Airport passengers bamboozled by Thameslink train ticket machines

For passengers in a hurry from London Bridge station to Gatwick Airport, buying a £12.50 ticket for one of the four-hour Thameslink trains should be easy.

The time-pressed traveler hits the destination. But instead of being served with a simple one-way or round-trip ticket option, the screen that appears says “Select your preferred route” and offers five options:

  • All allowed
  • Not valid by Gatwick Express
  • South only
  • Thameslink only
  • AP South only

Even travelers whose first language is English and who are aware of the complex structure of railways in the UK may be confused by this menu.

The ‘All Permit’ option will allow the traveler to use a train from London Victoria, two miles away – although it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to do that.

But those familiar with the south London rail system will know that the best bet is Thameslink, with frequent trains taking half an hour.

Yet anyone who selects ‘Thameslink only’ is told, ‘This ticket is not available at the moment! »

The same goes for the “South only” option as well as the “AP South only” option, which is an advance purchase ticket not normally available at machines.

A piece of laminated plastic glued to the machine in a not especially digital way tells the traveler: “For Gatwick Airport, please select Not Valid on the Gatwick Express option.”

The perplexed traveler could circumvent the problem by opting for a contactless bank card, but passengers are warned: “Please note that during peak periods it is cheaper to buy a ticket than [sic] using contactless.

All trains between London and Gatwick Airport are run by the same company, Govia Thameslink Railway.

The Department for Transport says the new Great British Railways (GBR) organization will ‘simplify the current mass of confusing tickets‘.

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