At least once a month, I travel to Manchester for work. I tend to use the train, rather than drive because: it’s pretty straightforward; I can work on the journey; and I’m not so tired at the other end (although having the car with me can be more flexible at times).
Today is one of those days when I’m heading north but this time, instead of a straight out and back from Milton Keynes Central to Manchester Piccadilly, I need to be in Crewe tomorrow. That meant buying three single tickets – and even though my train from Manchester to Milton Keynes sometimes goes via Crewe, it cost more to break the journey than to go direct. That’s just one of the many vagaries of the British railway ticket system (and contrary to a popular money-saving tip)… go figure!
Anyway, the reason for this diatribe is that the Virgin Trains website defaulted to letting me collect my tickets from the “Fast Ticket” machine (a complete misnomer when it involves looking up and entering an 8 digit alphanumeric reference on a not-very-responsive touch screen using a non-QWERTY keyboard) at the origin of my last journey (i.e. Crewe) rather than my first (i.e. Milton Keynes Central).
In horror, after spending £150 on train tickets, I thought I would have to *drive* to Crewe to collect them! In a state of panic I called Virgin Trains (calls cost 4.5p a minute from a BT land line – on other networks you may need a small mortgage), who told me it doesn’t actually matter which station I collect the tickets from, as long as I have my payment card with me. Bizarre! So why ask me which station I want to collect from then?! (Maybe blame the Trainline.com back-end – or perhaps the rail ticketing systems…)
I didn’t trust the advice and didn’t want to be caught out whilst trying to catch the something-way-too-early train to Manchester this morning, so I headed to my local station to collect my tickets on Friday evening, just in case I needed to get someone at Virgin Trains to help me out. Actually, I drove over twice because I forgot my credit card on the first occasion and left it next to my laptop on my desk, from where I’d bought the tickets (idiot)!
Anyway, the verdict is that it really doesn’t seem to matter which station you select to collect your tickets at – you can collect them in any Fast Ticket machine at any station (as long as you have the card used to purchase them). Something that might be worth knowing about if you ever find yourself panicking as a result of some poor UX design on a website…