August 23rd 2020

Today I rounded off my weeked trip to London by paying three times for the same train ticket. A journey that was supposed to cost me £40 ended up costing me over £120. And it all could have been avoided if not for a tiny bit of bad luck.

Yesterday, when my train got into London, I opened up my Trainline app and held the barcode infront of the scanner at the gate. The gate wouldn’t open, so I showed it to a nearby guard. Then, he asked me the fateful question which would ultimately cost me an additional £84.


Annoyed that he’d even asked me that question, because I’ve never been asked for it when not on a train before, I got it out my wallet. He realised at the same time as I did that my railcard expired two weeks ago. He was more excited about the relevation than I was, however.

He marched me over to his mate, who nervously asked to see my ticket, and this is when I realised my mistake. In my haste to get through the gate, I’d brought up the wrong ticket on my Trainline app. I’d loaded one from my last trip to London, which was obviously no longer valid. If I had have originally shown the right barcode to the scanner, the gate would have just opened, and I would have avoided what came next.

I asked if I could just pay the difference that the railcard would have saved me, but matey boy explained that because I’d completed the journey with an invalid ticket, he had to issue me with a penalty fare for twice the cost of the journey’s price. A single from Cheltenham to London is £33.50, so he doubled that and asked me for 67 bucks.

Although I was annoyed, I didn’t protest because I was fully in the wrong. I travelled with an invalid ticket. I’ve agreed to the terms and conditions that say my ticket is invalid if my railcard is expired. And so I deserved my fine. I was fuming about it though, but more for the fact that it was a litany of inconsequential little moments that caused it to happen:

A) If you can picture the tracks at Paddington, there’s a choice of clumps of gates you can exit through. The one closest to the train I was on was crowded, so I veered left tot he next clump. Had I not done that, then B) the guard at those gates may not have asked to see my railcard. It was weird that he did, to be fair, because I’m never asked for it on completing a journey. But talking to the guard would have been avoided altogether if I had’ve C) shown the right ticket to the barcode scanner.

Also, it all would have been avoided if I’d realised that my railcard had expired.

And so, today, before getting on my return train, to avoid the exact same thing happening again, I had to go to the ticket office and validate my return ticket by paying the difference that the railcard saved me.

So at this point I’ve already paid £40 for the open return ticket, plus a £67 fine, and to top it off I had to pay £17 to validate my return ticket, which, if you’ve been counting, adds up to £124 for a £40 journey. It hurt.

Honestly, I don’t quite now how the maths is worked out on the £17 because a railcard saves you a third on the price of a fare, but if my original ticket was £40 for two journeys, thus £20 for one journey, then £17 is not a third of £20. I guess maybe they were counting my return ticket as a single, but I was not in the mood to debate it. I paid the man, for the third time, and got on my train.

Until tomorrow, I’m a bit bitter, but I deserved it.


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