Train Fare Confusion

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Moved from Colins Blog, and now one of the Random Writings about Train Travel ...

The Joys of Trains.

I recently had cause to travel from my local station to Reading on business. I travel by train a great deal, perhaps 30 or 40 times a year, always sporadic, never especially predictable, rarely repeated.

On this occasion I was unsure as to whether I would do the journey direct (at least, as directly as the trains allow from my station to Reading), or whether I would divert via London and visit briefly with some other colleagues. I enquired as to the prices. Direct (via Banbury and Oxford) I was informed, would be about £61.30 (I forget the exact amount) and via London, I was informed, would be £68.10. As I was unsure, and wanted to keep my options open, I opted for the more expensive ticket.

You may be able to see where this is going. I certainly didn't.

On my return journey the timing conspired against me, and I decided to travel on the direct route. This was slightly longer in time, but more convenient in timing, if you see what I mean. What startled me was to be told that my ticket was not, in fact, valid.

I was a little confused, to say the least. I had purchased the more expensive ticket, and yet it wasn't valid? Correct. The ticket was valid only via London. Although the two endpoints were the same, and although I had bought the more expensive ticket, it was valid only via London.

So what should I have done? Apparently I should have bought the cheaper ticket, and then, if I decided to travel via London, pay the excess fare. Oh well, you live and learn.

So, I asked, can I get a refund? Effectively, can I pay the "excess" fare, which would now be a negative amount? That raised a smile, but no, that wasn't possible. What I would have to do is buy a single to Banbury, whence my "via London" ticket would become valid.

So to be strictly legal I would have to pay still more money, to validate a ticket that already cost me more than the correct ticket would have been.

Are you still with me?

In fact common sense prevailed and the ticket inspector quietly ignored me until after Banbury. He is, in my opinion, to be highly commended.

Except I daren't. He broke the rules, and any system lunatic enough to create the fare structure of which I fell foul is lunatic enough to punish him.

So there you are. I trust you can understand my confusion, and can further understand that some of my enthusiasm for train travel has been a little tarnished.

So let me ask, does your business see things from the customers' point of view? Do you have people try to use your product and see what seems stupid to them? When they do something wrong, whose fault is it? Yes, sometimes it's theirs, but that answer is too easy, too quick, and too glib.

Maybe the fault isn't theirs.

Then again ...

You might also want to read about grumpy old men on the trains.



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