There is an old joke about railways and tickets. It was something Phil Customer saw
when he was a boy. It was actually a little cartoon, in Punch magazine, which Phil
saw while waiting his turn in the dentist’s chair. A man is climbing into the railway
carriage, with a huge smile of triumphant glee on his face. He is turned towards
the reader, saying: “At last - I’ve cheated British Rail! I’ve bought a return ticket
– and I’m not coming back!”
These days, Phil doesn’t do much travelling by train, but he does remember cheating
the railways when he was a schoolboy. He lived in Rochester, and had schoolfriends
who lived in Longfield, three stations – Stone Street, Meopham, and Longfield - down
the line from Rochester Station. Phil used to enjoy going to Longfield Youth Club
on a Friday night with his friends, and the easiest way to get there was by train.
He very quickly discovered that neither Longfield nor Stone Street stations were
manned in the evenings, so what Phil did was to buy a return ticket to Stone Street
from Rochester, and simply stay on the train until he arrived at Longfield. He got
out there but nobody checked his ticket. Phil enjoyed his evening of table tennis
and chatting to the Longfield girls, and then, later, returned to Longfield station
to travel home.
Getting off back at Rochester, he would pass his Rochester / Stone Street return
ticket to the ticket officer at the gate, and walk home having saved a shilling or
two on the fare. At the time, British Rail was nationalised, a dinosaur industry,
hopelessly inefficient, terminally monolithic and monopolistic, but Phil still suspects
his weekly subterfuge was a large factor in its demise.