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Friday 19 October 2012

All In This Train Together

[Update at end of post]

And so it came to pass that the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, had to return from his Tatton constituency to London. In order to speedily facilitate this move, he presented himself – plus an aide, natch – at Wilmslow station for the 1511 Virgin Trains service to Euston. Having boarded, he sat in the comfy end of the train – that being the First Class one.

One passenger ruefully counts his pennies as his Pendolino train piles south through Nuneaton

But, you may ask, how does he manage that? Maybe the Chancellor had an advance purchase ticket which worked out cheaper than the equivalent walk-up (or “Anytime”, as they’re now called) Standard Class fare. Sadly, whatever he possessed was not a First Class ticket, and nor was the Train Manager about to abandon his revenue protection duties on this occasion.

So Osborne was informed he would have to stump up the difference in fare. This he initially declined to do. There then ensued a stand-off until what appears to be a point not far south of Crewe, when even the Chancellor conceded that his personal fiscal rule was about to be broken big time, and he paid up. The difference in fare was an eye-watering £160.

Now, walk-up fares on Virgin Trains services to and from Euston may seem pretty steep to many of us mere mortals, but they aren’t so high. Had Osborne been in possession of an Anytime Standard Class ticket, the upgrade, according to a quick scan of National Rail Enquiries, would have been £49.50 (the single fares are £140 Standard Class, and £189.50 First).

So what’s with the £160 excess, then? It can’t be that Osborne had an advance purchase ticket for a different train, as that would have meant the full £189.50 would have been payable. No, the Chancellor must have bought an advance purchase Standard Class ticket, and done so a while back, or he wouldn’t have managed to pay only £29.50. Which means one thing.

Osborne bought that ticket, or directed someone to do so on his behalf, with the full knowledge that it would be valid only in Standard Class. He’s been MP for Tatton long enough to know that cheap upgrades to First Class only happen at weekends, and that he wouldn’t get one during the week. So why go and sit in the First Class, knowing what would ensue when the Train Manager came round?

Well, maybe the art of blagging is not confined to the cheaper end of the tabloid press. The impression is given that the Chancellor thought he could get away with sitting in the comfy end of the TiltyLiner (tm) because of who he was, and that the Train Manager would assume he was a legitimate First Class traveller and leave him alone, or at least would let him off – again, because of who he was.

But this time it didn’t work. Well done that Virgin Trains Train Manager.

[UPDATE 1905 hours: a Zelo Street regular has pointed me to a Tweet from Alex Andreou, who has noted that Osborne apparently tried to blag his way into First Class back in May.
That suggests that my theory about him being a potentially regular blagger may be rather adjacent to the mark. Time for further investigation into the Chancellor's travel arrangements, methinks]


Anonymous said...

Could the £160 be for both Chancellor and Aide?

Tim Fenton said...

Doesn't compute. Off-Peak single is just over £71, Anytime £140 and First £189.50. How do you get a difference of £160 with two of either of those Standard class tickets?

Osborne definitely had a Standard class ticket. The excuses being made don't match the fares on offer.

mr_ceebs said...

Someone has found an earlier occurrence


Tim Fenton said...

Well spotted that man!

Philip said...

Oh, come on. Surely we all know by this time that the poor little squit has absolutely no head for figures.