Student Shenanigans: Crazy Train (Fares)

Ever since I started at Bangor University, I’ve had a nuisance to deal with. It’s effected my ability to attend both curricular and extracurricular activities. It’s caused me a great deal of inconvenience, financial worry and boredom. That nuisance is Arriva Trains Wales.

I’m certainly no stranger to rail travel. I’ve used it to travel between different parts of the family for years. I’ve just never before been in a position where I’ve had a regular commute using public transport. From my experience, it’s not something I would ever choose to do, at least not in North Wales. The train schedule is a nightmare, especially in conjunction with my study schedule. On Tuesdays, I have a lecture that goes until 6:00pm. It’s a 20 minute walk to the station. The train leaves at 6:10, and the next train isn’t for another hour. I have two choices: leave the lecture early, or run.

It’s annoying. So I should learn to drive, right? Can’t afford it. Why can’t I afford it? Because I take the train. I’m lucky in that my study schedule requires me to be on campus only three days a week. Even so, the cost for a return ticket is £9.50. That comes up to over £100 per month. A twenty-minute train ride costs me more than a third of the price of my rent.

Well, over the months I’ve been desperately trying to perform some kind of damage control, some emergency surgery to stifle the hole in my wallet through which I’m bleeding money. This has been infuriatingly challenging!

20150305_165349One godsend for poor students such as myself is shown on the right. It’s a railcard for 18-25-year-olds. It costs £30, and gives a third off almost any trip. It pays for itself pretty quickly.

Most of the time, this railcard ADDS to the expense of a journey to Bangor. I don’t understand it. There’s no logic there, no good reason. I grabbed a railcard application today and read the small print. Nothing that applies.

I’ve tried taking the bus. That takes an hour and a half on the best of days, and two and a half on the worst. It’s £5, but decidedly not worth it.

Most recently, I tried staying overnight with a friend on Mondays. That cuts out one full trip out of three. How did that work out?

WELL.

In case you didn’t catch it, I was being sarcastic. They don’t do return tickets that last more than a day FOR SOME REASON, and £7.50 is the price of a single.

Finally, today I attempted once more to apply the railcard to a booked online trip.The list came up, and nothing was discounted… except for one trip. It lead me to the website of Chiltern railways, and they asked me to put in my journey details. Sure enough, £6.25 was the price. Yup, cheaper than a single.

When I picked up my tickets, I noticed something strange and wonderful. The times I’d booked were only listed in my reciept as “suggested” times, and I was free to use the tickets at any time I liked. I went back to the website, put in details for a trip taking place tomorrow, and with only a few exceptions the same pricing applied.

I’m not going to add up the money I could have saved if I’ve have found this sooner. That’d just be depressing. The point is that I had to find an obscure loophole that is VERY POSSIBLY a mistake in the system to get a remotely decent price for my trip. If it’s not a mistake… then why does it not apply to the national rail website or the ticket machine in the station?

Well, I guess I’ll only be able to enjoy the savings for about three months. Then I’ll be literally on the other side of the world. And when I move back from Australia, you can bet I’m going for the student accommodation.

-Jesse (@Backblogguy)

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