Monday, April 17, 2006

Train ticket mix up

A piece of advice for those rushing through Paddington station is to be careful over your ticket selection in the self service machines. As I came out of the tube there was just a few minutes until my train was leaving. I'd been lucky enough to spot the platform the train was leaving from, but this was the mad Easter rush on Thursday evening rush hour- a crammed Central Line had already seen me running up to an hour late.

So I reached the front of the queue for the self-serve machine. My first problem was, and it could have been my spelling, but I couldn't find Moreton-in-Marsh. With the clock ticking I had little choice but to select the train's ultimate destination, Hereford. It'll cost, I thought, but I have to catch THAT train.

Next up, I needed to select my ticket type. I only wanted one way, but the tickets on screen were all wrong wrong wrong. First class this, first class that. What do they call cattle class these days? 2nd class? Can't see it. Then I see First Cheap Day Return. That'll do. I don't need a return but I hear that singles aren't much cheaper. The "first" must refer to the train company, First Great Western, as it is followed by the word "cheap" and is the only ticket not to have the word first followed by "class".

So in the flash of a PIN, I'm sprinting for the train and make it just for when the doors close. Luckily, I also find a seat ahead of the stragglers before me without resorting to strong arm tactics.

An hour later as we're swooshing through Oxfordshire I'm starting to wish the train had more leg room and that the screaming baby would pipe down. The conductor passes through and on checking my ticket simply looks at me, looks at the ticket, and in her loudest voice points out that first class is at the back of the train.

That's right. I'd managed to spend the best part of £100 when less than half of that would have sufficed. Additionally, I'd not even taken advantage of the services. Still, I sat through the last 5 minutes of my journey in the plush, stretch your legs out, reclined armchair surroundings of first class. Not without funny looks from passengers who no doubt thought I was a fare dodger- having taken my seat after the inspector had passed through.

In a moment of charity, I tried to find a London bound passenger at Moreton-in-Marsh to take my return leg first class ticket, but alas there was no one to be found. Unlucky, I could have salvaged some good from the ridiculous mistake I'd made.

Up there in my all-time-wasting-money-stories with peeling the leaves off a cauliflower at Uni until, with the leaves in the bin and only a morsel of green left, I realised it was a cabbage.

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