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The Train Maze


I like travelling by train, which is lucky really given that driving long distances is no longer an option for me since my stroke, but sometimes the dance one has to do in order to find the best route and price drive me nuts.

For example when I make journeys on the east coast main line I like to travel first class. If you book well in advance you can get an Advance ticket and, with my disabled railcard thrown in too which gives me 1/3 off, it's a pretty good deal. But I've long since discovered that, for example, it's cheaper to get a Standard Class Anytime ticket from Nairn to Inverness, a First Class Advance from Inverness to Peterborough, and a Standard Class Anytime ticket from Peterborough to Cambridge than it is to get a First Class Advance ticket all the way through.

"Hang on", you're saying, "but you're not comparing like with like!"

But actually I am as the train from Nairn to Inverness is Standard Class only, as are quite a lot of the trains from Peterborough to Cambridge. So I would be paying to travel First Class and getting no benefit other than paying more.

Which brings me onto my next trip and a new quirk. This time I'm flying south for a change1 and I'm getting an Easyjet flight from Inverness to Gatwick and back.

Once I get to Gatwick I'm heading for Cambridge so I bang that into my rail company site of choice (they all seem to be using the same back end) and I'm told I need to get a train from Gatwick to London Bridge, then tube to London Kings Cross and on to Cambridge. Now I'll be doing the tube part at the back end of the rush hour so I'm not wild about this ... and that's even before I start thinking about terrorism.

But then I start fishing about and discover something odd. There's another way to do this and it's both quicker and simpler. I get a Thameslink train from Gatwick to St Pancras, walk out and across Pancras Road into Kings Cross and catch the train. No tube necessary and it's quicker overall.

So in this case I'm told that using the London Bridge route I can take the 17:01 from Gatwick and I'll get to Cambridge at 19:08 or I can take the 17:07 from Gatwick and I'll get to Cambridge at 19:28. If instead I take the later 17:10 from Gatwick to St Pancras I have fourteen minutes to walk 100m or so to catch the first of these and hence get to Cambridge at 19:08.

I wondered if I was going mad, was this perhaps not allowed with the ticket I was intending to buy (a £22 Anytime Day Single) but no, if you explicitly say "via St Pancras" it offers you this very route and says you can do it on a £22 Anytime Day Single.

I'm bemused.

Of course this all depends on me getting off the plane (it arrives at 16:40) and to the station by 17:10 as they're only hourly, otherwise I'll be waiting for the 17:26 to London Bridge.

But that will be Easyjet's fault, not the train companies'.

  1. For various reasons: I've not flown since 2010, and that was only a short hop in a turboprop from Shetland to Orkney, the last proper flight in a jet was before my stroke so over 16 years ago. It's also both a lot cheaper and about half a day quicker even allowing for all the dicking about at airports and trains at the English end. Plus I wanted the experience in my armoury as, sooner or later, I will probably have to head south in a hurry.

Tags: trains Written 20/06/17

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