peak ones for travel early the following morning.
Many franchises have commitments to electronic ticketing and this will eventually help reduce the dependency on machines. Until then, if you’re infuriated by any ticket machine issues, FixMyTransport can be used to support campaigns pushing for improvements. That’s got to be better than the traditional method of giving the machine a good kick and swearing a blue streak.