Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Well if Mícheál keeps doing these so must I.
Once upon a time we had British Rail and Northern Irish Railways. Then I never had a problem booking a through ticket from Larne/Belfast to Surbiton incorporating the ferry across the Irish Sea. In fact I was so adept at it that often the ticket office in Surbiton's Art Deco station were taught how to book it by me booking my end of term ticket. There were also times that I could book it at my fully manned local station, a terminus on the Northern Irish rail network*.
Well yesterday I was attempted to buy a rail/sail ticket to get me over to Scotland. You'd think that this could be purchased at any ticket office. Well you'd be wrong I had to go to Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) travel office at Great Victoria Street (GVS), because Translink the Rail and Bus provider do not have the ability to sell that ticket to me.
So I hopped on what is actually almost becoming my regular commute (you thought I was working from home and not commuting), the 16:35 express to Belfast Central: where it terminates. I just missed the next connection to GVS it was pulling out on platform 2 as I was getting off a train on the other set of platforms at platform 4 at 16:52. Next train wasn't until 17:12 heading that way, so I would be quicker walking. I arrived at GVS at 17:01 and the NIR Travel Office was totally shut up. Not only that but it did not have any sign in the window to indicate opening hours.
Mícheál turned up as well as he was also looking to buy a ticket to Scotland. I told him of the situation so we went to the ticket office at GVS which is about 10 metres away from the NIR Travel Office to enquire. They couldn't sell us a ticket and when we asked the gentleman behind the counter if he could inform NIR Travel Office that displaying their opening hours on or near the door may be helpful. He said they weren't part of the same company.
Now I decided to look up how separate the two companies are so checked out their respective websites:
Translink is http://www.translink.co.uk/
Northern Ireland Railways is http://www.translink.co.uk/NI-Railways/
I've never had this issue at Waverley. Firstly I can do it at the Virgin/FirstScotRail travel centre of the same day ticket office. I can also do this at Haymarket should I wish. The travel office is open beyond 5pm, therefore those of us who work on the outskirts of the metropolitan area don't have to get out of work between 9 and 5 to get in there to make a special trip to buy tickets.
For a country as small as Northern Ireland not to be able to deal with this that travel tickets can only be bought during working hours at one location it is a wonder than anybody in Northern Ireland uses the train to get anywhere on the British mainland.
Update The solution we came to was that I gave Mícheál money for him to buy both our tickets today.
*Yes Caron we have a full network. ;)