I’m trying hard to think of the last time we travelled anywhere in the UK by train. That is, a regular train, not a preserved ‘heritage line’. Time was, trains were inefficient, dirty, rarely on time … but inexpensive. Now, they’re clean, efficient … and expensive. I gave up travelling to the World Travel Market by train, and took to using National Express coaches several years ago, when the rail fare to London passed the £50 mark.
Recently, though, we went to Brighton to see a show, and worked it out that the train would be a tad more convenient than driving there.
Time was, there was a railway station at Amesbury within walking distance of where we live. But, it’s long gone now; we had to drive into Salisbury. We’d carefully hoarded £1 coins for the parking fee … but found, on arrival, the ticket machines only accepted credit cards; if we wanted to pay cash, we had to go to the ticket window and queue.
We’d bought our tickets for the train online … and, is it just me, or is it more complicated than it used to be? In the olden days, it was simply:
‘I would like a second-class day return to Brighton, please’
‘Certainly, Sir! That will be seventeen shillings and sixpence’
Then, assuming the train arrived in the foreseeable future, I’d just get on it. And, I could come back on any train. Not any more.
These days, you are committed to one train only, and, if you miss it, I assume that’s your hard luck. If you booked online … well, the ticket machines are proof of the old saying that you never let anything electronic know you’re in a hurry!
However, once on the train, things greatly improve, and you can just settle down and enjoy the ride. After all, a route along the South Coast ought to be a scenic one, should it not? Er, no! There is an occasional glimpse of a marina, or a river estuary, but most of the time, the sea is out of sight. And, the scenery out of the window is pretty ordinary.
But, we arrived in Brighton on time … and I have to admit that the journey, ordinary as it was, did improve on the drive along the A27, with, seemingly, a roundabout every few hundred yards.