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Once upon a time ...

by David Stevenson

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Once upon a time I wanted to go to South Wales. I live in Merseyside, I had a meeting in London on the Wednesday, and I usually spend the night, and I needed to be in South Wales early on the Friday. To complicate life there was flooding all over the place and Hatfield had just occurred. So the rail service was a bit dodgy.

I finally decided late on Sunday to fly from Manchester to Heathrow, spend Wednesday night at a friend in East London, play bridge on Thursday afternoon in London, and take a train from Paddington to Bridgend, staying there for four nights. Then I would go home on Monday, train to Paddington, Heathrow Express, and fly to Manchester.

I booked my air ticket via British Airways, and then tried to get a rail ticket from Paddington to Bridgend. I would have to collect them: they only send them by post if there are five working days left: no problem.

I got onto the Trainline website. There were a couple of glitches, and it did not seem to ask me all the questions, certainly not how I wanted the tickets. After I had put in all the information it crashed.

Next day I phoned the number given for problems. They told me that [a] the booking had been made and [b] the tickets would be posted to me arriving Thursday morning. Very useful since I would be at a friend in London then. When I explained they said it was not possible to cancel the ticket, so they suggested I booked another and sorted it out afterwards.

When I got to Paddington the clerk seemed surprised about some of the paperwork: he said it almost looked as though I had purchased two tickets. When I explained he said that must be it. I duly travelled [a pretty awful journey since alternate trains were cancelled and it was running slow], and later returned home.

Once I got my next credit card bill, I discovered I had been charged three times. I spoke to Trainline over the phone in early December: they said fax them a copy of the credit card bill and they would sort it out. I did. I rang again in January but they said refunds normally took at least six weeks.

In February I got a 6 refund [which I have mislaid] and a 5 voucher. Having spent 33 on a ticket I used, 32 on a ticket delivered wrongly, and 33 on an overcharge, I was not amused, and wrote a pretty stroppy letter. I sent copies to a few other parties.

In May I got a refund! Hooray! 33! They were sorry!

I was not pleased, and rang them up. They were very sorry, and I would get a further letter within a week. Two weeks later I rang them: they looked into it and blamed First Great Western. Huh!

Two weeks later still I got a 33 refund from First Great Western - wahey! - and yesterday I got a letter of apology from Virgin and 20 of vouchers.

At the end of it, I have lost nothing except time, and got a few vouchers to make up for it, but it has taken seven months.

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Editor's note:

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