42245 & 42070
Firstly though, it was a very mundane 18:03 Penzance service that took me from Paddington to Reading in Carriage E, aka 42245. The only thing of note here was another arm rest-hogger who compounded his oafishness by playing Candy Crush for the whole journey like some sulky adolescent Kevin.
Pouting lips when all you can’t do is line up three cherries isn’t a good look mate.
I then changed at Reading for my regular late Frome service and plonked myself down in a very innocent looking Carriage D, aka 42070.
It was just when we left Theale that I heard raised voices in the vestibule and from the bits of conversation I could pick up it seemed that the Train Manager was having a go at a passenger who had tried to leave at Theale but had found that the doors were already locked.
“Well I ain’t paying for a ticket to Thatcham then” said the failed disembarkee to which the TM retorted with some excuse about having already given the signal to the driver to leave.
But obviously this got the TM’s goat somewhat riled as he then stomped into our carriage and demanded to see all tickets. (And it was a “demand” there wasn’t any “asking” about it.)
Now this is very strange. I get my ticket checked every day, usually in the mornings just when I’ve fallen asleep but I’ve never seen a ticket check be carried out 3 minutes from Thatcham and never seen one carried out with such ill grace by such an obviously annoyed TM.
So as we’re all digging into inside pockets and purses for the vital bits of paper, a lady comes walking up the aisle to get to a door ready to leave. She is no doubt absolutely kicking herself now by choosing to come this way as the TM blocked her and demanded her ticket as well.
Well you know what’s going to happen next don’t you. She only had a Reading travel card and Mr Charming decided that this was good enough to not only charge her for a ticket but to also slap on a penalty fare as well. £24 for Reading to Thatcham, a bargain of 10 miles in anyone’s book.
Now look, let me be very clear here. I’m no fan of fare dodgers and I have nothing against TM’s checking tickets or even the Revenue Protection goons which FGW position at the barriers every now and again – although why the pick the most miserable sour faced prunes for this job I don’t know why – but there is a thing called discretion and also a thing called manners and as it became clear from the lady’s story (her car had broken down and she’d found herself stranded in Reading) this was more of an oversight than a deliberate go at fare dodging. Yes, she should of course have bought a ticket, but instead of helping her on what had already been probably a very shitty day, or at least playing fair (fare – geddit!) with her by just charging for a single ticket, the TM was just on autopilot to make an example of the lady and raise some more profits for the FGW shareholders.
The stand off ended when the TM, who had now captured the lady’s travel card and refused to return it, barged past the rest of us who by now were queuing up to leave at Thatcham, yelling how he was “going to make a report” and how he had “every right to keep this travel card”.
Now I don’t know if the lady will make a complaint. I would guess not seeing as, at the end of the day, she was in the wrong and probably knows she’ll get no change out of the wonderful FGW 3 week turnaround complaints system, but I on the other hand certainly will be.
Because whether or not someone has paid or not, they deserve to be treated with dignity, politeness and fairness. Something the majority of the TMs do do, let me again be clear on that point, but for Patrick, (for that was his name) to be so obviously acting only according to his annoyed mood and desperate to “win” the stand off to act in this way was just not right.
Oh, and Patrick, in the unlikely event you read this……saying “madam” to someone does not equal politeness. I’m sure your mum would agree.