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Spend & Save

Questions of Cash: Stagecoach bus stopped short of pole position


Q. I bought my son tickets, costing £120 each, for the Saturday and Sunday of the British Grand Prix in July as an 18th birthday present. On the Saturday, the organisers asked people not to drive to the event. My son and his friend caught the train and bought tickets for the Stagecoach bus service to Silverstone at £15 each.

But the bus left my son and other passengers nearly four miles from the circuit. The driver said this was a drop-off point, but there was no advance warning of this. The passengers had to make their way to Silverstone by foot, without any map, while walking on the hard shoulder of a major road. Clearly this was not really a proper drop-off point as 17 other Stagecoach buses drove past.

My son and his friend arrived nearly two hours after the correct time and missed much of the action. The return bus left early and my son had to pay for a taxi to Northampton. He contacted Stagecoach to complain and was promised a reply within seven days, but has not heard anything. YV, London.

A. After we reminded them several times, Stagecoach wrote to your son and issued us with a statement saying: "Stagecoach ran 450 buses to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone over the weekend. We are aware of one particular journey where customers were dropped off in an incorrect location some considerable distance from the circuit. Customers affected by this issue have received an apology and been provided with a full refund. We have also considered any claims for additional costs. We are sorry the service we provided for these passengers did not meet the normal high standards of our Silverstone operation and that the customer in this case did not receive a prompt response. We have sent a letter of apology to the customer as well as a cheque for £90. This reflects the refund of the two bus tickets and a proportion of the costs of the Saturday Grand Prix tickets. We have also offered complimentary bus tickets for a future Grand Prix at Silverstone. Our GPS records confirm that the return journey departed at its correct time of 7pm."

Q. We have booked through AA Getaways to travel to Paris on the Eurostar in November. AA Getaways informed us that if we showed the travel confirmation to the booking office at our local rail station, we could get reduced tickets for our journey to St. Pancras. But the station's booking office tells us that we can only get reduced price tickets if we show them the actual tickets. But we cannot get the Eurostar tickets until we arrive at St. Pancras. VD, Surrey.

A. AA Getaways tells us that it has agreements with some train operators to directly purchase discounted fares on behalf of customers for journeys connecting with the Eurostar. However, it does not have such an arrangement with your local train operator, South West Trains. We asked Stagecoach, which runs South West Trains, whether it would sell the tickets to you at a discounted price on production of a confirmation of your onward travel via Eurostar. It refuses to do this on the grounds that such a confirmation could be falsified. AA Getaways tells us that it did previously offer to arrange to have the Eurostar tickets printed in advance and posted to you by special delivery at a cost of £5, but you declined this on the grounds of cost. In order to resolve your problem, AA Getaways has now agreed to print the tickets and post them to you by special delivery at no charge to yourselves. You have agreed to this solution.

Q. I have been frustrated by my experience with Alamo Rent a Car. I checked-in at Heathrow Airport after booking a car online with Alamo. I accepted an "inclusive" offer online, paying £420.28. However, at Heathrow, I was instructed that I would have to pay more than £800 for a small saloon car. I was told the "inclusive" package was not actually fully inclusive and did not include the necessary insurance cover. I was also told that this was the going rate, but when I checked online I found similar cars from other companies are £400 to £500, including third-party insurance. When I complained, I was instead offered a car from a more expensive grade at £513.32. I found this very stressful after arriving on a long flight from the Far East. I had a similar experience with Alamo at Heathrow five years ago. ML, by email.

A. Alamo Rent a Car has provided us with a long statement and says that it is "very sorry" with your experience renting a car from them. "Alamo has fully investigated [the reader's] claim and can confirm that the cost quoted online of £420.28 included a rate for third-party insurance only." It regrets that you were confused by other insurance options mentioned in the confirmation email, which were intended to explain that you could have selected these instead. It adds: "In order to comply with Alamo's UK insurance policy, renters from outside the UK are required to have full damage cover."

This requirement was specified, says Alamo, in the terms and conditions displayed on its website, as well as being explained to you at Heathrow. It argues that its insurance costs are competitive with operator rental car providers. You tell us that you remain dissatisfied with this response. We can understand your unhappiness. The website enabled you to book an "inclusive" package at a price which the company's terms and conditions – should you read them in full – make clear is not available to you because you do not live in the UK and do not already have full cover in place through other insurance policies. This does not seem to us to provide fully transparent trading conditions.