Later this month I’ll be travelling again. Beloved Wife has to stay and work, otherwise we’d be renting a car for sure. I thought I’d give rail travel another try after discovering last time that coach drivers enjoy tailgating small cars on the motorway, coach seats are titchy, and there’s no room for any luggage in the cabin. Plus, the coach service from Heathrow was over three hours late “like it is every Friday.”
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could book my train tickets on line. I could even select aisle or window, table, electricity supply, direction to face, near the loo, et cetera. Unfortunately it all went wrong when it came to the bit about obtaining the ticket. The Train Line is incapable of e-ticketing. Options on offer are to collect the pre-paid ticket from a machine at the station, or to have it mailed or couriered to a UK address. The only option available for an international traveller - and there are one or two of these milling around Heathrow - is to collect the ticket immediately before boarding the train.
Problem: No ticket machine at Heathrow. Obviously, no-one has ever flown in from abroad and wished to continue his journey by rail, leastways not from Heathrow. Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham or Bristol airports don’t have this problem. The Heathrow idiocy is caused by various parts of the journey being operated by differing rail companies.
I contacted The Train Line’s telephone helpdesk. A kind lady in Delhi told me that the only option was to buy my ticket upon arrival at the station. According to the website, that would cost an extra £46 each way. The email helpline wasn’t much better. I was advised that:
- “The nearest station to Heathrow Airport is Reading which has a Self Service Ticket Machine, therefore, you can retrieve your tickets from the Reading station.”
- “I would like to inform that you need a valid ticket, before boarding the train. It is possible to collect the whole ticket from the London Paddington station. However, you will not be allowed to board the train without the ticket on the first part of the journey.
Hence, please book the ticket at the station on the day of travel.
I hope this information is helpful.”
I have at last solved the problem. It turns out after some on-line research that there are any number of ways to get between Heathrow and Paddington. The cheapest practical option is the Tube, at £4 each way, but it’s a pest when combined with suitcases. I simply booked two single tickets for the Paddington – Plymouth return journey using The Train Line, plus an open return on the Heathrow Connect rail service. In all, £20 less than attempting to do the whole thing through a one-stop shop.