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More train madness

I’ve been doing more tours of university physics departments, up and down the country. Last week it was UCL and Birmingham; this week saw two separate visits to Loughborough, as an industry guest presenter at a summer school on systems engineering for physicists. I could have done without making two separate trips there, but diary clashes meant I couldn’t accomplish everything in one visit. I was most impressed with the conference centre facilities at Loughborough University – essentially a 4* hotel with fitness centre, decent restaurant and lots of meeting rooms, all right in the middle of the campus. Though at lunchtime on Tuesday we did have to share the serving queue with the English Men’s Hockey team. They were quite easy to tell apart from the group of physicists I was with! 

The trips to UCL and Birmingham were quite simple to do by train, and in fact there’s a direct train from Malvern to Birmingham University which is much easier than driving and then trying to find somewhere to park on the very congested campus. I met several ex-colleagues on the train who now work part-time at the university, so it was good to catch up with them. Trips to London are always a bit of a gamble, but on this occasion the trains ran on time, and the helpful woman at the ticket office even booked me a seat on the peak-time train home – it cost nothing extra, and was very useful as that train is always crowded.

Loughborough however is much harder to get to by public transport. The most direct route by train from Malvern requires changes at Birmingham New Street (my least favourite station – the subterranean platforms are squalid and dingy) and Leicester.  A return ticket costs over £66 pounds, but the same very helpful woman in the Great Malvern ticket office managed to save me £30 on exactly the same journey by selling me day returns from Malvern to Birmingham, Birmingham to Leicester, and Leicester to Loughborough. I’ve heard of “ticket-splitting” before, and in fact made use of it on my recent trip to St Austell. But I find it very odd that you can save so much money by being creative in how you specify your journey. It’s a crazy way to run a railway, but fortunately the staff at Malvern station take it as a matter of pride to get the best possible deal for their customers.