Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Those Pesky Engineering Works - Again!

There I was on Saturday morning, doing nothing in particular, as per usual. The telephone rings- it's work... To cut a long story short I had to go in to the office to sort out a problem.

The trouble was, I hadn't planned on going anywhere, so the fact that the Central Line was again suspended from Marble Arch out to both Ealing Broadway and to West Ruislip had completely passed me by. What's more I didn't realise that engineering work was taking place until I got to my local tube station.

No matter, in no particular order, there then followed:
  • Two bus journeys
  • One tube journey
  • One overground train journey and
  • A four hundred yard sprint
and I made it to work in less than an hour. What a waste of energy.

Perhaps I should read my own blog entries and take note!

I have to go down to Hampshire next weekend and see that the Central Line will again be suspended between Marble Arch and North Acton. Will I remember?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wem? How do you Spell that?

I spent last weekend up in Shropshire and traveled from London to Wem by train. I bought my ticket a few days in advance at Marylebone. It made me chuckle when I was asked by the ticket clerk; "Wem? How do you spell that?". Clearly I was going to a small place.

On Saturday morning I traveled to London Euston to catch the Virgin train to Crewe. Fortunately no engineering work on the Central Line so no problems getting into central London.

The train from Euston was fine, though whoever had distributed the seat reservation tickets seemed to have lost half of them. No matter, most people were seated roughly where they should be. The train did a passing impersonation of a rush hour tube train when, between Coventry and Birmingham New Street there was some severe overloading. Long distance express trains should not have to have people standing, jammed in along the full length of each carriage.

We pulled into Crewe about 10 minutes late.

The two coach train to Wem left half an hour later. I realised I was heading to an area of small towns and villages when the guard announced that three of the first five stops were 'Request Stops' and to let him know if you wanted the train to stop.

A fun family weekend then followed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lesson for the Day: How to Turn Sheep into Wolves

Last night. Going home time. Pouring with rain. Central London.

Delays on the Central Line. Problem at Mile End or Newbury Park, depending on source of information. It happens.

Passengers prevented from entering Tottenham Court Road Underground Station ("TCR") due to overcrowded platforms, caused by aforementioned delays. Sensible course of action- I am sure it is all planned for, risk assessments will have taken place etc etc.

One of the entrances to TCR Station consists of a long foot tunnel runing from Charing Cross Road and underneath fountains by the side of the Centrepoint, a landmark tall building. At the end of the tunnel are concertina style gates at the top of the steps into the underground station.

Yesterday evening at about 17:40 the gates at the end of the tunnel were closed by London Underground staff and regular tannoy announcements were made apologising for the delay to journeys.

No passengers were being allowed through the gatelines and by 18:00 a queue of approximately 200 people were waiting at the concertina gate at the Charing Cross Road tunnel entrance.

It then became apparent, certainly by about 18:05 (vision was a little restricted) that passengers were being allowed to enter the station. A reasonable number of people had by this time been waiting 25 minutes, like good little sheep waiting patiently to get home.

What happened next?

A member of staff (clearly a reject from any London Underground school of Customer Service) wandered round the corner and looked up to see the dozens of faces peering through the closed barrier. We politely queried (and it WAS polite) when the gate would be opened. Rather than saying "now" or "in a minute" he then produced a temporary canvas barrier belt and placed it across the foot of the stairs. We told him that there were a couple of hundred people waiting to come down the stairs- he shrugged his shoulders and simply said "You'll have to use entrance three."

In the space of two seconds the oaf employee managed to turn 200 queuing london sheep commuters into 200 extremely hacked off commuters, I suspect many of whom would have gladly chewed his head off.

By the time I had negotiated the busy road junction above the station, the concourse was about the quietest I have ever seen seen it during peak hours, the half wit member of staff had disappeared, the Central Line platform was thankfully uncrowded and the train that appeared within seconds was only half full.

Absolutely no evidence of a sensible reason for the entrance at which we had waited, needing to remain closed for Health & Safety reasons, or indeed for any other reason.

Another member of staff in the ticket area did at least appear to take on our concerns at the total lack of empathy with waiting passengers displayed by his colleague.

The man concerned is a twat.

This rant, even in its current incoherent form, has been severely moderated for intemperate language. This is in the knowledge that my words are occasionally read by members of my family.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A sensible bus driver

There was an accident at the Target Roundabout late this afternoon. A car had caught the back-end of one of the aforementioned rail replacement buses. The struck bus had a few passengers on and the accident, though apparently minor, had all the signs of causing absolute gridlock with two lanes blocked.

What did our driver do? He pulled infront of the stranded bus and then escorted the handful of passengers to our bus- we were on our way within seconds.

This action shouldn't be worthy of a mention, but it is. Why? Because in my experience there are very few bus drivers in my part of London who demonstrate any sense of empathy with their passengers- tonight's should be applauded for having good, perhaps old fashioned, customer service values.

If London is so good, why do those who can, escape?

As I have already mentioned, there has been no Central Line in my part of London this weekend. Late this afternoon the A40 Western Avenue was choc-a-bloc, exactly how I imagine it is during the weekday morning rush hour. Except this was Sunday afternoon and the bulk of the traffic was going towards London.

Reversing the journey (ie me heading westwards along the A40) a short while later, the road was still jammed going in and free-running going out. My guess would be three times as much traffic heading into London at the end of the weekend as there was leaving.

I have a very simple (rhetorical) question:

If London is all it is cracked up to be, why do so many peole choose to leave it and spend the weekend elsewhere, only returning when they have to (presumably to go to work)?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

How to go to Greenford by bus from Hounslow?

Why would you want to?

Hounslow covers a fairly large area to the east of London's Heathrow Airport while Greenford appears to be a poorly defined area (based on state of the public transport infrastructure) in the London Borough of Ealing, neatly bi-sected by the A40 Western Avenue.

While I say 'Why would you want to?', I am not questioning anybody's desire to leave Hounslow, or their desire to get to Greenford. I am simply questioning the rationale for limiting the transport options to bus only as, so far as I can see, there is no direct bus link between the two towns.

While I am no fan of Uncle Ken, the Journey Planner on the TFL website is a useful tool to answer this sort of question.

Now, I am not going to start acting as a travel consultant to the rich & famous (or indeed to anyone else) but, to answer the question:
  • Catch a 120 Bus towards Northolt and then, after about 40 minutes change onto an E6 to Greenford.
  • Personally I would go at least part of the way by tube- I get really frustrated by the traffic snarl-ups in the Southall area (which is where the 120 bus usually gets stuck).

Weekend Engineering Work on the Central Line... Again!

This weekend, for the umpteenth time this year it is not possible to catch a Central Line train from West London into the heart of this glorious city. Forthcoming closures across the network can be viewed here- at least they've managed to avoid doing too much in the run up to Christmas.

Actually, the replacement bus services are fairly good. I've caught a couple over the Summer where I was the only passenger- a bit like having your own huge private taxi. When trains are replaced by buses, there are definitely only a tiny fraction of the usual number of people traveling. What happens to everybody? Where do they go?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Twenty Years Ago...

Today is the day of The Great North Run. Good luck to all the runners who will be crossing the starting line in Newcastle shortly.

What was I doing 20 years ago? Yes, you may have guessed it.... I was participating in the 1986 Great North Run. I completed the run (a half marathon) in something around 1 hour 37 minutes. I was considerably fitter then than I am now and was really rather chuffed with my time.