Thursday, 21 November 2013

"Hello, I'm on the train..."

This post is devoted to trains. It hasn't got a defining thread; it's neither a moan, nor is it full of praise. It's just observations and experiences, because being on the the things how I spend much of my life at the moment.

I'm not as vitriolic as I might be, and as others might be, partly because t'eldest now works for Network Rail, so it feels like I'm criticising her personally when I take aim at them, and partly because as a bit of a railway geek anyway I've got a modicum of insight into how the things run. Take right now as a case in point. I'm somewhere just south of Birmingham New Street, diverted up this route (along with all other trains tonight to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow) because of a lineside fire near Tamworth. I don't know what caused the fire, but I do know that there's no point being upset at the slow running, because there's a massive bottleneck caused by loads of trains in the same place at the same time. I'm now just hoping - and I think it's guaranteed now - that I'm going to be more than an hour late, so that I can get a healthy refund on my (get this) £197.50 single ticket from London to Macclesfield.

Last week, however, I was upset. I was only trying to travel from Euston to Kings Langley (just north of Watford for all my loyal readers for whom south of Watford Gap [which is not particularly near Watford] is as big a mystery as the moons of Saturn). However, one of London Midland's trains had brought down the overhead power lines at Watford (there it is again), meaning there was only one line running north. But the misinformation we were fed was shocking. Maybe Network Rail have bigger fines to pay to Virgin than London Midland if the former's trains can't run, but Virgin were clearly taking priority, as their trains were running up the slow line rather than London Midland's. And yet....London Midland refused to admit any of their trains were actually cancelled until 45 mins or so after they were supposed to have left.  People stood on Euston concourse for hours trying to get a matter of miles up the road. I gave up, and went back to my hotel to work, but for the poor buggers stood stranded in the concrete hell of Euston, it must have been a massively frustrating waste of time. Simply because one train company - for reasons best known to themselves, but I'm sure the labyrinthine nature of the post-privatisation legal agreements between Network Rail and the TOCs had something to do with it - wouldn't admit they couldn't run any trains.

By contrast, a brief journey yesterday on First Great Western from Reading to London was comical. The train was packed, and I ended up at one end of the buffet car next to half a dozen early middle aged women (I think I called them yummy mummies on Twitter, but on reflection that was being a bit generous to them; tummy mummies might have been more accurate). Anyway, they spoke what my old mum would call "far back". Conversation ranged from their sons' and daughters' 'exeats' (public school-speak for day off), through this winter's skiing destinations, to - genuinely - the size of their Agas ("mine's got 16 burners, and an oven you could roast an elephant in!" [or words to that effect]). And all this was done in the 105-110 decibel range that only completely self-awareness-free posh people, and drunks, can manage). Brilliant entertainment, you couldn't parody the rich and privileged better if you tried; it made up for not being able to sit down.

And partly made up for being nearly half an hour late into Reading earlier in the day, which was attributed to, I quote, "extreme weather conditions". It had rained for a couple of hours. Come on Cross Country, if that was extreme, I'd love to hear your description of what went on in the Philippines recently.

Anyway, I'm knackered in a way that then even Virgin first class can't remedy. Night, all.

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