Yes, truly i do. And most of the people that travel in them.
Where do I start? Well, I’ll return to my current journey later but let’s go back a couple of weeks to a particular journey home about which, only now do I feel calm enough to write about.
To set the scene I must explain that my local station is on the Severn Beach branch from Bristol Temple Meads. A proper Branch line that runs through an urban setting, along the banks of the River Avon, through the industrial apocalypse of Avonmouth and terminating in the year 1954. We’re all rather excited as we have new trains. I say new, they’re actually 25 years old but having previously served the commuters of the Thames Valley, they are a little more luxurious than the trains that had previously served the commuters of Belper. Why, don’t tell anyone, but they even have declassified first class seats at each end.
The trouble with these new trains is three-fold; firstly they are too highly geared for the line so accelerate poorly and lose time consistently. Secondly, the driving controls and handling are different so most drivers are treating them with the utmost caution and losing even more time. Finally, the line is being used for driver instruction on the new trains and even I can’t remember caning the life out of my car on a driving lesson…
So, since the the introduction of the new trains, every single service bar one has run late. Apart from one.
Anyway, what a lovely warm summer we’ve been having, has everyone been making the best of it? It’s all lovely sat outside in your shorts but absolutely hell on earth in London wearing a suit and lugging a heavy briefcase around, especially if it’s involved any time on the Central line. Emerging from the depths of the Bakerloo at 7pm is always one of trepidation, the excitement of the train home tempered by the rolling incompetence of the dynamic duo of Network Rail and Great Western Railway. And tonight, that heart-sinking moment when you realise that not only is Paddington devoid of trains, the departure boards are blank. No trains, no apologies, no explanations. Just blank.
Now here’s the thing; GWR suddenly show a great ability to think on their feet and, as a train arrives, they advise anyone heading west of Reading to board this train and decide, possibly by writing destinations on bits of paper and pulling one out of a hat, that’s this one is going to Swansea. Being the geek I am, I’d already guessed that something similar might happen and manage to board and get a seat. Within minutes the train is full to the gunwales and the Police are on hand to prevent a group of angry cyclists overrunning the guards van.
So we head off, weaving through the myriad of derailments, signal failures and heavy snowfall that have been blamed for this evenings chaos and eventually we’re bowling along in speeds in excess of 10mph… being the utter genius I am, I notice there is a train following us headed to Temple Meads and decide to enjoy a brief sojourn in the oasis that is Swindon. The Temple Meads train is late but should connect comfortably still for my branch line train…. so Network Rail decide to signal out onto the mainline one of those complicated looking bright yellow track machines in front of us and my connection time starts to diminish..
Eventually, after a last minute platform change, we weave our way out of leafy Swindon and I’m heading home. Until we reach Bristol and in a move designed purely for the tililation of the signaller, we are sent into the station by the most complicated route possible and arrive at the furthest point within the station from my connecting train..
Not to worry, because it’s a booked connection and the train hasn’t run on time for weeks… well, here’s the thing; as a good 20 or 30 people run up the steps to platform seven, the thing departs! On time! Don’t worry there’s another in 45 minutes says the nice man to the stressed, sweaty and exhausted passengers. The only on-time departure in a whole month!
I am beyond livid. I take to Twitter to vent my anger (I stress, without swearing or genuine death threats) – I want everyone I know to know how incompetent GWR at Bristol Temple Meads are. And here’s the second thing, the next morning, all of my tweets had been removed…. hmmm
I’m off this week so I’ve decided to take the children to London, by train. First thing I do when I get up is to check the running on the branch; it all appears to be ok so we risk relying on the connecting train and amble to the station in a nice relaxed manner. The nice screen shows the train being on time, online shows it as en route and, then, in the big tunnel, it just disappears! The screens flick to the next departure and for twelve long minutes the train is shown as ‘approaching’ …. so with children in tow we have to run across Temple Meads, demolishing fellow passengers in a way any Somerset skittler would be truly proud and board our London train with literally seconds to spare..
Then we begin the hell that is coach B with an American family sat behind me with a plainly awful snotty child playing an ‘educational game’ with the volume up loud, a slightly odd and twitchy young man next to me (who didnt shower this morning and tried to evict someone from ‘his seat’ until it is pointed out he’s on the wrong train), the inevitable bunch of people making important calls to announce they’re on ‘the train’ and other assorted horrors…. but I won’t bore you with them today…