<p>Ticket check: contactless is available but may cost more between central London and Gatwick airport</p>

Ticket check: contactless is available but may cost more between central London and Gatwick airport

Airport passengers bamboozled by Thameslink train ticket machines

Contactless card payment is an alternative – but may prove more expensive

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 29 April 2022 17:35
Comments

For passengers hurrying from London Bridge station to Gatwick airport, buying a £12.50 ticket for one of the four-an-hour Thameslink trains should be easy.

The time-pressed traveller taps in the destination. But instead of being served with a simple option of single or return ticket, the resulting screen reads “Select your preferred route” and provides five options:

  • Any permitted
  • Not valid by Gatwick Express
  • Southern only
  • Thameslink only
  • AP Southern only

Even travellers whose first language is English and are aware of the complex structure of railways in the UK may be confused by this menu.

The “Any permitted” option will allow the traveller to use a train from London Victoria, two miles away – though it is difficult to imagine why anyone would want to do that.

But people familiar with the rail system south of London will know that the best bet is Thameslink, with frequent trains taking half-an-hour.

Yet anyone selecting “Thameslink only” is told: “That ticket is not available at the moment!”

The same happens for “Southern only” as well as the “AP Southern only” option, which is an advance purchase ticket not normally available from machines.

A laminated piece of plastic stuck to the machine in a not-especially-digital manner tells traveller: “For Gatwick airport pls select Not valid on Gatwick Express option.”

The befuddled traveller could swerve the problem by opting to use a contactless bank card, but passengers are warned: “Please note that during Peak Times it is cheaper to buy a Ticket then [sic] using contactless.”

All the trains between London and Gatwick airport are run by the same company, Govia Thameslink Railway.

The Department for Transport says the new Great British Railways (GBR) organisation will “simplify the current mass of confusing tickets” .

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