Friday, 8 June 2007
Read this article about how Network rail might get fined by the rail regulator for the months of delays in the South Hampshire region.
Hang on a minute ?
The train service is disrupted and causes hassle to thousands of passengers for months and months, and then the city bods sitting in their plush London offices reap the rewards by sticking a fine in their inbox?
Now this is not what I call a fair fine.
Rail regulator should enforce the rail providers to pay compensation to the people who have actually suffered from all the engineering works early 2007 - for the people who spent their hard earned pennies paying for a service to get to work which didn't always run efficiency?
What will the rail regulator do with this hefty fine? ! I'm sure they won't be paying any of it back to the passengers... I have no idea..
So that makes me cross!!!
Thursday, 26 April 2007
A pedestrian got knocked down on the M3 this morning at 5.30am approximately. Three hours later and the motorway was still completely closed between two junctions, causing a bottleneck effect as everyone tried the country lanes around the motorway instead. Huge queues were the result of this, and everyone was very late to work. But not me! Trains don’t get effected by the knock on effects of one road closing. They just glide past the traffic jams on their own, specially constructed track, all for them. Sweet.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007
Sometimes I moan too much about my travelling to work woes. I admit that. That is indeed the point of this whole blog.
But last week, something made me smile. I actually took the time to listen to the conversation had by the group of early teens sitting around me. They were discussing their homework. Really! They were! They were talking about the character development in Much Ado About Nothing, and what the different characters represent. It was amazing! Now, I am not that old, and it’s only really been 8 years since I left 6th Form. But I have already fallen into the terrible, clichéd view that teenagers are good-for-nothing wasters. But, it would seem, they are not. They actually talk about Shakespeare through choice and appeared to enjoy it, too.
Now, here the moment where I should point out that I work in a particularly well-to-do part of the country, with one of the best public schools in the country, and a handful of other very decent schools too. So perhaps this explains these kids’ general attitude towards learning? Well, it must do. If I was travelling on a train with school kids from somewhere less illustrious (for example, Brixton, where I used to live) I doubt very much the kids would be having these types of conversations.
And I hate this observation. I hate it because I know it is true, even though I realise it sounds inherently snobby to think that kids from rough areas don’t talk about Shakespeare.
Anyway, I should be grateful that I have decent kids on my train. Although they still make far too much noise for my liking.
(And I haven’t read Much Ado About Nothing..)
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
The ticket manager/guard made his way down the train as per normal. ‘Tickets Please!” he called. He reached one girl in her twenties who was having a snooze and listening to her I-Pod (this was not me, I hasten to add, it was another Girl On A Train, and no it wasn’t a Quiet Carriage)
He said to her, ‘tickets please’.
No response. She continued to snooze happily, eyes closed, head up, jaw threatening to drop.
He said again, this time louder, ‘can I see your ticket please, Madam’
Again, no response. By this time everyone was watching – including me.
Train managers have obviously been taught to not touch passengers (and rightly so) for he then proceeded to lean over and knock on the glass by her head. Very loudly.
‘Can I see your ticket please, madam!’
still no answer! I couldn’t believe she hadn’t woken up after all the commotion. She must have been in a very deep sleep.
So the train manager then went around to behind her seat (fortunately nobody was seated behind her) and shook the headrest that her sleep head was resting against backwards and forwards quite frenetically.
Ha, that woke her up! She opened her eyes, registered what was happening and turned around to glare at however was banging her seat.
Then she realised it was the Train Manager and quickly understood the situation. Then she noticed everyone was smirking at her.
For once, it wasn’t me!
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
Not a lot, I think.
It’s not a difficult thing to implement, really. The ticket manager just has to tap someone on the shoulder with a noisy I-Pod or interrupt a mobile phone conversation to tell the offender to shift it.
However, for passengers, the ‘Quiet Carriage’ can be slightly inconvenient. Often, it is only once you have taken a phone call on your mobile before you notice the signs saying ‘quiet carriage’. By then, it’s too late. There are no signs by the door of the train to say ‘you are entering a quiet carriage, sssh.’ It is only once you are sat down comfortably in your seat, reading your book, before you notice the signs. In a busy train, you are unlikely to move carriages just in case you need to take a phone call.
I know all this.
However, when the lad opposite me sat with his Ipod on ridiculously loudly so that all I could hear was the beat of his crap music, I started to feel irritation. Then I noticed we were in a ‘quiet carriage’ and felt justly irritated. I thought to myself, ‘I could just tell him to turn if off and point at the sign.’
I didn’t of course.
But I expected the Train Manager to do so as she came through the carriage checking tickets. She reached the noise Ipod boy and called for tickets. He ignored her because he couldn’t hear her. She had to wave a hand in front of his face to attract his attention. ‘yes! I though, ‘she’s going to tell him to turn it off as we are in a quiet carriage.’
Sadly not, she asked for his ticket, he pointed it at her, and she continued on her merry way. He continued to have poor taste in music.
So, I ask, what is the point of these quiet carriages?
Monday, 16 April 2007
The trains have been running to schedule over the past couple of weeks, despite some engineering works in a major area which, despite not affecting my section of line, I feared may have some knock-on effects. These engineering works meant that a lot of people probably took another mode of transport to work, while others took annual leave for the week of disruption. This combined with the Easter holidays meant that my train was blissfully peaceful last week. A double seat all to myself, no screaming teenagers, no businessmen barking down mobiles. Lovely. All in all, last week was top-notch service!
I have now used ONE of my free golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Oh, I mean my free train journey of course.
Thursday, 5 April 2007
I have noticed a wide degree of variability of temperature in the trains recently though. Sometimes, it is unbearably warm and stuffy, others it is too chilly. I think I prefer the former temperate climate as it effortlessly allows me to fall into slumber when it is hot inside the carriage. When it is cold, however, I find myself shivering and trying to get myself warm enough to fall asleep.
You see, everything revolves around whether I can get a decent bit of kip or not.
On another note, I am reading John Banville’s The Sea. An interesting read with elegant language and prose. Although, in all honesty, not much has actually happened yet in the plot, which may be why I am sleeping a bit more this week!
Friday, 30 March 2007
Moving on from the poster competition, it's back to business as normal at the Girl on a Train blog. Thankyou for your contributions, I suppose as Blue is disqualified and I am the host, that makes Daniel the winner. Congratulations, you have won this prestigious competition, your poster shall form the epitome of the South West Trains campaign against Bag Morons, perhaps.
So, back to business.
The trains are making front-page news in the local papers relentlessly at the moment. I would never have thought it would be such a gigantic storyline – trains are something that we all know are there but don’t really talk much about in person (in blogs, well that’s another matter!)
Some people’s lives appear to be being devastated by engineering works happening around our area. It’s a typical engineering works saga actually. They say to the customer from the start, ‘oh don’t worry, it won’t take long and will not cause any disruption, or at least, if it does, the disruption will be minimal.’
5 weeks later and they admit that they aren’t to schedule at all.
Another month later and they confess that, actually, they have no idea when the engineering works will finish.
So it has turned from 5 weeks of minimal work to a mammoth job of god-knows how long.
Well, personally, it doesn’t really bother me much. I can still take my train to work and (normally) get there in reasonable time.
However, some poor sods who live near the train tracks are finding their lives ruined by this mess. A lot of engineering works goes on during the nighttime, when there are no trains running. But this keeps people awake all night long with the sounds of heavy machinery and shouting from the site staff. Poor them. I feel for them, actually.
I just hope they get some sort of fair compensation for the hassle.
Tuesday, 27 March 2007
Thursday, 22 March 2007
In response to YorksDevil's comment, I have spent hours and hours designing an elaborate poster for Train Companies to use up and down the country. I really do think this will get the message across. This poster shows enormous originality and will make people understand the issue like never before witnessed in this public-transport travelling era.
If you have a better idea, please e-mail your poster to me at ... and I shall post them up here. Truly inspirational.
Isn’t it exasperating how people put their bags on the seat next to them, and then look at you in annoyance when you ask if you can sit there?
I’m sorry, but resting my weary body after a long day at work takes precedence over allowing your treasured bag to have pride of position on the seat right next to you.
I never have any qualms about walking along the aisle and asking people to remove their bag. Perhaps that is because I have a relatively long journey and cannot bear the thought of standing up for part of it.
Other people, I notice, are less inclined to ask people to remove their bag, and stand in the doorway area instead. I understand their reticence to an extent. It is a little bit of a pain to request a seat. Some people go to great pains to let you know what an inconvenience it is to have to displace their belongings. But so what?
“Seats are for bums, not bags.”
Perhaps South West Trains should have a quirky little poster up in trains to highlight this point. Heck, I’d even design it for them.
On another note, today this is my 50th Post, so 'Happy Fiftieth Post' to me !
Wednesday, 21 March 2007
The other day on the train, we got to a stop early.
This often happens and we just have to sit and wait until the timetable allows us to continue on our merry way. This is the buffer zone. The extra time added to the timetable to allow for any minor mishaps.
It is all part of managing the expectations of the passenger. Set yourself a generous timetable so that any minor incidents will be covered day-in-day-out. And it works. If you expect the train to arrive at 7.43 and it does (or it even arrives early) then you are happy. It doesn’t really matter that they have added a good 4 minutes or so to the timetable, it is all about expectations. I have noticed that my evening train consistently arrives 5 minutes earlier than the publicised train. Great! I can get on the train and wait in the warmth of the train rather than waiting in the chilly winter air on the platform.
Furthermore, they like to tell you that you have arrived early so that you don’t think we are getting delayed while the train sits there idle. This is all sensible stuff and makes sense. Instead of getting irate and stressed out by the feeling that we might be late, we know that it’s ok because we are even ahead of schedule and that NEVER happens on public transport, right?
Anyway, the point of this entry is a small matter of something on of the announcers said. The tannoy came on, and the man spoke out to the captive audience,
‘I would like to inform you on behalf of South Western Trains, that we are currently ahead of schedule and are not due to depart from C…… until 07.43.’
Hang on a minute, South Western Trains? Am I on a different train? I thought it was called South West Trains, has it been taken over? Is it experiencing a brand overhaul directed by the Marketing and Branding team over at Head Office? Or did it used to be known as South Western Trains back in the day, and this chap has never gotten over the change?
Well, it had me intrigued for a minute of two. And then I returned to my book, ‘Winter in Madrid’ by C.J Sansom. It’s really very good.
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
I used to reside in London. Since moving out of London, I no longer have my Oyster Card. I left my old job with 2 months of zones 1-2 already paid for, and therefore gave my Oyster Card to a friend to use. She promptly lost it. So I no longer have the blue ticket to freedom and, considering I don’t live in London, I haven’t got around to applying for a new one and stumping up three whole pounds for it.
And then I went to London and saw the non-Oyster-card price for a single in Zone 1. £4! I thought it was a mistake. An error on the machine. It can’t be £4 just for one journey surely! I remember when you could get a Zones 1-6 for £4.50!
Well, I paid up, with a grimace. And then headed straight for the Oyster application form…
Monday, 19 March 2007
So that was terrible.
And this morning, the BF took the train one stop to get to work (where he’d left the car on Friday night, but we couldn’t go and get it last night). His train just sat on the platform. Nobody told him what was going on. Nobody mentioned that his train wasn’t likely to move. He waited 40 minutes at this station in order to go one stop while other trains came and went. Why were there no announcements?! He paid £1.90 to sit at the station for 40 minutes to take a 4 minute journey. He was very late for work.
He hates the trains with a passion. I am starting to see why.
Thursday, 15 March 2007
Pictures of sorry commuters squeezing themselves into carriages that are already too packed. One poor chap holding a bunch of flowers returning home after work getting his black rucksack caught in the door as he desperately tried to wedge himself onto the train. People wearily standing in the aisles as their train took them to their place of work.
I sat on the comfy sofa watching these images.
I thought to myself, ‘thank god I don’t work in London anymore.’
Trains in the ‘country’ are less crowded, less stressful and generally a more pleasant place to be. The quality of those trains in the news article were old and shabby. My trains are new and shiny. I always get a seat so that I can fall asleep. I never get crushed (except between those internal doors) trying to get on the train.
Get those trains more carriages! Ah yes, 1,000 more carriages from the government you say? And then, at the end of the section, the news reporter finished off with, ‘the new carriages are expected to be ready by 2014.’ Hmmm, that’s 7 years away! Not soon enough to quell the immediate problems on the trains in some parts of the country then!
Wednesday, 14 March 2007
One day, on the journey home, two teenage girls got on the train. The train pulled off and chugged along merrily for a while. We then got near to a station and stopped and everything went quiet. You know how it is when the engines stop all their whirring and crunching. You just get silence, aside from quiet ticks and squeaks from the train as it waits patiently on the track. All is quiet in carriage number 3.
And then the teenage girls turn on some music on their mobile phone. On loudspeaker. The entire carriage is subjected to a tinny version of P.Diddy blaring out into the quiet carriage. People start getting a bit fidgety about this. Yet, nobody says anything. The woman next to me is clearly very irritated by this noise and starts turning around to give the girls ‘commuter evils’ (*this is when you dislike what someone else is doing, yet do not want to break the Commuter Code by actually talking to them. Neither do you want to glare at them so much as to encourage a response from them.)
She then starts muttering under her breath, ‘good god’, ‘for god’s sake’ and the like. As I am sitting next to her, I feel like I need to acknowledge her mutterings. Yet the carriage is so deathly quiet that I don’t want to. I smile bleakly at her. She carries on her mutterings to me. But there is nothing I can do! I am starting to feel uncomfortable now.
And then the train comes back to life with a whir and a groan, and the P.Diddy is partially blocked from our eardrums.
Tuesday, 13 March 2007
Sometimes I sleep very deeply on the train.
I get involved in dreams that seem to last for eternity, only to wake up with a jolt and realise I am on the train and it is daytime. Sometimes, I twitch and drop my book that I have been holding on the floor. I twitched a lot last night. Normally, I tend to twitch in my train-sleep when I have an aisle seat. My reasoning for this is because I have nothing to lean on, and am therefore engaging in a careful balancing act in my sleep. It’s a bit like sleeping while standing up I imagine (although I am not sure I could manage that), where you have to balance your body. Sometimes, I fall asleep with the seat free next to me. When I wake up I find that there is someone sitting next to me, and I hope to God that I have not been talking in my sleep again or pulling silly faces.
Yesterday, I was so deeply asleep that when my train reached its terminus (fortunately, this is my stop), a lady had to gently, but firmly poke me on the arm to awake me.
Poke poke. ‘urgh?’ said I. ‘Sorry, I thought I ought to wake you there,’ said she.
I don’t think I fancy a night on the train, or a return trip to London, so I am thankful she did wake me.
I also think I need to pay attention to the way I am sleeping. Neck bent to the side, head lolling about, slumped down in my seat. I do notice that I frequently have a sore neck. Is this doing long-term damage I wonder? Will I one day be visiting the chiropractor and blaming my bad back on ‘those commuting days on the trains’?
Monday, 12 March 2007
Internal doors. I never knew what trouble they would get me in. Yes, they are there for fire safety reasons and I am sure they will do a stirling job in the (fortunately) unlikely event of a fire. However, day-to-day, they are irritating when they close just as you are walking through them.
Anyway, that is another issue that has already been given quite enough time here.
Something I have learnt is that there are some people who take their job very seriously. This is actually rather cheering. I am not a train person. Well, I take them everyday, but I give no thought to the complexities of running a large train network. However, there are some people who think about it a lot, and indeed, it appears to be quite a passion for them. I am pleased about this and I can understand how people feel. When people have a misconception about my line of work, I will strive to change their attitude, and sometimes I will take it quite personally. I think, ‘hey this person is insulting my industry, they must be insulting me too.’
So. My presumption from all of this is that South West Trains must be a pretty good employer for all of these people to defend them so energetically. This is in itself a success. I suppose happy employees build successful companies.
Now then, those internal doors…..
I have just booked a train to Hull for a meeting. When initially searching for a Return Ticket the price was about £130. I thought this was pretty expensive to be honest, even though Hull is absolutely miles away. Then I noticed a little link saying ‘singles might be cheaper’, click on this, filled in my details and have managed to get a return journey (using singles) for less than half the price. Very strange! Long distance journeys often seem to have the situation where 2 singles is cheaper than one return, yet local services charge almost the same price for a single as for a return!
Well, it confuses me. I am just pleased that I had the sense to trail through all the forms to find the cheapest combination of tickets. Although, saying that, work were paying for the ticket, so it doesn’t really matter to me personally. But still, I like to feel like I have nabbed a bargain!
Friday, 9 March 2007
With a bemused expression on my face (at least, I hope it was bemusement rather than irritation) I looked around at my fellow passengers who were standing behind me, patiently waiting while I battled to get the door open. One man stepped forward to help. I am sure I saw a little ‘roll-of-the-eyes’ as I was clearly very incompetent, couldn’t open a blimming train door and here he was to step in. He pressed the button. I was quite relieved to see that the door did not open for him either (Hurrah, it’s not all about the strength of the button pushing, man!)
I was about to turn around and go into the carriage on the other side, when along came a South West Trains employee. One push of the button from her blessed finger and the door slid open obediently, straightaway. So, are they putting internal door codes into the fingertips of South West Trains workers in order to outfox the common, paying, passenger?
I think this is the case.
Thursday, 8 March 2007
It has been a particularly long winter for me. My first winter of commuting (not in London) and rarely seeing daylight. Now at least there is hope of going for a nice summer evening-pint outside when I get back from work. Or enjoying a cool jog by the sea and watching the sunset. Or going for an evening game of tennis. Or a BBQ on the beach before sunset.
Ah, all those romantic notions of summertime. They are nearly upon us.
Isn’t it amazing how great it makes you feel? I sat on my train this morning watching the countryside speed by, marvelling at the crisp blue sky, the green-ness of the trees, the sparkling of the water.
Talking of the crisp blue sky, I got very close to booking a sky-dive today. A bit of a ‘tick the box to say I’ve done this’ life-time ambition. I was going to press the submit button, and then read the ‘Terms and Conditions’ and got rather freaked out by how many times the word ‘death’ was included in the clauses.
I know it’s pretty safe (especially if doing a tandem), but my sensibility got the better of me, and I will wait for another day when I am feeling a bit braver.
Wednesday, 7 March 2007
This is assuming the train gets to the station on time in the first place, but that is another, well documented, story.
The other day, the train I was on pulled into my station on time. This isn’t news in itself, to be honest, this happens quite frequently really, so I shouldn’t grumble about that too much.
Does anyone else get rather irritated by those silly internal doors that can’t recognise when there is a person passing through, and attempt to close with a sly little beep-beep-beep, thereby trapping the person in-between them? That has happened to me quite a lot. I dislike that little lit-up green button that you have to press as the doors are closing in order to get it to stay open. Someone with less manual dexterity than myself may struggle with pushing a moving button. Sometimes I struggle when I am half asleep in the morning.
However, when my train pulled into my station, I waited until everyone had queued up in the aisle and traipsed off the train as normal before leaping up and following them, bringing up the rear, as they say.
I got to these pesky internal doors and they began to close as I approached them. I dived forward to press the green button to get them to open. They didn’t. They paused for a second while my finger was on the button, so I tried again. They didn’t open. So I got a little bit frantic and pressed the button rapidly. Eventually, after about 5 pushes, they opened again. In the meantime however, passengers getting ON to the train had almost finished embarking. I realised that the outside doors were beeping and about to close (despite there being about three people outside still queuing to get on). I dashed to the door and squeezed through as it was closing, rudely (I’m sorry) pushing past the three people trying to get on. One of them shouted ‘hang on’ to the station whistle blower, who ignored him and blew the whistle and waved the round-headed stick thing. The waiting passengers did a frantic squeeze through the doors to get on to the train, and the last one got stuck. Fortunately it was a fairly big chap who just prised the doors open so that he could through. I am sure if I was in that situation I would just stutter meekly, ‘argh, what do I do?’ and get carried off with the train.
So, despite the train whistle blower being aware of three people waiting to get on the train (not to mention me trying to get off!) they signalled that the train was safe to close its doors and move on. I understand the need to keep to timetable targets, but at the detriment to paying passengers being able to GET ON (and off!) the train they have paid for?!
Tuesday, 6 March 2007
I once started reading a book (Patrick Gale’s ‘Rough Music’) and only realised HALF WAY through that I had already read it just a year ago.
I have enjoyed, Ben Elton’s Gridlock ( a book about commuting!), Jeremy Paxman’s The English (very pompous but what do you expect from Paxman?), John Grisham’s ‘The Summons’ (why do I keep reading Grisham books, they are not good!), Dean Koontz’s ‘The Husband’ (a thriller and very entertaining!)
Monday, 5 March 2007
I received my 6 free train tickets on Friday with a personalised letter from South West Trains. When I say ‘personalised’, I don’t mean it was handwritten or anything. Good heavens no. But it did appear that someone had taken the time to bash the letter off on a computer rather than resorting to the standard templates found in the ‘Response to Complaints from Those Pesky Customers’ folder in the South West Trains computer drive.
Put simply, the letter said, ‘here are your 6 free tickets. Thanks.’
Upon examination of the 6 free tickets, the deal is not as good as I originally had hoped. I had anticipated being the generous giver of train tickets, and being able to hand out free tickets to my friends and family for when they come to visit me in my new abode.
This is not so. Travellers have to be with the Gold Card Holder (so it has to be me, or someone with me, at least). I suppose this is fair enough and it prevents me selling them. However, I very rarely take the train at the weekend. Why would I? I have a car?! So how am I going to use them up?
Well, it’s a canny trick of South West Trains. Firstly, don’t give the tickets out in the first place until prompted. Secondly, make them sound blimmin’ amazing when really they are not.
However, fear not I shall stop moaning now. I am sure I will find some opportunity to use them at some point.
Took the late train home after work on Friday. It’s only the second time since I started this job in September that I have taken a late train home. I am always surprised by how deadly quiet it is on the train. Not a soul to be seen. It’s such a contrast to the morning and evening rush hour. It doesn’t seem real to be sitting on the familiar red seat all alone with no fellow passengers nearby. A bit creepy really.
Friday, 2 March 2007
So I e-mailed them about it. Surprisingly I got a response fairly rapidly. (well, within 2 days, which is pretty responsive for them). It was quite simple, the answer.
‘We will send them to you in the post today. Kind Regards, etc etc’
What?! So if it is that easy, why haven’t they sent them to me yet? Do they hope that people will forget their entitlement and not send them out unless prompted by their more scrupulous passengers (i.e. Me, I don’t like to miss out on a freebie)? If I had not written to them, would I never have received my 6 free tickets?
Good news about my Diploma in Commuting – I have now completed essay number 3 of 4, so I feel like I am on the homerun now!
Friday, 23 February 2007
Ah it’s been a little while (again!)
My response to my 2nd complaint about the response to my first complaint is as follows: (well, this came after they sent me a blank e-mail as a response. Very helpful. I then had to wait for a response to my response to the blank email!)
COPY- (We have been experiencing problems with sending of emails,so please see copy body text as follows) Our ref: February 2007
Dear .. Thank you for your further email.
Please accept my renewed apologies for the problems you experienced onyour journey from F to W.
As you mention, engineering work was taking place requiring customers totravel forward by a special bus service. I am sorry to note the delaythat occurred with the replacement bus service, and it is very muchregretted that this caused you so much inconvenience.
However; as muchas we would like to we are unable to guarantee that train and busjourneys will run as per the published timetable. I note that you refer to reimbursement of your consequential costs suchas petrol etc. I am afraid that we do not normally meet such costs andthis is explained in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage. TheConditions explain that when a train is late or cancelled, a connectionis missed or the railway is closed, the train company is not responsiblefor meeting additional expenses or resulting losses.
I am afraid that Iam unable to agree your request. If you would like a full copy of theConditions, they can be obtained from station ticket offices, or byvisiting www.nationalrail.co.uk.
I trust this clarifies our position and we do endeavour to satisfy ourcustomers; but if you remain unhappy with my response you may contactPassenger Focus. This is an independent body set up to protect railusers interests. Their address is as follows: PassengerfocusFreepost WA1521WarringtonWA4 6GP Telephone 08453 022 022Email: firstname.lastname@example.org I assure you of our best intentions at all times
So that’s it!
I don’t know what I was expecting really. I think my expecations had been raised by Bluesoup and others when they told me stories of success when they complained. Somehow, I was expecting more. However, they did not provide. And I shall continue travelling with them forevermore like a mug!
Well, not forevermore, but you know what I mean. For a little while at least.
A good note though is that it is half term here. You know what that means don’t you. Yes, a nice quiet, peaceful journey with no terrible teenagers. Oh it’s great. I have even started listening to my Ipod again now that I can actually hear myself think. Take That’s new album is on the playlist this week. You’ve got to love those chaps. You just can’t help it.
Thursday, 15 February 2007
Thank you for your email of 1 February 2007.
Please accept my apologies for the problems you experienced on yourjourney from F… to W…. on 1 February 2007.
As you mention, engineering work was taking place requiring customers to travel forward by a special bus service. I am sorry to note the delay that occurred with the replacement bus service, and it is very muchregretted that this caused you so much inconvenience. However; we do need to point out that in our published engineering work timetable itdoes state that customers should allow extra time as many bus and trainjourneys will take longer than normal. Also as much as we would like towe are unable to guarantee that train and bus journeys will run as perthe published timetable.
Thank you for advising us about this delay you experienced and onceagain, please accept my sincere apologies for the unexpectedinconvenience you were caused.
Customer Relations Officer
I'm not sure I feel all that happy about that response. So, I aimed for the 7.15am (15 minutes earlier than normal) thinking this would get me to work by 9am (when I normally get there for 8.30am) , but I still should have left more time?? In theory I had 45 minutes to spare, but I was still 45 minutes late! Do you think it is worth another response? I know they are probably inundated with complaints, but I feel this is response is silly. We do say that we might not necessarily be able to stick to the published timetable..what on earth is the point of it then!?!? Rah!
Monday, 12 February 2007
I’ve discovered the joys of FaceBook which is why I am blogging less! It’s one Internet fad after another for me!
However, the last couple of weeks on the trains have not been good. For the first time since I have started taking this route, last week I was in a situation where I really needed to be back home for a certain time. I was involved in a production for three nights which started at 7.00pm. This caused me a certain amount of stress as I am aware of how unreliable the trains are at the moment. I was worried that I would get stuck on a train and end up missing my commitment. Which would not look good, and would let people down. I ended up having to get BF to pick me up from the station and take me straight there. It was a tiring week. I was never at home!
There’s a lot in the local news about South West Trains at the moment. Articles about how the engineering works are going to continue for another 6 weeks because, surprise surprise, they have over-run. There are also articles about how South West Trains have changed from white trains with bigger seats and more leg room, to shorter blue trains with smaller seats and less leg room.
In fact, I completed a pen-and-paper survey about it last week while I was on the train. The questionnaire was horrendously worded and didn’t make sense at all (trust me, I know) . however, I felt it my duty to fill it in AND post it back like a good market research respondent. Naturally, my responses indicated a very disgruntled commuter because of course the white trains are better than the blue trains. More leg room is good!
Actually, that is one good thing that has come out of the engineering works. Since they began, my route has been white trains (with bigger seats) rather than the cramped blue trains. So that, I suppose, is a good thing!
I haven’t had a response to my letter of complaint yet. Although, I suppose that is optimistic as I only sent it last week.
I have also realised that I haven’t had any of my benefits from the Annual Gold Card yet. I assumed I would receive these through the post (such as the magazine, and 6 free weekend tickets, and all the other amazing things they promised me).
It’s now been over 6 weeks since I purchased the Gold Card. Can anybody enlighten me here about what I need to do? Do I have to go and ask for these things from the station? I thought they would post me them!! Ticket collector, do you know?
Apparently, yesterday was the start of a new era for South West Trains. A new franchise. Now, I don’t really understand what that means. I just hope it means they are better than they are at the moment.
Thursday, 1 February 2007
It's not original, but my complaint to South West trains for this morning's appalling bus replacement service!!!
I would like to complain about today's replacement bus service from Fr... to F..... I arrived at Fr... today at 07.10am. The bus was late arriving. It then took 1 HOUR 20 MINUTES to get to F.... This is normally a 20 minute train journey. While I appreciate that buses take longer than trains, I did not expect it to take so long. The revised timetable says that the replacement bus service will arrive into F... at 8.09am. However, I arrived at F... at 8.55am making me very late for work (I still had to wait for the train to W...!)
Such gross estimation of the timetable is inacceptable in my book. I understand the works need to be done, but the replacement bus timetable is wildly inaccurate !! I am an annual gold card holder, and I feel this service that I have already paid for is not acceptable. Tomorrow I shall have to drive to work, as I assume the bus will take equally as long, and I cannot be late for work again. Therefore, I shall have to incurr petrol and parking costs.
Furthermore, my train yesterday (07.33 from Fr...n) was cancelled with no notice, and no replacement bus service was offered to take us to our destination. Again, yesterday, I was very late for work.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Girl on a Train
Monday, 29 January 2007
The good news is that one of my four essays for my Diploma in Commuting is now complete. One down and three to go. This first essay was actually the easiest. This is why I have completed it so quickly and with only a tiny bit of discomfort.
Congratulations to me!
Friday, 19 January 2007
I don’t know how, but I succeeded in getting a seat.
Then the train conductor announced that it wasn’t going where everyone thought it was going. So loads of people got off with a lot of huffing and puffing. I remained on the train as it was still going to where I needed.
Then the train conductor changed his mind, so everyone got on again. People who had lost seats by getting off were not pleased.
And then, the conductor changed his mind AGAIN and this time there was swearing from passengers.
The whole time, I just sat there with my head in my book trying to distance myself from the entire situation. For once, it is not South West trains’ fault for trees breaking all over the place. I’d rather get home late than be involved in a derailment. So I settled into Two Lives and that was that for the next 2.25 hours.
Thursday, 18 January 2007
On the other hand, high winds can be extremely frightening and dangerous. You only have to look at the headlines on the breakfast news to realise the tragedy that high winds can evoke.
On the train this morning, there was a tree that had fallen over the track. It hadn’t fallen in a way that meant we couldn’t pass, though. The train driver braked sharply (as sharp as you can brake with a train which doesn’t do anything quickly) but then made the decision to barge through the tree with his big train. It worked, but the tree knocked against the side of the entire train as the train passed. It was a bit like when you go past low-hanging trees when you are sitting on the top deck of a double-decker bus. Bang bang knock crack – right on the window by your face.
The sea goes mad when it is windy. It crashes right against the walls of the coast and sprays sea water all over the place. It’s very exciting, but today they have closed off the road that runs parallel to the sea for fear of flooding. Plus, I am told that salt water is no good for a car’s bodywork.
I hope everyone is coping well with the wind today!
Wednesday, 17 January 2007
Like many industries, mine has a ‘Diploma’ qualification that takes three or so years to achieve. I have completed years one and two. I then moved jobs and moved down to the bottom of the country (only bottom in geography, not in quality of location!) and swiftly forgot all about the third year as I grappled with the new politics and procedures of my new work place.
New year resolution was to get back on track with this qualification. I then found out that the awarding body are now phasing out this qualification for a different one which is pretty much the same except for the title. This means that if I do not complete the final stage (4 assignments) before June 2007, I lose the work already started and have to re-qualify.
How ridiculous is this?!
However, I have always been someone who strives to work to deadlines. There is nothing like a speedily approaching closing date to get your butt into action.
And so, I have commenced what I call ‘Operation Commuter’. The essence of this plan is to complete as much work on my four essays as possible while travelling on the train. I have two hours a day where I sit there doing nothing much except read, sleep and think. Therefore, if I use this time productively, I could get myself a Diploma in no time at all.
So, I started this week. It’s hard. People keep on sitting next to me so I have to reshuffle my bags and extra papers and place them under my seat. I try to concentrate but I keep wanting to sleep (especially on the evening journey). I am most productive in the morning before hoards of people get on at a stop on my journey. I have written about 4 or so pages (handwritten of course) which seems a good start. However, it’s been years and years since I attempted to write an essay by good old fashioned pen and paper methods. At university I would do the whole thing on a computer – right from first thoughts all the way through to completed document. It makes editing much easier. Already my papers are full of scribbles and crossings out. It’s messy.
Once I’m happy with what I have written down on paper, I am going to attempt to put all of it into work on my little handheld thing. A slightly lengthy process as there is no keyboard as such, but at least it means I don’t have to do it at home.
Well, I’ll keep you posted as to when I give up with this process and just take it all home with me!
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
They are even worse than the teenagers for yelling and bawling at each other. Yet another group who fail to understand that it is not necessary to shout at each other when just sitting opposite one another.
Can’t you tell I’m trying to sleep!?
Monday, 15 January 2007
Another week commences.
What is it about Mondays during the winter that is so substantially dismal?
This morning I was even more befuddled than normal when the alarm went off. I truly thought it was Sunday morning and I felt enormously bad-tempered that the radio had switched itself on at the weekend.
And then I remembered.
I have noticed that, since the return to work in January and the onset of various engineering works and problems with the trains, that there are colossal numbers of South West Trains staff patrolling the platform of the station where I board the train. There are literally swarms of them in coats and high-visibility jackets. They just stand around in groups of three or four, chatting amongst themselves and generally taking up a lot of space on the platform. I can’t quite grasp why there are so many. Are they members of staff who have been displaced from other stations where there is only a bus service? But what is their function? They don’t talk to customers. There are just a couple checking tickets, and sadly the free-tea man has disappeared. The rest seem to be wasting time for no apparent reason, having a laugh with their hands in their pockets. Perhaps it is for show – ‘look we know the service is rubbish for those of you who have the misfortune to step onto one our 1970s replacement bus services, but there are loads of staff about to help you get on the bus and to answer any questions.’ Yeah, loads of staff. Too many staff !!
Have you noticed how the replacement bus services now have South West Trains branding on them? They recognise that they need to use them so often that they have taken the decision to actually invest in some and paint them red and yellow and whatever other colours are in the branding. Good thinking there. But not very reassuring for lowly passengers like me.
On another point, I read an article today about how trains are the new work place. Apparently you can adjust the work/life balance by working on the train instead of/as well as in the office. This can save the amount of time you spend at work. Nevermind the issues of privacy and teenagers hurling abuse at each other, and people peering over your shoulder (I always do this when someone sits next to me with a laptop. I’m just nosy, but I might learn something interesting. Plus I like to see what people do for a living and stuff like that. I also like to see what books people are reading, and then I feel especially smug if I have already read that one.)
So, perhaps I should use the little handheld thing more often? Or I could just sleep.
Thursday, 11 January 2007
There is nothing better than lying in bed listening to the fine tones of the rain hitting your attic window, listening to the wind whistling around the house, and knowing full well that you have just 30 minutes to get your sorry self out into that weather.
As I opened the car door after BF gave me a lift to the station on the way to work, the malevolent wind nearly yanked the car door right out of my hand and blew it away. Nearly.
As I stood on the station platform waiting for my train, the impatient wind did a good job of finishing off the blow-dry that I didn’t have time to complete. And also giving me a ‘just-stood-on-a-station-platform-for-too-long’ kind of look.
However, I should count myself blessed.
I got on my train, into the relative warmth.
We were then told that there was a tree jammed under the next train at H…. so there was little chance of us moving in the near future. As I looked out of my train window, I could see the gloom on people’s faces as they shivered in the wind, trouser legs rippling like flags against people’s legs. I settled down smugly in my seat with my new book, Vikrem Seth’s ‘Two Lives’ , and promptly removed myself from the situation.
After just 25 minutes of waiting at the station ( I thought it was going to be longer actually) we finally moved off and began the journey.
I swiftly fell asleep.
A colleague was not so lucky. She had to spend those 25 extra minutes standing on a platform with NO shelter, quivering under a tiny compact umbrella that proved quite useless when faced with horizontal rain.
So, I am quite lucky really.
Wednesday, 10 January 2007
Superdrug are doing 2 for 1 on my favourite beverage.
This is the fizzy drink that will cure all hangovers (well, all of mine anyway), perk me up when I need it, cheer me up, give me energy, and quench my thirst. The taste is divine. A glimpse of the beautiful red and white logo makes me squirm with pleasure.
Quite sad but true.
Feeling a bit thirsty on the train home? Pulling this out of the handbag will always make the train journey better.
Yes, it’s Dr Pepper, the finest fizzy drink in this land, oceans better than its rival Coca Cola, and equally as bad for your teeth.
So now I come back from the shops at lunchtime with not one, but two, portions of bottled delight.
This is not good, I’m very sorry Mr Dentist.
Tuesday, 9 January 2007
Have they decided that they have been nice enough already? Now they can continue to get away with crowded platforms and bus replacement services because they gave us one week of tea?
I, fortunately, am not affected by the bus replacement service. It begins at the stop I get off at. There must be nothing worse than finishing off an already over-long journey with a cold, damp trip in a 1970s double decker bus that only sees the light of day for ‘rail replacement services’ these days.
I have now had three scammers from Nigeria try to con me into sending my phones to them. Three! Each time I report the incident to Ebay. They respond with a polite message and sympathies. But they can’t do anything about it. It is a waste of time! Ok, I haven’t fallen for it, so at least I didn’t lose my item. But it completely undermines the very value that the success of ebay is based upon. Trust!
I am reading ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ at the moment. It’s very light. The plot is not dissimilar to ‘Ugly Betty’ on C4. I shan’t remember a word of what I’ve read when its finished. But it keeps me entertained on the train at least!
Friday, 5 January 2007
I thought I would take the opportunity with this blog to write about something non-train related and it could be valuable to readers if you ever sell anything on Ebay, or if you know someone who does. Perhaps you have come across this scam before, perhaps not. However, read ahead if you have ever/intend to sell something on Ebay.
(Plus I do enjoy a good rant and am feeling slightly smug for spotting the scam immediately and not falling for it, thank god)
Being as money conscious as I (and indeed many people are after Christmas) am at the moment, I decided to sell my free upgrade from my mobile phone contract rather than actually use it. If I used it, I would only lose it, scratch it, and subsequently get upset. It’s a very swanky phone actually. My upgrade was a Nokia N73, about 20 models above the model I currently have. However, I am happy with my phone and simply don’t see the need to have yet another piece of expensive technology in my handbag. (Hey, I already have an I-POD Nano and a Personal Handheld Computer thing. Now this too?? I think not) So I decided to sell it. I listed it on Ebay with a starting price £150.00 and a BUY IT NOW price of £220. (from looking at Ebay, some people actually are mad enough to pay these prices!)
Within hours someone had done ‘Buy it Now’. I was pleased that the phone had sold so quickly. I was doubly please that someone was prepared to buy it for £220 straightaway.
BUT. It was a con. A scam. A cheat. Fraud. B@stard.
The ‘buyer’ emailed me requesting I send the phone to Nigeria. He sent me a fake email from Paypal saying the funds had been transferred into my account.
What a scam. Apparently, what happens is this:
They send you a ridiculous story about how they are based in USA/UK but they really need you to send the phone to Nigeria to their daughter/boss/uncle/vicar etc.
They send you a fake e-mail claiming to have paid the money into your PayPal account
You think the money is in your account.
You dispatch the phone all the way to Nigeria.
You never get any money.
You can’t trace where the phone has gone.
Incidentally, I tried selling another phone on Ebay on the same day. A Motorola L6. I bought it and decided I didn’t like it, so I am now selling it.
Exactly the same thing happened. A scammer asking me to send it to Nigeria and ensuring they would THEN pay the money into PayPal. How stupid do you think I am?!
But apparently people have fallen for it. You can read their sorry stories on this website..
And here is the ridiculous e-mail he sent me:
Thank you for notifying me about this item i won and I want to inform you that i have paid suficient money for the shipment to my son address in West Africa immediately i won your item, and it has been deducted on my account.The item is meant to be a christmas gift but as i am unable to to meet up i am making it new year gift.I would have sent it myself but i am out of town for An AID'S/ HIV CAMPAIGN RESEARCH.And i want you to send the item to him on time because i want him to receive it ASAP for New year gift purpose that is why i will want fast shipment to his place through Royalmail 1st class Service.I have paid GBP 40 for the shipment.T
his is his shipping address below:Name: Jide RichardAddress: 65 Ogunleti StreetCity: OjotaZipcode: 23401State: LagosCountry: Nigeria.Awaiting your fast response to ship when you get confirmation of the payment.Regards.
How DOES he sleep at night?!
I have realised why South West Trains are being overwhelmingly thoughtful and charitable to me in the mornings by benevolently providing tea and coffee free of charge.
Engineering works means that all services are being delayed by a few minutes here and there.
Normally I don’t object too much about this in the morning. I get to work over 30 minutes earlier than I should do according to my payroll. However, this allows me lots of flexibility with train times and delays, and I can grant myself an unhurried saunter from the station to the office as opposed to a power-walk of stress.
On the way home, though, I require a train that arrives on time and delivers me to my destination on time.
I do not want to wait an extra half an hour on my train as it waits patiently just 10m away from the station I need to get off at, while we wait for the green light. This is what happened last night. I was not pleased.
As the train chugged closer to my intended station, I had put my book away (Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ is the current read) and had checked my phone for the last time before shoving it into my handbag and zipping it up. I had rearranged my scarf around my neck in preparation for the 11 minute walk home. I was ready to go.
And then we stopped. For 35 minutes. I wanted to bang on the doors and say ‘please let me out – I can walk up the track if need be. I don’t want to wait here for this silly train. Oh, signal failure you say? Who needs a signal to say you can go?! You can SEE that the platform is clear!’
As a result, I got home nearly 40 minutes later than I normally do. Which is a shame as it makes the evening feel sooooooo short.
I attempted to comfort myself with watching a bit of the new Celebrity Big Brother on C4. What a total pile of cr@p and who are all those people anyway? I seem to remember saying this last year and ending up absolutely loving the programme, to my shame. Who knows- maybe that will happen this year. maybe not. However, CBB did not provide much comfort to me. I imagine I’ll be arriving late home every night in January. January is when the engineering works are being engineered. Expect delays. No kidding.
Wednesday, 3 January 2007
Today, I had a new-fangled gadget on the train to play with. A handheld computer thing. I’m not really certain what it is technically called. You can do Microsoft Office on it and access the internet (if there is a wireless network somewhere). I spent the first half of my journey tapping on it with the little baton and looking tremendously accomplished. I intermittently do some freelance translation work in my spare time for a company that I used to work for when I was a student. So, the aim of this new gadget is so that I can do it while I am on the train. Using my time wisely.
As my BF pointed out, this could come in useful.
At £12/hr, you could earn 48weeks*(50/60)minutes*5days*2per day =400hrs, *£12/hr = £4800 over the year if you charged for all your travelling time. After tax, that's £3744, which puts you £2144 in pocket after paying for your fare. Ker-Ching!
That would be nice. Very nice. Unfortunately, the freelance translation work is not quite frequent enough to allow for such a profitable extra income.
But it is a nice gadget.
Tuesday, 2 January 2007
Back on the trains.
It’s even colder than before Christmas.
There is engineering works going on which means disruption and more standing around in the cold.
Everyone on the trains seems to be coughing their guts up and sniffing noisily. In my direction.
Did I point out it’s cold?
However, there was a bit of exhilaration at the station today. We got to stand on a different platform to the normal one. This disrupted the unwritten rules about who stands where. Nobody had a regular spot.
Not only that, South West Trains were providing free tea and coffee on said platform. One announcement over the tannoy that the man standing at a trestle table with polystyrene cups was actually giving something for nothing, and there was a mad rush towards the exquisite swirls of hot steam coming off those kettles.
I’m very content to see that they are spending my money from my annual gold card wisely. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they provided free tea and coffee everyday. Or perhaps if their budget couldn’t stretch that far, every Monday at least. That would help a little bit with the mammoth struggle of getting out of bed on a Monday (and a Tuesday, Wednesday etc.)
They could trim down costs even further by just making a huge kettle of tea with a few teabags and then pouring that out for each customer. Today, we were all treated to a teabag each which was quite a luxury. However, in the interest of making this free tea and coffee a habitual occurrence, I am willing to accept some sort of compromise to the quality of the tea. Ah, dreams.
Or, were South West Trains simply feeling guilty about something today and buttering us with free tea/coffee up to halt the hands grabbing for the complaint forms?
Happy New Year all!
Today, no sleep for me on the train. Awake and alert. Must be the start of a New Year.