Split ticketing is both a frustrating and rewarding process. As a copywriter in Wales, most of my journeys take me between Cardiff and Chesterfield, a not-so-glamorous journey that forces me to venture into the depths of Birmingham. Okay, Birmingham New Street. As much as I love the way Birmingham New Street places me within five minutes of both Hotel Chocolate and Five Guys, I don’t love how finding my way from Platform 7a to Platform 9a feels like driving without SatNav.
To offset the traumas that come with travelling through Birmingham, I buy myself a first class ticket. First class train travel in the UK is either non-existent or lackluster. As someone who has only recently ditched the inconveniences that accompany public transport for driving myself to places, I rarely (if ever) catch the train. However, my grandparents are operating under the illusion that I’m still not capable of riding a bike without stabilizers, and so I catch trains to see them to save them from four hours of sheer panic about my status on the M4 and M6. And so, I book a first-class train while telling myself that yes I absolutely will work my way through the journey and my copywriting efforts will offset the £150-round trip.
Does booking a first class train ticket really make you more productive?
Like many aspects of living in Wales, most first-class train services running out of there don’t even begin to live up to their namesake. Unless, of course, you’re travelling from Cardiff to London with Great Western Railway (GWR), in which case a smiling plump lady will amble towards you at every stop with fresh coffee and a slice of Barra Brith. On Wednesdays, GWR’s staff will give you free wine. That definitely doesn’t help my productivity.
Cross Country, however, have a hell of a cheek labeling the nine seats that are squished next to the driver’s carriage on their Cardiff to Nottingham service as first class. While there’s slightly more leg room, only six of the seats have decent sized tables and a lamp that occasionally works. You can’t close the blinds, there is no dedicated toilet (and yes, I am precious enough to resent peeing in the stink-fest down in cattle class if I’ve paid twice the standard fare), and the coffee comes from a sachet. A SACHET.
The WiFi is no faster, the guard frowns as though you have sprouted two heads when you ask him for your free WiFi code, and seat 1A only has one moveable armrest, making working even less productive. Step onto the train that runs from Tamworth to Chesterfield and you’re facing an entirely different service. There’s an ambient temperature, you have automatic access to First Class WiFi, your toilet doesn’t smell like a portaloo at Glastonbury, and the smiling man serving you brings fresh coffee from God knows where. Cross Country’s English first-class train service is well worth the money I pay out for it. Once I’ve parked my backside into the comfy seats, I can write away until my little copywriter heart is fit for bursting.
If your first class train was so naff, why do you keep buying it?
Three words: Birmingham commuter traffic. Or Birmingham commuter passengers, whichever is more appropriate. Once they pile into standard class, even having a pre-booked seat won’t help me work. They flood the WiFi, their kids are screaming, and the sheer volume of people makes you sweat like you’re in a sauna. Suddenly all of that means that the world will fall to pieces and I cannot possibly blast out word-after-word any longer.
So Cross Country’s shite first-class train service that runs out of Wales still benefits from my revenue because at least I have a little peace and quiet while working. For now, I will take my precious princess tendencies over to their website where I will attempt to book myself onto the nice York service that made me smile so much a little earlier down the line. Maybe I’ll become an extra productive copywriter that way.