South West Trains criticised for axing cheap tickets to London on VJ Day

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  • Company suspends £20 offer
  • It says it was trying to avoid overcrowding on services
  • Critics accuse it of cashing in on commemorations
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South West Trains has come under fire after its weekend special offer fare to London was withdrawn on VJ Day.

The company was criticised when the £20 offer was ditched for Saturday’s 70th anniversary commemorations.

Cancelling a promotion on VJ Day. You are the scum of the earth

Steve Hallett on Twitter

SWT, which runs Portsmouth-Waterloo services, said it was a condition of the cut-price offer that it could be withdrawn on certain days to prevent overcrowding, highlighting other events taking place in and around the capital that may have seen passenger numbers reach potentially dangerous levels had the discount remained in place.

The £20 return fare represents a reduction of around two-thirds on several of the standard South West Trains tickets to and from London.

The decision not to run the special offer provoked anger, particularly after some drivers of black cabs in the capital waived fees for VJ Day veterans attending the day’s memorial.

Tony Groves, who travelled from Southampton to London Waterloo station on Saturday, complained the restrictions were unclear on South West’s website when viewed on a mobile phone.

He said on Twitter: “Shame your mobile website is not quite so explicit about date restrictions for family offers as your full site.

“No mention of today’s VJ Day restriction on mobile site but is there on full - made a £37 difference to family day out.”

Steve Hallett added, in a message to the train firm: “Cancelling a promotion on VJ Day. You are the scum of the earth.”

South West Trains said it “supported the Armed Forces community in a number of ways”, and said there were a number of events on its rail network on Saturday, including the England-France rugby match at Twickenham, which increased pressure on the service.

A company spokeswoman said: “It’s common during marketing promotions to have occasional days that are exempt from the offer and this can be due to a number of reasons. Our marketing of this particular offer clearly states any days that are not included in the promotion.

“Safety is our main priority. On days where there will be a large number of people using our network to attend special events, our experience is that encouraging even more people to travel through a price promotion can result in our services becoming severely overcrowded.

“We believe it makes more sense to encourage people to take advantage of our offers at slightly less busy times when they will be able to enjoy the experience more.”

This afternoon the company issued another statement in defence of its decision.

It said: “We value the key role of our current and former military personnel and have several initiatives in place to support the Armed Forces community. This includes offering free travel to serving military personnel and veterans at different times of the year, supporting reservists and helping personnel who are transitioning from military life into full time work.

“Our summer promotion was launched on 13 July and has been running on Saturdays and some Sundays during July and August. It is designed to encourage people to take a day trip to one of the many destinations on our network. Our trains are generally quieter than normal at weekends which means we normally have space on our trains to offer special promotional tickets. However, we are also conscious that there can be times when our network is very busy, even at weekends, due to sporting and other special events. On those days, we do not want a situation where a promotion results in serious overcrowding and a bad experience for customers.

“Prior to the launch of this offer, we looked at the various events taking place across our network throughout the summer and took the decision to exclude a number of days from the promotional offer. For example, due to the large number of people travelling on our trains for the RideLondon major cycling event on 1 August, the promotional tickets were not available on that day. The days excluded from the promotional offer were clearly communicated on our website at the time of the launch.

“On Saturday 15 August, there were four major events taking place on our network including the Red Bull Air Race at Ascot and the England vs France rugby match at Twickenham, where a crowd of 65,000 fans were expected. Our proven experience of previous major events such as this is that it would not have been responsible to encourage more people onto our trains through a promotional offer when we knew they would already be very busy with people travelling to the rugby and the other events.

“Our summer promotional campaigns have always proved very popular and offer a good value day out. We want people to get the best experience of their journey with us and that is why we have taken the decision to offer these tickets when we know there is space available on our trains.

“We are disappointed this has been misinterpreted by some media organisations. We will continue to support the Armed Forces community directly through our business and in and partnership with other organisations.”