An unusual outbreak of sociability in my life means that tomorrow evening I’m off to the South Bank to meet a couple of friends for a drink and a bite or two to eat. But how to get from Kew Bridge to the SouthBank Centre (nearest station London Waterloo)? Curiously enough, despite the fact that my regular train home terminates at Waterloo, I was actually considering some convoluted combination of the District line and Bakerloo, despite the fact that taking the overland would be much faster and more convenient than sitting on the District line and watching it chug slowly into central London*. Why? Because I couldn’t see a way of doing it legally. My ticket (zone 2&3 travelcard) takes me to Vauxhall but no further. SouthWest Trains don’t accept Oyster Pay as you Go, so that’s out. Back in the good old days before the penalty fares I could have simply stayed on the train and paid the extra at Waterloo but doing so now risks encountering someone with a mean streak and a quota to fill, and ending up with a 20 quid fine and a criminal record – and frankly, if I’m going to get one of those for a night out on the town, I’d be aiming for something like Drunk and Disorderly not fare evasion.
So what to do? The platform ticket machines only sell tickets from the station they’re on, so the Kew Bridge one will want to charge me for the whole journey from Kew Bridge not just the Vauxhall to Waterloo leg. I could get off my nice comfy train at Vauxhall, go down the stairs and out through the barriers on my oyster, buy a ticket, go back through the barriers, find the platform for the next Waterloo train and try and catch that one, but that’s just madness, and I’m not going to. I could ask the nice person at the Kew Bridge station ticket office to sell me a ticket from the edge of zone 2 to Waterloo, which would be my preferred option if there was such a thing as a ticket office at Kew Bridge, with or without a nice person in it, except that there isn’t and there hasn’t been for years. So I have come up with the cunning plan of remembering to buy my ticket to Waterloo in the morning when I am at Vauxhall and within reach of a ticket machine that will do this. People who know me well may already have spotted the fatal flaw in this plan. For the rest of you, if you see me walking into Vauxhall station with a big yellow post-it on my forehead saying ‘REMIND ME TO BUY A TICKET TO WATERLOO’, then do me a favour and do so. For I will surely have forgotten.
Meanwhile, I still think it was a mean trick to put in penalty fare zones for stations where you can only buy a ticket from a not-very-flexible machine. Bring back the ticket office, I say. Like that’s ever going to happen…
*as, indeed, would almost anything