Thursday, March 01, 2007

Train to expense!

This morning I was cheated out of £22.60. And guess whose fault it was? Mine, of course, but I blame the railway companies or the ticket ordering process or something more along those lines. I always try to travel by train. It’s not as practical in rural Gloucestershire as it is in London, but we’re lucky – about 15 minutes away by car, we have a station. Although I would like to say that I made the journey to the station by public transport, the bus through the village only runs approximately every hour, at least it did until they withdrew it, now that it’s back, I don’t think anyone knows the timetable. Unfortunately the bus stop is five minutes walk away and it was raining quite uncontrollably this morning. However, had I caught the bus, I would have needed to change in Dursley (yes, Harry Potter fans, it is the same grotty place as J.K. Rowling named her characters after) onto the rail-link to get to the station - I believe that the total cost of catching these buses is almost equivalent to the rail ticket price. And so, excuses over, the long and the short of it is that I drove. On the plus side my car is fairly fuel-efficient and has the advantage of running on bio-diesel – relatively locally produced. Although there are those that would like to see an end to cars, I’m not with them. I think there’s a very practical side to life that is missed by such campaigners – rural life doesn’t provide the same transport links that city life does. Of course, I cannot understand why London residents would even dream of having a car (although, there are a few justifiable cases) as disregarding the quite impressive transport system (this is coming from a country girl), the thought of actually driving in the nation’s capital would fill me with dread.

Anyway, now to the bit where I was conned. My trip to Exeter was a pretty last minute thing. In fact, I decided to go last night. So, I looked on the Internet (we even have broadband out here) for ticket prices. I remembered to go through the whole process of checking each part separately – I needed to change in Bristol so part one was Cam & Dursley to Bristol - £6.30 with railcard travelling outside rush hour, part 2, Bristol to Exeter - £13.20 return. Excellent I thought, especially when I read that it was a walk-up fare. I assumed, quite wrongly, that a walk-up fare would be one I could buy on the train. As Cam & Dursley does not benefit from a ticket machine, although I did note that they are in the process of installing one, I didn’t book my tickets as having to pick them up from Bristol Parkway before using them would rather defeat the object of going by train to Exeter. However, upon seating myself on the train and having a little chat with the ticket collector, it turns out that the cheapest deal they could offer me on-train is £42.10. I was just a little bit upset at this hike in price, so I made enquiries on arrival in Bristol Parkway on the return part of my journey. I have discovered that apparently walk-up fares are only available if you have a ticket office or machine to go and get them from and that if you book online, your ticket reference number is sufficient to get you to your destination if no ticket machine is available. So, as I said, it was all my fault really, but at least I know another couple of handy tips (or injustices depending on perspective!).

No comments: