On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

An App Matures

Posted on April 2, 2023

Reading time: 2 minutes.

When Virgin Trains ceased to operate, it came with a sense of sadness because it was the end of an era. For all their faults, it did feel as if it was an operator that cared about what it was doing, a long way from the “nobody cares” railway that some bemoan these days. Virgin and Stagecoach also have the good fortune of escaping the current criticism that is being levelled at both Avanti West Coast and First Transpennine Express as well as the travails of pandemic lockdowns.

Another of the things that I missed was the Virgin Trains train ticket app because of its integration with PayPal and the speediness of their responses when anything needed fixing. Once, I needed a refund, and it got resolved promptly. While I could have opted for the East Midlands app because of its PayPal integration, its Northern Railway counterpart got used more often despite any refusal to refund small fares and its dependence on credit and debit cards (it did store their details, though, so all you needed to remember was their CVC number). The pandemic has meant a near complete changeover from paper tickets to their electronic counterparts.

However, things have improved since then. Integration with PayPal came recently and that was followed by Google Pay capability as well. That all helps with buying tickets on the move or at short notice, which is just as well given the £100 fine for not having a ticket on trains when setting off from a staffed station (some are trying to keep ticket offices open, but there is a real danger of their closure when so many of us are using apps or online booking instead). Otherwise, there still remains the possibility of buying tickets on trains when starting from unstaffed stations.

Being an Android phone user, I cannot comment on integration with Apple Pay, though having that would not surprise me at all. In the main, I stick with the Google option for ease of use because PayPal usage can trigger multifactor authentication for larger purchases. Tickets do not always need activation either, and copies are sent by email too, so they can be added to Google or Apple wallets as well. That could be handy when the app hits a problem. After all, anything is better than the hassle of a fine when technology goes against you.