I have a London meeting at 09:30, and traveling up by train it should be routine, straightforward, worry-free. I would love to have got a bus to the station at - say - 06:50, catch the 07:20 train, change at Swindon and be in London at 08:50 and then catch the tube - 09:15 arrival just a few minutes walk from my final destination. Ticket and seat reservations made online when my plans were definite (in this case at about 7 pm. on Friday), breakfast on the train, fresh and ready to go for my meeting.
You would think that wasn't too much to ask, wouldn't you? Well - let me tell you of my actual journey.
There *is* a train at 07:20, but (Problem 0) the cheapest fare was £146.00, before adding in the cost of the tube. There's also a £174.00 Day Travelcard, but these are the sort of prices that I can't afford. By catching the train at 06:38 and doubling back at Westbury, I planned to be a little earlier in London and pay just £4.00 return to Westbury, from where I could buy a £80.00 Day Travelcard to London, admittedly restricting me to the direct route from there via Newbury, which has 4 hour gaps in service during the day. Enough of the background.
I come to buy my tickets online. And I'm told "You need to collect your tickets from a Fast Ticket Machine". Problem (1) is - there isn't one at Melksham Station. Oh well - I'll make a special trip over the weekend and collect somewhere else - Chippenham or Westbury. Problem (2) - system tells me no ticket reservations available, and on that basis I had better join the scrum for a good seat and not bother with booking ahead.
I woke at 05:15 and checked train running. Problem (3) - the Westbury train departure board shows the 07:01 cancelled. Yikes - scramble up and prepare to grab the car (sorry, Lisa) to drive and park up for the 06:18, but only to find out a few minutes later that the train is running (something wrong with the system?) - just starting from Taunton rather than Exeter. That's fine for me ...
Problem (4) - no bus to the station this early. Never mind - 25 minute walk, passing 6 other people coming the other way between the town centre and home, so I suspect that a bus service would be used.
Some 6 of us on the platform for the train, even at that unearthly hour, and I ask the conductor if I can buy my tickets from him. Yes, says he, and between Melksham and Trowbridge he does so.
Now - credit where it's due - much better information available at Melksham than there used to be, and a cheerful and helpful conductor. Problem (5) is that the notices at Melksham station are all in the shadows and impossible to read in the dark ... and at this time of year, the only train service there is in the dark.
I note that my Westbury to London ticket has printed on the back of it "If an authorised penalty fare collector had been checking tickets, you may have been charged a £20 penalty fare or twice the full single fare to the next station stop, whichever is greater". Problem (6) - the threat is incorrect; as there's no ticket office at Melksham I'm perfectly entitled to buy on the train, and the railway really shouldn't put out such threatening messages (which I'll be carrying all day, including on my Westbury to London ticket for all inspectors to see) to their rule-abiding customers.
Problem (7) - a signal stop outside Westbury and a queue at the buffet meant that there wasn't time to grab a coffee before boarding the train. Never mind - I'm looking forward to breakfast with the traveling Chef. Problem (8) - he wasn't on the train this morning ...
At my seat and we're still in the countryside short of Reading; I suspect we're late. Problem (9) - the power at the seat doesn't work and my battery's starting to get a bit low.
Many of them are little trifles - but I give you ten reasons why I'm disinclined to commute by train. I need to arrive at the customer site fresh and ready to work, not exasperated, hungry and thirsty after a traveling adventure. The tragedy is that so many of these issues are indeed trifling ones, that are perfectly curable ... (written 2012-12-10, updated 2012-12-15)
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