An impromptu question-and-answer session took off on Reddit when an unsuspecting train conductor offered to take on all and any train travel queries. Travelers from around the world jumped in with questions for BobTheConductor—a conductor in the UK—regarding train etiquette, what those PA announcements really mean, and just about anything else you could possibly imagine. We pulled five of our favorite points, so read on and take notes:
Question: "How often do you or other conductors for that matter check that someone actually has their rail card on their person? I actually have one but of the numerous times I've caught the train I'd say I only had to get it out 2-4 times. Seems like people could get away with a cheaper ticket rather easily!"
Answer: "I tend to check them regularly some conductors don't bother. Depends who you get really."
Train Bathroom Etiquette
Question: "My mate is a station manager for East Coast in Yorkshire, do the train toilets get as funky as those in the stations? Do they still empty there loads onto the railway tracks?"
Answer: "They probably get a lot worse as they don't get cleaned as often. I've seen some pretty bad ones. Yes, there are still trains that dump waste on the tracks. That's why you're not supposed to use the toilet in stations, so you don't spray us while we have our head out—and so there's no waste in the bloody station, but hey."
How Not to Be an Ignorant Passenger
Question: "What's the most ignorant thing people do without realizing it?"
Answer: "Not sure if ignorant or just careless, but people traveling without their railcards, photocards, passengers not traveling on their booked train and then acting surprised because their ticket isn't valid. It says on your railcard you have to carry it with you. Most people don't realize that if they speak to us before they jump on, we'll let them off or give them a good deal. But if they've already made the decision to do what they please, they shouldn't be shocked when we decide it's not going to fly. Here's another one: having your card declined and then assuming that you get free travel from now on 'because it's your fault the machine isn't working.' Nope. You get warned once and next you need to have cash on you to pay your fare. Some people think they're really clever."
Perks of the Conductor Life
Question: "What is the career progression like? Do you move on to busier trains, longer journeys? Do conductors apply to become drivers? Do they go on to head office? Is the pay any good? Do you get free rail travel for you and family?"
Answer: "It doesn't matter how long you've been working. You can be a new guy and get the senior conductor badge. I think they do pick people who they think are suitable for the long journeys, but with some companies it doesn't matter. You can definitely apply for other jobs within the railway and work your way up. Pay is good and the other benefits are, too. A lot of the conductors end up being drivers. You get free travel for your significant other and kids within the company you work for and everything else is discounted, but you wouldn't get it for mum and dad."
Travel Tips for Foreign Train Riders
Question: "I'm a Canadian and I'll be moving to Wales in September. I have never lived in a place with public transit. Do you have any insider tips for a foreigner so I won't stick out like a sore thumb and embarrass myself?"
Answer: "I don't think it's taboo to talk to strangers in the UK. You'd be surprised how many passengers pitch in when they overhear a conversation between me and another passenger and I didn't know the answer. If you are unsure of something definitely ask the conductor—even if you think it is silly. You might get a sarcastic or bored answer back, but hey, at least you are now sure of something. Same goes with people at stations, really. When I wasn't sure where I had to go I always asked other commuters. Just be polite and you'll be fine."
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.
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