Tuesday 11 October 2011


Yesterday I went to London to meet up with my good friend Monica who had been my neighbour for 10 years in Switzerland and to pick up a Swiss boy (but that's another story). 

Before I start I should say that I love train travel.  I love the fact that I don't have to "check in" two hours ahead of departure and I love the soothing rythum of the train.  So with my advance ticket booking confirmation in hand I attemped to retrieve my "real" tickets from the ticket machine. 

Unbelievably, the keyboard was both sensitive and insensitive at the same time.  Sensitive as in when I  keyed in my booking reference number it picked up the letter underneath, the letter adjacent and sometimes both.  However the "back" button didn't work which meant that I couldn't backtrack,  Each time I had to start from scratch again, and again, and again! "OK" I instruct myself, "calm down and move to another machine."  Same thing. 

Next calming step is to go into the ticket hall and negotiate with a "human being" to, out the kindness of their heart, help me with the process.  There was a queue and only two desks open.  At one desk a lengthy transaction was taking place and at the other the clerk was wrestling with a piece of electonics which appeared not to be working.  I then spot another bank of ticket machines and decided to give it one more go.  Hey Presto!  It worked. 

The departure board indicated that trains to London were running late and as I had a tight schedule I wondered if I could get on the next late train instead of the one I had booked onto which was going to be even later (if you get my drift).  I thought the best plan was to ask.  Ah!! The "information" desk was unmanned, there were no platform staff anywhere to be seen and by now the ticket hall was even busier with the clerk still punching buttons on the electronic device which patently was never, ever going to work again. 

Then they announced that the 1st late train was due to arrive.  A despatcher magically appeared from his cubby hole, clipboard in hand.  Leaping on him I asked if I could use my ticket on this train.  "No, sorry love, this ticket is "time specific".  If you get on this train you will be charged full single price again".  So I had to let that train go and I had to let the next one go too. And for the priviledge of all this I had paid the princely sum of £55.80 - discounted, I should add, because I had booked early.

After our brief meeting, my dear friend Monica (who, I'm sure won't mind me saying, is older than me and that's quite old) was to travel on to Lancaster.  When we went to buy her ticket  she got £20 out of her purse, I said "that won't be enough" and, sure enough, she had to pay £79 for a one way ticket.  Outragous.  I asked the clerk if she could book a seat "no, you can only do that 3 hours ahead of time". 

Why do we make such a big, and I should add expensive, deal of simple things?  This bloody country, sometimes I hate it.



Maggie May said...

There is nothing like having human contact. I hate all these machines.
That is disgusting having to let 2 trains go out & not being able to use your prepaid ticket. We must be the laughing stock everywhere.
It is precisely why I hardly ever go anywhere by train.
I think that if a train is late, there should be a discount or a hefty fine for them.
Hope you got where you were supposed to be and if not on time, then in enough not to have let anyone else down through no fault of your own.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

ADDY said...

I so agree. Train travel these days is so complicated. The internet has stopped the long queues for a ticket at the booking hall but has made it complicated in other ways. I don't understand why the seats get more expensive the nearer to the travel time you get. They should be one price and one price only. Also it can be cheaper if you split the journey. i.e. instead of going, say, from London to Newcastle all in one go, you can just go as far as Peterborough on one ticket and then get another ticket from Peterborough to Newcastle.I have never tried it, but apparantly you don't even have to get off the tain, although I am not sure if you have to change to a different reserved seat in the middle of the journey. But it seems lot of hassle to get a few pounds off the ticket.

www.retiredandcrazy.com said...

We are a laughing stock Maggie. I know in Switzerland they think we are absolutely barking mad to put up with things the way we do. To book a train ticket there you can either do it on line and print out your ticket, or go to the well manned ticket desk and receive 1 ticket which has an arrow going one way for single or going two ways for return. Simple. And the fares are easy to understand and reasonably priced. Grrrrr!

www.retiredandcrazy.com said...

I know what you mean Addy. Another thing that drives me mad is that you can't get off the train and back on another train to complete the journey. Say Peterborough to Glasgow, stopping off for a bit of sight seeing in York! Unheard of here but common place in Switzerland.

CiCi said...

You don't sound grumpy because you express your frustration about the inconveniences in travel. At least you continue to get out and about and I stopped doing that a few years ago. Local day trips in the car is my big travel plans now. Too much going on at home to be gone long and I enjoy what I am doing so much that I am pleased that I traveled so much for the years it was fun and convenient.