Your mama may have taught you about being attentive about your surroundings. Not only your mama but your wise and respected teachers may have too. But are you? I plead guilty. Despite many wise men and women trying to instill this important quality into me, I have not risen up to their expectations. What happened to me at Reading railway station illustrates that. I boarded the wrong train.
Boarding a wrong train is actually difficult in this part of the world if you are a commuter. The trains to certain destinations always arrive at the same platform without fail most of the time. For instance, I can walk with my head immersed in the iPhone, a book or a magazine, arrive at a certain platform and board the train to a particular destination without even glancing at the fellow passengers or even the display boards. I can be sure of reaching my intended destination. Remember, I did say most of the time.
Why most of the time? You may ask. Because sometimes, they divert a train to the platform to avoid delays. You have to keep in mind this quick reshuffle do not affect the timings of both the trains, the reshuffled one and also the original train which was expected to be on that platform. This is also done quickly in order to use the few minutes of gap between the schedules of the trains. This gap is barely noticeable for a traveler whose head is immersed in any distracting devices. So, if you are expecting to board a train departing at 6:57 am, you might end up boarding a train departing at 6:54 am.
To make a long story short, I ended up in Oxford instead of Swindon. This is the first time I have boarded the wrong train in UK. When I told my predicament to the officials manning the station barrier at the exit in Oxford station, they inspected my weekly pass to Swindon and advised me to take the next train back. There was no need to buy a new ticket. In case an official came around asking for tickets, I could tell him/her about boarding the wrong train. I could also tell them that the officials at the train barrier asked me to take a return train without a new ticket.
Can it be as simple as this? Then why would they display penalty for traveling without a ticket in bold letters everywhere inside the train and also inside the station? I was skeptical. I boarded the next train back. As luck would have it, there was a train official checking for ticket. When she reached me, I showed up my weekly pass to Swindon and mumbled about missing the train. "Oh". She said with a shrug and moved on.
To sum it up, boarding a wrong train doesn't mean you have to pay for an additional ticket. But it is always better to be attentive and aware of your surroundings.