One of the best things about living in Britain is the public transport.

I know people complain about the trains and, especially in the south, probably have good reason too. But, as I think I have said before, when you come from a country with virtually no public transport travelling by train is a real treat.

I never take my car to Carlisle – or anywhere that is reachable by train. I am old enough to have a bus pass, by the way, but, sadly, buses make me travel sick. On the train I can actually read, do crosswords and enjoy myself. My senior railcard is my most precious possession!

You must have known there was a complaint coming – and here it is.

I just got a press release from northern Rail this morning announcing new "penalty routes" - that is, routes where, if you haven't bought a ticket before getting on the train you will pay a £20 penalty.

I think this is a not very subtle way to reduce the need for train guards and to help them win the battle that suggests they are not needed on trains.

Fortunately, our coastal route is not yet on the penalty list so I can continue buying my ticket on the train and I will!

There are two reasons: The first is that I will continue to use conductors when they are available to ensure that I in no way contribute to their demise.

The second, more selfish reason, is that they are helpful.

My youngest sister was ill for many, many months. Each weekend I would travel either to Lockerbie, Livingstone, Edinburgh or Glasgow, depending on where she was.

I would never, ever count the cost but it was an expensive undertaking. I knew better than to buy a ticket from Flimby, where I live, to the ultimate destination. I used to buy a day return to Carlisle and then from Carlisle to wherever I was going.

This was a lot cheaper than just buying one ticket.

It became even cheaper when a conductor told me to buy a day return to and from Wigton instead of Carlisle.

I can't being to tell you how much money I saved with my railcard and that information.

I will fight to retain guards no matter what so the price of tickets will not alter that fact.

However, I would love to know who on earth set train prices in this country and why they are so underhanded!

I choose that word deliberately because it is true.

If they had open and fair pricing we would not be deterred from pre-buying tickets.

I have a friend coming to visit next month. I have warned her to look at all options for a ticket from London because she will find prices vary so much. She could, for instance, buy a ticket to Wolverhampton, perhaps, then one to Carlisle.

She will sit in exactly the same seat all the way, be and give tickets to the same conductor.

The only person who will be put out is her - because of the amount of research she will have to do. I'm on the train next Friday.

I will be buying my ticket from a helpful conductor!