Tickets not opening barriers?

I am experiencing frequent incidents of railway tickets that I have purchased not opening ticket barriers at Southeastern and Thameslink London stations: London Bridge, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Blackfriars and St Pancras International are the main offenders. Is anybody else having this problem or know the reason for it?


Tickets not opening barriers? — 13 Comments

  1. I have had multiple occurrences of my season ticket stopping working this year. Someone suggested I keep it away from my mobile phone (I had recently switched to a new model) and I haven’t had any problems since doing that, although I cannot 100% say this was the cause.

  2. @Charles I have wondered whether that might be the cause, as I often put the ticket in the same pocket as my phone. On the other hand I have found that the ticket sometimes fails at one barrier but then works at another.

  3. Often it’s because you’ve used a railcard. The British rail standard seems to be that if you’ve used a railcard then you’re lying and trying to avoid paying the full fare.

  4. @Paul There’s some truth in this. The railway industry approach often seems to be to treat all customers as criminals. But why do railcard tickets work *sometimes*?

  5. For some years I have been attending quarterly meetings in Brimingham and Sheffield, travelling by train, usually on an off-peak return purchased online variously from Southeastern, Virgin or East Midlands and collected at Sevenoaks. These tickets never work the barriers at Sevenoaks, London Bridge or Charing Cross but work for the Underground and on ticket barriers north of the Thames.

  6. Yes also had this and met with a usual sullen shrug. Proximity to mobile phones and credit cards are blamed.

  7. @Alan Southeastern management once told me that the programming on specific barrier is altered sometimes for a short period to reject certain types of ticket so that they can be manually checked. But I’ve never seen staff take a real interest in checking a rejected ticket, or to ask for the accompanying railcard, so even if true the policy is not effective!

  8. It’s unlikely to be caused by mobile phones: the problems are that paper season tickets just aren’t sufficiently durable to withstand being used a thousand times. The print soon gets worn away and the magnetic stripe becomes roughened or uneven hence read failures occur.

    Presumably The Key will solve this, but that’s about the only advantage this white elephant will deliver.

  9. Hi Keith
    We travelled on 5th November with through tickets Bat and Ball to Manchester. Barriers would not work at London Bridge or Euston mainline stations but were fine on the Underground. When we came back on 7th November all the barriers worked fine so I don’t know what to think.

    On one of your earlier comments – yes, our through tickets specified the time and route from Bat and Ball to London and return – we ignored these and were never challenged.

  10. I have an annual season ticket, sit via New Cross. The NC-London Terminals ticket has stopped working 3 times this year. The SEV-New cross has been fine. Never before in 8 years of commuting from sevenoaks have i had a paper ticket stop working, and now it’s three times in a year. It can’t be proximity to phones or cards because I keep the two tickets together in the same plastic southeastern card holder.

  11. Proximity to mobile phones can definitely cause this – the magnetic strip on them are quite vulnerable having the stored information corrupted by mobile phone signals just like an old Video Cassette would be if you held your phone against it for several hours! Although the magnetic strip does have some level of redundancy built in, once it has been corrupted past a certain point the gate is no longer able to reconstruct the data from the strip and work out if your ticket is valid or not.

    Mobile phones are not the only cause of this corruption however, and with time it is to be expected that season tickets will become demagnetised even if never kept near a mobile phone. Although mobile phones are quite good at corrupting the magnetic strips quickly, there’s many other sources of magnetic interference which although much smaller, do stack up over time. Keys for example can become weakly magnetised and cause corruption to the strip. Some gates will also be better at reading it than others, and some printers will be better at strongly encoding the data on the magnetic strip than others – hence why you may see it work at one gate, but not another.

    Magnetic strips were the best solution at the time for a machine-readable ticket, but are not without their flaws as above. Ultimately, this is something that smartcards ‘solve’ although the current implementation does leave much to be desired.

    As noted by the other commenters though, corruption is not the only reason tickets can be rejected. When a ticket is rejected, a 2 or 3 digit code should be shown on the barrier – this can then be correlated against lists which are in the public domain ( For example, Code 09 is what you would expect to see if the magnetic strip was corrupted and could no longer be read by the gate, but you’d get Code 90 if it had been set to reject monitored tickets and yours was a type set for monitoring.

    A few months back, I had a corrupted (day) ticket rejected by the barriers at Cannon Street but then had the staff erroneously claim that it was an off peak ticket and not valid at this time – completely unaware that there are no evening peak restrictions on Southeastern generally speaking! The matter was pushed through Customer Services, and they’ve now re-iterated to all Southeastern London Terminals staff as to the validity of off-peak tickets during the evening.

  12. @Kingsley Thanks for this. While TfL barriers give the rejection code, we have not noticed this on Southeastern barriers.

  13. The Network Rail managed Southeastern terminals certainly show the rejection codes, and i’m sure i’ve seen it on the ones here at Tonbridge too – i’ll have to double check next time my ticket becomes demagnetised!

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