Taking Stock - October 26, 2012

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WITH the economic outlook still gloomy, A US election on the horizon and a chap breaking the sound barrier just by jumping it seems odd that a simple train ticket should be making the headlines.

This was no ordinary ticket of course, it belonged to our Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne who, it seems, despite having the task of balancing our nations books, can’t tell the difference between a one and a two.

That’s to simplify the situation, of course.

The train, says Mr Osborne, was crowded, so he simply plonked himself in the first available seat – no matter what the class.

And I do have some sympathy for the man as, I’m sure, would anyone who’s endured the sardine can between Preston and London.

And, I’ll admit, I too have, facing the prospect of two hours sandwiched between a gentleman with body odour issues and a chemical toilet, decided to try my luck in the not-so-cheap seats.

Now, railway types will tell you a ticket entitles you to travel, not to a seat – you need a reservation for that particular privilege – something, I find doesn’t guarantee you anything other than an argument with a stubborn bloke with no intention of budging.

But I don’t think its fair anyone should be expected to stand, squat or squeeze themselves into an uncomfortable corner for the journey north, when there’s four coaches of empty seats going to waste.

Having a four-year-old in tow always helps, something Mr Osborne might want to note – I’ll lend him mine, for a very reasonable fee.

I’m not asking for a complimentary coffee or one of those bacon sandwiches fresh from the microwave/nuclear reactor – I’ll bring my own butties and a flask.

But, then again, I’m not a millionaire or a senior government figure, capable of paying my own first class fare rather than slumming it in standard at the public expense.

Perhaps, to really save himself, and the nation, some cash, our chancellor could follow the example of an old and rather shifty acquaintance of mine.

Taken in by the bright lights of the capital, but lacking the wherewithal to actually live there, he used to make regular trips back home to the north using a practice he referred to as ‘bog hopping’.

I prefer to call it fare dodging, but, at any rate, his strategy was to pay as far as Watford and then hide in the loo the rest of the way.

And, on some occasions he did, genuinely make it all the way back to Blackpool – even if the journey took him eight hours with a lengthy stopover in Holyhead.

Such illegal behaviour is, of course, not to be encouraged.

The answer? Well, longer trains and more of them would be a start.

Failing that, our good Chancellor could always do what the rest of us have to on those long journeys and book his seat, first class or standard, well in advance.