Senior Railcard Moments – January 2018

Our Bat & Ball correspondent, Keith Alderman, has retired. However he’s now making good use of his Senior Railcard!

This month’s delays (from five days travelling): total 43 minutes, Southeastern 37, Thameslink 6. Delay Repay Claims; total 1 January 2018 to 31 January 2018 inclusive = £4.80 (Southeastern £4.80, Thameslink £0)

Wednesday 10 January – My destination was Birmingham today, Senior Railcard Advance Single fare £9.55 each way. I was surprised that when collected the ticket they showed details of Southeastern services that I had to travel on, I only expected to be required to travel on specific train services from Euston to Birmingham and return. I commenced my journey using Thameslink from Bat & Ball at 08.27 to Otford 08.30, this part of the journey was successful. I was advised that I must travel on the 08.47 departure from Otford to Victoria due 09.24. This train was only four coaches today and was six minutes late departing Otford, it arrived in Victoria at 09.35, eleven minutes late. This did not allow sufficient time to cross London to Euston on the Underground because there were problems with the Victoria line. I arrived at Euston underground station at 09.56 and just managed to board the 10.03 service to Birmingham at 10.01. I boarded the train at the first door I came to and walked almost the whole length of the train to reach my reserved seat. This was too close for comfort, being sixty years old with arthritis in my knees, running through stations to catch trains is not an option. The compulsory outward journey on Southeastern services was not the best route to take, the following would be much more sensible and convenient: –

Bat & Ball 08.24 – Sevenoaks 08.27
Sevenoaks 08.31 or 08.47 ¬to London Bridge 8.56 or 09.11

This would have provided a much better arrival time at Euston for the 10.03 departure to Birmingham.

The advised restricted Southeastern return journey from London to Sevenoaks was not ideal from another point of view. Arrival at Euston was on time at 16.32 and the advised service from London Bridge was at 17.28; almost an hour allowed to cross London! I arrived at London Bridge in time to travel on the 17.00 Southeastern departure to Sevenoaks. I boarded the 17.00 service hoping that it would be on time and connect with the 17.30 departure to Bat & Ball. I was not surprised when the arrival at Sevenoaks was three minutes late, just as the 17.30 service started to move. Back in my commuting days I learnt that this train service is more often late than it is on time. There are two reasons for this; the stop at Orpington always seems to take a lot longer than the timetable allows, and the train follows the 16.30 slow service from Charing Cross to Sevenoaks, (due 17.26). This train is often late delaying the 16.51 departure from Charing Cross, (London Bridge 17.00), between Orpington and Sevenoaks. Although my train was only three minutes late it was a thirty minutes delay to my journey back to Bat & Ball. I have submitted a Delay Repay claim – and Southeastern have now paid me £4.80 for the delay.

Thursday 18 January  – A trip to London today; I was meeting with some people that I use to work with late afternoon therefore I thought I would travel to London early in the day and visit some of the City’s free attractions. I commenced my journey on the 09.26 from Bat & Ball to Sevenoaks where it arrived four minutes late. The 09.42 to London Bridge was cancelled today but I travelled on the late running 09.29. It departed five minutes late and arrived in London eight minutes late. I took a quick look round the station; the Cannon Street platforms are now being used but there is still a to be done to complete the works.

I then took a train to Cannon Street. At Cannon Street Underground station I linked my Senior Railcard to my Oyster Card to get a reduction on Oyster fares. My first visit was to the Sky Garden. For those not familiar with this place it is a garden at the top of a building on the thirty-fourth floor. There is also a viewing area that provides good views all over London and offers good photographic opportunities. There is a restaurant at the top of the building. One thing of local interest, most of the trees in the Sky Garden came from Kent. I then went for a glass of lunch in the Liberty Bounds near the Tower of London. I continued my cultural visits by walking to the Bank of England Museum. Very interesting, worth a visit if you are in the area. When walking around the exhibits there is the opportunity to hold a bar of gold, (if you can lift it!). The bar weighs 13 kg/28 lb, I lifted it, but a small young Japanese lady who tried next could not move it. Above the gold bar that you are invited to attempt to lift is a scrolling text that advises you of the current value of the gold bar, today it was over £363,000. Not many properties in Sevenoaks could be purchased with one gold bar! My next port of call was the London Mithraeum; the recreation of the Roman Temple of Mithras. There are also some Roman relics on display here. Worth seeing but probably not something that you would return to for a second visit. After a day spent walking around the City I headed for the Crosse Keys to meet up with some friends for a surf and turf plus some real ale therapy.

Thursday 25 January – My destination is Manchester today. I commenced my journey on the 07.12 from Bat & Ball to Otford, changing on to the 07.22 departure to Blackfriars arriving at 08.06. All trains were on time. I only used these services to London because my Advance Purchase ticket stated that I must travel on the 07.22 departure from Otford. Changing on to this service was pointless. It does arrive at Blackfriars eleven minutes before the 07.12 departure from Bat & Ball but at Otford it is difficult to get a seat on it. A more appropriate route to London to connect with the 09.00 departure from Euston to Manchester is 07.10 Bat & Ball to Sevenoaks then the 07.23 to London Bridge. Departing Bat & Ball at 07.40, changing at Sevenoaks on to the 07.47 or 07.51 to London Bridge will still get you to Euston early enough. Why route passengers via Otford, it is not so convenient and if the 07.22 was cancelled the next available services to London might not achieve a connection with a 09.00 departure from Euston; especially if access to the Victoria underground line at Victoria is delayed due to overcrowding, (which is not unusual). My train to Manchester was named “Penny the Pendolino”, she arrived there on time. I returned from Manchester on the 16.15 service arriving on time at 18.21 in London Euston. The advised train home was the 19.09 from London Bridge to Sevenoaks. I arrived at London Bridge in time to travel on the 18.50 to Sevenoaks which was two minutes late the 1930 to Bat & Ball was on time. I arrived at Bat & Ball fifteen minutes earlier than I should have.

Wednesday 31 January – A trip to London today. On arrival at Bat & Ball station I found that the ticket machine was not working. I travelled to Sevenoaks on the 10.40 service which arrived there one minute late. I anticipated missing the 10.49 to London Bridge because I needed to buy a ticket at Sevenoaks. However, the 10.49 service was running seven minutes late therefore I caught it with ease. A new excuse for late running was given out in respect of this delay: “this service is delayed due to a problem that is currently under investigation”.

Further timetable delay – Southeastern have failed to deliver again! The new timetable commenced on 31 December 2017 (ignoring the London Bridge works), and surprise, surprise, Sevenoaks station does not have any copies of timetable number 6, “London to Catford Bridge, Elmers End and Hayes” and “London to Bromley North, Orpington and Sevenoaks via Grove Park”. This is the only timetable that shows the full train service between Sevenoaks and London terminals via Orpington which is the route most Sevenoaks passengers will be using. I cannot understand why Southeastern cannot provide Sevenoaks station with copies of the most relevant timetable to their customers.

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