Friday, January 15, 2010


I thought it a bit odd when the fast Watford train I took from Baker Street this evening (I was intending to change at Harrow on the Hill for an Uxbridge back to beautiful Ruislip), slowed to a crawl near Northwick Park and then juddered and stuttered like an arthritic snail with a drink problem until we simply stopped, just outside Harrow. And waited. And waited. Our driver made a few announcements but he spoke so indistinctly and the PA was turned so low he was barely audible. We gathered there was a signal problem. To my chagrin (he's back on the French again, must be eating too much garlic - Ed), several Uxbridge trains came up on the slow line and passed us on by.

Several times the driver opened the door to his cabin and we could see the edge of the platform, just fifty odd metres away. He donned a red jacket and went down on the track. Then he came back and announced something else. At one point he said something about a "headcount" and proceeded to walk through the length of the train, returning about 10 minutes later. I attempted to cheer up my fellow passengers by suggesting they were going to give us all free tea and biscuits and needed to know the numbers. This idea was greeted with the disdainful half-smiles of experienced commuters who knew better.

About 45 minutes after we first stopped we suddenly started and proceeded to the station where those of us waiting to change trains were pleased to see an Uxbridge waiting. Naturally it closed its doors and left before we could cross the platform. The next one that came in stopped at Harrow and we had to wait another five minutes until we could continue the journey. Nobody at Harrow bothered to announce anything of interest by way of explanation.

So this concludes a difficult two weeks on the Metropolitan Line in which I think there has been some sort of problem every day. The poor weather was the main reason, of course, but a string of signal failures and faulty trains and who knows what have hardly helped. There is a new timetable as well. Apparently there should be a train about every five minutes during the morning and evening peaks. Let me turn aside and utter a mocking, hollow laugh.

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