Monday, July 26, 2010

At last the good news

To my considerable surprise, Metropolitan Line trains were running normally this morning and were stopping at Baker Street. "So what?" I hear you say "Is that not normally the case?". [That's certainly what I would have said: Ed]. Leaving aside that there are often problems on Mondays due to late completion of the weekend engineering works, for the past three weeks they have been rebuilding platform 3 at Baker Street and through trains to Aldgate have not stopped there. Most of the London-bound Met trains in the morning go to Aldgate, so this has caused a lot of disruption. The works were planned to finish last weekend but I naturally assumed that they would overrun as this is par for the course.

So not only did my usual Aldgate arrive on time and get to Baker Street on time, but platform 3 was open and it was the usual crush down the stupidly narrow stairs into the nether world of the deep tube. Except that as the school holidays have started, it wasn't much of a crush. And the ever-dependable Bakerloo obliged with a train within a minute. Result - arrival at work unflustered and not late.

I don't know what has happened to our summer though. It is 100% cloud cover this morning with dense black stuff piling up from the west and a curious misty look around the tall buildings visible from my office, notably Canary Wharf, the rapidly growing Shard and the soon-to-be-dwarfed Guys Hospital tower. London takes on a hazy, dream-like look in such weather with some building on the horizon appearing and disappearing as the clouds roll by. Still, it's better than the heatwave of a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The fun continues

I document my regular travelling problems as a service to future historians and students of the raw details of 21st century commuting. So purely for the record, let me note that there were more delays last night coming home on the Met (the driver said something about a defective train at Wembley Park, but as I was listening to something far more interesting, viz an edition of the radio comedy show RadioActive on the trusty Creative Zen player, I missed most of the announcement). And this morning there was some sort of strike by ASLEF members which, coupled with the continuing disruption of southbound services into Baker Street made me about 15 minutes later getting to work. And again this evening I had the enjoyable experience of sitting on an absolutely packed train at Baker Street which waited for nearly 15 minutes despite the indicator boards showing it as ready to leave. Arriving at Wembley Park there was a little huddle of men in blue overalls outside the control centre - presumably drivers having a union meeting or maybe just taking in the warm evening air and having a good laugh at the sweltering, helpless passengers waiting for one of them to take the train on up the line. I took a picture on my phone but it is not really worth reproducing here unless there is some popular demand for it [what planet is he on? Ed]

Wouldnt it be nice if they were told, at the end of the week, that due to a defect there were minor delays in the tube wages system and they would be paid a couple of weeks late and they were not allowed to grumble because it was officially just "minor" delays.

There was a bit in one of the daily papers that all tube maintenance line closures are to be stopped during the period of the Olympics. Well. You see, the point is, it is not so much the closures, irritating though they may be that is the nub of the issue. It is the constant delays caused by signal failures, defective trains, things on the track, people "taken ill" (i.e. throwing themselves under) on a train and the like that will screw up the experience of sport-loving tourists in 2012. It won't affect the rest of us - we have enough sense to say well away from the whole benighted affair for which, let me remind you, I did not vote and neither did you because we were not allowed to express our views on it, even though we will be taxed to pay for the whole wretched circus.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jams and suspensions

Before leaving my office last night for my homeward journey from Waterloo I checked the TFL website. Delays on the Jubilee (which I don't normally use), Bakerloo ok. So off I set and imagine my surprise when I find three fire engines and an ambulance waiting outside the tube's South Bank entrance. No sign of any firemen or paramedics in the station though. Down the escalators we go and lo! the Bakerloo is suspended with the metal gates drawn across the entrance to the platforms and station staff standing by. A hand written board informs us that the service is suspended due to a defective train.

Guessing that the emergency services are there to help passengers out of the tunnels, and therefore that this will be a long job there is no point in waiting. There is an announcement that we should take the Northern and change for a Piccadillly and then back to the Bakerloo at Piccadilly circus. Sod that. I take my chance with the Jubbly, arrive on a heavily crowded platform, notice a train is due with another 2 minutes behind, let the first one go and manage to squeeze into the second. As full as it can be but at least it moves quickly. Baker Street is attained.

Naturally the first trains out are going to Watford. They are rebuilding platform 3 for the new S stock due next year (or maybe in 2016 depending on who you ask) and Uxbridge services are restricted. So I get to Harrow, wait for the Uxbridge that was suppposed to be right behind the Watfords but which arrives several minutes later and get home about 15 minutes later than planned. Pretty much par for the course these days. Oh, and whilst at Harrow they announce that the Northern is part suspended, but in the usual helpful way they don't bother to say which part, so leaving any would-be travellers on that line without any idea whether they should or should not change their route. So that is all three of the tube lines going through Waterloo screwed up. What are the chances of that happening?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Excuses, excuses

There were severe delays on the Metropolitan line last night. But why? At Baker Street they told us it was all down to something on the track (a train???) at Faringdon. At Wembley Park they didn't bother telling us anything at all. At Harrow, where they ran several trains to Watford before bothering to put on one for Uxbridge (my route) they began blathering about points failure at Wembley Park.

I don't buy any of it. The Met can turn trains round in a number of places. I remember this knee-jerk reaction of cutting services, rather than attempting to run some, from the dark days of the Piccadilly. Not good enough. You can run shuttles, say from Rayners Lane to Harrow, if you want to help Uxbridge-bound commuters on their way.

At least it was a nice summer evening. And I did appreciate the priority given by the station announcers at Harrow to Amersham-bound passengers (all two of them), compared to the couple of hundred or so waiting for an Uxbridge train. After all they had the awful problem of having to wait 5 minutes. I sat there for more than 15.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Continental sojourn

Back from a very pleasant holiday in Germany and Czech, travelling by rail all the way. Deutsche Bahn failed to impress, running one intercity train an hour late and so mixing up the wagon and seat layout on another that we had angry scenes with people occupying the seats we had reserved (and vice versa). But the first class service on Eurostar was a joy as always and we enjoyed the excellent metro system in Prague where the air-conditioned stations and trains were beautifully cold despite the heatwave that made it almost unbearable to be out in the sun during the afternoons.  And so home to the non air-conditioned trains on the tube but at least there was no delay in our final journey of the holiday, the Uxbridge bound Metropolitan from Kings Cross.

You may be wondering why there are no pictures of the ice-cream stalls in the section of this website devoted to that subject. We did not eat a lot of ice-cream on this trip, oddly enough. One of us drank a lot of beer and the other iced tea. The one day we did indulge was at the Movenpick Hotel in Prague where they certainly know how to charge. The most exotic ice-cream stalls were in Nuremburg, a city that, sadly, had the medieval heart ripped out during the war and has been rebuilt as a modern shopping centre. We did not linger.