Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The power of the net

In the bad old days when I commuted daily, I often moaned about the problem of what strategy to adopt when faced with delays. And by delays, I don't mean actual gaps in the train schedule but the word itself. When you enter a tube station and see on the electronic displays (or the trusty old hand-written white board) that there are "delays", or, God forbid "severe delays" on your chosen route, what should you do?

Well, we now have ways to beat the system. The combination of the net, a tube app and a smart phone equips the traveller in a way undreamed of just a few years ago. So this morning, on my way from beautiful Ruislip into central London, and faced by those dreaded words "severe delays" and "no service between Baker Street and Aldgate" I made a cunning plan. A Piccadilly came in almost at once - fine, I took it on the grounds that if things looked bad I could stay on it pretty well all the way. But this is a second-best option, it is way slower than the Met and nothing like as comfortable. Decision time was four minutes away when the lines divide at Rayners Lane. By then I could see on my phone that Mets were running in good numbers and some were going through to Aldgate. So I debarked at Rayners to take the Met that I knew was a couple of minutes behind. Arrived at Harrow to find the train on the adjacent town-bound platform was out of service and lots of evidently disgruntled and just-turfed-out passengers waiting for us. Naturally my train was a slow one and we were quickly overtaken by a fast Aldgate that was almost empty but that is pretty well par for the course in these parts. My point is that on arrival at Finchley Road my phone told me there was another through train behind us and once more I debarked and changed trains.

Not too long ago this would have been too much of a risk. I would have remained on the Picc and emerged much later to change at Kings Cross with my back aching from those low spongy seats.  So thank you for the modern communication systems that empowers us hapless commuters in these difficult times.

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