22 January 2007

The problem with trains

If you happen to live in Berkshire or South Oxfordshire and, like many hard working people, commute into London on a daily basis you will be aware of the change in train timetables and the almighty local row which is accompanying this. Luckily, I live in London and knew nothing about it until I went back to my in-law's at the weekend and read about it in a copy of that fine local paper, the Henley Standard.

Rather unusually, this morning I caught the 0756 train from Shiplake (direct to Paddington) as my wife had a meeting in Henley and so we'd spent Sunday night out of town.

The station at Shiplake is tiny. It consists of a small carpark and a small platform. Being rather gauche, I arrived, ooh at least four minutes before the train, whereas the regulars time it perfectly to step onto the platform as the train pulls in. I piled dutifully onto the train and took my seat. There being no ticket office at Shiplake, I expected to be able to buy a ticket on the train. Admittedly, by the time we got to Paddington, it would be have been virtually impossible for anyone to move through the train checking tickets, but it would have been nice to have seen someone try, particularly before the train got too busy. I assumed there would be a ticket barrier at the other end, but nothing of the sort.

I am a law abiding citizen and I would have been quite happy to tender my fare to any employee of First Great Western - and I remain so - but not having the opportunity, I have not. No wonder FGW are cutting services if they are unable to collect fares from people who would happily pay them.

The payback came when I got on the tube - having left my Oyster card at home in London I bought a return ticket for Zone 1 - £8. Welcome to London.

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