Such is the buggered state of the ticketing of our railway network, that I discovered an interesting fact: It often costs the same – sometimes cheaper – to get a ticket to visit a town just outside London with a one-month return period as it does to just get a ticket into London with the same conditions. Before heading into Berlin I had this brainwave when I failed to obtain cheap flights at a sensible time that wouldn’t entail a night in a London Airport, due to the fact that the trains go to bed as well as we do; faced with the prospect of a night on the Red Bull, I opted to take the Eurostar instead (with onward ICE connections to Berlin), but once again I had been thwarted in my attempts to go at a sensible time in the morning that left me enough leeway to take the train into London.
This led me to book a single-night stay beforehand at a Hostel known as Clink 261, virtually right outside London St. Pancras International. At a cost of £14 booked a little over two months in advance, this wasn’t too bitter a pill to swallow when my train travel to Europe had cost just under £180. With this in mind, it occurred to me that seeing as I had a full day before I had to head into London anyway, why not make a day out of it?
Let’s conduct an experiment for a moment; as of the 8th of July (the time of writing), a one-month ticket to London Zones 1-6 costs £42.80 should you stick to off-peak times, so both the London Ticket and Town Tickets will be from Monday 9th at around 9am to Friday 13th(!) at around 8pm for the sake of comparison. With this in mind, let’s examine a few destinations under the same conditions:
- Burnham-on-Crouch: £39.50 – This is where I elected to go in order to visit Mangapps Railway Museum, which isn’t the easiest to get to on foot, but still a highly interesting collection of Locomotives, Rolling Stock and Railwayana.
- Tunbridge Wells: £33.10 – This Kentish town is home to Tunbridge Wells West, one end of the Spa Valley Railway.
- East Grinstead: £30.20 – The highest risk option, given that the only way in-or-out from London is via perpetually strike-stricken Southern trains, but the carrot on this particular stick is the Bluebell Railway, that beautiful pioneer of Railway Preservation.
So we pick three destinations close to London, and we save £3.30, £9.70, and £12.60 respectively. Sure, if you opt to only use Zone 1 of the Underground, you’ll get a price of £38.60, which is cheaper than Burnham-on-Crouch, but it is still above the prices of Tunbridge Wells and East Grinstead by a considerable margin.The only issue you are likely to encounter is some of the gates into the London Underground throwing a wobbly, which isn’t exactly helpful in the late evening, but there’s usually at least one worker near the gates who’ll let you through. Oddly enough, when I got to London Waterloo for the final leg of the journey, the ticket barriers worked without issue!
Come to think of it, many Hostels offer a lift to London Airports, so this is something worth investigating the next time I have to fly to GodKnowsWhere at Silly ‘o’ Clock in the night.