Why you shouldn’t rely on the London Tube to make a train

A wall of people on the tube during peak hour and a lady reading her guidebook

As the electric doors slide open I let out an audible sigh of frustration – another wall of people blocked me and my fellow passengers from entering the train. I was in London and it was peak-hour; I should have expected the crush of people from previous trips but living near the end of the Northern Line I envisioned that it would be easy to jump onboard a train and make it to St Pancras Station with plenty of time to spare. The thought was little more than wishful thinking as train after train full of bodies whizzed by presenting a wall of backs and the clock ticking down closer til the time the journey man would whistle and my train would leave… with or without me.

Forty-five minutes passed and I was still standing on the platform by now sweating a little from the stress of it all. Other commuters were getting frustrated and just pushing on board but with a suitcase, no matter how small, it just wasn’t going to happen. By the time I finally made it on to the train the extra 45minutes had been chewed up and I was now cutting it very fine as to whether I was going to make it or not.

A wall of people barring entrance onto the tube in London

It felt like a year between each station but as the train pulled up at Kings Cross St Pancras I was out of there running up the flights of stairs even though my body was telling me to take the elevator. As I walked through the doors to check in to the Eurostar I was feeling invincible. It had taken me two hours but I had made it and I was soon going to be on my way to Paris.

But the ticket machine wouldn’t print my ticket – “Please speak to a customer service officer to claim your ticket” the machine read. After surviving my marathon cross city journey, being crushed by morning commuters on the tube system, it turns out a ticket machine thwarted my attempts to go to Paris and I had missed the check-in close time by less than 3minutes.

“So there is nothing you can do?” the note of despair rung in my voice.

“Because you didn’t book with us we cannot do anything.”

“Can’t you just… you know, slip me on the next train? I mean it was three minutes! There must be something you can do.”

“You didn’t book with Eurostar so we are unable to do anything to assist you. You can buy a new ticket for the next train… it will cost you £175.”

Sulking away I begin my list of phone calls. The company I had booked through said Eurostar should be replacing my ticket as there was nothing they could do. Eurostar (yes, I rung them) said that the company I booked through should be compensating me and when I tried to speak to the manager on duty at Eurostar she almost reduced me to tears with her “we don’t care about the customer only revenue” type approach to helping me.By the time I had a phone call from my family to make sure I’d reached Paris safely I was near tears about my options because I needed out of grey miserable London, the rude people and the walls taunting me to try and get on their public transport.

I buckled and ended up paying the £175 but it was worth every pence.

Turns out that I had taken out a travel insurance policy before I left home and that my Dad had spoken with the insurance company who said they would be able to cover some or all of the cost of the ticket when I submitted my claim.

Within an hour I had been ticketless and feeling hopeless to being on a train sitting in business chowing down on a crossant and orange juice watching the British scenery flash by me as I brushed up on French phrases.

Whilst I am still in the process of claiming the ticket price back I am so glad that I didn’t back down and settle for another boring week in London, and it seemed that my luck just went up from that moment… except trying to change my return flight on EasyJet resulting in me missing it but that’s another story for another blog post!

Have you ever missed a plane or train because of a public transport nightmare?

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  • Reply
    April 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Ugh, my outstanding experience on the London Tube was trying to get across the city in order to catch a train out to the country during peak hour. With a massive suitcase and two large bags after holidaying in Europe. Fun times.

    Glad you were able to make it out though and that you’re able to reclaim the cost! The tube at peak hour is insane!

    • Reply
      April 30, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Ack that would not have been fun with all the cobbled stones and what not that they have around London. I hope you ended up making your train!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Had a similar experience in London – we gave ourselves 90 minutes to get from Camden Town to Kings Cross Station on the bus, only to find that some of the roads had been closed off for a Halloween Festival. After being stuck in traffic for nearly an hour, the bus driver suddenly decided to kick everyone off and we had to rush around in the middle of London desperately trying to find a cab to take us to the train station.

    Fortunately we get lucky and found a taxi to save the day!

    • Reply
      April 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      I really should have known better but I’d never travelled on the tube during the morning rush!

      Owch! Lucky for you that black cabs are everywhere in London!

  • Reply
    April 30, 2012 at 3:22 am

    I’ve often booked a shuttle from a hostel to the airport and it’s always late and always gets stuck in traffic. No matter how early I book, we somehow manage to get behind schedule!

    I’ll be in London for the month of May and hope to avoid peak hour as much as possible. I’ve been caught before and it’s a nightmare!

    • Reply
      April 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      Shuttles are so convenient but I have to agree and found that I’ve always ended up being late on them. It’s like the traffic knows we have somewhere important to get!

      Have a brilliant time in London. It’s a shame we won’t be there at the same time so we could hunt down some macarons. =P

  • Reply
    April 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Urgh you poor thing sounds like a nightmare – I literally can’t stand the tube! I’d rather sit on a bud for an hour than go on it for 20 mins sometimes!! Looking forward to hearing about Paris!! x

  • Reply
    May 21, 2012 at 3:28 am

    I feel you. Everytime I am in London, I thank God l am always on vacation. My horror story was 3 years ago. My husband and l went to Rome to visit his parents, we had been in London prior and booked Rynair tickets. The 1st miss was completely my fault as l read the departure time from Rome as 6pm. To this day, l still can’t believe l did that, so we got there and the flight left in the morning, we had to pay 220 pounds for new tickets for the next morning. Believe it or not, despite leaving early in the morning, there was an accident on the way to Ciampino..and yep..we got there just in time for the gate closing..so another 220 pounds for our return flight to Stansted! Till today, we haven’t been back to see his parents..lol! The last time we saw them, we had them fly to meet us in London (they had never been, so it was fun). We are however headed back in September, but going straight to Rome.. I hate Rynair with a passion..lol

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