Going Off The Rails



What will happen on the day I get caught for fare dodging?

Like all bad habits, this one started gradually. I catch the 7:11 Thameslink train from Hitchin to London Blackfriars every week day. During the 42 minute journey, I do a lot of work on my MacBook. Emails are sent & replied to and I even get a bit of audio editing done. I can only do that if I get a seat. Lately that’s become much more difficult as the train gets busier every day. One morning, I knew I had a lot to get done, there were no seats in standard class, so I just slipped into an empty seat in first class. That’s against the rules because my ticket is only for standard class. I justified it by reasoning to myself that if I’ve paid for a seat I should get one and if Thameslink can’t provide one in standard class, I have a right to one somewhere else on the train.

For a little while, I found myself doing that any time I couldn’t find a seat but now, instead of getting on at the back and walking the length of the train looking for a seat, I just get on at the front and go straight into first class.

One morning I got a fright when I noticed the bloke sitting opposite me was wearing a Thameslink photo ID badge. I thought, of all of the people in this first class carriage, I’ve sat opposite the ticket inspector!

It turned out that he wasn’t an inspector but he did work for Thameslink. In fact, I’ve since worked out that most of the first class passengers at that time of the morning are Thameslink management. They all know each other and get off together at Finsbury Park.

I’ve become quite friendly with them too. At first it was a quiet nod, then a “morning”, small talk about the weather and now we’ll chat about last night’s TV and what’s in the news. I’m even on first name terms with Mike, Jason, Chris and Melissa.

The fine for using a standard class ticket in first class is £50. A first class ticket at peak times is an extra £10 per journey, so unless I get caught more than once a week, it’s cheaper to just pay the fines instead.

The day a ticket inspector eventually catches me will be interesting. When I get fined £50 for that journey, will my new Thameslink friends tell him that I owe another £50 for each of the other days I’ve dodged the first class fare? It’s not like I can claim to have had a first class ticket on the other days because my standard class season ticket is a monthly.

It is strange that for months now, I’ve been catching the same train every weekday and a ticket inspector has NEVER got on. Do my Thameslink traveling companions know something that I don’t? Maybe they don’t have first class tickets either!

Craic on!

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