Senior Railcard Moments – March 2018

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

Delay Repay Claims; total 1January 2018 to 31 March 2018 inclusive = £26.80
(Southeastern £19.80, Thameslink £7.00)

This month’s delays (from eight days’ travel): total 40 minutes, Southeastern 2, Thameslink 38.

Thursday 8 March – My destination is Leicester today. I expected to collect some tickets I had bought online for a journey on Saturday when I arrived at Bat & Ball station this morning. However, the ticket machine was not issuing tickets that had been purchased in advance. I crossed to Platform 1 and waited for the 07.39 departure to St Pancras International. This train departed Bat & Ball one minute late and arrived at St Pancras four minutes late. At St Pancras International the ticket machines were also not issuing tickets that had been purchased in advance; they had a notice on them advised that this was due to a software fault. The 09.15 East Midlands service to Nottingham departed on time and arrived at Leicester one minute late. I was pleased that the stock was an InterCity 125, my favourite “modern” train. I collected my tickets for Saturday when I arrived at Leicester!

The return journey was on a modern Class 222 unit which arrived on time at St Pancras International. According to the timetables the fastest journey back to Bat & Ball was via London Bridge and Sevenoaks. The 16.09 from London Bridge arrived one minute late at Sevenoaks. However, Thameslink decided to spoil my return journey. The 17.00 departure to Bat & Ball was cancelled. I waited for the 17.30 service which did not depart on time. Whilst waiting for the train to leave Sevenoaks an announcement was made over PA system advising that if a driver for the train could not be found in the next five minutes it would run fast to Bromley South via Orpington. [if the driver could not be found, how could the train run fast to anywhere? – Ed] This news was not received very well by passengers especially because the previous service had been cancelled. Fortunately, the train did eventually depart for Bat & Ball at 17.54 but was now running fast from Bromley South to Blackfriars. A fifty-one minutes delay to my journey, another Delay Repay claim submitted.

Saturday 10 March – I travelled from Bat & Ball to Arundel today, but I was returning from Pulborough. It is possible on some occasions to obtain a cheaper fare than buying an off-peak return to Arundel with a senior railcard by purchasing three tickets. An off-peak day return to London, plus an advance single from Victoria to Arundel and an advance single from Pulborough to Victoria. However, when I checked the fares for the date that I wanted to travel the return to Arundel was the same price as the total cost of the three alternative tickets! I bought the off-peak return ticket because it did not tie me to specific trains to and from Victoria. No delays were experienced today.

Wednesday 14 March – A day trip to London. I departed Bat & Ball on the 09.16 service at 09.17 bound for St Pancras International. The train ran a few minutes late towards London but due to the excessive time allowed to travel between Blackfriars and St Pancras International arrival there was on time. However, this train is due to terminate at West Hampstead Thameslink but as we approached Blackfriars onboard information screens advised passengers that the train would be terminating at Blackfriars. I suspected that this was wrong because the train arrived on the northbound platform that would direct the train through the tunnels for St Pancras International and beyond. No announcements were made, and some people detrained. I remained in my seat and continued to destination. On departure from Blackfriars the onboard information screen was still advising that the destination was Blackfriars. However, it was showing Bat & Ball as the next station stop!

Anorak time: some Thameslink trains have already commenced running direct between Blackfriars and London Bridge and vice versa. These can be identified by searching on National Rail Enquiries Website. However, these services may be diverted at short notice if the driver does not know the route.

Friday 16 March – Another day trip to London. I departed Bat & Ball on the 10.40 to Sevenoaks where it arrived three minutes late. The delay was blamed on waiting for a platform to become vacant at Sevenoaks. The 10.51 to Charing Cross departed two minutes late but arrived in London on time.

Thursday 22 March – Another day trip to London to meet up with my former work colleagues for a meal and some real ale therapy. I intended catching an earlier train than I did but due to my doctor’s surgery running late this was not possible. It did occur to me that the media frequently reports that to help encourage people to attend or cancel appointments a charge should be made if appointments are missed; if this happens at the same time a delay repay scheme for patients when doctors and nurses are running late should be started! I intended catching the 19.09 from London Bridge to start my return journey home but it was running late then the dreaded “Delayed” was displayed on the information screens. I quickly changed platforms and just boarded the 19.11 service at 19.12.

Friday 23 March – My destination is Brighton today. When purchasing my ticket for this journey a question came to mind: when is a train an off-peak service and when is it not? The first off-peak service to Blackfriars/Victoria from Bat & Ball is the 09.16. However, the same service if boarded at Sevenoaks, departing 09.13, is a peak fare service. Similarly, an off-peak day return ticket to Brighton from Bat & Ball cannot be purchased if you intend to travel on the 09.16 departure; with a senior railcard a £47.80 return fare or two singles for £44.90 are the available fares. I bought with my senior railcard an off-peak return to London for £8.40 and an off-peak return from London Victoria to Brighton for £18.80, saving £20.60, and travelled on the 09.16 departure from Bat & Ball.

Saturday 24 March – Bound for Newport in south Wales today. Buying tickets for this journey caused me problems. I intended returning on the 28 March 2018 therefore the cheapest tickets should be “Advance Purchase Single” tickets. However, when these should have been on sale they were not available. Eventually, because I wanted reserved seats on the trains I intended travelling on I decided to buy a “Super Off-Peak Return” at £52.00 with my senior railcard. I managed to reserve a seat for my return journey but not on the outward one. I contacted the GWR customer services and asked why I could not reserve a seat on the 09.45 departure from Paddington to Newport. The response was not very helpful: I was advised to try nearer the departure date, and that reserved seats were not available on trains that were known not to be busy. I did contact GWR customer services nearer the departure date, but I received a similar response. However, later I discovered that the 09.45 departure from Paddington to Newport no longer existed. The train was retimed to depart at 10.00 arriving one hour later than the 09.45 should have. This was due to engineering work. I suspect that the reason I could not reserve a seat for my outward journey was due to GWR not knowing what time the trains were departing due to planned, but not finalised, engineering work. Why not be honest with customers and advise them at the time of their enquiry that the actual times for journeys on the date they are travelling are not currently known? Some advance purchase tickets did go on sale but on a return journey from Bat & Ball to Newport they did not offer much of a saving compared to the ticket I bought, and my ticket was flexible and not tied to specific trains services. I commenced my journey on the 07.40 from Bat & Ball to Sevenoaks which was on time. The 07.49 to Charing Cross arrived in London four minutes early. I transferred to Paddington using the Bakerloo Underground line. The 10.00 to Newport arrived there sixteen minutes late. I was pleased that the train was an InterCity 125, a good comfortable journey. However; despite what GWR customer services advised me that the train would not be busy it was full to commuter standards, I only just got a seat.

Wednesday 28 March – I returned from Wales today. I commenced my journey from Cardiff Central at 10.26, arrival in Paddington was on time. The train was a new Class 800, “Intercity Express Train”; they look like a diesel powered Southeastern High Speed train. They are not as good as the aging InterCity 125 in my opinion. The seats are slightly less comfortable, and the engines being located under the floor make them noisier and subject the passenger areas to vibration. This was particularly noticeable between Reading and London where according to my observations the train achieved 120 m.p.h. However, the Wi-fi was good.


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