It has taken me an hour to book a train ticket from London to Devon and back. I’ve booked flights in less than five minutes, but buying a train ticket is bewildering. I don’t wanna go all Jeremy Clarkson here, but I think I have to. The rail system is fucked!
I didn’t realise things were this bad! I’m an evil car owner, and generally relish a long drive to Devon as an opportunity for some solitude, some radio 4, and if I’m honest, some boy-racer antics around the twisting, winding Devonshire country lanes. But I want to spend as long in Devon as possible, which means going straight from work. The logistics of going back to south-east London from central London to then drive back through London make me feel sick. So it’s got to be a train.
The first website I tried was National Rail. I managed to search for suitable trains easily enough, but actually buying tickets to travel on them was physically impossible.
You tick a box indicating your outbound journey, do the same for the return, and click on ‘confirm journey’. Except when i did that, it comes up with a little pop-up saying ‘please select a return journey’. I did! I swear on my life I did! Oh, except it wasn’t the same type of ticket, which means it doesn’t work.
The choice of tickets was staggering. There was a
– Super Saver
– Early Bird Super Saver
– First Class Standard
– First Class Premium
– Upper Class Ponce
I just want to buy this watermelon, you know? The weirdest thing is all the different standard class tickets are for the same journey on the same train. And two single tickets are cheaper than a return.
By this point I’m starting to get paranoid that I’ll get the wrong ticket, and a ticket inspector will look at my pitiful offering with disdain, saying “Oh, you can’t use a Gummibear mega toothrot ticket after 2pm on a Thursday, you need a standard toothpick sandwich ticket. Here’s your £1000 fine and six month jail sentence”.
If English wasn’t my first language, I might consider killing myself before I’d buy a ticket to travel by train in England. In fact, I think this famously angry German kid is trying to book a train ticket for use in the UK.
Anyway. The official National Rail website really was broken, so I repaired to thetrainline.com
This was much better, and after a few clicks I was ready to actually pay for my ticket. You know the drill – select card type, enter details, blah blah blah. Except I had to enter the start date of my card (apparently required for Maestro/Switch only). My card (Maestro) doesn’t HAVE a fucking start date on it. It won’t let me proceed without it.
Hey, wait a minute, I see what’s happening here. They don’t charge a booking fee for reservations made by DEBIT card. But I can’t use my DEBIT card, because it hasn’t got a fucking START DATE. So I use my credit, and get fucked in the ass for another two quid.
Anyway, all done. Except I haven’t received my email confirmation. I go back to the site to log in and check the details. You log in with your email address and password. Christ, it won’t let me log in – in my stressed state, I must have typo’d my email address when I registered.
I go to the FAQ. Here it is :-
I think you can see there’s a Catch-22 at work here.
I emailed them, but I have a horrible feeling there’s a Kelly on the other end of the computer waiting to ruin my life.