I spend too much time doing this (which obviously adds to the cost of the travel – for my institution).
Anyway, the journey is a day return, London to Oxford and I’m looking online. Although my meeting is right next to the station I had a look at the Oxford Tube first – it was going to cost £14 return and take more than 100 minutes (rush hour). Then I had a look at First Great Western. I like to have a forward-facing window-seat with table in the quiet carriage, so I usually check the times and then while I have a session open but without making a transaction I call and do the booking over the phone. Anyway, the online booking got all buggered up and I was going to have to pay £17.50 rather than the 2 singles at £6 and £8 I’d found first but which reported being unavailable after all. But when I phoned to buy the ticket I was told by the advisor that the cheap tickets were all booked up and I was going to have to pay loads more. The unsettling thing is (and this happens to me often), when I argued that the cheap tickets couldn’t be booked up because I was in the middle of a transaction to buy one and was only calling him to arrange my quiet carriage, window and table (you can sort out front-facing online), he said “One moment please” and came up with not the £17.50 cheap day return but my original two singles – £14.00.
Which brings me to the point of this tale, which is never rely on just the call centre people or just the online booking system to find you the cheapest fare – I don’t know what the problem is but a problem there is. Unless of course you’re much better paid than I am and the costliest thing you could do is spend time looking for good travel deals.