Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why oh why no 4 revisited

Yippee! It's happened!! Let exclamation marks be brought up from the stores, unwrapped, given a fresh lick of paint and deployed at will!!!  I have finally had a trouble-free journey both ways 'twixt beautiful Ruislip and downright ugly Finchley Road.  No signal failures. No stalled trains. Not even a wayward guard's hat on the track [er, is that a wayward guard or a wayward hat? Anyway they don't have guards any more, haven't had 'em for years. Ed]

So my previous why, oh why can be marked "case closed" and salted down for long-term storage.  That's a relief. But will this be the mark of things to come or is merely a chimerical phantasm [that's the worst kind of phantasm. Ed:], a dream of what may befall, a cruel mocking mirage to be swiftly replaced by severe delays, service outages and advice to use alternative means of transport? I think I better pack up those exclamation marks and put them safely away, just to avoid tempting fate.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Transport catastrophes

First there was a train crash in France on 12 July
Then a very serious derailment in Spain on 24 July
Yesterday a coach disaster in Italy  on 28 July
and now another train crash, in, of all places, Switzerland  is reported today.

This is becoming worrying for those of us who prefer public transport whenever possible and especially on holiday. And these four countries are certainly in my top 10 holiday destinations. I have written in this blog about travels in each of them. I hope and intend to go on holidaying in these countries and will use trains as an automatic first choice of transport. Let us hope this is the end of this horrible sequence and Europe's trains and coaches resume normal, safe, operations.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why, oh why... (number 4 in this surprisingly durable sequence)

...can I not have a trouble-free commute for a change?

I don't know what is going on. Regular readers [?? Ed:]  will know of the times I have bemoaned the delays whilst commuting, especially on the Piccadilly Line. Nowadays I  travel into town only about once a week. Last week my journey was affected by delays. Today there were severe delays on the Metropolitan due to signal failure at Baker Street which screwed up the line for about 5 hours.  The notice on the LU website advised passengers to use a different line, not too helpful for my plan to go from beautiful Ruislip to Finchley Road for which only the Met is suitable. Fortunately the worst of it was over by the time I had to leave home and apart from a forced detraining at Harrow, the journeys to and fro were OK.  But most days are trouble free. Why (oh why) do these problems hit on the very days that I choose to travel?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Watford Link

I have seen much expansion of the London Underground network during my lifetime but never on the main line that I use and have used most of my life - the Metropolitan. The changes include the all new Victoria Line, the Piccadilly extension to Heathrow, the Jubilee gaining its independence from the Bakerloo and pushing out via London Bridge to Stratford, the Docklands Light Railway - a brand new system running over many disused mainline tracks and now the Overground line that provides a sort of outer-Circle through the suburbs. But nothing on the Met - indeed it shrank because services beyond Amersham to Aylesbury ceased in 1961. However it is finally expanding again because the Watford branch is to be extended to run up to Watford Junction, with two new stations on the way. The old Watford station will close. Work will begin next year and since nearly all of the route uses a disused mainline, should not take too long, although some spectacular new bridges will be needed.

Hitherto Watford has only been easily accessible by car from beautiful Ruislip. It will be nice to have the option of taking the Met there.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Chris Froome wins the Tour de France
England obliterate the Aussies at Lords
Heatwave subsides to a perfect afternoon. No plans to commute into central London next week when it may move up a few degrees back to the hot and sweaty.
Nobody seems to be lighting a barbecue anywhere near us in beautiful Ruislip.

That's enough to be going on with. Ed, take the rest of the weekend off. [Thanks awfully. Ed:]

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One to forget

Not a good journey on the tube today. I made one of my (now infrequent) commutes from beautiful Ruislip to Farringdon. All seemed to be going well as the air-conditioned "S" stock train, destination Aldgate, arrived at Baker Street. Alas, appearances can deceive. We remained at the platform for a while. Our driver informed us that due to signal failure at Kings Cross we might be delayed a while longer. Then, after several minutes, he told us that our train was terminating where it was and if we wished to continue we must use the Circle Line.

With these grim words about seven hundred people abandoned ship and thronged up the stairs to change trains. There was a wait until a Circle train arrived - it was almost totally full so not many could squeeze on. Fortunately there was another close behind with enough room to take us. And just as well because not only were the station staff making announcements that if we did not all move down the platform they would close it to prevent overcrowding (no hint of an apology that it was their system that had failed, it must have been that it was all our fault for actually wanting to travel) but twice during the wait it was announced that a good service was operating on all lines. Twice, whilst the Met suspended service from Baker Street and there were severe delays on the Circle and Hammersmith lines (as was posted on the tube website not very long afterwards).

But of course the best was to come. We made good progress up to Kings Cross, stopped just short and then limped in. And having limped out, we stopped in the tunnel and waited there for some ten minutes. Today was perhaps the hottest so far this year, about 30c in London. The Circle Line trains are of venerable stock that is not air-conditioned. On arrival at Farringdon, about half an hour late, sweating and uncomfortable, I could reflect on how nice it is not to have to make such a journey on a regular basis.

Monday, July 15, 2013

On the Buses

Yesterday was the annual Uxbridge Bus Running Day of the highly esteemed Amersham & District Motorbus Society. This excellent group of people, with backgrounds in bus and coach driving, preserve vehicles of yesteryear. With permission from Transport for London, on special days, they run them over real bus routes, carrying for free anybody who cares to step aboard. Mrs. Commuter and I planned a cunning itinerary to make the most of this opportunity to be local tourists.

In glorious sunshine, and just a tad more heat than was strictly necessary, we embarked by tube to Harrow and then by Chiltern Line diesel to Amersham to board our first bus.
This took us back to Northwood, more or less following the Metropolitan line, but with an interesting detour around Rickmansworth where there seemed to be some confusion about the precise route. Then we transferred seamlessly to the service to Uxbridge.
This bus took us on a fascinating detour into Eastcote where the driver and his assistant become confused that High Street (the original heart of the village) is now a mainly residential road far from the modern centre and the tube station and declined to follow the instruction on their schedule to turn into it. They therefore went half a mile the wrong way. They redeemed themselves with a spectacular U-turn requiring the use of two service roads and, with all the passengers shouting "left, left", managed to make the correct left turn and get back on course.

We broke off in Uxbridge for a leisurely lunch break in a pub showing the sensational climax to the Ashes test (England needing 1 wicket, the Aussies 40 odd runs to win - the match won shortly after we left with the visitors just 15 runs from victory) and it was off, crossing both the M25 and the River Thames, to tourist-jammed Windsor. During this journey we tracked Chris Froome's equally sensational stage win on Mont Ventoux in le Tour de France. Our vehicle this time was a double-decker.
This is a type of bus all Londoners know and revere - the Routemaster. With its narrow, twisting stairs to the panoramas offered by the upper deck, its jerk every time the brakes are released and the joy of the open windows that allowed a steady breeze to cool us nicely, there is a tactile experience associated with this design that the modern bus user, insulated and cushioned, can never know.

I rarely write about buses because my commuting experience has always been based on trains - buses are the emergency fallback when the tube is down - but it was a pleasure to go out for a day with some really knowledgeable enthusiasts and to see the care with which these vehicles are maintained.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Once upon a time...

...when I used to commute daily to central London from beautiful Ruislip, this would have meant a long and, in this torrid heat of our long-awaited summer, unpleasant journey home.  But not any more. End of story.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Fun in the sun

As the temperature climbed to around 30c on this glorious day, it was time for your correspondent to venture into the depths of beautiful Ruislip to sample the much-heralded Ruislip Manor Fun Day. The hordes of young people certainly had a good time. The rest of us wandered around the unbelievably noisy rides, admired the Inspector Morse style police car and enjoyed a refreshing Pimms courtesy of the gym of which Mrs. Commuter is a member.

So here are some pictures of the giant auditorium complete with vast cheering audience, the death-defying sky ride ("it goes up, it comes down", the mind-boggling whirling tea-cups and afore-mentioned vehicle.

OK, job done, I was there and I have the evidence to prove it. Sunday Times photo-journalist of the year, here we come.