True stories from the Great Railway Disaster : No 79 : so you want a through ticket?

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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The Independent Online
Brendan Gash, cheered by the warm weather, decided to travel from his home in Hounslow, west London, to the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. He rang Waterloo's enquiry service to ask the fare and the train time: 10 30am from Clapham Junction to East Grinstead with a fare of pounds 12.30 including the bus journey to the railway from the station and the Bluebell run.

So far so good. But at Hounslow station, Mr Gash was told the through ticket could not be purchased and he could only get a return to Clapham Junction. There, the clerk showed Mr Gash a brochure saying the fare was only available from Network SouthCentral and intermediate stations between Victoria and East Grinstead.

"But," protested Mr Gash, "Clapham Junction is an intermediate station." The clerk pointed to his badge and said: "I can't sell you a ticket. I am South West Trains, you want Network SouthCentral."

Mr Gash was offered a ticket to Balham, but refused, since East Grinstead trains do not even stop there. He was sent to Platform 13 to complain to the NSC supervisor who told him he knew nothing about tickets.

Eventually he was sold a ticket by the guard on the train to East Grinstead who took his Hounslow to Clapham return in part-payment. However, the guard said that he was only able to sell him the ticket because Mr Gash knew the price. The ticket was handwritten and Mr Gash says that the bus and the Bluebell Railway both needed persuading to accept it.

"The Independent on Sunday's Great British Rail Disaster" by Christian Wolmar, which includes more than 60 items from this column, is published by Ian Allan at pounds 5 99. If you have difficulty obtaining a copy, send a cheque or postal order, or Visa/Access authorisation, to: The Great British Railway Disaster, Ian Allan Ltd, Coombelands House, Coombelands Lane, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 1HY. (Tel: 01932 855909 ext 235/236).