Robert Hampton

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10th March 2015

Smart? Arse
Posted by at 7.40pm | Liverpool, Trains | 1 response

Saveaway is Merseytravel’s off-peak travel ticket giving unlimited travel on buses, trains and ferries. For the princely sum of £5.10, you get a scratch card on which the day, month and year can be rubbed off using a coin (or a finger, if you don’t mind getting all the silvery scratch-off stuff underneath your nail). Generations of Merseysiders have learned the skill of sticking down the plastic cover without getting any lumps in it.

Scratch off Saveaway

It’s a simple, foolproof system. Go to your local corner shop and get a ticket. Maybe buy two or three and keep them in a drawer somewhere until you need them. No further hassle required. That’s probably why the basic format has remained unchanged for over 30 years, barring the occasional special edition like the short-lived All Day Saveaway and (I kid you not) the Pope John Paul souvenir Saveaway.

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19th September 2011

Goo Goo G’ Joob
Posted by at 8.18pm | Liverpool, Trains | 1 response

Merseytravel Walrus CardIt’s hard not to be a fan of the Oyster Card. As I wandered around London during my recent visit, it was great not to have to worry about fishing for cash or accidentally travelling out of an arbitrarily-defined zone. Simply tap your card on the yellow pad and let the computers do the rest.

I think it’s safe to say that the introduction of Oyster was nothing less than a revolution in ticketing. With online and automatic topup options available, the days of queueing at ticket offices to pay public transport fares are a distant memory for most Londoners.

I have, therefore, been eagerly awaiting the long-threatened launch of Merseytravel’s equivalent technology. I was excited this summer by the sight of smartcard readers appearing on the ticket barriers at Merseyrail’s major stations for the use of bewildered pensioners travelling on free passes.

Until now though, it was not known when non-coffin dodgers would be able to get their hands on one. Well, the wait is over and the next phase of the rollout has begun. From today, commuters renewing their all-zone Trio ticket will not get the date-stamp-on-a-sticker which has been the standard issue for years. Instead, they will be issued with their ticket on a new Merseytravel-branded smartcard: Walrus.

Yes, Walrus.

I’m not quite sure what the thinking is: I think it’s an attempt to continue the sea-based theme (after Hong Kong’s Octopus and Oyster), as well as enabling a slew of “I am the Walrus” puns. Yes, it’s Liverpool, so it has to be the fucking Beatles again. At least the marketing people came up with something slightly more imaginative than Ticket to Ride.

Merseytravel have a nice little web site about the card complete with a video which tries really hard to sell the branding. It nearly won me over with “Walrus in your wallet”, but by that point I was already annoyed by the narrator talking about topping up the card, “or feeding the Walrus as I like to call it.” (aargh!)

I have plenty of time to get used to the name: if the rollout plan is adhered to, I (as a monthly season ticket holder) won’t get my hands on a Walrus until Autumn 2012. The final phase – Oyster-style pay-as-you-go – will not be completed until 2013.

I will grudgingly admit to liking the design of the card, with the Walrus “tusks” which also bring to mind the livery design on the outer ends of Merseyrail trains.

It’s surely going to be a great boon to the travelling public. But oh, the name!

12th September 2008

Good, Bad

GOOD: Going to London for a day out.
BAD: Having to get up at stupid o’clock (aka 5.30am) to get the first Merseyrail train into town to connect with an early morning Virgin Train at Lime Street.

GOOD: Virgin allow Off-Peak tickets bought with Railcards to be used on any train without time restriction.
BAD: Everyone else gets charged a hugely expensive fare, meaning that my train (the 07.07 to London, supposedly Virgin’s “flagship” Liverpool service) was half-empty.

GOOD: The Science Museum has a great exhibition on the development of British technology in household appliances.
BAD: The Science Museum cafe promised sandwiches “from £1.50”, but I certainly couldn’t find any at that price (nice Danish pastry, though).

GOOD: Meeting up with a friend I haven’t seen for ages and strolling alongside the River Thames with her.
BAD: Seeing things which looked really interesting (Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, HMS Belfast) but not having time to visit them. I need to book a hotel and spend a few days there.

GOOD: Having the foresight to buy an Oyster card online from TfL’s website, meaning I saved money and beat the horrendous queues at Euston Underground station.
BAD: Slipping on the wet surface at Boston Manor tube station and falling down the stairs.

GOOD: Reaching Euston station early enough to catch an earlier train home than the one I had planned.
BAD: Did not have a seat reservation for this service so had to fight my way past the Friday night crowds to the non-reserved coach where I got a seat — just.

GOOD: The train toilets were clean.
BAD: Opening the train toilet door to find a woman in “full flow”, as it were, because she had forgotten to push the “Lock” button.

13th July 2008

Posted by at 4.33pm | Trains | No responses

Thousands of people using London’s public transport network may find their electronic Oyster card no longer works after a fault hit the system.[BBC]

This is why I’m glad Merseytravel haven’t introduced smartcards yet. All I have to worry about with a Saveaway is sticking the plastic cover down without leaving a little lump in it. God bless you, oh lottery-scratchcard-like travel pass!