... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Tuesday 13 March 2012


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.


  1. Jim from Starcross is an expert at these split ticket exercises, so if you ever need a hint as to which options to try, he's your man. Whenever I have to buy tickets with other companies, it makes me realise how good lots of the offers from Southern are. Depending on my shifts, I can usually get to London for less than £5 for an off-peak single, or £20 for a peak return -- much much less than the standard fare.

  2. Sarah,
    Happy to help at any time. I never buy one rail ticket when two will do!
    BTW Charging a pound to pick up a ticket from a machine is a rip-off. No doubt a Cross-Country scam. You can use any operator's website to buy any ticket to avoid these things.
    Have a good journey.

  3. We have to pay £2.40 return from Bicester to Oxford - not a bad deal me thinks :)

  4. Hope the interview went well - didn't realise you were looking to go back to work!

    When I need ticketing help, I put a request for help up on and a herd of train nerds stampede to help out, with their collective geekery. Most useful!

  5. Mmm. I picked up the 'interview expenses' bit as well? Tired of the carefree life already Sarah :-)?
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  6. It's on Monday. Having rashly spent most of my payoff on a butty, I thought it might be in order to earn some money for a few more years so I've been applying for suitable jobs as and when they come up (but not back in London - I'm not that desperate yet!) I'm pulling the stops out for this one as it seems on paper to be made for me... So fingers crossed.