Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Grumpy Old Git

After my previous post about Post Office Telephones (no progress there, by the way) it's now the turn of the railways. An easy target I know, but honestly. . . 
Hereford station: No one on the platform, probably all still queueing for tickets!
Arriva Trains Wales, the train company that runs Hereford station has spent the last six months refurbishing the booking office. I don't know what they are doing in there - perhaps recreating the Taj Mahal if the length of time its taking is anything to go by. 
In the meantime tickets are sold either from a hut in the car park, which has only two ticket windows or a fiendishly complicated machine at the platform entrance. 
 Hereford has only three trains an hour  - one each to Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester, but all three depart within a fifteen-minute period between twenty-to and five-to each hour. Queues for tickets are commonplace at the best of times but last week London Midland Trains, who run services to Birmingham, were having a fares promotion which, combined with half-term, brought a lot of additional passengers to the station. When I arrived for my Birmingham train, bound for Starcross, the queue from the ticket hut snaked across the car park almost back to the station entrance. I joined the much shorter line for the ticket machine, but its so difficult to use, particularly for first-timers, that with one minute to departure time there were still three people in the queue ahead of me.  The chap at the barrier was quite happy to let me on to the train, but pointed out that London Midland operates a penalty fare system and that passengers without tickets are charged £20! This is about twice the price for which I can get to Brum with my railcard,so the only option was to wait another hour for the next train!
Of course, there is no point in complaining. The train company running the booking office will say that they don't operate a penalty fare system on their own trains; whilst the company imposing the penalty isn't responsible for the delays at the booking office. And don't say I could have bought my tickets in advance: apart from the fact that you then have to collect them from the ticket machine anyway, there were posters all over the station advising that there would be no trains for two days from Sunday as the drivers were going on strike - a fat lot of good an advance ticket would have been then!
I was still seething when I got to Norbury Junction, but the magic of the cut did its work and by the time I had got on board, unpacked, untied and set off towards Grub Street I'd got over it and all was sweetness and light again.
All's well in Grub Street cutting
And I promise that my next post will not be in Grumpy Old Git mode.


Adam said...

Jim, I've been in a similar situation many times on one of my routes to work. If I was in danger of missing the train, I've always managed to persuade the station staff to let me through the barrier. Then I've found the guard as soon as I got on the train, and explained that I needed a ticket from him because of the huge queues at the station. By being pro-active, I've never once been charged a penalty fare. (And even if I was, I'd appeal and expect to win).

Mark Doran said...

It's ironic that if you board a train at a station without a booking office or ticket machine "check-in" time is about 1 minute, but at Hereford you have to allow about 20 minutes. So it's quicker to drive to Colwall and board the train there! But at least Arriva (owned by DB, which is owned by the German government!) is spending money on an improved booking office. Mark

Starcross said...

As far as I can see, all the improvements to the booking office are on the staff side of the windows!