Sunday, 1 April 2012

Why do we let them get away with this?

My journey to see my better half on Friday was a lesson in relative simplicity and ease; one train to central London, two tubes (Victoria & Bakerloo, as the Circle was borked with signalling problems), and a single train to Newbury, as usual. The total journey time was a little less than two hours, end to end. Quite remarkable, actually, it shaved a good half hour off the average.

It's just a pity that network rail burgered up the return journey today with engineering works in the Reading area (they're allegedly improving the station and surrounding rails, a project that's taking a good couple of years to get completed). Normally, I manage to avoid engineering works, but not this time.

And what a lesson in anger management it's been.

First off, I have learned that the National Rail Enquiries journey planner throws a petulant wobbly if it's asked to plan journeys with more than three changes in them.

After a long 0845 telephone call to NRE (on my mobile, dammit, that's gonna hurt come bill time), I got the journey details I needed. It's a mess. So, armed with the info about the limit on journey changes, I broke the trip down into two sections, and used the journey planner to calculate the trip based on these two sections, individually, and stitched the two halves together myself. here's what I got...

Travel by Leaving From To Arriving Duration
Train 19:00 Newbury Reading
19:20 0h 20m
19:35 Reading
Reading 19:51 0h 16m
(Replacement bus leaves from opposite McDonalds on Oxford Road)
Train 20:17 Reading Paddington 20:59 0h 42m
Tube 21:28 Paddington Victoria 22:05 0h 37m

From London Paddington take the Bakerloo Line (Southbound, Platform 4) to Oxford Circus Underground Station. Change and take the Victoria Line (Southbound, Platform 5) to Victoria Underground Station. From London Paddington take the Circle Line (Westbound, Platform 1) which is a direct service to Victoria Underground Station.

Check for live travel updates
From London Victoria it's easy enough; I jet need to get a single train to the station near where I live. Maybe a twenty minute ride, and that's that.

Note the journey time, though. The total elapsed journey time, including the unlisted 20-minutes or so bit at the end, is close to three and a half hours.

I could drive to bloody Bristol in that time from where I live in south London.

This is fully one and three-quarters the time it should take me to get home, all due to the waiting time caused by the engineering works and replacement bus service.

I drive a bus (in case you weren't paying attention to what this blog's generally banging on about), and ye gods, I'd most likely be LYNCHED if we did this to our customers.

Why the hell do we let British Snail get away with it?

Example: London Underground perform most of their maintenance at night, during the hours of shutdown, thus inconveniencing the travelling public as little as possible. The DLR does the same. Why can't Network Rail?

Not for nothing are they reputed to be know as Notwork Rail within the trade.

I'll update this entry with the actual journey times, so you can see how it went. I've already missed the 19:00 train, as I was venting my anger and calming down at the same time, writing this entry!

...Some hours later...

OK, I got home about an hour and three-quarters ago; wasn't quite the nightmare I'd thought it was going to be, thankfully. This is in all likelihood because I left the start of the trip so late, so less crowds were in the way (read: meandering gits - I mean tourists and other folks - getting underfoot), and the connections actually worked reasonably well for a change.

Here's the listing, anyhow, with a few comments...!

19:53 - Newbury railway station
A two carriages diesel-powered job that sounded like an old London Bus when it moved off, it chuntered off bang on time. It was practically empty at Newbury, filling up nicely as it got to each station in turn. I was beginning to suspect that I'd made the right de facto decision in starting so late in the day - any earlier, and the thing would probably have been packed to the gunnels by Aldermaston!
20:21 - Reading West railway station
Shuddered to a halt, and everyone got off. Since they appeared to know where they were going, I followed the crowd over the footbridge to the other platform, where they all then milled about, awaiting another damn train. Oh... Bugger. And other nouns and verbs.
Yep. An idiot move. Next time, I'm stopping, allowing everyone to plough into me from the back while I look for the sign saying "WAY OUT", as I get crushed underfoot.
So, I walked back over the bloody footbridge again, saw the exit sign this time, and made my way to it, commenting in dark tones to the only member of platform staff that was visible, that maybe a tannoy announcement - "Exit to the right of the platform", perhaps? - wouldn't have been that difficult. Got a blank stare in reply. Low end of the gene pool, I guess.
In stark contrast, an off-duty First Great Western member of staff - going home, by the look of him, down the steps to the pavement level, was very helpful - "Replacement bus - it's a coach, really - over there, in about ten minutes, sir!", thus restoring a little faith in the Human Condition there and then!
20:33 - Reading West railway station bus stop
The Replacement bus - I mean coach, and very sparkly and new it looked too - arrived, and the driver nipping out, opened the baggage compartment, and allowed us the pleasure of lobbing our own bags, bergens, and other large luggage inside. Well, that saved on her back strain, I suppose. I can sympathise: I've a mate who does the coaches too. Managed to get a seat right at the front, too :-) Bliss and legroom :-)
Oh, and a very good drive to Reading station it was too. Couldn't have done any better myself, professionally speaking. Very nice job :-)
20:39 - Reading railway station
Arrived at the old bus station under the office/shopping complex next to the station. A two minute forced march - at time and a half pace - to the station, through the barriers, up to the platform bridge, and - OH ****, the damn thing'd been cancelled - when I noticed another entry on the arrivals listing - whoops, no it wasn't cancelled - well, that one might have been, but the others weren't, there were THREE of the buggers due to arrive, all bar one running late, so one of them got cancelled to make room on the rails, I guessed. So, down to platform 10 I sped - well, staggered, since I was a tad encumbered and tired,and waited for the train to arrive.
20:59 - Platform 10, reading railway station.
A dual-direction platform, the damn thing snuck up on us and surprised the living crap out of me, as I was looking the wrong damn way when it got there. The platform CCTV recording will doubtless show a very nice double take and fifty foot jump in surprise from me, bergen and all.
This train also turned out to be half full or so, which was nice, as it meant I could find a perch and relax for the half hour it was predicted to take to get to Paddington.
21:27 - London Paddington
Arrived two minutes earlier than the train captain had said we'd get there. Nice job, driver!
21:49 - London Victoria
For once, the circle line turned up within five minutes; I normally have to wait at least half an hour for the damn thing on a Sunday, so that was a nice surprise. Got to Victoria, to find a train to my station due to leave ten or so minutes later, which was likewise a pleasant surprise.

So, despite the engineering works and late start, not a bad journey, really, all things considered.

Never the less, I'm dead certain that if I'd travelled earlier, I would have had a right saga of a journey, so all in all, not an altogether bad end to the weekend. But I sincerely hope never, ever, to encounter engineering works and rail replacement buses as a customer ever again!

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