Thursday, July 07, 2005

Let the train be a pain

Dear person in charge of the railways.

I had cause to visit our great capital city the other day. Yes, I did have all my innoculations and carried all my valuables in a mugger proof container strapped to the inside of my thigh. I did however forget the gas mask and translation booklet.

My visit was purely business. For an interview. For a company based in Ealing. My driving route from Gods vegetable patch in the Midlands was: M1, A43, M40 and A40 for your information.

The problem was that my interview was at 8.30am. On a Monday morning. No, I am not mad, yes I know it was early, yes I know the traffic would have been a bugger, yes I did try to change the time. Thanks for your concern.

Getting there for this time meant me awaking at 4am, as the journey could have taken anything from 3 hours upwards. This is not taking into account the time difference and any potential hold ups at passport control.

I'm not good in the morning. And 4 am is pribably not even considered the morning.

Which made the brainwave I had whilst taking my shower all the more remarkable.

"Why not try the train?" I thought.

After drying myself I hopped downstairs, carefully checking the windows to ensure that no-one was about to see my near nakedness (I shouldn't have worried really, most of my nieghbours dont get up until after Trisha has finished and then make a bee-line for the town centre to harass people) and checked for the times of trains to London on the interweb. Oh this was a good idea - I could slide on down to London letting the train take the strain. I felt free.

Feel free to use 'let the train take the strain' in any Marketing bumpf that you may produce in the near future that will no doubt end up being posted through my letterbox. If I'm going to read random advertisements for services I will never use that have been placed through my letterbox then I may as well have written them in the first place. I'd hate to think of you paying extortionate costs for copywriters when your customers are blessed with much more inspiration. And come for free. Most of the time.

So I looked on the trainline website - there was a train departing from Grantham at 6.17am or thereabouts getting into Londinnium at 7.30ish. Grantham is about an hour from me so that wasn't a problem. A quick hop, step and tube across the City and I would be in Ealing in good time. It was getting better.

Then I checked availability. Yes, spaces were available on the outbound and inbound services. Which was good as I only needed the one space. This was seeming too good to be true.

My illusions were quickly shattered when I went to check the prices.

The figure seemt to say £78. In fact there was no 'seemt' about it. It did say £78.

'Obviously some mistake' I thought to myself. So I decided to ring the National Rail Enquiries to get the truth.

"Ive just been checking your trains to London" I said to the pleasant man answering the phone.

By referring to this man as 'pleasant' I do hope you realise that I'm letting the side down. My Mother was employed at National Rail Enquiries in Derby shortly before you (probably not you exactly) decided to outsource this service to the moon, and she'd be horror struck to find out that her replacement is actually 'pleasant' and not a murderer.

"There's one leaving from Grantham at 6.17" I continued. Telling him information he already knew.

"Only there seems to be some mistake with the price - it says £78"

"No. that's right Sir. £78. It is peak time"

"Well I'm aware that it is peak time, but surely that's the exact time that you should be encouraging people to abandon more environmentally destructive forms of transport by offering fairer prices. It's going to cost me about £25 to get to London and back in petrol, and I'm prepared to take a £50 gamble on the traffic"

"Yes, I see your point Sir"

"I'm talking to the wrong person about this aren't I?

"Yes Sir. I don't do prices."

So I left the pleasant man in the moon to his pleasant job and got in the car and drove to London. After I'd got ready obviously. And you know what? The roads were clearish and the weather was nice. I was there in plenty of time too.

I know you'll tell me about the cheap day, early riser, egg shaped fred saver ticket, or whatever the password for it is nowadays. But I didn't even know I'd got this interview until the Friday before and I only considered the train on the very morning I was travelling. So not much good. And who books train journeys weeks in advance except old dears going to spend their life savings watching Phantom of the Opera?

So if you'd like to explain the brainwave behind the strategy of charging lots of people lots of money to travel on a full peak time train whislt at the same time charging a few people not as much money for travelling on an equivalent sized but mostly empty off peak train, then I'd be ever so grateful.

In the meantime I'll be putting the £53 I saved into my 'driving to London' fighting fund and not feeling guilty about a thing.

And if ever I see 'let the train take the strain' in any Marketing communication then I'm going to be in contact again.

Yours Faithfully

Mr Watski.