Come back GNER, all is forgiven

A short while ago Simon Collister asked me on Twitter what I thought of booking tickets with National Express East Coast, compared to its predecessor GNER.

The title of the post, should give you a clue.

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I can’t recall the GNER site ever being unavailable, whereas the National Express site is very flaky. On the surface the National Express site looks fantastic, with lots of AJAXy goodness, but it all counts for nowt because it is so anti-customer.

The most irritating thing for me is that it is DELIBERATELY designed to STOP you buying tickets. Tickets from Leeds to London are usually very expensive, but there is a perfectly legal way to usually cut the cost, and that is to split your tickets. So by buying tickets from Leeds to Peterborough (or Grantham or Stevenage) and then Peterborough to London you can end up paying less for exactly the same job. On the old GNER website it usually even allocated you the same seat reservations.

National Express has deliberately (I suspect) made this process harder than it should be by forcing you to artificially wait between booking tickets. It also makes it harder than it should be to book journeys for more than one day. Why would any company want to make it harder for you to give them business?

I guess, if they can be bothered to read this blog and respond, that they will have some excuse to do with “security”, but for me I was quite content with GNER’s clunky old website.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://puffbox.com Simon Dickson

    I've had no direct experience of GNER or their successor, but I'm quite prepared to buy the conspiracy theory that they're making it more difficult for you to pay the lowest legitimate price.

    In my case, it's the complexity of off peak fares. First Great Western make no effort to tell you which trains count as 'peak' and 'off peak'. Tickets for the former are roughly double the price of the latter. There's no easy rule of thumb, there's no indication in timetables, and there are no posters displayed. And if you ask any staff member for advice, you invariably get a different answer.

    It's not as if the policy of managing demand via differential fares is even working. I tend to take later trains whenever I can, more because I'm guaranteed a seat than because of the cash savings.

  • http://www.rainierpr.co.uk/blog Stephen Waddington

    Have you tried Trainline?

  • Bill

    The National Express East Coast Website makes it far easier to buy cheap tickets than the other online alternatives.

    I guess that the delay between transactions is a security issue, but then why would they encourage customers to split tickets? Anyway, you can purchase twpo different journeys in the same transaction so it's not an issue (you can't do this on trainline)

    As for normal tickets from A to B, I'd say they've gone out of there way to make it easier to find them.

    Firstly, you can see quickly whether it's cheaper to buy a return or combine two singles.

    They have a low fares finder which quickly points you to the cheapet fare on your travel dates. You can look at thw whole day in one go rather than looking at just 5 trains.

    They offer 10% off on a lot of fares thorugh their site.

    They don't charge fees for postage, ticket collection, credit cards or debit cards. Trainline charge for all of these.

    I use it regularly, and have necer had any availability problems

  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com Simon Collister

    Hi Stuart. I often think of you when commuting from Peterborough. This is only anecdotal but it seems to be that their trains are cancelled /delayed more than GNER's used to be plus they don;t seme to run as late.

    The website is atrocious – I booked a load of tickets recently and it was near impossible with the site failing half the time I used it.

    Bill's points above may be true about trainline.com but GNER' site was miles better.
    For more personal insights into one commuters NEX experience see http://gnercommuter.blog.co.uk/

  • http://profile.typekey.com/richardbailey/ Richard Bailey

    I've just given up on The Trainline because of all the new charges (for postage, for using a debit card), and have always resented that it defaults to charging you for insurance.

    Compared to this, I was motivated to persist with National Express (it took me two tries to order one set of tickets).

    Besides, the free wifi is a valuable bonus.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/richardbailey/ Richard Bailey

    I've just given up on The Trainline because of all the new charges (for postage, for using a debit card), and have always resented that it defaults to charging you for insurance.

    Compared to this, I was motivated to persist with National Express (it took me two tries to order one set of tickets).

    Besides, the free wifi is a valuable bonus.