Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Train Saga

Recently I have had some really good, positive experiences traveling by train in the UK. I was beginning to believe that the past is indeed history and that the new train operating companies have passed a watershed. Then came today's experience to prove that all is not as well as I had thought.

April decided to join me on a business trip in and out of London. We decided on the 9:20 a.m. from Moreton-in-Marsh. Just before we left the house I checked on the internet and the train was "on schedule". But by the time we reached the station, it had been cancelled, to be replaced by a bus to Oxford. This wasn't going to work, so we drove to Oxford. The queue at the ticket office was a mile long and a fast train to London came and went as we inched up the line to buy tickets. Finally we got our tickets and joined a slow stopping train with the recommendation to get off at Didcot and join a fast train from there on to London. Which we did. Except the fast train was running 30 minutes late. A minute before the train arrived we were told that the train was running backwards - first class to the rear instead of the front. So, with our cheap day returns we were in the wrong place.

It was at this point that I decided we were going to sit in first class. Which we did. The conductor (or whatever he's called in the UK) told us we would have to move. April suggested that we would be happy to move if he found us seats and carried our luggage. He said he couldn't do that. I explained again that we shouldn't even be on this train and finally asked what the extra cost would be for upgrading to first class. I also indicated that we would need full explanation of the charges and would quite possibly be sending in a letter of complaint.

This seemed to do the trick because all of a sudden he said "Did you say your train was cancelled? In that case stay right where you are, there will be no charge." All this heated conversation, by the way, took place in the first class "quiet zone"!

The journey home was less eventful but of course we had to get off at Oxford and drive a much longer journey home even though the train ticket was no less expensive.

I am going to wait a while longer before I get too excited about British trains!