Mark Menzies MP blasts Virgin Rail after passenger is wrongly accused of fraud and held by police

Fylde MP Mark Menzies has once again taken Virgin Rail to task over its discriminatory pricing policy on the West Coast Main Line – after a passenger was accused of fraud and held by police for 45 minutes, despite holding a valid ticket.

Passenger Steve Morrissey booked a ticket from Lancaster to London for £93 – when the price from Preston, closer to London and on the same train, was £350.

Despite the fact he had his ticket checked at Lancaster, and again between Lancaster and Preston, he was later accused of fraud in front of a packed carriage of passengers, the ticket inspector suggesting he got on the train at Preston.

Police were waiting for him at Euston Station and he was detained for 45 minutes while Virgin employees checked CCTV cameras – which proved Mr Morrissey had got on the train at Lancaster.

It was only then that he was released without charge, having missed an important business meeting in London.

 Fylde MP Mark Menzies, a member of the Transport Select Committee, said: “When I first raised this ticket pricing scandal a few weeks ago, which punishes travellers using Preston Station, little did I know I would be lifting the lid on what is absolutely shocking practices by Virgin.“Based on what I am hearing from a large number of people who have contacted me, Virgin seems to have lost the plot.

“Unless Virgin can come up with a solution to this situation, I think a serious investigation is the only way forward.”

Mr Menzies is meeting with representatives of Virgin Rail next week to discuss the pricing of journeys to London on the West Coast Main Line, following an investigation that revealed Preston passengers are being asked to pay up to four times the amount passengers from Lancaster are charged – for using the same train.”

Steve’s case comes less than a month after MP Mark Menzies accused Virgin of “ripping off” travellers from Preston and vowed to raise the issue in Westminster.

While Lancaster travellers can purchase off-peak tickets, Preston travellers have to purchase advance tickets which can cost four times as much – for the shorter journe on the same train.

“They were calling me a liar, saying I’d got on the train at Preston and not Lancaster. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life,” Mr Morrissey told the Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Evening Post. “This particular trip was a last-minute thing and I only booked it the night before and so I looked at the prices and saw a return from Lancaster was £93, while it was £350 from Preston.

“It was a no-brainer really. Going to Lancaster is only an extra 10 minutes from my house compared to Preston, so I went for that.

“When I got to the station a member of the Virgin staff checked my ticket and said it was fine. Then the same guy checked it again on the trip between Lancaster and Preston and said it was OK.

“But then the same bloke again came round a third time near Warrington and accused me of getting on at Preston. He said he didn’t remember me from the previous two ticket inspections and said I had two choices – buy a new ticket at full price or give my name and address for them to send me a penalty notice.

“I refused to do both and so, when we got to London, the police were waiting. It was so embarrassing being accused in front of a crowded carriage of fraud. Then being questioned by police at a busy station was equally embarrassing.

“It was only when they agreed to look at the CCTV that they saw I really had got on at Lancaster. I got a verbal ‘sorry’ and they offered me a 50 per cent discount on my next trip.

“What an appalling way to treat your customers. I can’t believe they were so heavy-handed and refused to listen.”

Virgin said Mr Morrissey had accepted an apology and goodwill gesture, and that it would ‘learn from the incident’.

 

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