We want to buy tickets, but we can’t! ….

Posted on December 28th, 2016, by The Chairman

Almost 3 years ago we published a post about how difficult it can sometimes be to buy tickets on our trains.

Three years later, this is still often a problem on both our Mid Cheshire Line and our Crewe-Liverpool line.

We regularly receive comments/moans from passengers about this. Shortly after we published our Winter 2016/17 Rail Report, we received 2 comments on the same day:


“I read with interest your article on Fares and Train Times in the latest Mid Cheshire Rail Report, and in particular with regard to Buying Tickets and the statement “.. we hear that conductors on the line have been told to be stricter about which tickets they should issue..”

“I travel frequently between Mouldsworth and Chester and my experience is that it is unusual for a conductor to attempt to sell me a ticket. Now there is no ticket office or machine at Mouldsworth, so I have to buy a ticket on the platform at Chester before exiting the barriers which more frequently than not are open and unmanned.

“On the train, when I quite clearly have been seen by the conductor, their default action seems to be to retreat into their “office” at the back of the train and not to re-emerge until arrival at Chester. And so I would guess the line overall loses revenue and passenger numbers are not being correctly collated both of which are not good for the long-term state of the line and service.

“This seems very unsatisfactory and I wonder whether, through the MCRUA, you would be able to bring this to the attention of Northern.


And ….

“Just an isolated example but it begs the question of how many travel for free on our line.

“My wife and I caught the 17:45 from Navigation Road yesterday evening to Knutsford. We were not approached for a ticket. To be fair, when we arrived at Knutsford I noticed it was a 4-car train, both 150s I think, so maybe access to the front coaches was not available. When we arrived at Knutsford my wife bought a return ticket from the ticket office.

“We returned on the 22:17 from Knutsford by which time the ticket office is closed. About 25-30 people boarded at Knutsford. But again we were not approached for tickets, this was a two car class 150 and the guard was a youngish girl who I had not seen before. She even wished us well at Navigation Road as we passed her.”

We passed both these examples on to Northern’s Central Region Director, Liam Sumpter. He’s thanked us for these.

Liam has told us he intends to do everything he can to make it easier for passengers to buy tickets and easier for conductors to sell tickets.

Let us know where you find yourself unable to buy a ticket, either by commenting on this post, or emailing me on john.oates(at)mcrua.org.uk.

Please leave a comment

  1. Black Five Says:

    Yesterday I travelled Northwich to Bache via Chester and back.

    A very warm welcome from Stuart at Northwich.

    Tickets never checked on train in both directions and barriers not manned at Chester – all day.

    Is it any wonder the Line is losing revenue?

    With engineering on the North Cheshire Line I am surprised the services have not been strengthened to 4 car units.

  2. Jen Says:

    It’s surprising Northern think services like the 17:28 Buxton to Piccadilly still need to operate as a 4 car 150, despite not continuing towards Bolton and Preston where the additional carriages are usually needed, yet continue to provide 2 car 142s on most Mid-Cheshire services when the Warrington Bank Quay to Manchester line is closed.

  3. User Says:

    Two journeys from last week.

    Chester to Lostock Gralam – four car train – unsurprisingly, no check in front pair of carriages where we sat.

    Northwich to Chester – no checks in front carriage where we sat but I saw occasional checks and sales in rear carriage.

    (In between our group visited the Anderton Boat Lift and the Lion Salt Works – two high quality attractions with an excellent cafe at the Boat Lift – didn’t try the Salt Works cafe).

  4. Judieco Says:

    There was a phone in on Radio Manchester this morning 9-10, Ted Robbins was standing in for Mike Sweeney.

    A lady rang in to say lots of people avoid paying at Victoria as you can get off the bridge without going down to the ticket barriers. Also the barriers are open at night as they are at Stockport.

  5. David Says:

    We caught the 0926 from Cuddington to Chester this morning. There was no heat and no guard selling tickets.

    As we approached Chester, he made some apology about not selling tickets due to something about revenue that I couldn’t hear.

    We went to the excess ticket window. It was closed. We explained the problem to a member of staff at the barrier who let us through and told us to go to the travel centre. I won’t tell what we did after that but the inconvenience extended our journey time by a third.

  6. Jen Says:

    Automated ticket barriers have to be left open if there are no revenue staff in attendance, otherwise someone could end up trapped in the station if they aren’t given an opportunity to buy a ticket or if they have a ticket which the barrier doesn’t accept. Although, I was surprised to find that Virgin stop staffing the automated barriers at Piccadilly at around 18:30 on Mondays.

  7. Simon Barber Says:

    I’ve worked with businesses in a lot of different industries and I’ve never come across a business which takes such a casual attitude to collecting revenue as the train operating companies seem to do.

  8. Judieco Says:

    Last Wednesday travelled from Altrincham to Knutsford on the 12:46.

    No checking of tickets.

  9. LisaH Says:

    They had ticket checkers at Navigation Road today. (I have a season but wonder if they were selling tickets there – there is no way of buying at the station)

  10. Navigation Man Says:

    Recent experience…

    12 Jan
    Navigation Road to Stockport on 0704 – No check
    Piccadilly to Navigation Road 17:09 – No check apart from gate check at Piccadilly.

    13 Jan
    Navigation Road to Piccadilly 0704 – No check apart from gate check at Piccadilly, although there was a “Does anyone need tickets” shouted out.

  11. User Says:

    Wednesday 11 January

    09:59 Chester to Lostock Gralam

    Ticket checks and sales in both coaches

    16:14 Northwich to Chester

    Ticket checks and sales in both coaches

    In both cases the train was moderately busy and the only way the conductor was able to do the checks and sales was by delaying opening the doors when we got to a station. It demonstrated the difficulty of combining both tasks and also the requirement to do the doors from the rear.

    On the 09:59 from Chester it was a four-car unit but the rear pair were locked so everyone including the conductor was in the front pair. Sensible.

  12. Peter Says:

    “the only way the conductor was able to do the checks and sales was by delaying opening the doors when we got to a station” and people say driver operated doors is a bad thing…

  13. Michael Ross Says:

    Monday 16 January. 18:04 Chester to Mobbelrey – ticket checks and sales. 20:55 Mobberley to Chester – ticket checks and sales.

  14. The Chairman Says:

    It’s not just the Mid Cheshire Line ….

    Today I caught the 0749 from Mobberley to Piccadilly, unit 150272. We left Mobberley with 27 standing in the carriage at the rear, and I could see plenty standing in the front one. We were 2 minutes late. The conductor did not attempt to come through, probably sensible as she would hardly have sold any tickets without making the train even later by the time she’d struggled to get back to the rear to open the doors at stations. After Navigation Road she started selling tickets, but her machine gave up. She returned to the back, rebooted it, coming out 5 minutes later. Some tickets were sold by Stockport, with the whole of the train covered between there and Piccadilly.

    I then caught Northern’s 0852 from Piccadilly to Lime Street. There were no ticket checks or sales throughout. I appreciate all stations called at have open ticket offices and some have barriers, but a number don’t have. So a trip ending at, say, St Helens Junction would have been easy to make without showing a ticket.

    Returning from Lime Street on the 1316 was the same. No ticket checks or sales.

    Then on our 1417 from Piccadilly, tickets were fully checked and sales made after Stockport and again between Hale and Mobberley a full check and sales took place. I noticed two people buying tickets after Hale who had been on my morning train, so had probably travelled without a ticket in the morning.

  15. Edd Says:


    09:43 Knutsford to Altrincham – RPIs did ticket check at Knutsford station. Conductor came through to sell tickets to those boarding at Mobberley and Ashley.

    16:46 Altrincham to Knutsford – Train too full for conductor to be able to get through.

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