Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The badge is born

So, here it is, the first mock-up of a possible protest badge, and I think it's brilliant. Many thanks to John, who designed it.
So, what do you think, and more importantly, will you wear it? What I'm suggesting is that you should keep it with you whenever you travel and then, when the all-too-familiar fury rises within you for whatever reason; a delay, a cancellation, an overcrowded carriage, you put the badge on and wear it throughout the rest of your journey. I really feel that a carriageful of badge-wearing commuters would have quite an effect, and might at least get people visiting this blog to discuss other ideas for more organised protests in the future.
To be fair to First Great Western, the last three days have been entirely trouble-free, and even though I risk making my blog rendundant by saying so, I would happily give it up if the company began to run a reasonable service. Still, it's only been blissfully on-timeish for three days, so let's wait and see.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why hate?

Now, I realise that 'hate' is a strong word, and I have been cautioned that it might upset staff to see people wearing the soon-to-be-revealed 'I hate First Great Western' badges. But I don't think that I should tone down the message, and this is why. Firstly, I think FGW staff are well aware of how rubbish their services are, as evidenced by the drivers' messages to passengers when the train grinds to a halt. Example from this morning: "The train is now approaching Reading. If you'd like a faster service to London Paddington, please get off here and cross to Platform 5, where a fast train will whisk you straight there ... probably". They have a sense of humour, and a healthy disrespect for their employers, so I don't feel we're going to be hurting their feelings. Secondly, I would make sure that this is the case by having a leaflet to hand out, explaining that our wrath is firmly directed at the company, which is a company and therefore has no feelings, or perhaps those few at those at the top of the company, who are frankly paid enough to take a bit of stick from a few fed-up travellers. And, let's be honest, when you're standing wedged against your fellow commuters at the end of a hard day, because your usual service is cancelled, and the train then stops for 45 minutes en route, you don't feel slightly peeved, you feel furious, admit it. At that moment, I bet if you had an 'I hate First Great Western' badge, you'd wear it. Well, maybe soon you can.

Monday, January 29, 2007

And I would walk 500 miles....

I've decided to turn over a new leaf, athletically speaking. Well, athletic might be pushing it a bit, but bear with me. I'm often to be heard complaining that I can't join a gym, attend yoga classes etc, because I already spend four hours of my day travelling, and don't get home in time to attend any kind of organised exercise activity. But, wait! Father Christmas was kind enough to bring me a talking pedometer. It's only taken me a month to read the instructions and programme it, and now I have finally worked out how to stop it talking, which is a blessing. Anyway, it is time to put the mini-guilt-inducing-counting-machine into action, and what better way to use all that spare platform time than walking. I had already decided not to use this blog to bore you with a minute-by-minute catalogue of delays, but how about an occasional update on my improving fitness level and weight loss, as a result of regular platform-plodding? So, if you're wondering what that loony is doing marching up and down, up and down, well, that's me, and I bet I'm fitter than you are by June. Come, put down your newspapers and join me, we'll keep warm, get fit, and confuse the hell out of the FGW staff. It's a win-win situation.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Would a face mask offend?

Well, it's finally happened. After weeks of waiting for winter, it's here and it's cold. This may not be big news, I realise it happens every year, but the last few weeks of mild weather have been pure heaven to those of us who have to spend long periods on railway platforms in the early mornings and late evenings. The winter is the worst season for train-users; the unhappiness of standing waiting for a delayed train with shoulders hunched while the wind whistles across the station, your bones ache with cold and you wonder if you'll ever be warm again. Of course, the train does finally come, is usually mercifully warm, and allows shivering passengers to remove a few layers en route to work. However, this is when frozen noses begin to thaw, and the nightmare continues, in the form of sniffing, coughing and sneezing, creating god-knows-what kind of germ soup floating around in the cramped space of the carriage. Has anyone ever measured this air? I suspect it's positively deadly. Which is why I wonder why we don't see more face masks on trains. I'm a naturally healthy person, but since becoming a commuter, I pick up at least two or three heavy colds every winter. So, I was wondering, I know it looks a bit silly, but if we all do it, then it won't be so bad. Are you with me?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Commuter: a profile

The commuter is a hardy, long-suffering breed. Day after day, come sun or snow, we wait patiently on the platform. We do not laugh, we do not chat, we may not at first appear terribly friendly. We just wait. But this is not to say we are completely hard-hearted. We realise, for instance, that when the wind blows hard and the trees fall on the line, there will be delays. We realise that when it snows, there will be delays. And, even when there are the wrong kind of leaves on the line, we shrug our shoulders, mutter under our breaths, and continue to wait. But, since the timetables were changed in December, barely a day goes by when our trains are not delayed or cancelled. And the reasons are as varied as they are unhelpful: signals fail, engines break down and freight trains derail. Every day. The trains are late, overcrowded and dirty. And, how are we rewarded for our patience during these trying times? Fare rises. FARE RISES!! And now I just feel like they're making fools of us. Shouldn't we organise a protest of some kind? Any ideas gratefully received.

FGW - an exercise in anger management

Hello, and welcome to my blog, a place for you to come and share your commuting experiences, either with First Great Western or any other company. I've been inspired to try and bring people together not only to vent their feelings on delays and overcrowding, but to see if we can do something about it. I'd love to know if any season ticket holders have successfully received a refund or discount from the company, or how their complaints have been handled. What do you feel about having to cram onto overcrowded trains, do you regularly have to explain to your boss why you're late for work again and sometimes, when you're sitting on a train at midnight, the victim of a signal failure at West Drayton, do you have actual murderous thoughts?
I'm thinking of printing a nice 'I hate First Great Western' badge, for us to express our feelings on the train every day, would you wear one?
I look forward to hearing your comments. Fingers crossed for the journey home