What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

There used to be manned ticket barriers at Leeds railway station – manned by real people who would check your tickets and stuff. You’d usually get two people there at least, reasonably efficient. That all changed a few months ago when the barriers got pulled up, the staff moved elsewhere, and the powers-that-be put in automated ticket barriers.

Since then it’s been a total fail:

  • The barriers take several seconds to open! Although I’m used to London Underground barriers (ticket in/run through/grab ticket/close behind you) the time taken to get through the Leeds barriers is excessive and causes extreme congestion in rush hour.
  • The ticket readers are unreliable – standing there for half a minute attempting to get the thing to read your Metro-card looks to be quite common.
  • There’s usually at least two barriers wide open, attended by agency staff who don’t look at the tickets anyway.
  • There’s usually at least two barriers out of action (broken?) with cones or something across them.

However, there’s an even bigger failure you can have fun with: you can use almost any mag-stripe ticket in them. One morning I was in a hurry and pulled out an expired Metro-card, which quite happily let me through the barrier; subsequently I tried a London Underground ticket from 2007, a National Rail ticket from 2005 and even a ticket from somewhere foreign (Trans-Perth rail probably). I’ve also had confirmation that credit card receipts from the ticket machines work as well.

(NB. I should point out at this juncture that I did have a valid Metro-card during the period of testing, at no point did I attempt to dodge fares).

It does bring an interesting question to mind though – why did they install these? It’s easier to fare-dodge using the new barriers (if not via the expired-ticket method then you can just stroll through since the attendants don’t check tickets anyway); it doesn’t increase efficiency but instead increases congestion as commuters attempt to get through the barriers; there’s no decrease in staffing either.

It all just seems a waste of time, and it’s bloody frustrating for us commuters.


  1. Yep, I discovered the same thing about them accepting *any* mag-stripe card. My ticket had become crumpled in my pocket and the barrier wouldn’t accept it, however I tried my receipt and, amazingly, it worked. No fare dodging, but Network Rail didn’t seem to feel it was appropriate to man the barriers at that time.

    Typical rubbish, eh.

  2. Most new installs tend to be set to accept anything whilst they "bed in", though it’s usually only a week or two, at which point they turn on the "normal" ticket checking mode.

  3. Barry – it’s been like that since they put the barriers in, sometime around October.

  4. IIRC they barriers also don’t keep tickets that aren’t valid any longer (eg. as a ticket to Leeds) in the same way that every other barrier seems to.

  5. …and National Express East Coast have a planning application in to install barriers at York. Sounds like even more choas.

    I was at Paddington today, and the H+C line barriers (recently moved) will not accept Heathrow Express tickets, and at times there is no attendant. When one appears he over-rides the barrier and everyone streams through it.

  6. I was recently told by an attendant at Leeds to put my Senior Railcard through the gate and I was surprised when it worked OK. I also had a valid pass, by the way. which doesn’t operate the gates.

  7. i know you guys pay alot for your tickets passes etc im a railway enthusiast i spend alot on rail travel & when i ask to go onto the platform the answers no!!! now i know alot of people make fun of us but what real harm do we do??? in the past some of my pics have helped police solve incidents help out poor staff with nasty punters as being a witness for them. im 37 i love trains & people unfortunately i wear glasses / well contacts now so unfortunately cant be a train driver but the question i ask is why im not allowed to pursue my hobby mr national express??? bit unfair really!!! i ask the public would you like it if someone restricted your hobby???lets be fair and reasonable here national express and i do wear levis and have salami and lettuce on my peaces by the way and not to mention a designer jacket!! have tried to be humourous here but this security fiasco is getting beyond the joke now & remember its the public that will dtermine the outcome of your next franchise needless to say im from scotland and no longer travel with rail to barriered stations and take my photos from the lineside and travel there by car so all in all yous lose out big time with these extortionate walk up fares now …… i must check out grand centrals website i would add gner was a far superior franchisee

  8. I commute into Leeds every day and have a real problem with these barriers. My monthly metro card doesn’t work so I have to go and queue to be let out by a friendly attendant. Only they are not always so friendly. One of them last week pulled my coat to one side to look at my name badge I was wearing on my work uniform and said "you’re going to have to start using this properly Susan." I’ve also had the barriers close in on me and hit me in the stomach.

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