Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Adventures on the Train

Usually I write about fun things to do or books. However, today I think it is about time to dedicate a blog entry to public transport.

Everybody thought that during the Olympics public transport would collapse because no one believed that any of the companies could deal with the amount of people. Needless to say that I was pretty surprised that there were no major disruptions during the Olympics, which was maybe due to the fact that lots of people found alternative ways to travel, i.e. bike, car, walk ... and public transport was on its best behaviour.

Over time I got used to it, but I should have know that this was just to good to be true. Shortly after the Olympics and after the school holidays things got back to normal: overcrowded trains, delays, cancellations (my favourite reason for a cancellation: we don't have a driver for this train), disruptions combined with a lack of bus replacement services and over-running engineering works (to be fair, the latter only happened once so far).

Last Monday

Last Monday morning could have been quite enjoyable as the school holidays began and usually trains and stations tend to be less crowded. However, this Monday was different. When changing trains in order to get to Richmond everything was fine, but a few minutes later the guard announced that there are no trains to Richmond due to overrunning engineering works. Yes, I think you can imagine how much fun it is to think of an alternative way to get to work (in time) before you even had your first coffee. While I was thinking, the guard announced that there are bus replacement services!!!! Yes!!!!! They managed to set up a replacement service!!! Well, my excitement lasted approximately 3 minutes - to be accurate - until the moment the guard advised passengers to Twickenham and Richmond to alight at Feltham an take the 490. 

490 is NOT a codeword for bus replacement service, but a proper bus that runs from Heathrow to Richmond and vice versa. 

When I got out at Feltham I could join a long queue - yes, they were all waiting for THIS bus - and hope that I will get on it somehow. The bus finally arrived and we could start the How-many-train-passengers-can-we-squeeze-into-a-small-bus-game. I have to admit, I didn't count how many people actually fit into the bus, but I am pretty sure that we couldn't fit in every train passenger. Sandwiched between my fellow passengers I finally made my way to the office and it took me only an hour longer than usual.

OK, things happen. Everywhere things go wrong from time to time. 

The rest of the week ...

The rest of the week went as usual: minor delays, some sport in the morning* ...

*I don't need a gym. Nearly every morning my train arrives at VIR after the train to Richmond (which I have to catch) has arrived. With only a few moments left I have to jump out of the train the second the door opens (sometimes this takes a bit longer) and run up the stairs, hurry over the footbridge and then down the stairs to run along the platform and finally jump onto the train to Richmond. So far it worked quite well, just once I missed it as my first train was late. Anyway, I think the daily run will get more interesting during winter when the platforms are covered in ice and snow.

Another Monday

Another Monday. I was ready for whatever may come. I had had two coffees already and I was well prepared for anything that involved catching the train ... However, everything went just fine.

Tuesday

Today school started and I had to deal with a lack of coffee, a tired kid and the train. In the morning everything went according to plan: get on train, change trains at VIR, survive on the crowded train, arrive at work.

In the afternoon I checked twitter (just to make sure everything is fine) and there it was, the event that would ruin my evening: someone was hit by a train - train services through Richmond: suspended. OK, still a few hours to go, don't worry, everything will be fine. Service should be fine by 6 pm - that's what they said.

6pm. We got on the train and arrived at home 30 minutes later. 

Hmmmm ... YOU WISH! Instead we were standing at a very VERY crowded bus stop in front of Richmond station waiting for the 490 which runs every 30 minutes. - By the way, 490 is still NOT a codeword for bus replacement service. - So, lots of people were getting on the bus (one bus for all the people who actually would have taken the train from Richmond): some got a seat, many were standing and some even had a place in the front row right beside the driver! (Is the latter actually in compliance with health and safety regulations?)

The overcrowded bus finally headed towards Feltham, passing by many stops and leaving passengers waiting (for another 30 minutes) as there was just no room for more passengers. About 45 minutes later we arrived at Feltham where lost of people were waiting for their delayed services and you could tell that they were neither a- nor b- or c-mused.

I think we all understand that there are events that neither of us can influence, but the response to these events, especially if they occur during peak times, could be much better. It is nice to get informed about things via twitter, but it would be even better if the company that is affected organised a proper replacement for the service, i.e. additional busses from tfl, shuttle busses that just serve the stations affected or shuttle trains.

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