A rant about Rail Rovers

A Rail Rover is a great idea - in theory - you get 4 out of 8 days unlimited travel by train and some of them even include ferries and buses, especially important in Scotland and Wales where English bus passes are not recognised. So, for my latest trip around South Wales I wanted to buy a Freedom of South Wales Flexi Rover. That's £54 (or £35 with senior railcard) for four days train and eight days bus travel. So far, so good. However I then discovered that you can't buy one online, the man at the end of the Arriva phone line had never heard of them ('Did I want a season ticket?', he asked) and Brighton ticket office said I could only buy one 3 days in advance. So on my day of travel, I popped into the Travel Centre at Brighton station and bought one (I'd already bought my tickets to Bristol and back from the Great Western website). Trouble was, when I first tried to use it, I was informed by the guard that I'd been given in fact a 3 in 7 Rover! Not good at all... I'd neglected to print off the list of buses I could use and a map of the rail lines covered, so at Swansea I popped into their Travel Centre and got my 'pack', with map, vouchers and the all-important list of bus companies participating. This was to become very useful. The assistant was bemused by the 3 in 7 bit, as these don't really exist, but couldn't exchange my ticket for a proper one - I would have had to buy another Rover and try to get my money back at Brighton. But as I'd already used a day's worth (the guard had kindly filled in the first box - of four! - for me!) I decided to risk it and maybe forget to cross off one or two of the days. My first encounter with a bus was my trip to the Gower. The driver scratched his chin insisted they didn't take them and I had to stump up £4 for a Gower Explorer day ticket! That bus company was on the list, and after that experience I underlined the bus companies I was attempting to get journeys out of in the pack brochure and stuck it under their noses! Granted, it got easier the further west I travelled, but it was embarrassing to be viewed with suspicion every time I wanted to make a bus journey. I put it down to the design of the pass. First, it's flimsy for something that will be in constant use for 8 days, plus it says Rail Rover in big letters at the top - nothing about buses! On my travels I spotted loads of posters on stations for the 'Freedom' pass, but nobody had informed the bus drivers about it! Why not a more substantial pas, with Rail and Bus Rover in big letters and a list of the bus companies covered on the back. But maybe that's what they should look like and Brighton sold me a dud! Next time, I'll wait to buy my Rover in the area I'll be needing it in - or online if they'll let me - like last year's Scottish Rover. PS. And why can't they print the Rovers on card that you can actually write on without it smudging?

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