Ok, so, the cost is extortionate unless you book 3 months ahead, the distance bears no relation to cost, they are alllllways late and if you forget any part of which there are about 73 (you need a small filing cabinet to keep them organised for any one journey) of your ticket, they not only treat you like a criminal but in no better words:
Ok Worse Case Sinario: (no real need for this but I don't think using me as an example will get your sympathy vote) Imagine, you're a sweet old American lady and you've saved up your entire pension to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip to quaint ol' England. You decide to walk upon England's mountains green while you're there and book some tickets to Chester from London. It costs you and your husband (he walks with a stick btw, since the knee op.) around £42.90 return for the two advanced first class return tickets you've treated yourself to. 'Gee how reasonable' you think. 'What a treat!'
Big mistake, BIG mistake. Right, from the word go, 1 of about 23 things can now go wrong. In fact very little can now go right. I'm just going to explain ONE THING that can wrong though...
1. - You don't realise you have to print the receipt/ticket out and bring it on your journey. It's one of those new e-tickets.
You tell the train assistant this as you get on the train but ticket collectors are trained in the fine art of bastard-ry and will totally discount the receipt you're showing them on your blackberry purely because it's not on paper. As far as they're concerned, they are blind and you are stupid, lying, and TOTALLY happy to spew cash out of every orifice. What will now happen is you'll say 'Oh dear. But is this receipt not good enough? My husband and I didn't realise you had to print it out.' And they'll say 'No, arm afraid not madam (they are not afraid at this point but getting extremely sexually excited by the prospect of fleecing you in seconds to come). 'Arm afraid Madam, you and your husband are going to have to buy a new one. And because you're buying it on the train arm afraid (There it goes again. No they're not. They're positively mind-wanking with pleasure at this point.) we're going to 'have to' (they don't have to at all) charge you the standard peak fare because you're not allowed to buy them on the train. That'll be £300 please.'
GASP!!! "Oh no!" you say, "but that's our whole budget for the weekend blown. And we'll have no money for that lovely spa hotel we've treated ourselves to when we arrive."
"Returning you say?" says the ticket person rubbing their hands together warming them up for another mind wank, "Well you'll need to get a return then. It's cheaper though if you buy a return ticket (trying to sugar coat the dog shit at this point) but obviuosly we'll have to charge you the full onpeak fare as you're buying a onpeak ticket. That'll be £400 in total. "
So you hand over your hard-earned pension, then try and find a seat but the train has been seriously overbooked, and because you didn't print your seat reservation out back in July, you don't have one. SO you walk down the train, falling onto the odd person who swears at you, until you find a little bit of filthy carpet space in a partition between two carriages and one small seat near an overflowing bin, outside a loo with a broken door which keeps opening and shutting, which you let your husband sit on while you stand (the journey's 2.5 hours). Moments later a trolley lady (with a particularly irritating accent) tells you you're not allowed to sit there because that space is only for people who booked first class tickets, forgot them and had to rebuy them, AND 'it's health and safety' (whatever that means). So off you move to another partition to find some more filthy carpet space to sit and get some diseases from a carriage down next to 2 drunk Northerners who are downing cans of Carling. (Luckily, because you're American you don't understand their accents but I can assure they're saying 'cunt' a lot.) You go and seat yourself on the floor next to them. At the next station, a young teeanger gets on and asks you to move so she can park her pram there, but this is somewhat of a relief because your limbs are going numb and you've heard the C-word 16 times already and are beginning to guess what it means.
You hit the halfway point - Birmingham - where your train gets stuck in a tunnel for 40mins, only metres before the station. The train gets very hot and smelly and everyone starts getting angry and larey so you queue up at the buffet to get some refreshment. Just as it's your turn they announce 'the buffet car is now closing' and then another anouncement informs the 1200 hot, angry, smelly, drunk larey people that there is a fault on the line ahead and because of 'health and safety', the train must terminate here where a bus replacement service will take over. The first bus takes an hour to arrive and when it does there's only room for one of you not both, so you have to wait for the next...
So by the time you arrive at Chester, it's midnight, the only free hotel is one you pay by the hour and your husband has had 2 minor coronaries and needs his other knee replacing.
So what could've been an romantic insight into English travel - watching the beautiful countryside roll by as you're offered tea and shortbread by the nice trolley lady while a jolly fat ticket man hole punches your ticket with a light-hearted 'ho ho ho' - is actually tantamount to banging your head repetitively against a brick wall, employing someone to squeeze lemon into the wound whilst allowing those little dinosaurs, which look cute but are actually fervent pack hunters nibble at your feet - extremely unpleasant to start off with, gets worse as time goes on and will only cease to be painful when it stops or your die.