I had to travel to Newcastle for work this week. It was a perfectly acceptable journey to a place I haven’t been to for the best part of two decades. The LNER Azuma I travelled on was a little rattly, but in considerably better condition than its Great Western siblings which always seem to have something wrong with them and be in a state I’d be embarrassed to leave my own house in (which is saying something.) The bike storage in IEP trains is embarrassingly bad. I’m glad I brought my (light, thin) tourer which I could just about manoeuvre in.
Two young men got on at York for Newcastle. The train manager came through. “This ticket is Transpennine only,” she said, “it’s not valid on this train.” They had bought it online, it turns out. Each was charged a fresh single fare for their trouble. Those men probably won’t get the train again: at least they took it in good grace and didn’t kick up a stink, which would’ve been unpleasant for everyone.
I don’t begrudge the train manager for doing their job, but what was the point of this exercise? No-one is truly being deprived of revenue: both operators are effectively nationalised at this point and fares generally go straight to the Treasury. And it’s not even the worst case in the UK (the worst is easily the Gatwick “Express,” not the fastest way to Gatwick most of the time and charging a premium for a service that is anything but—as far as I’m concerned it’s a legalised scam.) So who benefits from operator-specific fares, from the decades-old wicked problem of arcane and confusing train tickets? It’s certainly not the customers. It’s probably not the taxpayer either. I don’t even think it’s a grand conspiracy, rather a train wreck (pun intended) of defective policy and politicians and policymakers who simply don’t care, combined with a ruthless private sector gravy train that should’ve been abolished long ago.
Meanwhile, in messes of my own making, my desk area is a dusty mess and this makes film scanning hard. I do think getting my own scanner was probably a wise idea though—I can be more selective about resolution if the hit rate isn’t great, and it’s a fun skill. I just need to get better at dusting.
Tyneside was quite grey for most of the time I was there. I took a scenic route back to the station via the Angel of the North—something I hadn’t seen with my own eyes for the best part of 20 years. It remains a puzzlingly quixotic bit of turn-of-the-millenium hubris that, while striking and something I love on its artistic merits, could probably do with better environs than a grassy knoll next to a dual carriageway.