When “reserved” doesn’t really mean “its yours”

I may have already mentioned this but one in four weeks I spend working at our head office in Birmingham, staying in a hotel that was converted from a dosshouse (yes really) and travelling down there and back on the train, a real novelty for me since I disposed of the company car.

When you buy a ticket in advance for the Cross Country service from Leeds to Birmingham you are given what is called a “seat reservation”, a little ticket with your coach (railway carriage) letter and your seat number, indeed your actual ticket tells you that it is not valid unless you have the seat reservation ticket too.

So thats alright then.

And now I am reminded that I did mention that fact that back in May on my return journey from Birmingham the coach (carriage) that I was allocated to did not have a seat with the same number as the one on my ticket – I had a seat reservation for a non-existent seat, so I stood up all the way home.

Well, on Monday this week Cross Country went even further than that.

Not only did my seat number not exist but neither did the coach (carriage).

There was I, stood on platform 11A at Leeds Station as the Cross Country Newcastle to Plymouth service pulled in, coach A at the front as you’d expect, then B, then C and I realise that its going to be quite a long train because I have a reservation in coach F so I start to walk quickly back down the platform as the train slows to a halt, I’ve passed coach C so this next one must be coach D even though there is no illuminated display to inform me, keep walking…

…and thats it.

Coach D is the last one.

Or at least the coach that I calculate to be coach D is the last one, it having followed coach C – see my logic ?

I gaze back down the platform for the extra two coaches that must surely have become detached but no, there are none, this is it, this is your lot – I hop on board forlorn in the knowledge that my seat won’t exist on this train being as its at least two coaches short of what the ticket office thought it would be – incompetent bastards.

So I stand at the luggage shelf at the back of the coach and another couple stand there with their tickets trying to work out what happened to the two missing coaches and I tell them it ok, it happens a lot, the so-called “seat reservation” actually means sod-all, I tell them this in a tone of voice that suggests that I am a seasoned traveller rather than someone who is making only his fifth railway journey in twenty or thirty years, five journeys and two times when my seat doesn’t exist.

The train moves off and its fair to assume that no-one else is getting on and so we all, those of us who should by now be sitting in our reserved seats in coach F, take up a spare seat that is not ours at all, the one I sat on was reserved for someone on the Chesterfield to Birmingham sector of the route, bollacks to them, I’ll have it until Chesterfield then.

And then just as we almost reach Chesterfield the train manager makes an announcement to inform everyone that the very last coach on the train is not actually coach D at all, its the mysterious missing coach F, apparently we should have worked it out for ourselves that the coaches would be lettered as A,B,C and then F, its bloody obvious really isn’t it, I can’t imagine how I jumped to the conclusion that they’d lost two coaches en route.

So I went and found my actual reserved seat, the one that had been empty all along, it was still empty, waiting for me to claim it, and crying a little because it thought I had declined it in favour of the stolen seat further down the coach.

Now all I have to do is get back on Friday – and my coach is coach F again.

Its like a Harry Potter script.

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2 thoughts on “When “reserved” doesn’t really mean “its yours”

  1. Your writing is brilliant! I am currently cracking up reading your post on a cross country train to Manchester from Birmingham, not sitting in my reserved seat which the train has decided is available.

  2. Running a train company is one of the few jobs in the world that when you say “I could do that better”, means that you really could do it better.

    There must be train company executives who take flights to anywhere in the world who look at their tickets and think, “Hmmmm, this seems to work quite well, they don’t sell the same seat twice, how novel”.

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