I am going to have a nice day out in Oxford on Monday. We have driven into Oxford once, and we couldn't escape, so I decided to go by train. Apparently since I was last in the jobs market, universities have stopped paying interview expenses, so I was on the lookout for the cheapest possible deal. If it meant a few extra hours to wander around the city of dreaming spires, so much the better.
Nothing is cheap in the world of rail travel though. The cheapest advance fare I could find from Penkridge to Oxford, via Birmingham New Street, was £47 - £23.50 each way. So I bit the bullet and went onto the Cross Country website to buy the tickets. I was offered the option of collecting them from a machine at the station, for free, or having them posted, for six pounds. Naturally I wanted to collect them at the station. But woe! Penkridge station does not sport a suitable machine, so that was a non-starter.
Then I thought, it's not much to get from Penkridge to Birmingham - I checked and it was £8.60 Anytime return - perhaps I should just book the advance tickets from Birmingham. So I went back and found the same trains - £15 each way. Result! Total cost £38.60 as opposed to £47.
But that's not the best bit. Travelling from Birmingham, I could get my tickets by post, £6, or to collect them from a machine would cost me a pound this time! There was a free option - an e-ticket, which is emailed and printed off. But how bizarre that this is available where it's not really needed, because there's a machine at the station, but not where it is needed, because there isn't.
(I expect there's a boring and sensible reason like London Midland (the Pengridge-Birmingham leg) can't deal with e-tickets or something). Still, I've paid a bit less and probably even made it cheaper than driving now, so I'm pleased. And I am looking forward to my day out, even if it isn't at someone else's expense.