When I went to Wellingborough and back to make my contribution to the Corby by election, I was told to catch the 3.30pm outbound, and get the late train back after canvassing and giving a speech to a dinner.
I was impressed by the refurbished St Pancras. The shopping centre there is good, and the old building has been stylishly restored and extended. If you want to buy gifts or have a coffee I can recommend it. It was altogether more difficult if you wished to be a train passenger on “national” routes.
I walked the full length of the station to find the ticket office, as the more accessible part of the station is taken up by Eurostar facilities. I asked for ticket options and prices. As this was a political visit I was of course paying for my own ticket. I bought a first class return to Wellingborough, as the price they quoted for that sounded very reasonable. I bought my ticket just before 3pm.
I had to wait by the ticket office as the only indicator board I could see with train departure times and platform indications was near the ticket office. There was no board near the steps up to the train gates. At around 3.15 they placed a platform number up for Wellingborough. I had to walk back down the station to find the stairs up to the national platforms, and then walk back to the gates which were directly above the ticket office. As the ticket I had bought seemed good value and stated on it it was a restricted ticket without having on it how it was restricted, I checked with the man at the platform gates. The last thing I wanted was to end up in the wrong carriage with the wrong ticket. He told me the ticket I had been sold was not valid for the 3.30. I asked if I could pay him a supplement to travel. He said No. I asked if I could use it to travel standard class instead. He said No. He told me I had to walk all the way back to the ticket office to change the ticket. I was naturally concerned, as owing to the late posting of the platform number I was running out of time.
I did as instructed. I queued at the ticket office where I had bought the ticket. The employee told me when I got to the window that I could not change that ticket in that ticket office. I had to go round the corner to another ticket office! I did so. There was another queue. Someone kindly let me ahead of them given the time constraint. I got to the window and had to pay a supplement to travel on the 3.30. They issued me with a third ticket. (The original ticket was two tickets, an outbound and an inbound). By running fast I just managed to get on the 3.30, having been at the station more than 30 minutes before its departure! What a great start to a journey.
I also took the train to Durham to do Any Questions. The programme supplied me with a standard class single, and said they would drive me home, as the return time was after the last train. I was travelling from Reading to Darlington on the cross country service. The door to door time of my journey was a massive six hours and ten minutes. That included a couple of taxis to travel around fifteen miles that the train could not offer. The return journey door to door by car was four hours forty minutes. The car was also more comfortable.
I was fortunate to have a seat reservation on the train, as it was crowded for much of the journey, with people having to stand. Whilst very few people wanted to go a long distance as I was doing, the train regularly filled up to go one or two stops. That meant people standing for half an hour or more.
I do think the railway could do more to improve the service it offers people who want to travel.