Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Announcer of Doom

It's a warm and pleasant evening at Baron's Court station. I descend to the westbound Piccadilly platform, passing the sign that informs me that good services are operating on all lines. I wait for the first train - Heathrow - and while I wait the station announcer (with his jarring Australian accent) tells me that good services are operating on all lines. The train comes and goes. The next train, after several minutes, is for Northfields.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the Piccadilly, Northfields is a nondescript station on the Heathrow branch, important only in that it is one of the main depots for the line and is equipped with double platforms and sidings. Trains terminate there either when going out of service or when being pulled out of the normal timetable. LU are bound by contract to supply a minimum number of trains per hour on the Heathrow branch (a station manager at Acton Town told me one day when neither of us had anything else to do given that no trains were running)and will always give priority to this route. So if a train has Northfields as its destination during normal hours this indicates a problem and given the priority of trains to Heathrow, it probably started life as an Uxbridge branch train instead.

You will understand from the foregoing that whatever the announcer may be blathering on about, the sight of Northfields as the destination is the sure indication that normal services are not running. And so it proved. The next train was one I wanted, to Ruislip, and we crawled between Hammersmith and Acton Town, at one point stopping for several minutes. The driver told us it was going to be slow going but did not say why. Yes, folks, another delay from those wonderful people who think that trains sitting idle on the track between stations constitutes a good service.

At least we did proceed normally once past Acton (I was half expecting that our train would be terminated there).

So what, I ask, and not for the first time, is the point of announcements about good service? They are a complete waste of time. Tell us about the known problems and stop being smug about your ignorance about the rest of the system.

I thought I would feel better having got that out of my system but I don't really. Hey ho, let us see what tonight may bring.

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