From the beginning the Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) Travel Buddy app had issues. This is a remarkable achievement for an app that just stores tickets, the other functionality it supposedly has is made by opening pages on the website.
When a passenger has an issue with the app crashing the guard is told to accept email confirmation of the booking. This would be ok if the issues were rare but it turns out there's often stability issues with the app. Back in November the app was crashing for a large number of passengers for over a week and just now the app has been having issues for the last three days.
#VTECUpdate We are are currently experiencing some issues with our Travel Buddy app. Train Managers will accept your confirmation email as proof of purchase.
Sorry for any inconvenience.
— Virgin Trains EC (@Virgin_TrainsEC) 25 March 2018
The key points are:
- Email confirmations are easy enough to fake, so if your Travel Buddy app is crashing you can create your own FREE (or should that be complimentary) ticket just by changing the dates/times on an email confirmation.
- In fact it's straightforward enough for even a novice app developer to create a fake version of the Travel Buddy app that looks genuine but just crashes when you try and access your ticket, so even if their app wasn't crashing they could make one that did!
- Not all passengers will get the message that the app is faulty or that they can travel with their email confirmation. There's nothing about this on their website and not everyone checks Twitter. These people may panic buy another ticket which will leave them out of pocket (even if they claim it back they'll still be out of pocket for a while)
- Some tickets sold via Travel Buddy will also be valid for connections on to other operators. Even if VTEC is accepting email confirmations it's possible the other operators are not willing to accept these as they're not valid tickets and might be fake.
- An mTicket app should never have been released in 2017, they should have gone straight to eTickets which don't have this issue.
Please note: I'm pointing out the opportunities for fare evasion as I hope this will be the thing that makes VTEC either kill this awful app for good or make it more reliable. Please do not attempt it! Doing this is both illegal and immoral so I don't advise anyone to do this but you can be sure that this loophole will already be exploited by those who are willing to take the risks. I did mention to VTEC privately of the fare evasion potential the first time the app ran into issues but as they don't seem intent on fixing things I've decided public disclosure is the only way to go.
Just remember when VTEC are complaining about not having any money and are failing to meet targets that making things easier for fare evaders does not help. They also removed the ticket barriers at Durham, Grantham and Newark Northgate too.
Also the app currently adds extra hassle for honest customers who have purchased tickets and now can't access them. I've said it many times before, the Virgin Trains East Coast eCommerce team need to be reviewed, there's been too many failures and those who use their online tools are in a worse position than we were before the new site and app launched.
It's time Virgin Trains East Coast ditched the Travel Buddy app once and for all, admit it was a failure and move on to implementing proper eTickets that are not dependent on a dedicated app to display.
In the meantime passengers are best off refusing mobile tickets on the VTEC website. It's just not worth the hassle.
Please warn other passengers about this app and leave negative reviews in the App Store and Google Play.