My partner Deborah and I are going to Wales this weekend from London and I really really really tried to avoid driving there. But it has proved impossible because we are undertaking a complicated three legged journey that is not accommodated on the trains.
We are going for a birthday outing up a mountain in Macynlleth but also wanted to drop in on Deborah’s mother who lives up the coast near Porthmadog. However, there seemed to be no trains between Mac and Minffordd, the nearest station to Deborah’s mum’s place. With her mum unable to drive long distances, that meant we would have had to take a bus up to Minffordd and then the train back from Blaenau Festiniog.
However, that turned out to be a bus and meant that the return journey to London would take over six hours. Then, of course, no cheap tickets were available, which meant, essentially, we would have to buy two saver returns each, discarding half of both, and therefore the total travel bill would have been over £250 or so. (As an aside, it is shocking that when you go on to the Virgin website and try to buy a single, it fails to point out that it is cheaper to buy a saver return and discard the return bit).
We could not go all the way to Wales without seeing Deborah’s mum, so I spent much time checking out possible other options, such as a car hire, but to no avail. So I’m afraid we are jumping in the car on Friday and coming back, along with millions of other people, on sunday evening, instead of spending many pleasant hours on the train.
It is the basic high price of rail fares and the lack of flexibility that is the problem. In Germany, if you have a bahncard, you can get a discount on all fares and the basic levels are lower, thus encouraging rail travel. Here, to get a good deal you have to book in advance and travel at times when the deals are available, which is generally off peak during the week, rather than at holiday weekends.