Friday, March 31, 2006

Signs and portents

Another great leap forward at my home station, Ruislip Manor. I do hope I’m not boring you with my tales about the rebuilding that has dragged on now for more than 15 months (into the 2nd great year as they would say in the theatre) but today they put up an information display actually on the eastbound platform (compared to the one at the top of the stairs that you cannot see from the platform). So we will, at last, have some idea of when the next train is due.

I hold that lack of information is one of the most stressful things about travelling. You don’t mind delays if you know when you are going to get on a train. But standing about waiting when you don’t know is frustrating. Time drags. You read a bit of newspaper, look up hopefully, see a still-empty track, read a bit more, look at your watch, observe your fellow passengers doing the same things, another look at the eternally unoccupied tracks, blissful sound of a train, oh no its going the other way, lucky sods on the other platform, feel your blood pressure rise, read some more….

So the day that the new signs work will be most interesting. I will keep you posted

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Get ready to Rejoice

A glorious victory is at hand. My campaign for better platform shelters at Ruislip Manor station has achieved its fundamental goal. Previously I have recorded how inadequate shelters were put up, providing almost no protection. Last week they removed the roofs. Today they have rebuilt the supports on the eastbound platform and they extend the full width of the platform. When they put back the roof then the shelter will do the job for which it was intended. You can see this for yourself by clicking on the Photos link just under my profile on the right (or click here )

The mystery of why they built the first shelters so small may never be solved.

Update: I entitled this piece originally “Rejoice”. But let us not be hasty. The time to break out the champers is when they actually put the roofs back on.

Update to the update: They have at least put the full roof on the eastbound platform.   (4th April 2006)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Easy come, easy go

Just when you thought it could not be more exciting, yet another unexpected twist in the saga that is the rebuilding of Ruislip Manor tube station. I have been complaining for over a year about the inadequate shelters that are in the middle of each platform. They comprise no more than a metal roof perhaps 50 foot long and 5 foot wide suspended about 10 feet in the air. Useless in driving rain or wind, or indeed in blazing sun.

So I arrive at the station this morning and the roofs have gone. The supports are still there but either the builders have decided that they need the roofs for their own nefarious purposes (and I have previously written that it seems obvious that they are making a permanent colony for themselves behind the platforms), or a bold criminal gang has executed what I believe our American friends would call a “heist”. There was no sign of the police but then again maybe nobody had reported it.  After all, who would care?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Signs of the times

I’m all of a tremble. One of the recurrent themes of this blog is the shameful lack of information provided to passengers at my home station, Ruislip Manor. Even the bus stops at many points in London have electronic display signs to show the next arrivals. At my station - zilch. But all that may be about to change.
They’ve been rebuilding Ruislip Manor since January 2005. The place is festooned with cameras, speakers and electronic bits and pieces. We’ve even got a couple of those useless “information point” stands; where you press a button in order to hear a phone ringing. And today I saw what surely must be an display sign, a long narrow tube with as-yet blank face, positioned strategically as you come up the steps to the London-bound platform. Can it mean that we are about to get the same sort of information that many stations have enjoyed since the 1930s?

There is also some sort of sign over the station entrance. Now if this were also to be a live display of train movements it would mark a major departure. London Underground tells the would-be passenger almost nothing until they are passed through the barriers. (They have begun putting some train info on the Internet but naturally not for the Piccadilly line). In nearly all cases you must be on the station platform before you discover when your train is likely to arrive.  In the deep stations it may take several minutes walking down escalators, steps and dingy corridors only to find that you could have stayed up top and had a coffee because your train is not due for fifteen minutes.  I have argued for years that there should be information displays outside the stations as well as inside, and then people arriving could make intelligent decisions if they faced delays.

Intelligence is not a word normally associated with the operations of London Underground (where a 20 minute wait for a grossly over-crowded train is described routinely as “minor delays”) and perhaps the sign outside Ruislip Manor is merely going to be for advertising – (you have to imagine a standard Pearl & Dean cinema advert voice at this point)  “Why not enjoy a tasty pizza at Pedro’s? Only one minute from this station” *.

We shall see. Further bulletins will be posted as soon as there is something to report.

*One of my favourite lines from the ads for hot dogs in the cinema was the tag “An hour from now you’ll be glad you had one”. In the case of Pedro (who plies his dubious trade just opposite the station) one feels that “An hour from now make sure you are close to an A & E department” might be more appropriate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sean O’Teeth-Puller, where are you?

I had a bad cold over the weekend and when I returned to work this morning, I left a little later than usual, hoping to travel in an empty carriage. Some hope! After the usual wait while two Metropolitans went by, the Piccadilly was pretty full. At least I found a seat, and there on the empty seat beside me, was a smart leather folder. Being a nosy sod I had a look. It was stamped with the logo and name of the Society of Irish Dentists (or something similar – I couldn’t find them doing a quick internet search afterwards) and contained notes from a conference.
Now I am not a medical man by trade. I only do the odd bit of brain surgery now and then, just to keep my hand in, and so the contents of the folder were of no real interest, though the first set of notes, about Botulism toxin, looked marginally more interesting than this morning’s Guardian, which I had finished off before we reached Acton Town. But, still feeling a bit bunged up and groggy, I put the folder on the window shelf behind the seat.

I was then taken aback when a bloke sitting opposite asked if the folder was mine, and when I denied it, asked me to pass it over to him. He had a look and seemed to draw as much interest as I had done (he was neither Irish nor dental looking). I made a jocular remark and he put me in my place by pointing out that he had once lost important documents on the tube, and no-one had bothered to hand them in, and he was going to see that this folder was returned to its rightful owner.
I was going to make a snappy rejoinder to the effect that a participant in a conference could easily get copies of all the documentation, but decided not to. Actually the folder itself was rather smart. The sort of thing one can leave lying on one’s coffee table to impress visitors. “Oh, this? Just some stuff from one of the conferences I attended recently”. I guess it will be missed and my travelling colleague was right to make sure that it was put into the tender mercies of the Lost Property Dept. Which reminds me, they owe me one light, green, almost waterproof coat, a gentleman’s cap (sized 7 ¼) and one or two umbrellas. Not all lost at the same time, you understand. In fact the coat was left behind about 5 years ago but I still miss it. Now all those painful memories of loss have been stirred up by an absent-minded tooth attendant, possibly even now winging his way back to the Emerald Isle with a suitcase a little lighter than it should be. I guess we are both a bit down in the mouth.