the vaguaries of train travel

I used to travel on trains a lot, since we had children I havent done so as much, in part because I havent needed to make so many long journeys, and in part because of the greatly added time, hassle and expense of travelling by train as a family.

So this weekend was the longest train journey I have done in a while, Grimsby to Llanelli and back, a total of about 19 hours travelling time.  That’s nearly a whole day!!

Reflections on train travel based on this trip?  Well firstly the quality of train has increased, particularly on the trans penine route.  Also the timing of the trains seems quite a bit better, I have clear memories of not too distant days when we would be constantly thwarted by slow or late trains, which would necessitate rushed changes, running from platform to platform in the desperate hope of catching the next train.

On the limited evidence of this journey, I found the trains punctual to a fault, very good indeed.  (This ties in with other train journeys I have taken over the last few years, although most of them havent been anything like as long as this.)

So trains good, punctuality good, what can I possibly complain about?

I’ll tell you what, the ridiculous system of ticket pricing, that’s what.

If I had booked an advance ticket from Grimsby to Llanelli, return, I would have paid about £90.00.  If I had purchased two singles for the same route, I would have paid roughly the same.  However I paid only £50… How?  By buying single tickets for each leg of the journey (in other words, single tickets to each change point.)

Ticket from Grimsby to Stockport, about £10, ticket from Stockport to Llanelli about £12, and the same backwards.  Added to this inconvenience (and it really is inconvenient!) I had to pay a booking fee on each ticket… duh!  I couldnt do it in one transaction, although possibly I could have done it in two if I had thought about it.  That’s just ridiculous.  By messing about with the system I saved almost half the ticket cost, despite paying extra booking fees and etc.

So I am a bit irritated by that clear loophole in the system, if I could get four singles for £50, why couldnt I just get a return for £50?  I took exactly the same trains that I would have taken either way!

It just goes to show that no matter how much they improve the system, ‘the thwartment’ will still get you.  Grrr.


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