Friday, 14 August 2009

It never normally happens

It should have been a relatively straight forward journey home from Kings Cross, especially as National Express East Coast had gotten me in 5 minutes early.

A quick scamper to St Pancras, pick up the train to London Bridge and then I’d have nearly 10 minutes to make my train home.

And everything was going fine until Farringdon (the first stop after St Pancras, so it didn’t get that far!)

A bag of rubbish had fallen onto the tracks and the driver had to check the train to make sure their was no damage before setting off. No problem with this, but it did mean that I would miss the connection at London Bridge.

Still no problem as I could move onto plan B, which was to get off and get the stopping train behind to Tulse Hill where the First Capital Connect train always leaves before my Southern train from London Bridge.

I leapt off at Blackfriars, and sure enough a minute later, running just two minutes late, was the stopping train.

Everything went well to Herne Hill (three stops down the line, so still not great), where the train decided, for no real reason to stop for a couple of minutes.

But still no problem, we would arrive at the next stop, Tulse Hill, where the two lines met at the same time as the Southern train, and we would then pull out in front of it and I could get off at Streatham and pick it up.

Every time I have caught the train from London Bridge it has always ended up waiting at Tulse Hill for the delayed First Capital Connect service, it has never, ever, ever, ever, gone out before hand.

I bet you can guess where this is going.

Correct, as soon as the FCC train pulled into the platform at Tulse Hill, the Southern train pulled out. On time to the minute, not wanting to be delayed by the FCC train.

Why is it every time I’m on the Southern train it always ends up waiting for up to five minutes for the FCC train to come in late, leave and clear the signals, yet the one time this would have worked to my advantage I’m left standing on Streatham station with a 28 minute wait, or the bus.

To whichever signalman was on duty, thank you so much, perhaps you could always do that when I’m waiting on the Southern train?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Things not included in your Travelodge room

To be turned out of your bed by a fire alarm is bad enough, especially at gone 11pm.

But it’s really taking the biscuit when it happens again at 8am the following morning, when you were intending on having a lie-in to make up for last nights disruption.

Last night it was someone smoking, they obviously ignored the signs in all the corridors, lifts and rooms that said “No Smoking”, but I don’t think they were expecting the full Travelodge fury of a £200 fine and being kicked out of the hotel.

With that having taken place so publically, you would have thought that nobody would have risked anything setting the smoke alarms off again.

But no, this morning off go the alarms, and the reason – someone burning their breakfast.

This would be just about reasonable if it had been in the cafe bar, but no, they were attempting to cook breakfast in their room.

Travelodge is a hotel chain, not self-catering apartments.

All the duty manager could do was shake their head, expect signs shortly letting you know that you can’t cook in the lifts, corridors or rooms of any Travelodge hotel.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

When the rot set in

At last, an explanation as to why it takes so long to get things done and built in England.

It’s not just a recent phenomenon, we have been getting slower for centuries.

Take the example given on the Hadrians Wall bus today:

It took the Romans approximately eight years to build the 75 or so miles of Hadrians wall.

It took the Normans and their successors nearly 100 years to build the two miles of city walls in Newcastle.

At this rate it’s unlikely that modern Britons will get even a garden wall built before the end of the millennium

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Minding the Manners in Manors

The Newcastle Metro is nearly 30 years old, so I wasn’t expecting the most high-tech of ticket buying experiences when I walked the short distance from my hotel to Manors station yesterday evening.

I was pretty certain that the machines wouldn’t take cards, after all my local station which is in the top 25% of most used stations in the country has only been accepting cards in the ticket machines for the last three years.

However, given that the cost of a day ticket is £3.90, and you can buy even more expensive tickets, I did kind of expect that the machine would take my five pound note.

I was proved to be very wrong. The only thing the machines take is coins, and at Manors station there are no change machines, no ticket offices, no staff.

I did feel like omitting an expletive, given that there are also no shops any where nearby to get change from.

Though if I had done I would probably have gotten in trouble as there was a very large poster next to the machine stating that the metro operator would not tolerate abuse or foul language in its stations.

Perhaps one cause of this might be forcing all their customers to carry around a couple of kilos of small change.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Jobs I wouldn’t want to do

I work in a situation where I have to deal with angry customers, and occasionally have to give them the answer they don’t want, so I know how angry people can get.

However, the poor station staff at Kings Cross this morning were getting far worse than I have ever experienced and they were trying to only give out good information.

Trains had been severely delayed due to “Overhead wire damage in the Doncaster area”, and by the time I arrived at Kings Cross at 10:30 arrivals due at 08:00 had still not arrived, in fact there were no trains in the station at all.

Over the course of the next 60 minutes a number of trains did arrive and eventually start departing.

It was quite obvious that what had happened was beyond the control of the staff at Kings Cross station, who along with trying to let passengers know what was happening, were also trying to keep an increasingly dangerously full station safe.

Some people though, were still hurling abuse at the poor station staff and accusing them of deliberately delaying their journey (despite the fact there were no trains for them to be travelling on.)

This included one particularly unpleasant person who had been queuing up near platform 2 for over an hour only for his train to then leave from platform 7 (despite all the announcements telling everyone to remain on the concourse as platforms would be subject to change), shouting at a member of staff that it was his personal fault that the train had arrived on a different platform.

I did wonder how he would have reacted if the member of staff had said it had done it on purpose just to spite him, though I think he would have been detailed with cleaning up the bloody remains of a self-exploding passenger.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Wound Spotting 3 - Ireland

Granda was knees, Munich was heads, Torbay was pregnancy (not a wound I know, depending on your views on babies)

Ireland has been arms, or more importantly the lower parts of arms, the number of people sporting casts and slings with either their wrists or lower arms damaged is quite alarming.

Of course, they could have an excuse.

The Irish do go in for particularly violent sports - Rugby and the worst Hurling

Though I don't think the couple of elderly ladies I saw with slings have been participating, but I could be wrong on that front!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Aboard the Enterprise

The Enterprise, is not a star-ship seeking out new life and exploring new galaxies (or whatever the opening lines are)

It is, in real life, the rail service from Dublin to Belfast.

During the darkest days of the troubles it was seen as a beacon of hope, that communities could work together, Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland Railways working across the border where politicians may not have done.

However, in it’s past it served another function.

My parents spent a couple of years living and working in Ireland in the 1960s, and Irish they knew called it the Pill Express.

The train’s main purpose (at least from a northbound point of view) was to pop across the border and pick up those items you couldn’t get in the Republic, namely contraceptives and Marks and Spencer’s undies (Though I don’t think the latter were actually banned, just not available – You had to have Dunn’s St Bernard range)

Today M&S have branches all over the Republic, and last night I had the horrific experience of watching an Irish health board contraceptives advert on the Irish channel 3

It must be a bank holiday weekend

My journey from the hotel to the station this morning took longer than it should have done.

The reason, would lead me to conclude that Ireland looks to the UK for inspiration on ways to deal with its public transport.

On a bank holiday weekend you could:
a. provide a full service for the population on the move
b. shut down chunks of it to make it difficult

Needles to say in the UK we always choose option B, because nobody ever wants to travel on a Bank Holiday weekend.

I didn’t think that Ireland would have done the same, but I was wrong. For the whole of the bank holiday weekend there are no trams from Connolly station (the one where trains to Sligo, Belfast and the local trains all stop at) or Busaras (the most important bus station in the country), instead they start a further stop down the line with a good five to ten minute walk, and no signage.

Admittedly they are installing a whole new extension over the weekend putting in a complex junction to enable the new extension to work, compare this with my home town where the whole of the central section of the tram network has been out of action for nearly a fortnight whilst they get round to finally fixing some traffic lights which they first installed three years ago.

On this basis it would look like the Irish still have much to learn on the annoying bank holiday weekend travellers front, but a good start nether-the-less, particularly liked the lack of on street signage, I knew where I was going, but I ended up with a train of Japanese tourists as they didn’t