Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I am now considerably posher than yow

Hello all, sorry for the absence of more than a week, during which I moved house and am now resident in the Royal Borough of Windsor. And very nice it is too, thanks for asking. Windsor Central Station is really lovely, terribly twee and touristy, and alarmingly clean. Must be something to do with the Queen.
Happily, I am now nearer to London in miles, though curiously, that doesn't seem to shorten my commute, due to the fact that Slough is not as good as Reading (station-wise, though actually in most other ways as well), and I am now on a lovely little branch line, which chugs along from Windsor to Slough in its own good time, pausing so that we can enjoy the sights along the way. Well, that's how I've decided to look at it anyway.
The bad news is that my season ticket does not include this byway, so I'm having to pay £2.40 a day to get from Windsor to Slough and back, something that is almost (but not quite) persuading me to put a pair of trainers on and walk the 45 minutes down to Slough station, poverty stricken person that I now am, and a bit of a skinflint where paying for train tickets is concerned.
What all this does mean is that the focus of my ire has now moved up the main line from Reading, and I shall be saying some very stern things about Slough station, based on the fact that it is rubbish. Its only plus point is that it has a mascot in the form of a stuffed dog on platform five, but even that can't make up for the fact that the information boards seem to be on the blink more often than they should be and there aren't enough fast trains to Paddington. Or enough trains in general come to that. I remember the old days when every Paddington train stopped in Slough, what happened? I think what happened is that Maidenhead took over, but I wonder if people would be terribly upset if some trains stopped at Maidenhead AND Slough on the way to Paddington. What do you think?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Are you sitting comfortably?

Since my post about the Evening Standard article on Adelantes two days ago seems to have caused a fairly lively discussion, I would like to talk in more detail about what we actually want from our trains.
Personally, I want a seat on a train that runs reasonably to time. It's as simple as that. Other things are nice, like cleanliness, enough toilets that work and tea and coffee, but my basic need is to sit down and get home from work as quickly as possible.
I don't mind if the carriages are old- or new-style, I don't mind if they have a table, more leg-room or a place to plug in a computer. I can imagine these things are important to tall people and laptop-users. But to me, they're extra things are secondary to sorting out the
problems of capacity and delays, surely you agree?
Of course, in a perfect world, it would be nice to be able to have some input about what kind of mod-cons we would like in the carriages. I would nominate a referee in each one, who could "send off" annoying people who are behaving badly, ie: make them stand in the corridor, and if they carry on, make them get out at the next station.
It would also be nice to have a "gym-carriage" where out-of-shape commuters like myself could jog their way home, using the delays to tone up bodies made flabby by sitting at a desk all day.
Perhaps the gym machines could be used to generate electricity, thereby further reducing our carbon footprint.
And, of course, a selection of free hot drinks never goes amiss, perhaps served up by jesters in a "comedy-carriage" where commuters can forget their woes by being made to laugh all the way home.
Oooooooooooooooor, you could just run my train on time, that'd do me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blame the children

I noticed on this morning's commuter sardine can from Reading to Paddington that the winter coughs and sneezes have already begun.
At the time, I wondered why, considering most people (not me, I've been saving up for a gigantic stamp duty bill, no, please, don't feel too sorry for me) have had a nice summer holiday somewhere sunny. While I've been slaving away in a basement in Knightsbridge until the late hours, these same people have been sitting on the decking sipping wine and being generally relaxed during those few sunny evenings we've had this year.
Then I realised, the children have gone back to school, and it all became clear.
The little darlings have been and caught each others' bugs and are now distributing them liberally amongst their hard-working parents, who are now bringing them onto the train in the morning for us all to enjoy. I'm thinking of getting a Japanese-style face mask, though I would need earplugs too, as it's the sniffing that really gets to me. Perhaps I should make up some "I Hate First Great Western" tissues to hand out over the coming winter.
I have also realised that a couple of months of first-class upgrades have made me much more sensitive to noise on the train. Last night a drunken couple in the first class area were being so loud, I couldn't concentrate on my book. I didn't dare to challenge them, because one man who was unfortunate enough to sigh and glance over in their direction received a torrent of abuse that lasted all the way to Maidenhead. Which was annoying, as the man himself had got off at Slough.
And this morning, in the quiet carriage, a woman in the corridor spent the whole journey talking in a voice like a foghorn about the saga of dropping her child off at nursery school. I wouldn't mind if either of these incidents had involved conversations of interest, but both were so banal, I became filled with rage that they should be contaminating my brain with such rubbish, though of course I was much too polite to say anything (aren't we always?).
I have definitely become a low-tolerance commuter, which doesn't bode well for my return to the daytime hours this month, when my upgrade is no longer valid. I really think the earplugs might be the way forward, as they'll also block out the onboard announcements.
I know where the safety cards are. And I know where the quiet carriage is. I'm in it. Now SHUT THE HELL UP!!!
Yes, definitely a low-tolerance commuter.

Friday, September 07, 2007

All change at the top

The Guardian newspaper reports today that FGW has appointed a new "over-arching" manager, Andrew Haines, while managing director Alison Forster focuses temporarily on the company's high-speed train services. I'm not sure what this means in terms of my forthcoming interview with a senior manager, but I will give the company a call on Monday and find out.

In the meantime, what do we know about Mr Haines? Here are five interesting things I found on the internet (I won't say "facts" as they are not double-sourced and I don't want to find myself being accused of "sexing-up" the blog):

- he's from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales (but we won't hold that against him, ha ha, only joking)

- he once had a holiday job in the lost luggage office at Victoria, and joined British Rail as a graduate in 1985 (a lifetime of trains!)

- according to one transport correspondent, he once shed four stone in as many months (clearly has some serious self-control)

- in an address to a the International Rail Operators Young Professionals in 2006, he reportedly told his audience that plans often fail because people look too much to the future and that instead, you should “Live in the world you are in” (sage advice indeed)

- finally, and best of all, Mr Haines agreed to sit down and listen to the concerns of commuters in an interview in 2004, when he was managing director of South West Trains (hurrah, there is hope for us!)

Andrew Haines is also himself a commuter. I like him already, now let's see what he can do.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Don't worry, be amused by the train manager

Hello again all.
Things are getting serious here at blog central, what with various members of rail staff of different kinds across the network ordering "I Hate First Great Western" badges (no names, no being fired for being naughty) and you unhappy commuters giving me your grievances to ask the company's managers.
But, as I continue to feed my local postbox with protest badges, on a lighter note, I was most entertained by the train manager on last night's exceedingly slow train from Paddington to Reading. As each station was reached - Acton Main Line, Ealing Broadway, Hanwell, Southall, Hayes and Harlington... (god, it's endless), the manager announced the station with words such as "It gives me immeasurable pleasure to tell you that we will shortly be arriving at Maidenhead" and "I can hardly contain my excitement as I let you know that we will soon be at Twyford". Fair made me chuckle so it did, which is a difficult thing to achieve at that time of night on the stopper-from-hell I can tell you.
And my happiness was made complete this afternoon, when a lovely First Class Host brought me a cup of tea in a way that made me feel like some kind of VIP. What a wonderful way to travel, thought I, it took me right back to the old days of the Orient Express. No, not really, I've never been on it, but I think maybe I should, though it's probably the only train service that costs more to use than First Great Western.
Bizarrely, I was even quite happy about the tube strike, because it was a nice day, so I walked to work across Hyde Park and most pleasant it was.
So, there you go, a moment of happiness in this sea of complaining.
Normal service will be resumed next time.