Hold tight, we're being ripped off

PUBLISHED: 12:19 05 May 2006 | UPDATED: 21:51 28 May 2010

My sister lives in Chelsea. She hates me arriving by bus. David, it does so lower the tone. I think she s remembering Margaret Thatcher s remark that any man over the age of 26 who is seen on a bus is a failure. Or perhaps she was thinking of that song

My sister lives in Chelsea. She hates me arriving by bus. "David, it does so lower the tone."

I think she's remembering Margaret Thatcher's remark that any man over the age of 26 who is seen on a bus is a failure. Or perhaps she was thinking of that song called 'Only losers take the bus'.

I like travelling by bus. Someone else does all the work and you get a better view. In London, buses are as fast as taxis and very much cheaper.

Bus travel is also a way of meeting new acquaintances. I won't forget a journey through rural Greece during which I had to share a seat with an amorous nanny goat.

I also enjoy train journeys but the pleasure of travelling by bus or train is being spoiled by the way the operators seem to think their "customers" (why can't we still be called passengers?) are either complete fools or just there to be rooked.

Cavalier Travel, whose blue buses are seen throughout Fenland, has just brought out a new timetable for its March to Peterborough service. "As part of our commitment to improve our services we are making some changes," it boasts. Yes, it has extended three services to Chatteris - which is nice for Chatteris even if the last bus leaves Peterborough at 12.40. That's 12.40, lunchtime.

But it has also reduced the hourly service from March to a two-hourly frequency. An interesting use of the word "improvement".

Another trick is being played by my once favourite train company, GNER. If you have a pre-booked cheap ticket and miss your train, you can no longer pay the difference to travel on a later train. Your original ticket is worthless and you have to pay the most expensive full fare. This can result in a £100 penalty on a £15 journey.

Mind you, I've discovered one lovely way to get round those companies (including GNER) that rip you off by making you dial an 0870 number. These calls can cost 4p a minute and you pay for all that stuff about "this call may be recorded" and "please press the star key and then listen to the 15 options". Simply log on to www.saynoto0870.com and for most companies you can find a much cheaper ordinary number.

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