back to article Brit Railcard buyers face lengthy, unexplained delays. Sound familiar?

Brits have found themselves facing long delays in acquiring Railcards following a week of mysterious technical problems at Doubtless seeking to recreate the daily joy of actually travelling on the British rail network, the discount card outfit, owned by the UK's Rail Delivery Group, has left users twiddling …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Let me tell you about my rail journey on Saturday. I was travelling from Chester to Horsham. Now I know that Euston was closed, since I use it a lot for work.

    So ignoring the official recommendations from Virgin to 'Not to travel to London', because I had to get to Horsham that day, I booked a train journey. So first train out, which was avoiding the west coast mainline and going via every station in the NW, stopped after 10 mins due to points failure. So we returned to the station.

    Next, grabbing a bus to Crewe, I managed to board a train heading to Wolverhampton.

    Ok so far, my route and connections were changing hourly according to nationalrail.

    Wolverhampton I ended up going to Reading. One very, very packed ride later (due to more people travelling on this line due to Euston shutdown and the fact the previous train had also been cancelled), I hit Reading and then took a train for Redhill.

    Train to Redhill, I made with 10 minutes to spare, so I didn't risk trying to find the main toilets and thought I would go on the train. Bad mistake as the one toilet on this train was out of order. Apparently it had been reported on the 24th of July. So that is alright then.

    So I wait it out heading for Dorking Deepdene. Except when we got to Guildford the train refused to go any further because a 'button had stuck down in the cab'.

    So then finding another train going to Gatwick. Ok so far.

    Get to Gatwick, which I believe was having its own troubles, I get a train to Horsham.

    So at least there is redundancy in the system. And obvious benefits from a privatised rail system.* Or semi-privatised.

    On the plus side, the majority of people pulled together and put brave faces on and helped each other out for the most part. This was nice to witness.

    *For those that miss such subtle signs, this was sarcasm, btw.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Why couldn't you just buy an old junker of a car with a few months MOT and drive there? The trip would be free in a way if you sold the car off for scrap.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I recently had the pleasure of travelling on the rail network in the UK (MCR airport to Edinburgh). I guess I got off lucky with one cancellation and a two-hour wait for the next one, which I would be allowed to take because of the ticket I bought? How do you guys cope with this?

      I think there is a not so secret plan to cut the North West and probably most of Scotland off from the rest of the rail network.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        re: cut off Scotland?

        The Politico's in Edinburgh won't let that happen. They have spent a load of dosh on new Sleeping Coaches for the Euston to Edinburgh/Glasgow/Aberdeen/Inverness/Fort Wiliam service.

        Then the North will come under the rule of Andy Burnham (former Labor Minister and now Mayor of Manchester) and pals.

        They'll Nationalise it and spend loads of money doing [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]...

        Hmmmm. Perhaps this is a good plan. Can the Treasury get Scotrail and Northern with all their debts off the books in London. That will allow the Gubbermint to claim that they have reduced the national debt! Success!

        Where's the cyncal old geezer icon when you need one?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: re: cut off Scotland?

          The provider of ScotRail train services is tendered directly by the Scottish Government, so its finances won’t be showing up in the quasi-Federal Government’s accounts anyway.

    3. SVV Silver badge

      I see that you didn't say the bit about the massive disruption on the system and the people pulling together and putting a brave face on were sarcasm though, proving that our current leaders have managed to deliver us an experience approaching the comfort and convenience of wartime.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: "an experience approaching the comfort and convenience of wartime"

        Complete with hardware that dates back to those days and maintenance procedures that, apparently, are scheduled when the lorry with the spares manages to get through.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: "an experience approaching the comfort and convenience of wartime"

          when the lorry with the spares manages to get through.

          Soon to be never then after all the foreign drivers take the ferry home. Rail travel in the UK is expensive (both for the consumer and the taxpayer), unreliable and uncomfortable.

          Single to Pimlico, please!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I renewed my Senior Railcard a week yesterday. It arrived on Friday.

    Oh shit!!!!! Perhaps it was me that broke the system? I'd better post AC just in case.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Phew!

      I renewed my Senior Railcard a week yesterday. It arrived on Friday.

      Oh shit!!!!! Perhaps it was me that broke the system? I'd better post AC just in case.

      Hmm, I think you'll be OK as long as you didn't use the name Robert '); DROP TABLE Customers; --

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Railcard Head Orifice

    A disused signal box on a spur line that went out with Dr Beeching, inside an aging railway porter struggling to put tapes into a Sinclair connected to a dial up modem and a wind up telephone.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: Railcard Head Orifice

      At least it wasn't microdrive.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Railcard Head Orifice

      So an improvement on Gatwick's information screens then.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Railcard Head Orifice

        It has been upgraded from cards punched with a pencil based on telegraph tape received.

  4. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Railcards are handy if they work

    I have one but the bad thing is you must remember to take it physically with you when you travel otherwise get fined or told off or whatever. Luckily there is also an Android app which will do instead. Unluckily if you already have a plastic card you can't also use the app so I was screwed. To do it via the app you have to do complicated stuff involving taking your passport somewhere.

    If you can cope with the mental stress though it does cut your train costs considerably.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Railcards are handy if they work

      Really there should be one National Rail app which manages purchases and the wallet containing railcards and train tickets. National Rail defines physical tickets after all.

      Unfortunately if it's anything like the National Rail Enquiries app then it won't be that good an experience...

  5. Korev Silver badge

    Britain's ticketing is antiquated

    Here in Switzerland, you can buy tickets via their website or an app. You can then print it or just show them your phone. They even have the "halbtax" (half price) card linked so when the guard scans the ticket your photo appears on their phone so they know it's you. You can also buy an integrated bus/tram/train ticket.

    I haven't travelled in France as much, but I've also happily bought tickets on my phone before.

    I don't know why the British trains hold on to such old and nasty systems for most of the country.

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Britain's ticketing is antiquated

      You can also buy an integrated bus/tram/train ticket.

      As you can also do for many cities in the UK, it's called a "PlusBus" ticket, and the nice thing about it is that the bus part of it is also discounted if you have a Railcard. In London, the public transport systems (except for taxis) are all completely integrated, but you actually don't need to do anything as primitive as buy a ticket if you have a contactless debit or credit card.

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Britain's ticketing is antiquated

      "I don't know why the British trains hold on to such old and nasty systems for most of the country."

      Because there's no incentive for them to invest in anything.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Britain's ticketing is antiquated

      It depends on the train company. Some will let you show PDF tickets on your phone or store them in your Apple Wallet. Others want you to print out PDFs or collect them at the station.

      Now what happens when you buy a ticket online from a company which offers all the bells and whistles and part of your trip requires changing to a train run by a company which only offers printouts or collected tickets is anyone's guess.

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Britain's ticketing is antiquated

      I don't know why the British trains hold on to such old and nasty systems for most of the country.

      Virtually everything you said about Swiss trains is true of British trains. When I buy a ticket on my phone, its immediately there as an eticket, scannable at the gates. My travelcard, if I have one, is linked in to that system, so when I purchase the ticket it is the discount fare and the photocard ID is linked to the ticket.

      This is about buying the travelcard though, not the tickets. From a quick perusal of SBB's website, looks like I can apply for that online or in-person. Oh shit, the same old and nasty systems as Britain...

      Our rolling stock is much shitter however. And their websites work..

  6. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    "Rail Delivery Group" Thank you, I needed that fillip of levity.

    Me, I blame the Norks, the people ostensibly from Norcolk.

  7. Paul Johnston

    Plus Bus

    Here in the North West it is called a County Card.

    Train Bus and limited trams all included.

    The only problem is it isn't in anyway "smart" and so whenever there is an automated barrier I have to find someone to let me through as there is no bar/QR code on it!

    Anyone who goes into Manchester Piccadilly will testify this can be fun.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Americans have to envy you...

    We don't even HAVE passenger rail, except for a tiny part around Washington DC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Americans have to envy you...

      Given the efforts that the US made to wipe out its rail network, there are actually a surprising number of cities (although certainly nowhere near enough of them) which do have quite extensive commuter rail and metro networks.

      It’s just that the worst parts are even worse than the corresponding rail deserts in the UK, and often a hundred miles or more from the nearest railway station.

  9. Yorkshirefoxy

    Pontefract Monkhill

    I’ve used this station quite a lot to go to Leeds as Pontefract is where I grew up.

    Try getting a train to Kings Cross from there on a Saturday only to be told there are no trains back on Sunday. Grand Central trains want your money but want to leave you in London.

  10. Dave Bell

    Everything is getting worse.

    The actual trains aren't working all that well either. And the numerous websites telling you about delays don't seem to be working at all. I was watching arrivals at my local station, and the system doesn't seem to know whether a train is late until it leaves the previous station.

    Which is odd because the signalling system has to know where the trains are, and has to know which train is which or a train will go down the wrong line.

    Buses, you don't even get that sort of detail. Monday, the bus which eventually turned up had a sheet of paper with the service number taped up in the windscreen. And, for one dreadful moment in the middle of nowhere it seemed as though the gearbox had failed.

    We still have a local bus company which isn't Stagecoach, and their bus was making odd noises too.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Everything is getting worse.

      Fortunately after Brexit all this will be fixed as we go back to the good old days,

      Old steam trains will be liberated from a museum and pushed through the town to beat the bus service run by that scamp of a South African immigrant.

      I think I saw a public information film about it.

      (there are a whole series of them, one covers how trade will work in a small isolated market with no rules and another how imported freight will be handled in Scotland)

  11. Ivan Headache

    Under normal service

    getting Railcards is very efficient.

    I had to renew mine and the Lovely Ivana's cards a month or so back.

    Both arrived in less than 48 hours from pressing the button.

    I always regarded it as one of the more efficient online quango websites.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sending identity photos by email?

    Sending identity photos by email, which inevitably means unencrypted email, as a workaround? (And probably with name and address included as well)

    Well, I’m sure that’s not very GDPR compliant. Is the Information Commissioner aware?

    A potential gift to identity thieves.

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