Train journey from Edinburgh to Dunbar sounded simple, but on today's railways, one must avoid Newcastle... and the Pennines?! – Susan Morrison

There are few things in life more exciting than buying a ticket to ride. Think of the thrill of the plane tickets to Lisbon, the ferry tickets to Tiree, or the bus ticket to work on Monday morning. OK, maybe not that last one.
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Train ticket to Dunbar for me, to meet an old friend for a country walk. The ticket machine seemed a tad over-chummy and asked me to avoid Newcastle. Harsh. I like Newcastle. Also, if I were to go from Edinburgh to Dunbar via Newcastle I’d be seriously lost, even by my standards. It churned out the ticket. Just before the details vanished from the screen, I noticed it said my train left at 14.21.

Now, my train definitely left at 13.09, as verified by my Yorkshire husband. When a Yorkshireman tells you the train times, you know it’s right. There’s a reason why the railway museum is in York. Obsessed with railways, Northern men. Probably their dark history of invasion by Vikings, other English people and, well, us. It's made them keep tabs on the fast routes out of town.

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Not only that, when I looked at the ticket it said Transpennine Express only. Naturally, I was slightly baffled. I checked the big board. Yes, there it was, 13.09. But for some reason, the ticket machine didn’t want me on that train.

Sensibly, the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar does not travel over the Pennines (Picture: Tony Johnson)Sensibly, the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar does not travel over the Pennines (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Sensibly, the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar does not travel over the Pennines (Picture: Tony Johnson)

I thought about going into the ticket office but it was rammed. I thought I could see Americans carrying golf clubs. That’s always going to hold a queue up. They probably didn’t realise St Andrews doesn’t have a station. That’s always a good ten minutes of discussion right there.

Whenever I find myself confused by the workings of our railway system, increasingly frequent these days, I always track down the nearest woman in a hi-vis jacket. Her name was Millie and she knew her stuff.

This, she said, is only valid on trains operated by TransPennine Express. We’re nowhere near the Pennines, I said. I’m only going to Dunbar. I’m even avoiding Newcastle. Yeah, she said with a heavy sigh. You’ll need a CrossCrountry ticket.

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Millie took me through the barriers to a little office marooned between platforms 14 and 12, where a woman sat in splendid isolation. This is the excess fares office. She charged me an additional £1.15 and upgraded my tickets, although given my experience of CrossCountryCattleTruck Rail, I’d question the word ‘upgrade’.

Railwise, the world was now my oyster, but only if I avoided going via Newcastle. Millie sent me on my way to the right platform with a friendly smile. But, Millie, I said, it’s all the same stretch of rail, innit, with a train on it, going to Dunbar? She sighed, rolled her eyes and said: “Yeah. One big service, that’s all we need. With one set of fares and one load of trains.” I vote Millie for Transport Secretary.

Had a lovely time in Dunbar. If you’re planning a donder one day, take the time to visit the cosiest wee pub you’ve ever seen. The Station Yard Micropub is just steps from Dunbar Station with friendly staff, a roaring log-burning fire and some seriously good beers and wines. Just the thing after a brisk breezy country walk and a fight with a ticket machine.

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