Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Earthquakes

Political upheavals in the Middle East, turning very nasty in Libya, and a devastating earthquake in New Zealand are the events dominating the news, although I was taken with the story that the Prime Minister’s new cat might belong to someone else, making him potentially a receiver of stolen goods. [stick with the main topic, why don’t you: Ed]. It all makes the stresses of the normal journey into work rather trivial, but never mind. Buoyed by an email confirming that the only people I know in New Zealand live a long way from the earthquake zone, I was unfazed to see one of the S stock new trains sitting for a long while at my home station Ruislip Manor whilst I made my way toward the London-bound platform. Yesterday one of them was just ahead of the train that I was on, and our driver made an interesting reference as we were waiting at Rayners Lane to “delays caused by that new train”. Today, as I gained the platform, the new train had left and my usual, soon-to-be-scrapped A stock train arrived, and once more we followed the future a little more slowly than our usual speed. The combination of the train ahead and it being half-term for most of the schools in the area made for a pleasantly half-empty carriage, spoilt only by the aroma of wet clothes and the odd choice of ringtones that some of my fellow passengers had installed on their mobile phones.

The grey and damp weather make for a strange view from my Waterloo office building. The Shard now dominates the eastern skyline, towering many floors over Guy’s Hospital. But the top ten floors of the central column are shrouded in mist and quite invisible so that the Shard seems to be poking its head up into a different world. Here’s a clumsy camera phone picture so you can see what I’m on about.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Quirk of the Schedules

Morning departures from Ruislip Manor on the Met are supposed to roughly every 6 minutes, a reasonable gap that nonetheless generates pretty full trains most mornings. I normally aim to catch the 8:30. Recently the 8:24 has been coming in around 8:27, a fraction too early for me to catch it without sprinting down the street and up the stairs at the station [you can't expect it at his time of life. Ed] . But the 8:30 has been coming in on time. This reduced gap has of course cut the number of people on my train with all the early birds crowding onto the earlier departure.
I doubt if this happy state of affairs will last. It is probably down to problems with the new S stock trains. The 8:27s in recent days have been S stock whilst my train is usually the old faithful A stock. Still I shall enjoy it, together with the wonderfully mild weather we have had for the past couple of weeks. The freeze of December is truly behind us and the winds are warm and moist, surely heralding an early spring. The snowdrops are flourishing and the crocuses and daffs are on their way. Oddly, no sign yet of the frogs who make an annual pilgrimage to the little pond in my garden to breed. I’ll keep you posted.

And nul points to the addon for Word that is supposed to make it seamless to publish to blogs. It has started to bleat that it cannot publish my posts but refuses to say why.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A taste of the high life

It was my 21st birthday today [Are you sure?: Ed] so Mrs. Commuter and I foreswore work for the day and drove down the M40 for a little light refreshment at a local restaurant. OK, it was Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, 2 Michelin stars, and it was a stonking great lunch and I am a little older than that, but as you can tell from my photo, not much more. [Hmmm - pictures can lie, can't they?: Ed]

So if you are hoping for a juicy blast of invective about today's delays on the Met, or whatever, then I am afraid you will be disappointed. Normal service will be resumed on Monday.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The new and the old

Our old friend "signal failure" made another unwelcome appearance tonight, at Moorgate for a change, causing severe delays on the Metropolitan. Or did it? The departure boards appeared to show a normal service and when I arrived at Baker Street around 6:25pm there was an Uxbridge train waiting for me and ready to leave. So far so good. And it was one of the new "S" Stock. But not so fast, Inspector. It was jammed almost full and the internal indicators said "Not in service".

Hmmm...if it was really out of service then why were so many of my fellow commuters aboard? I decided to go with the majority for once and ignore the message. And I was right for we did leave pretty shortly, with the driver assuring us that the indicators were wrong. I must admit that when he started his announcement I thought he was going to say that, as the boards were faulty, the whole train was going out of service. That would indeed have been loads of fun. Or not.

So I was not, in the end, delayed at all but the price of a fast journey home was having to stand all the way to Harrow. Plenty of people left at the intermediate stations but the train was so very full, and as I have commented on other occasions, these new trains have markedly fewer seats than the "A" stock that they are replacing, so standing room only it was.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a new signalling system as well as the new trains?

Friday, February 04, 2011

The joys of commuting

There was no hint of anything wrong when I started my homeward journey last night from Waterloo but on arrival at Baker Street I encountered a flood of fellow commuters making their way down from the Metropolitan platforms to the depths below and knew something was awry. It turned out to be a defective train and all services to Wembley Park were suspended. LU’s helpful advice was to take the Jubilee but the announcer then added, blithely and with a hint of great joy, that there were severe delays on that line.
Disdaining the doubtful pleasures of a grossly overcrowded Jubbly, I chose a different route and made my weary way back to Oxford Circus, thence to go Central-linewards to Ruislip Gardens, where I daintily alighted* after a trouble free and fully seated journey.
Normally a defective train is fixed within an hour but last night was a total bodge. Mrs. Commuter, travelling home after a concert, found herself in a queue of barely moving trains outside Harrow at 11:30pm. I collected her there and was almost unable to reach the back entrance of the station, so many were the vehicles parked there on identical errands.
This morning the web site reported no service between Harrow and Uxbridge due to signal failure but the departure boards showed train movements so I left anyway for the station. On arrival a Met came in and I raced through the booking hall and up 45 steps to catch it. The doors closed as I reached the top and I resigned myself to a long wait but then they opened just long enough for me to sprint across the platform and, gasping but mildly elated, take a welcoming seat. The signal problem was obviously fixed but now there was a new problem at Wembley Park so we moved slowly and another precious fifteen minutes of my life was wasted. Well, not entirely. I played Another Case of Milton Jones** on my obsolescent but still functioning mp3 player and the journey passed in pleasure


*with thanks to John Betjeman
** A BBC Radio 4 comedy and it’s about time he had a new series

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Of Time and Tramways

I  have previously written about the Brill Tramway, a route that the Metropolitan Railway inherited in 1890 and which it tried to incorporate into its commuter network, only for the newly formed London Underground to close it in 1935. A few photos of the line survive, and some of the rolling stock is on show at the excellent Buckingham Railway Centre. But until today I did not know there was a movie showing the aptly-described "quaint" railway in operation. View it here and marvel. It took 40 minutes (or longer) to travel about 7 miles from Brill to the junction at Quainton Road, where passengers could change for trains to London (or Verney Junction if they really wanted to end up in the middle of nowhere).  And there are still days when the Met runs slower than that [a bit unfair, surely?: Ed]