Our rail heroes

Following the anniversary celebrating 150 years of the Exeter – Exmouth railway, perhaps I could offer some comments.

It was impressive to see a HS125 train used for this occasion with various dignitaries at the stations on its route.

Firstly, this train is 40 years old and was built and paid for by the British taxpayers for British Railways’ Western Region). It was faster then, than it is now, as the train times have been increased between stations, so there are not so many running late!

Secondly, it was most comfortable for second class passengers – with 56 seats configurated with a table for every four seats – today in ‘Standard Class’ it has 85 seats in airline configuration without extra space for luggage or with regard for the fact that we are ‘on average’ much larger (and heavier) than we were 40 years ago.

Finally, the train fares were much lower 40 years ago, with only a few prices for each journey than they are today – in ‘Standard Class’ you can pay from �24 return ((�15.80 if you hold an OAP railcard) to �195!

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The three staff at Exmouth Railway Station are the real heroes for First Great Western. The ticket sales are with Shelagh Dase, who has a difficult job convincing people what the train fares are.

Exmouth Railway Station, like other small railway stations in Devon, has fewer cheap tickets than Plymouth or Exeter. The same applies to the internet – once that quota is achieved, the next pricing level is ‘tripped into’.

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In fact, after a while, one can purchase railway tickets at Exeter �10 or more cheaper than the current quoted prices in Exmouth!

To get the cheapest railway tickets, one has to buy them 10 weeks before the journey, on a Friday morning (when they are ‘put on’ the system) and within the first couple of hours of sale.

Last Friday, I purchased a return ticket Exmouth – Paddington for July 19/20 at 9.30am for �15.80. Shelagh does a magnificent job and gets accused of overpricing tickets – the fault is in the system! Shelagh also helps with planning the route and offering various times at different prices.

Matt Betts and Rob Harsden are on the barrier when not assisting disabled passengers on or off trains, offering good travel advice with a friendly nature. It is not their fault if a train is late, or cancelled, or a single carriage with 100 people waiting to get on it!

When the snow and ice came last November – they assisted with clearance. They rise to many other situations, taking it all in their stride.

So, thank you Shelagh, Matt and Rob for all you do to help railway passengers.

Graham Martin

Willand, Church Path, Underhill, Lympstone.

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