My Love Letter to South West Trains

This is the most boring blog entry I have ever written and probably not the best welcome back to blogging but I just needed to get the following out of my system – I am sorry and you really don’t have to read it.

My son Aneurin turns eight this week and to celebrate we’re off to London for the day to meet my Mum and go to the London Transport Museum, Nando’s, the British Museum and Krispy Kreme. Needless to say it is the final thing in this list which is exciting him the most.

The first thing we have to do of course is get to London and that’s been a bit of a hassle. I bought our train tickets three months ago to ensure that we got a good price and then at the weekend I thought I’d check to see what changes there might be as I knew we’d have to get a bus at one point on our trip. There were indeed some changes and it seemed that South West Trains had actually cancelled our train and we’d have to take a bus from Dorchester to Southampton Airport Parkway and this bus would take two and a half hours to get there oh and then we’d miss the train that we were booked on having to catch a later one throwing our plans for the day into disarray.

I talked it through with my wife and we thought that we’d just drive to Southampton to get our train, it takes an hour and we’d get to London as planned on the train we’d originally booked on. Just to reassure myself I emailed South West Trains to see if this would be okay, I wasn’t asking for a refund, or an upgrade nor was I complaining that the trains from and to Dorchester had been cancelled. I just wanted to check that I could drive and park at my own expense and get on a train in Southampton which I had bought four tickets for.

This was the response:

“Ideally, since the ticket is an Advance Single Ticket you will need to travel from the station you are booked from. Hence you will need to use the bus service arranged from Dorchester.”

“Hmm,” I thought, “I think that’s a bit rubbish.” So I wrote back:

“I realise that you can’t help it but ideally I wouldn’t choose to spend 2 and half hours on a bus leaving before 6am with my wife and two young boys to get a train that gets into London later than the one we booked on. We can drive to Southampton in an hour and get the train to London that we’re booked on – I can’t see why this should be an issue.”

To which I got this response:

“I completely understand the resentment towards the issue.

Our website is updated according to the latest information provided to us by the Train Operating Companies managing the route. Hence, you will be allowed to book tickets for that particular service. However, last minute changes and cancellation are beyond our control.

Please note, the terms and conditions are decided by the Association of Train Operating Companies, we are only retailers selling train tickets, abiding by the rules and regulations laid down by the Train Operating Companies.”

So now I’m resentful? I was hurt by this* but when I want to be I can be a stubborn little bastard and I can’t stand stupid rules that make little sense so I didn’t back down.

We got offered other route alternatives that took in a bus journey up to Yeovil Junction, and journeys that would get us into London even later than the already later train that we were being told to catch but all I wanted was to be able to drive over to Southampton and get on the 8.02 train to London we have tickets for and then travel back to Southampton on Saturday evening, get off the train there and drive home thereby cutting out a two and a half hour journey back to Dorchester on a packed bus after a long day out in London.

In the end I asked for our email chat to be passed to the South West Train employee’s line manager and within ten minutes I got this response from her manager:

“Dear Anthony,

Thank you for your response.

I have checked the details for you and I can confirm that you can use your tickets to directly board the train service from Southampton Parkway and there will be no problems, as this is a change in your journey.

Kind regards

*******”**
To reach this point took nearly four hours!!!

I’d just wanted reassurance that our plans were okay and wouldn’t lead to me getting hit with a big extra surcharge once we’d boarded the train on Saturday morning. What I got was the email equivalent of bashing my head against a brick wall with a South West Trains employee who could probably have done without me badgering her on a Saturday night.

In case I appear to look like a twat in all of the above can I just point out that apart from the use of the word “ideally” in my second email I was polite at all times and didn’t resort to sarcasm.

This was going to be a blog about London and various tales of my times there and what it means to me but maybe I’ll do that another time so story of my parents taking my sister and me into Soho on a Saturday night during the 1970s will have to wait for now.

*Not really.
** I have printed out the entire email conversation to stuff in my rucksack on Saturday so if we are challenged I will whip it out and say “Aha!”***

*** No really, I have.

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