Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sign the petition on the Number 10 website

Don't forget to sign up to the petition on the Number 10 website calling for the termination of First Group's Thameslink franchise. Follow this link to view and support the petition:

Same old same old

I'd forgotten all about this blog, first written during a period when it seemed that Thameslink passengers were on the wrong end of one of the biggest construction projects in Europe. The project to create St Pancras International would, we knew, deliver major benefits to passengers on Eurostar and Midland Mainline trains, which would be using the new station. But after the construction was finished, the expectation was that Thameslink trains would revert to the cramped Kings Cross Thameslink station (because only the construction of a concrete box under the new international station had been approved, not its fitting out as a station).

Since then, of course, we have the glittering new St Pancras low level station for trains on the Thameslink line, and a new franchise holder in the form of First Capital Connect. Things we were told, could only get better.

Well, they got a whole lot worst, and the erstwhile nickname for the line - The Bedpan - now seems apt once again. And we know where the contents of the bedpan end up.

So I'm now campaigning for an end to the First Capital Connect franchise. The sooner the better.

Time to empty the bedpan...

Friday, December 17, 2004

The St P Handicap (2 furlongs, going hard)

I suppose that the posters at St P have been up for long enough, but I just didn't take it in (suspect others did the same).

Arrived at St P last night only to discover that as part of crowd control tests, they have closed off the normal access to the stairs and escalators. Instead we are expected to follow what looks like the longest possible route to get there. I was keen to catch a particular train to ensure that I didn't miss the start of my sons' school concert, so in common with a number of other passengers broke into a run, but struggled to get past the slower and those dragging suitcases on wheels, the equivalent of a rolling road block.

Reaching the escalators with relief, I ran up, only to be faced with a similar arrangement and less than a minute to catch my train, which I caught with only seconds to spare, boarding just as the doors closed.

I assume that the tests were done for our safety, and therefore under realistic rush hour conditions, but from my perspective they couldn't have picked a worse day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Open access

The last couple of days have seen a comparatively better performance on both Thameslink and the tube. No problems getting out of St P nor into KX tube.

This could be because all my journeys have been a little earlier than usual, or because people are beginning to wind down for christmas, or even, absurd though this may seem, that the operators have learned from the last three months, and produced a more effective timetable!

My big discovery is that there is a wireless hot spot at St P, and it seems to be open access - my pda had no difficulty whatsoever connecting, so should be able to upload my posts to this blog much more easily.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Another bad evening for the Underground

One stop on the Victoria line and then we're told to get off and find alternative routes. Apparently there's yet another problem with the Victoria line, so I head back to the Piccadilly. Fifteen minutes later arriving home than I would like to be. And some moron with a tiny briefcase on a trolley has just dragged it across my shins.

The joys of commuting.

Another bad morning for the Underground

Shut out of KX tube three times before getting in. Squeezing through the next gate, only to find out that the Victoria Line is out of action and to head for a grossly overcrowded Piccadilly Line. Twenty five minutes late arriving at work.

The morning after the night before

I'm sitting in what may very well be the same seat in the same carriage on the same old WAGN train that I sat in less than nine hours ago, to return from a night out in London with the lads.

Not an especially late night out as you can tell, but enjoyable.

Until, that is, went to I board my train back to St Albans. Maybe I was lulled into a false sense of security by the easy access to St P from KX tube - it's astonishing how much space there is for pedestrians in Pancras Road when there are none around - maybe I had just forgotten what it is like to travel out of London after the evening rush hour, when it can be a quite unpleasant experience.

Firstly, none of the departure screens give any clue as to whether any trains are scheduled to depart from St P at all. So I get on what I take to be an all stations service on platform 13. The Thameslink official assures me that it is the next train to my destination but I don't trust her grasp of English – I’m not confident that she knew what my question was!

Then I’d also forgotten how different the average late-night pre-Christmas traveller can be. There’s the drunk middle aged man who may not even be on the right line, let alone the right train. The sleeper. The mp3 warrior with the volume turned up so loud that people from the next carriage keep coming in to complain about the noise. The couple so passionately entwined that they have completely forgotten about the woman sitting on the seat between them. You know the sort of thing.

What a relief to get back the rush hour.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Master of all they survey?

Market researchers have been out in force at St Albans station.

I used to hope that one would interview me; I like to talk! But it never happened.

This week, everyone is being given survey forms to complete. I'm still carrying around the LUL questionnaire that I was given a month ago. Looks like a lot of effort, and none of the questions give me opportunity to tell LUL what I really think about the service that I have received recently and what is wrong with it.

Hence this blog.

And what a lot there was wrong at KX tube this morning.

The gates to the tube station were closed no less than four times while I was standing in the queue to get in. Each time they opened for a minute or so, and then remained closed for five.

Gave me plenty of time to enjoy the passive resistance of other travelers determined to get to their destination despite the megaphone men. Also plenty of time to think again that traffic really should be diverted by some other route than Pancras Road. The pedestrian areas were so overcrowded this morning that it really isn't surprising that people walk all over the road, and it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt. I wonder whether the planners will be found to have done everything that they reasonably could to protect the health and safety of the vast majority of the roads users, who are the pedestrians.

Eventually I get through the gates only to be held at the next set of gates for another 5 minutes. The station apparently is overcrowded so has been closed. It is inconceivable that it is overcrowded with passengers from St P as so few of us have been allowed in. So where is everyone coming from? My assumption is KX rail station is being given priority (again). I really do feel unwanted by LUL despite the fact that quite a lot of the cash that I hand over to Thameslink each year is for the privilege of traveling on the underground. 25 minutes to get from platform at St P to platform at KX tube.

To cap it all, I got stuck on the underground as a result of a passenger using the emergency stop on a train ahead of us.

But I'm just another statistic...

Monday, December 06, 2004

A case of mistaken identity

Nothing to write about this morning. The train arrived on time, I got a seat and there were more seats to spare in my carriage, no unscheduled stops, arrived at St P on time, where I walked straight into the tube station, through the ticket barrier and onto a tube train without delay. Marvelous.

As I walked back along Pancras Road to St P tonight, I realise that all the signs and posters are issued by CTRL/LRE/Union Rail. Wherever I go on the underground I'm warned to avoid KX tube because of Thameslink engineering works, but the truth of the matter is that these works are CTRL works, or LUL works, or both. While they may ultimately be a step towards achievement of the Thameslink 3000 project, as yet, this is still stuck on the drawing board. Meanwhile CTRL, LUL, etc avoid the infamy that such disruption brings to Thameslink .

A case of mistaken identity or a PR coup by CTRL?

Friday, December 03, 2004

No one not to talk to

I'm not commuting today (joy!) but that does deprive me of one of the experiences that seems very particular to travelling on commuter trains.

I've got no one not to talk to. Once I get off the train, I am aurally assaulted by Thameslink and LUL public announcements, the megaphone men, automated station announcements on tube trains, London traffic, etc. And it doesn't stop there. There's a continuous hubbub in the office where I work that lasts well beyond the time that most sensible people have gone home.

But on the train, no one speaks. At least not to each other (I don't count that other piece of noise pollution one gets on trains that invariably starts with the words 'I'm on a train...'). We see each other every day; the same people in the same place on the same platform getting into the same carriage of the same train, often reading the same (the very same) newspaper. And the rule is that we never speak. Sometimes not even to people we know quite well away from the world of commuting.

Why is that?

The only time that etiquette allows us to speak to strangers on a train is when something goes really seriously wrong with the service. Then we are victims together, backs to the wall, reviving the Dunkerque spirit, companions in adversity.

Maybe it's no wonder that we get treated like sheep...