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Too much ventilation for my liking!
First Great Western
Member Name: sue.51
First Great Western
Date: 01/12/01, updated on 01/12/01 (239 review reads)
Advantages: No hassle looking for parking, Didn't have to face the London Traffic Jams
Disadvantages: Crowded and Cold
A recent early morning start in Central London and my normal idea of using a car to travel everywhere that my legs won't take me imminently went well and truly out of the window - even for me, a driving fanatic, the prospect of driving around streets I didn't know choc a block with hardened commuters and business people, finding car parking who knows where was not in the least bit appealing - and thus against by better judgement, my only other alternative was the train (for those of you who don't know, I got hit by a door of a fast moving train about 16 years ago - and since have been, to say the least, rather paranoid about using them).
Checking out the alternatives, and preferring not to stay overnight, it quickly became evident that I was going to have to leave home at the ungodly hour of 4.15am to get the 5am train to ensure I got where I needed to be by 9.15am.
The last time I tried this it cost me £85 and that was a very long time ago, I would expect a full blown English Breakfast included for that, so was pleasantly surprised when a visit by my worse half to the train station the day before I was due to travel, presented me with a standard return ticket for £52.60. To take advantage of this price, you MUST book before 1400 hours on the day before travelling and also specify the exact time of the train you will be going out AND returning on - you will also be allocated a seat and you MUST sit in these seats.
The alternative is an open return - cost £112 (First Class - £165). You can also select from a variety of Saver, SuperSaver and Apex (purchased at least 7 days before travelling) at prices ranging from £26 to £65) - but travelling times are quite restricted - after 0830hours, before 1630 and after 1850 hours - I'm sure I recall the ads for train travel went something along the same lines to lamb - "....nice and simple....", well their pricing structure is anything but.
The train was direct
, leaving Swansea at 5am and the journey would take 3 hours - stopping at Neath, Port Talbot, Bridgend, Cardiff, Newport, Bristol Parkway, Swindon, Didcot, Reading and London Paddington. Until Swindon, it was fairly quiet, not too many people keen to get up with the milkman this morning - then it really started to fill up with commuters, and I spent the journey from Didcot into Paddington enjoying the spectacle of a Gentleman doing a "cow chewing cud" impression - who evidently had not been taught to each chewing gum with his mouth shut, giving me a lovely view of his tonsils, saliva and teeth intermittently for the best part of around 40 mins - just what I need on an empty stomach and a frazzled brain.
The train is equipped with toilets, buffet bar and telephone, none of which I sampled outbound - IT DOES NOT HOWEVER appeared to be equipped with a heating system, and therefore dressed in my Sunday best for a high brow conference, to say I developed Chilblains is an understatement, even with the volume of people it did not warm up - now I know how they have managed to drop the price of the tickets. A ticket collector was on-board, and surfaced everytime there was a stop to collect peoples tickets. Train arrived into Paddington 5 minutes late - then LONDON UNDERGROUND - but thats a different story.
To be on the safe side, and to allow me time to get across central London in the rush hour, he had booked me onto the 1800 hours train, not negotiable, apparently, but by some fluke, and with some strategic re-scheduling, I was actually back in Paddington by 1610, and a few quick enquiries got me a stamped ticket and a seat on the 1630 back to Swansea -same journey in reverse, newish rolling stockwith disabled toilets that were OUT OF ORDER, and standard toilets that were stinking. The Bar was offering a wide range of hot, cold and alcoholic beverages and actually runs a happy hour on EVERYTHING - I had a well stocked
bacon roll for a paltry £1.62 - not too bad - except that it was microwaved, but I guess it is a train.
AGAIN, the heating DID NOT work, and in addition as it was a train with the old fashioned heavy doors on them (grief, 16 years on after my encounter, I still quiver everytime I see one), but these days they have a security catch and can only be opened from the outside AFTER the security latch has been released - (Glad to know I could be of service train companies) - but of course, the little blighters that were getting off at each station didn't think to close the window after them - so no heating and open windows at c100mph - COLD - the ice stumps at the bottom of my legs are still thawing. Again, the train was 5 minutes late arriving - and boy, maybe it is a long time since I have been on an Intercity (my other experience was a Sprinter), but some of those tracks do not feel too clever.
Trains from Swansea to Paddington run nearly every half hour from around 3.30am onwards, although NOT all are direct, check with your local train station or visit their web-site at http://www.great-western-trains.co.uk.
All their trains are NO SMOKING, and two carriages, one in First Class, one in Standard Class are allocated MOBILE FREE zones.
Would I do the same again? No probably not, next time, I will drive to Heathrow and get the tube in from there. Guaranteed a seat at the start of the line, and hopefully no-one chewing gum - but to be fair, good price for the peak hours travelled, helpful when I wanted to amend my ticket in London, more or less on time both ways and B****Y COLD.
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