Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Christmas

Best wishes to everyone. Thank you for reading my blog.

I must confess to just a little bit of recycling in respect of this post. The sentiments do however remain genuine.

There is apparently no chance of a White Christmas in my part of South East England, so I thought I would once again share with you my idea of how Christmas might appear in warmer climes.

I took this picture on Mt Kinabalu, Borneo, a couple of years ago. You may spot a little bit of post production. I like it, so I serve it up on a plate once again.

Do please have a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.Happy Christmas. Based on a photograph taken from Mt Kinabalu, Borneo, November 2005. Click picture for more detail.

Liverpool Street Main Line Station - Christmas Closure

Liverpool Street (London) main line station will be totally closed from Sunday 23rd December 2007 through to Tuesday 1st jauary 2008, to allow engineering works to take place.

The One Railway website has full details of alternative arrangements here.

There is a clickable map of the One Railway network which is quite whizzy.

The Central Line will still be calling at Liverpool Street and, apparently, off-peak services on the Central Line will be increased to 30 trains per hour.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Change of Scenery

I had to go to Wrexham today for family stuff. It wasn't really practical to do the return journey by train, so 340 miles of driving later, and I am a tad tired!
View Larger Map

The icing on the cake was having to sit on the M40 this evening for over 1/2 an hour, with the engine off, while the emergency services dealt with a fire. I am glad I don't drive every day for a living.

I guess today must be a manic late night shopping/ party night in London as my local station car park is still half full. Usually by now there will only be one or two cars still there. I wonder how many will still be there in the morning? Edit: Answer = "Lots"

The trains were noticeably quieter than usual on Monday and Tuesday, so hopefully loads of room to spread out tomorrow!

A summary of Chiltern Railways' train services over the holiday period, including downloadable pdf files, is available here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Train Shortage on the Central Line

I have just received a text message advising that there are minor delays on the Central Line due to a lack of available trains.

Is it just me, or is what work Metronet are/ were doing deteriorating? There seem to have been an increasing number of infrastructure breakdowns over the last few weeks.

Lack of trains on a frosty morning? Looks to me as though the trains feel like me today - cold and tired. Still, at least when it rains, I don't leak.

Tesco really are trying to change things too much

I have this morning received an email from Tesco.

The first sentence reads:

"With Christmas less than a week away, its time to think about all those last-minute buys."

Now, I know I am a bit slow at getting started with my Christmas shopping, but moving Christmas nearer is not going to win brownie points for anyone.

I have used a number of reference points and am fairly confident that Christmas Day is on 25th December. Today is 12th December.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Grotty mornings on the Underground

Monday morning wasn't a good start:

Unusually, my Chiltern Railways train got in to Marylebone ten minutes late. The Bakerloo Line was suspended due to a broken down train at Oxford Circus. I then walked to Baker Street but could not get to the Jubilee Line due to overcrowding. I then stood on a Metropolitan Line train which was terminated after ten minutes (without going anywhere). It then took six or seven minutes to even get off the platform due to the number of passengers, so I walked to Soho. I should have done that in the first place. Very wearing.

Thursday wasn't particularly good:

There was absolutely no way I could get on the first Southbound Bakerloo Line train that arrived. I waited ten minutes for the next one- I suspect crowd control must have been in place at Paddington, because when it came in I was able to get a seat. I was at the back of the train- things must have been really bad in the middle of the train, because passengers were stood several layers deep as we left the station. At Oxford Circus I changed to the Central Line for one stop- really bad move. I got on the seventh train that came. It would have been way quicker to walk.

I am usually the train geek at work. On these two days I did not initiate the water cooler conversations.

Day off tomorrow. Yippee!

Friday, November 30, 2007

So where did November go?

So, here we are one month on from the clocks going back, and it's just as dark again at silly o'clock in the morning. It is tipping it down with rain and there is bad weather due for tomorrow. Yum yum.

Actually, I've been feeling a bit guilty of late. What blogging there has been has been mostly off topic, and there has been a definite rationing of mentions of the Central Line.

Today was a bit strange in London- there just didn't seem to be many people about. Our office had less than 1/3 of the usual bums on seats and this seemed to be reflective of how busy it was on the streets and underground.

I caught a Metropolitan Line train from Baker Street towards Aldgate at about eight o'clock this morning. There was hardly anyone on the platform and the train was half full (or half empty).

This evening the Central Line platform at Tottenham Court Road had only a smattering of the usual gormless tourists people in the way and my big Chiltern Line train home had plenty of seats.

I can't fathom it out- where is everyone?

The Bakerloo Line was suspended a few minutes ago between Elephant & Castle and Queens Park. However I was long gone and it seems to have sorted itself out now.

Apart from the aforementioned lines I have, this week, been on the Docklands Light Railway, The Jubilee Line and The Northern Line. All without problem or hassle. Just how it should be.

While I remember, I did have a bit of a 'mare on the DLR last Thursday (22 Nov) when it took half an hour in the evening from Bank to Westferry. Never mind, I was on the way to the pub, hence why I had almost forgotten.

That's me caught up for now- hopefully (?), December will be a bit more interesting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I always thought I was in the wrong job...

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with
You scored as Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones is an archaeologist/adventurer with an unquenchable love for danger and excitement. He travels the globe in search of historical relics. He loves travel, excitement, and a good archaeological discovery. He hates Nazis and snakes, perhaps to the same degree. He always brings along his trusty whip and fedora. He's tough, cool, and dedicated. He relies on both brains and brawn to get him out of trouble and into it.

Indiana Jones


The Amazing Spider-Man


James Bond, Agent 007


Lara Croft


Neo, the "One"


The Terminator


Captain Jack Sparrow


Batman, the Dark Knight


William Wallace




El Zorro


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Apathy is not good - Wear your poppy with pride

Today is Remembrance Sunday, when the nation commemorates the sacrifices made by Britain's war dead.

Over the last few days I have carried out a very simple straw poll of people's attitude towards Remembrance Sunday and also towards The Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal:
  • Number of people I have spoken to who watched Panorama last Monday- a topical programme about what our troops are currently doing in Afghanistan: None
  • Number of my work colleagues observed to have been wearing a poppy last week: Less than one in seven
  • Number of people that I know personally (outside of my family), who have today participated in any formal act of remembrance: Three
One observation I have would be that the likelihood of participation in any act of remembrance appears, among the general population, to increase with the distance you live from a major city centre.

Remembrance Sunday is not about glorifying war. It is about commemorating those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our country. You may not agree with war, you may not agree with some of the things our armed services are currently being asked to do, but please do remember all of those who have not come back and who may yet not come back.

Many of those who do come back have (and will) bear terrible scars. Some of those scars are all too obvious to see, while many are not.

All of these people and their families need active support to help them through their difficulties.

Please wear your poppy with pride and do as much as you can to support those who suffer in the name of your country.


I was pleased to see a one minute silence at Vicarage Road (Saracens -v- Glasgow Warriors). You could have heard a pin drop as the seven thousand strong crowd stood and paid their respects.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A bit over the top

Chiltern Railways appear to have installed a new automated announcement system at Beaconsfield.


"I am sorry to announce that the 18:41 train to London Marylebone is running approximately one minute late. I am sorry for the delay to your journey. Please listen for further announcements."

This was about 90 seconds before the train appeared.

A similar announcement then came on the opposite platform for a different train, with the delay being three minutes, rapidly increased to four minutes then reduced to one minute.

It might be a new toy, but passengers will rapidly get frustrated by announcements that are too frequent. Chiltern usually operate like clockwork, but are they being a bit OTT?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

An interesting couple of days for Chiltern Railways

Last night, just after 18:30, there was a fatality in the Wembley Stadium area.

This brought total chaos to all Chiltern Railways' trains out of Marylebone and many people in Buckinghamshire were hours late in getting home.

This morning's train into London had an air of people just getting on with their commute. Not a bunch of happy campers.

Tonight saw a signal failure in the Neasden area- a few cancellations, delays and no doubt quite a few people again late.

To top that, I have just got off a train, where the driver appears to be trying to do a Lewis Hamilton. If you don't believe me, look at this screen grab from the online train tracker....

I hope no-one missed their train.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not Living Along the Central Line

There are pros and cons about living in the Buckinghamshire countryside and having to commute into London every day.

I took this picture at seven thirty this morning from my study. Other than changing its size for uploading, the photograph is unaltered. I don't recall a similar view from my flat Along the Central Line.

Definitely one of the pros of living in the country.

One of the cons is that I am almost at the stage of giving up on the idea of getting on the Central Line (eastbound) at Oxford Circus in the morning rush hour. It is a total pain and I usually end up letting at least one train go.

When I lived out at the Western extremities of the line, I had a simple rule- if I couldn't get a seat, I didn't get on. In more years than I care to think about, you could count on your fingers the number of times I let a train go, so as to not break my little rule.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sliced, diced or squashed?

Last night I managed to catch a fast train out of London Marylebone, first stop High Wycombe.

We were haring along between Beaconsfield and High Wycombe when the train suddenly decelerated rapidly and came to a stop. It was a strange place to stop - regular commuters on any line get a feeling for these things.

After about three minutes the train started to move again.

As we approached High Wycombe, the driver advised us over the intercom that he had felt it necessary to stop the train, because three boys had been stood between the rails on the opposite line throwing stones. Unbelievable!

Trains often travel a 75 miles per hour along that stretch of line. If you get hit by a train, the train will always win.

And to think, the school half-term holiday had only started a couple of hours before.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Abandoned Station

Well, it is now a couple of weeks since all the fun of the royal visit to my local station. All that new paint, fresh posters and general spit & polish.

Would it surprise you to know that every single poster relating to weekend engineering work is now out of date? No, I thought not.

Clearly every bit of budget that Chiltern Railways allocate to this corner of Buckinghamshire was spent in all the excitement of trying to impress.

Well that was a waste of time

This morning the Central Line was suspended between Ealing Broadway and North Acton, first thing.

In my little mind that says that the service oughtn't to be disrupted too much for the rest of the line, as trains can reverse as required at White City, North Acton or Northolt.

I knew about the suspension before I left home out in the sticks.

By the time I got to Marylebone, the earlier problems had been resolved, but the service was now suspended Westbound Only between Leytonstone and Liverpool Street. Now that is (in my view) more serious as not only is that stretch of line used by tens of thousands of people at around 9.00 am, but it is relatively slow to reverse trains at Liverpool Street. Big gaps in the service were therefore therefore likely to occur in the central area, particularly Westbound.

So... why the flipping heck did I even bother to catch a Bakerloo Line train to Oxford Circus with a view to changing onto the Central Line. It was chaos. I ended up emerging into the daylight, mole like, at Oxford Circus and continuing my journey on foot at street level.

My journey from Marylebone to work took me 35 minutes. Any other variation of public transport would have been quicker, as would walking the whole way. I knew there were problems, so why the flipping heck did I even try?


Thursday, September 27, 2007

And the Reason for all the Housekeeping...

Most of the commuters who use my local station will have been totally unaware of the reason for all the tidying up....

Well yesterday afternoon there was a visit from The Duke of Gloucester who formally opened the station museum (which is actually the waiting room on the London bound platform).

There is an account of the visit in one of the local papers and, by all accounts, His Royal Highness seemed to be genuinely interested in the community work in and around the station. I have previously met the Duke (and separately the Duchess) so, whatever your views on the Royal Family, my personal view is that they work incredibly hard to support local communities around the UK.

The Station Museum waiting room at Saunderton does tend to be locked outside of the morning peak hours. If anyone wants to have a look at the information boards etc I should be able to make contact with someone to arrange to open up for you, obviously with advance notice. I hope I don't live to regret this offer! I may be contacted at centraluseratgooglemail[changetheobvious]dotcom.

Perhaps our rural stations could be improved across the network by somehow arranging regular royal visits.

Be warned, there is only one train (Chiltern Railways) an hour in each direction at the weekend and no public facilities. There are however loads of walks in the area and a reasonable pub just down the road.

Well, that's my life of incognito blogging well and truly blown!

Circle Line & Hammersmith & City Line both Suspended

This morning the Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines are each totally suspended. In addition there is no service on the District Line between High Street Kensington and Edgware Road.

This blog is not constantly updated, so please visit the tfl website for up to date information.

The Real Time Map shows the huge impact of these suspensions.

It is apparantly all down to 'Health & Safety'. The BBC website states the issue as being around the "Traction Brake Controller". I don't work on the railway, so may be wrong, but I think this is (or is connected to) the "Deadman's Handle".

It looks as though I may be on the Central Line today!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What's to be done about the Jubilee Line?

When I first moved to London, I used to commute in every day from Stanmore which is at the Northern end of the Jubilee Line. My Father would go all the way to the other end (Charing Cross) while I would get off at the penultimate stop, Green Park. The service was good.

Please note: The Jubilee Line does not go to Charing Cross anymore (unless you are Jason Bourne). The line has now been extended on from Green Park to Stratford via Canary Wharf (and lots of other interesting places).

I should point out that I am talking ancient history here. The Docklands Light Railway had not yet opened, London City Airport had not opened and not a brick or girder had been laid at Canary Wharf.

Now, I quite regularly have to go to Canary Wharf. If I am going from home, I will pick up the Jubilee Line from Baker Street. Quite frankly traveling from the West End to Canary Wharf sucks.

This morning I was at Baker Street by 7.25am and the Jubilee Line was packed. I've done the same journey loads of times this year and it is always heaving. Yuck.

The problem is, there are just too many people using the Jubilee Line at peak hours. It isn't going to get any better, because they keep on putting new buildings up in Docklands. More buildings = more commuters.

I don't know what the answer is, but it must get worse before it gets better.

Unexpected Station Refurbishment

Although I still use the London Underground most days, my local train station is now most definitely in a rural location. Leafy Buckinghamshire to be precise.

Two weeks ago the footbridge at the station started getting repainted. Last weekend the footway and stairs on the bridge were re-covered and the steps got bright new yellow lines. Over the last few days all of the posters have been renewed. The grass banks adjacent to the car park have also been strimmed. Oh and a few strategically place plants and flowers have appeared. There was even a member of Chiltern Railways' staff at the station at 6.30am this morning.

If I didn't know better, I would think this all rather peculiar...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Really Bad Evening for Chiltern Railways

This evening there was a 'Track Circuit Failure' in the Willesden Green area, affecting all Chiltern Railways' trains out of London Marylebone. It affected services from 18:00.

I travel to Buckinghamshire, to a little country station in the middle of nowhere. The various combinations of subsequent cancellations and early terminations conspired together to mean that my destination temporarily disappeared out of the psyche of Chiltern Railways. That and an alleged ban on the use of Special Stop Orders meant that I got home 75 minutes later than I should have done.

One Customer Charter Refund request on the way.

The problem is now fixed.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tube Strikes Suspended

The good news is that the RMT suspended it's strike action very late last night, so in theory that's that.

The bad news is that they left it so bloody late that, this morning, the same three lines are running (Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly) on London Underground. Currently (07:00 am) there is no service running on any other line. Live travel updates are, as usual, available.

The whole way this industrial action has happened has really pissed me off. I expect tomorrow that I will wake up to find dinosaurs wandering around Hyde Park. I do not know anything about what was discussed at yesterday's negotiations between the parties concerned. However (and I am genuinely sorry if this annoys any of my regular readers), I think the RMT lives in the dark ages and their whole approach to industrial relations sucks.

Also, I note that the industrial action is 'suspended'. It's like a sword of Damocles hanging over London.

I shall now get back in my kennel, take a deep breath and then go to work. Grrrr.

Good morning!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

There are No Cities in Scotland

The statement that "There are No Cities in Scotland" is not presented as a fact. It was however presented as such by two teenage girls overheard in conversation on a train last Friday.

I should point out that the two individiuals had just boarded a train at Liskeard ("the main urban centre in south east Cornwall"), population approx 8,700. As locals they were clearly very worldly-wise and I was prepared to defer to their knowledge of Scotland.
View Larger Map

Having traveled directly from Edinburgh (Scotland) to Cornwall just a few days before, I had a reasonable idea that there are some cities in Scotland. Nevertheless I realised that I needed to check and double-check the position. Obviously anything heard in conversation must be considered accurate unless proven otherwise by the power of the internet thingy.

A new Label has been allocated to this post.

For the record there are a number of cities in Scotland, the most obvious of which are Edinburgh and Glasgow. More may be found detailed here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Industrial Action on the London Underground

In case you have missed it, major industrial action is taking place on the London Underground at present.

Only three London Underground Lines are working: Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly (though the Piccadilly is a bit dodgy in West/ North West London).

All other London Underground Lines (including the Central Line) are suspended. The industrial Action is due to finish at 18:00 on Thursday 6th September, though a normal service is not expected to resume until Friday morning.

The Docklands Light Railway is unaffected and all National Rail Services are similarly NOT affected by the industrial action.

Real time information is available here, via the tfl website.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Fun Morning on the Underground

Large chunks of the underground were thrown into chaos this morning due to "Emergency Engineering Work" somewhere in the Whitechapel area.

The District Line had a chunk missing, the Hammersmith & City Line was suspended East of Moorgate, The Metropolitan Line was suspended East of Baker Street and the Circle Line was suspended.

I understand that there was a minor tunnel collapse before the trains started running (I mean MINOR) and the services were up and running by about Noon.

I diverted to the Bakerloo & Central Lines for the first time this week, only to find the both lines exceptionally busy (passengers have to go somewhere), not helped by a Bakerloo Line train being taken out of service at Regents Park.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Ultimate Blog?

What to blog about today?

  1. I traveled on the Central Line and it was like clockwork.
  2. I have just been to see The Bourne Ultimatum. It was brilliant and I thoroughly recommend it. It is a bit of a Boys Own adventure, the pace is almost none stop, there is some incredible cinematography and the storyline goes right on till the end. Also I am a convert to digital cinema- my previous experience of a digital projector left me saying 'never again', but clearly the technology has moved on and I now eat my words.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The wonders of the English language

Chiltern Railways have invested a lot of time, trouble (and money) into car parking facilities for their passengers. Warwick Parkway has masses of car parking spaces (564), Bicester has a multi-storey car park (well, double-decker) and the management of most is outsourced.

A very small number of stations have free parking, though don't all rush to use the facilities at Little Kimble as I think it has a whole four spaces.

Anyhow, with all this investment and management, it amused me to see a small notice taped over a sign at one car park entrance today. I have replicated the notice here for your convenience. While the meaning is clear, it nevertheless amused me to think how many different nuances and meanings the sign might have.

I really must get out more.

I have recently inherited a small second-hand digital camera (my Digital SLR is fantastic, but a bit big for carrying around everyday). Maybe I should start to carry the new one around with me... Just in case.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Anyone for Quainton Road?

An empty train pulled into London Marylebone Platform 2 at about 18:05 this evening with the front and rear dot matrix signs stating the destination as "Quainton Rd".

Now that's a first!

Quainton Road station doesn't appear on the National Rail 'Live Departures' website (well it wouldn't...).

It is actually the station for the The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. On Monday 27th August (Bank Holiday), Chiltern Railways will be running a special service from Aylesbury. The service will be run using their heritage Class 121 "Bubble Car" which usually operates during the day between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough.

I am not quite sure what this evening's train was doing with "Quainton Rd" on the describer. I wonder whether all Chiltern Railways trains have the option programmed into their computers and whether any of them have ever been there.

Aargh... I'm now blogging like a train enthusiast.

Neglected Central Line

I am conscious that I haven't been saying much about the Central Line recently. Here goes...

My new journey to work (when I am being lazy) involves changing from the Bakerloo Line to the Central Line at Oxford Circus.

So, this morning, I was grateful to the Bakerloo Line driver announcing at Baker Street that Oxford Circus was closed due to a fire alert. This gave me the opportunity to grab my stuff and nip over to the Jubilee line for one stop down to Bond Street. Probably made no difference to the journey time as my Red Line train was able to sail through Oxford Circus without the usual long dwell time.

This evening Uncle Ken (aka Transport for London) kindly sent me a text message to say that Central Line trains were now not stopping at Oxford Circus due to flooding. Mental images then followed of a station saturated with water from an over enthusiastic visit this morning from the London Fire Brigade, but that is probably me just being over excitable.

I then had a pleasant stroll up to the Euston Road with a short ride on a No18 Bendy Bus to get me to Marylebone for the train home to leafy Buckinghamshire.

Ho hum, another exciting evening as a London Commuter.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I have in my hand a piece of paper...

The 17:53 pulled out of London Marylebone pretty much on time this evening. Unfortunately it became clear straight away that we might be in for an interesting journey home, as the train's engines stopped just as we were crossing the main points between the station and the entrance to St John's Wood Tunnel.

Not a useful place for a train to stall at the height of the evening rush hour.

We eventually laboured our way to Northolt Park (first scheduled station stop) and then stalled again somewhere between West Ruslip and Denham. Having eventually restarted, and as we approached the Tesco Tunnel at Gerrards Cross, the driver came on the PA and said that the service would be terminating at Gerrards Cross- it being the first available place with a siding and with several trains now backed up behind.

The train wasn't due to stop again except for at Beaconsfield and High Wycombe. By the time we arrived at Gerrards Cross, I estimate that we were probably about 15 minutes late.

The thing was (and the purpose of this post) that there then followed a really long station PA announcement by a man with a terribly posh voice, apologising for the problems, thanking us for our understanding and undertaking to get straight onto the telephone to establish what was going on.

The member of Chiltern Railways staff making the announcement was so clearly and completely sincere in his apology and desire to get matters sorted out, that most passengers were smiling.

What happened next was outstanding. Outstanding in that the man then came personally onto the platform and used his natural foghorn voice to advise that the next train to stop would call additionally at Beaconsfield because; "I have in my hand a piece of paper which tells the driver to stop". Priceless.

Nevertheless the next train duly pulled in a few minutes later and the man (the station manager?) walked to the front of the train and handed the driver the magic piece of paper and said "I have an extra stop for you, please stop at Beaconsfield".

Chiltern Railways are generally pretty good, though compared to many train franchises they are a bit of a toy town operation (this is good). Tonights events were really quite amusing and showed that the railway is run by humans. Well done Mr Man for accepting responsibility for sorting the problem out and for having the confidence to face the traveling public eyeball to eyeball.

I could do with a few of those magic sheets of paper, especially for a Friday night.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Demographics - Comparing & Contrasting the Passengers

I am beginning to settle into the longer journey from the trees and valleys of Buckinghamshire.

Fortunately my new home is not at the bottom of a dip so it ought to take a real Noye's Fludde to force me out of house and home. My commiserations to all those affected by the recent flooding. Buckingham was hit by a flash flood last week, but it has received little mention due to the overwhelming scale of the problems elsewhere.

This morning I changed onto the Central Line at West Ruislip rather than travel all the way into London Marylebone with Chiltern Railways.
  • Generally speaking I would say that about 80% of my peak time fellow travellers on Chiltern wear office clothes of some description
  • Getting on the Central Line in West London today, just before the busiest bit of the morning peak, I would say that 80% of my fellow passengers were not sporting collars or any near equivalent
I merely point out the contrast- as someone who commuted daily on the Central Line for 18 years, the state of peoples' clothing was something I had simply not noticed.

My train travels through some really smart (and expensive) places such as Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross, though I should point out that I board well before...

It doesn't take the Brain of Britain to work out that a greater proportion of the people living in those places are likely to work in well paid office jobs than, say, the general population of West London suburbia. Nevertheless I have been surprised by the contrast in attire of the passengers on the two lines used today.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Central Line Service Fully Restored Following Derailment

It is good to note that, following last Thursday's derailment, a full Central Line service ran from the start of service on Saturday. This included the chunk of line that was closed following the incident.

London has had a busy weekend, what with the Tour de France, the Wimbledon tennis finals, two concerts at Wembley Stadium and negligible rain.

There were so many extra people in London that in the central area it was easiest to walk for short journeys (it usually is, but most people are too lazy). Nevertheless the weekend's experience will have been improved for many people by the quick repair work undertaken in the tunnels near Mile End station.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Central Line Derailment in the East End

A west bound Central Line train derailed in a tunnel, at about 9.02am this morning, between Mile End and Bethnal Green. Thankfully there appear to have been no serious injuries though it must have been a frightening incident for all involved. Temperatures apparently got very hot for those stuck in tunnels.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch are carrying out an investigation into the incident. According to the tfl website, control of the line was handed back to London Underground at 5.30pm. It is however exceedingly unlikely that the line in the area of the accident will reopen in time for the Friday morning peak.

The Central Line is currently closed in both directions between Liverpool Street and Leytonstone, with severe delays on the rest of the line. For travel advice click here and for the current live travel position, click here.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yesterday morning was bad for someone, for many and for the Central Line

Yesterday (29th June) I had an early morning meeting in Canary Wharf. It is the first time I have had to travel directly all the way from leafy Buckinghamshire to Docklands. While the Jubilee Line (and Chiltern Railways) were as good as ever, I am pleased I don't have to make that particular journey every day.

The return trip from Canary Wharf to Tottenham Court Road was, unfortunately, not good.

It is always a bit of a lottery: Is it better to take (i) the Jubilee Line to Waterloo and then change to the Northern Line to Tottenham Court Road or (ii) the DLR to Bank and then the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road?

Yesterday we chose option (ii), the wrong one. Unfortunately there had been a serious incident at Liverpool Street on the Westbound, so our journey ended up being:
  • Walk to Canary Wharf DLR
  • DLR from Canary Wharf to Bank
  • Stand on Westbound Central Line platform at Bank until we gave up
  • Northern Line from Bank to Euston, change to Charing Cross branch
  • Northern Line from Euston to Tottenham Court Office
  • Walk to office
What is usually a 25 - 30 minute door-to-door journey turned into a very hot and sticky hour long expedition.

My only observations about the root cause of the problem would be (a) it wasn't the fault of London Underground and (b) however bad life gets, why the flipping heck should should train drivers and the emergency services have to deal with such crap? Seek help or find a way that causes less distress to other people.

I am not a weather professional

My postings currently have a bit of a rarity value. This month not only have my musings had almost the same scarcity as elephants in Iceland, but I clearly talk rubbish as well.

I previously said 'Hot, Hot Hot!' and then waffled on about carrying water on the Underground. Since then the UK seems to have entered monsoon season. In the South East we have had nothing like the bad weather or floods seen in South Yorkshire or Worcestershire but it has still been rather wet.

A short sharp thunderstorm last week led to a two foot flood at the bottom of my road (an excuse to go to the pub) and there has certainly been little opportunity to mow the lawn in the last few days.

I do not work for the Met Office (ie don't listen to me) but the current weather warnings even creep into the South East of England. You have been warned!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot!

I was behaving a bit like a yo-yo on the central bit of the Central Line this afternoon. It seemed particularly warm to me. Oh the joy of things to come.

It would appear to be time to pack the recommended bottle of water when venturing onto The Tube.

Anyone for The Zoo?

London Zoo is in Regent's Park, but apparently the closest underground station is Camden Town. I've learnt something this evening!

Anyhow, after a possible slight blip today, it seems that Regent's Park underground station is to re-open at Noon tomorrow (12th June) after being closed for about a year for refurbishment. For those who don't know, it is on the Brown (Bakerloo) Line. [Edit (13June): Apparently Regent's Park reopened at about 17:20 today, 13th June 2007]

The bright shiny new tiles look good and thankfully they seem to have kept the 'old fashioned' look. I seem to recall that new lifts were being installed- usually an interesting time follows such an event.

The Live Departure Boards have remained alive and kicking. Hurrah for Regent's Park and 2 minutes more traveling time per day restored to my commute.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Along the Central Line? Only a Little Bit...

After a few teasing hints and 18 1/2 years living in West London, I've gone and done it.

Yes... I've moved to the country.

It will take me about 25 minutes longer to get to work. I will still use the Central Line most days (so this blog's name shouldn't be changing) and my Annual Travelcard now costs an enormous amount of money.

There is a downside, from an underground perspective, in that I no longer have an Oystercard. Because I now live way outside the Travelcard Zones, my season ticket has reverted to to old fashioned cardboard variety. You know the ones- they get bent, thumbed and dogeared. They also react violently to the close proximity of mobile phones or laptop computers, which will inevitably lead to bi-monthly visits to the ticket office to get said worn ticket replaced.

Despite the Big Brother overtones I have always been an Oystercard fan. Please don't tut at me too much while I fumble to extract my ticket from it's natty little folder and then watch as it takes an extra few nano-seconds to feed through the ticket barrier.

Lots of good things about the countryside to bore you with coming up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How is the Central Line?

I have to ask how the Central Line is doing, because I don't have a clue!

I haven't ventured near the Central Line since last Wednesday. I must admit it has been mostly behaving itself recently- there was a morning a couple of weeks ago when passengers appeared to be queuing up to be taken ill, but apart from that, nothing to note.

The new heated unused waiting room at Northolt appears to have been mothballed, as the seats now have plastic covers over them. Still, it stops the squirrels, pigeons and mice scratching them as, quite clearly, it is not planned to let people anywhere near them.

Last Thursday I went to The Crown in Northolt. It used to be a Beefeater pub restaurant but is now something different. See the link for details. The food was fine, but I preferred it as a Beefeater. Nothing I can do of course, but I won't be rushing back. The food was fine, it was just the lack of atmosphere (it used to be really busy) that has put me off.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Poor Man's Sat Nav

Very occasionally I go to Chesham. About once a year.

Chesham is stuck way out at the end of the Metropolitan Line on a spur that has a shuttle train. I have always gone there by train.

Now, I do not have Sat Nav. At present I do not even own a road atlas (this will have to change). For now I tend to research my new found driving freedom using either Google Maps or Multimap. Com. Both are pretty good and I like them.

Recently I had to go to Chesham and this extract of the directions from Google Maps is centred on a left hand turn from 5 Acres into Trapp's Lane. The trouble was, following the route to the letter, I couldn't find where to turn left into Trapp's Lane. The reason- Trapp's Lane is a small footpath (a lane) totally unsuitable for driving a car down.

Three weeks into having a car and I go wrong due to over reliance on technology. Do you think I'll be allowed a Sat Nav when I grow up? Google has obviously provided me with the poor man's version.

By the way, however hard I try, I cannot get Multimap to suggest I make the same mistake.

Time to Come Clean

I have a confession to make.

Due to something else that is happening in my life, I now have a car.

It is nearly new, it is not too flash and for those of you who ask such things, it is black.

I have not owned a car for over seven years. I drove my previous vehicle to the scrapyard and have only occasionally wished I still had one. I live in suburbia, I work in central London, I have an annual travelcard and tended to use public transport all the time. My nearest Central Line station is two minutes from where I live.

Now I still use public transport most of the time, use the car sometimes and think of the changes to my life that are on the way. I will still never drive into central London.

This is why blogging about public transport has dipped recently. Sorry.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Steam Trains (Again)

Last April I may have unwittingly managed to pass myself off as a train enthusiast, when I blogged about steam trains running on Chiltern Railways out of London Marylebone.

Well, yesterday they were at it again, this time with a train running all the way from Birmingham to London in the morning and then back again in the evening.

The locomotive was the Rood Ashton Hall and this picture shows it speeding through Northolt Park Station at 12.05pm yesterday afternoon. Quite a few people had gathered to see the unusual sight. The train was traveling relatively slowly as it was following straight on behind two Chiltern Railways normal service trains.

I do not know much about steam trains, but further information about this particular locomotive may be found here.

Unfortunately I turned into a fairly incompetent photographer in the afternoon, so this second picture (taken at 17.30 at Denham station) is the best I can do showing the train on its evening return trip to Birmingham.

Chiltern Railways have quickly updated their website with further information.

Personally I am more interested in the infrastructure of the railways than the trains themselves. It is however hard for me not to be enthusiastic and nostalgic about the steam era.

If anybody knows how or where the engine was turned around while in London, please share the information, thanks! I am thinking either Croxley or Greenford, but both are a bit of a trek out of Marylebone.

Friday, April 27, 2007

What's Going On With The Central Line?

I am conscious that, despite the title of the blog, the Central Line hardly gets a mention nowadays.

The reason for this is that generally I go to the station, I get on a train, the train takes me to where it is supposed to and I then get off.

If everything worked like that, all would be well with the world. Recently, that is how the Central Line has been behaving for me, hence the shortage of posts about the tube's longest line.

Crikey... I've really messed things up now haven't I?

I've Just Blown A Gasket

I've just flipped my lid.

There is a news article on the BBC website titled "Call to stop children's drinking".

Immediate reaction... there's nothing wrong with that is there?

Next paragraph: "Parents who give alcohol to children aged under 15 should be prosecuted, a charity has said."


When will people realise that you cannot address a breakdown in the structure of parts of our society by way of an endless cycle of legislation?

Yes, we have a problem with alcohol in this country. Yes, many of our town and city centres are blighted by binge drinkers. Yes, alcohol is a poison (and yes I have the occasional drink).

What do you do with all the criminals created as a result of passing so many laws that we become a nation of criminals?

Answers on a post card please.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

But Trains Can Also Be Good

Yesterday I went by train from London Paddington to Hanborough Train Station in Oxfordshire. Hanborough Station is a few miles North-West of Oxford.

Hanborough has one platform (it is on a single track stretch of line) and the trains I caught to and from London were a couple of carriages longer than the platform. There are not many trains- should there be any in the next couple of hours, this link will provide their details.

Fortunately my reason for visiting the area ran to time and I caught my return train fine- it was two hours until the next one!
  • Both trains were on time.
  • The journey from London Paddington was only 64 minutes, with Hanborough being the 4th stop.
  • With my Annual Gold-Card Discount, my Cheap Day Return ticket only cost £11.35.
  • The were plenty of seats and the "Adelante Class 18" were comfortable.
The ticket machine on the platform wasn't working, but the guard was perfectly happy to sell a ticket.

Now, I don't carry my camera around with me for work, so you will have to imagine the scene...
  • Me, stood on small platform in the middle of nowhere. Nobody else there.
  • Massive train train thunders into platform (two carriages too long for the station).
  • Doors opened by cheery guard right by me. Nobody gets off.
  • I get on.
  • Guard says "Welcome to Hanborough International".

It is lines, stations and services such as this that say so much about traveling around this country by train. Sometimes clearly what is being offered is, indeed, a world class public service. Well done First Great Western.

There are obviously issues about the sustainability of ongoing train services along small country lines. The existence and membership of groups such as the Cotswold Line promotion Group should, in my view, be encouraged.

After a bit of rural idyll, there were Chavs on the Line at Reading, but that is the fault of society not that of the railway company.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why people don't travel by train...

I received a call the other evening inviting me to join some of my family in Newquay towards the end of August. The apartment we use is fantastic. It overlooks Fistral Beach, is owned by a family member and is just SO convenient.

The only problem I have is that I may have to be up in Edinburgh again, for work, over the bank holiday weekend. I don't mind- I just need somebody to tell me whether I am going to Bonnie Scotland or not.

The reality is I shall probably spend a few days in Cornwall either immediately before I go to Scotland or immediately after the weekend. At the risk of alienating any tree huggers, my transport of choice between Edinburgh and Newquay (whichever way) is to fly with Flybe.
  • Flying (booking at this moment) would cost £45 and the journey door to door would take about four hours.
  • Going by train (on the quickest route available) will cost, so far as I can tell, about £141 and take just under 11 hours, with two changes on the way.
  • I can't book a train journey because it is more than three months until the end of August.
Now I accept that Newquay to Edinburgh is probably one of the few routes in the UK where it is absolutely more convenient to fly, but given my research this afternoon, it isn't really any surprise that people chose to fly.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Chiltern Railways Timetable

Chiltern Railways have published their full timetable booklet for their new timetable which runs from 20 May 2007 through to 8 December 2007.

The full timetable is approximately 2Mb, so you ought really to have a fast internet connection before downloading it.

Click this link
to download the (pdf) file directly from the Chiltern Railways website.

Alternatively, click here for an overview of the changes.

Observations in West London

  • On two mornings last week there was a Chiltern Railways cleaner cleaning and tidying the platforms at South Ruislip. I have been traveling from South Ruislip railway station for over 10 years, and this is the first time I have seen a cleaner there.
  • Sat on a First Great Western train at West Ealing, waiting to depart onto the Greenford branch, the driver apologised for the delay over the public address system. The first announcement I have ever heard by a driver on this line.
  • The refurbishment by Metronet at Northolt underground station on the Central Line appears to be almost complete. However the waiting room on the platform remains resolutely locked. Also, despite them being locked for several years, all public literature has continued to state that public toilets are available at Northolt. Hopefully they will be unlocked sometime soon- everyone has to pee sometime. I am sure the neighbours would rather the proper facilities were available, gardens can only take so much urine. Ugh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

And the Bus Driver Shall be Named

Well, all right, I noted the number plate of the bus.....

Yesterday afternoon (10th April) on a Westbound No 18 bus, travelling along the Marylebone road at about 16:55.

I got up to get off the bus at Stop P, near the junction of Knox Street, outside The Royal Bank of Scotland.

The driver was stuck behind another bus at the stop, so only opened the front doors to let a passenger on. For those unfamiliar with the route, Route 18 is operated with very long bendy buses with three sets of doors.

Now I, along with several other passengers who clearly had trains to catch at the nearby Marylebone Station thought "No problem, the bus will just move forward to be clear of the junction and the driver will then open all the doors".

Twat. The driver ignored the 'pinging' of the bells and the clamour from behind and simply drove to the next stop several hundred yards down the road Stop EU adjacent to Edgware Road Station. I shall refrain from repeating the comments made by some of my fellow passengers.

I caught my train, but no thanks to the bus driver, who was driving bus registration number LK53FBA at 16:55 yesterday afternoon.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Whoops! I spoke too soon about Chiltern Railways

Yesterday I mentioned that Chiltern Railways ran a good service. Unfortunately today (Monday 9th April 2007) Chiltern Railways are suffering a major signal failure in the Princes Risborough/ High Wycombe area.

A special emergency timetable has been put in place, details of which are shown below.

If you intend to travel with Chiltern Railways today, I recommend that you check their website for the up-to-date position. Due to engineering works over the holiday period on the West Coast Main Line from London Euston, Chiltern are supposed to be taking the strain for passengers traveling between Birmingham and London (into Marylebone), so this is not good news.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Out to the Sticks

Both yesterday and today I have had reasons to travel out to different parts of Buckinghamshire by train.

Yesterday was to the far South of the county using the services of First Great Western.
  • Number of FGW trains taken during trip: 3
  • Approximate number of minutes spent traveling on FGW trains: 52
  • Cumulative number of minutes FGW trains ran late: 14
Today was out to the area in and around Princes Risborough using the services of Chiltern Railways.
  • Number of Chiltern Railways trains taken during trip: 3
  • Approximate number of minutes spent traveling on Chiltern Railways trains: 70
  • Cumulative number of minutes Chiltern Railways trains ran late: 0
No surprises there then.

I should point out that every Central Line train I have taken this weekend has also run precisely to time as well. Mind you, with only running a train every 15 minutes out my neck of the woods due to engineering work, that shouldn't be too difficult!

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

West Ealing - Clocks

After a period of at least six months (it seems like eight or nine, but I'm in a generous mood), I am delighted to advise that first one and now BOTH platform clocks at West Ealing have been repaired.

This is good- I find a station without clocks frustrating. However, I cannot quite bring myself to congratulate First Great Western too much- after all, they are supposed to maintain the infrastructure of the stations they manage!

Refurbishment Contracts?

It will come as no surprise to many to hear that there is a massive refurbishment programme underway, at present, at many London Underground stations. I frequently travel through South Ruislip and Northolt stations at the west end of the Central Line, both of which have been receiving the Metronet treatment for a significant number of months.

As part of the refurbishments, both stations have had new waiting rooms installed. This are glass enclosures (a bit like rectangular goldfish bowls) with draught holes at the bottom, no ceilings, lockable doors, seats and infra-red heaters.

These waiting rooms/ shelters appear to have been finished for at least two months. Indeed at Northolt back in February I saw the heating belting out heat one cold day. Maybe it was for a squirrel party, or something, because the door was locked. The doors have always been locked. That is, until this week when I saw people in the waiting room at South Ruislip. Just as the cold weather seems to have gone.

I have yet to see the doors to the waiting room at Northolt actually unlocked. Perhaps by the time the temperature reaches tropical numbers in August someone will decide that toasted passengers are preferable to mildly defrosted ones.

Hmmm... I bet it's all down to the contracts.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chiltern Railways - On-line Traintracker

Chiltern Railways has engineering work today between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury. Also there are no trains for most of the day between Amersham and Aylesbury.

As the Chiltern Railways website proudly announces:

"Chiltern Railways are pleased to inform you that there are no planned engineering works occurring on the Stratford-upon-Avon/Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone via Banbury and High Wycombe line this weekend. Therefore, a normal service will run on this route this weekend.".

Someone has clearly confused the National Rail Train live system. Click the picture and check out the Timetabled departure times (and actuals) for the first few stations.

Happy April 1st? Not me Guv.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Technical Test - Moving Gifs

If it doesn't work, this post will disappear in a few minutes.

If you can see a spinning globe, then what I am trying to do has worked and this will stay for posterity!

PS Sorry for the lack of posts- I been away a bit and have got panda eyes (it being hot, sunny and still a bit white in the Alps). I'll try to write something moderately interesting shortly.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Military Hospitals

Totally off topic and politics, but a subject close to my heart.

I see from the BBC News site that US Army Secretary Francis Harvey has resigned amid a row over the treatment of wounded US soldiers. That got me thinking about our own military hospitals.

The hospital I was born at has long since closed. Even the one that replaced that closed in 1999.

A bit of judicious searching this morning has revealed that, to my surprise, the only remaining British Military Hospital in the UK is the Royal Hospital Haslar in Gosport Hampshire. It is due to close in 2009.

On every level this is wrong, wrong, wrong. Don't expect me to rationalise it, it is just wrong.

For the reasons (or some of them) please see this article from

On a lighter note, I forgot to mention that my Grandma and I went to a concert last Sunday evening. The concert was given by the The Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band from Catterick Garrison. It was just what the doctor ordered- even a deaf 90 year old could hear the music - outstanding!

So, What's Been Going On Then?

Last Saturday's post was posted 'on the hoof' from my Father's laptop while sat in my Grandmother's front room. All a bit of fun really to prove to Grandma that she was 'On The Internet'.

I needn't have bothered, because I subsequently remembered another family blog with loads of pictures. My plan was to subsequently remove the post- I then realised that that could be construed as wrong, it is however simply an example of the way that social blogging works. I have however abbreviated some specific proper names down to ensure that this remains a virtually anonymous blog.

No that isn't a challenge to 'Out' my identity (Hercule Poirot would have no difficulty in that), it is just the way I prefer things to be.

So, what have I been up to?
  • Sunday: Well, following a family birthday party in the North-East of England last Saturday, the rest of my immediate family left for home on Sunday morning. After lunch with Grandma in a local hotel we went for a ride up Swaledale and Arkengarthdale (in the hire car) stopping for a couple of minutes at the Tan Hill Inn. The Tan Hill is Britain's highest pub at 1,732ft above sea level. I know it might not seem very high to those used to continental mountains, but it really is in the middle of nowhere. Swaledale is where I come from and I get quite emotional even thinking about it. I am a country bumpkin at heart and very proud of it.
  • Monday: I was set to work digging up sundry rose bushes, followed by the digging, weeding and bonemealing of the raspberries. Honour done. After lunch we went on a monster drive of the North Yorkshire Moors taking in Saltburn on the way we went to Whitby, Goathland, Pickering, Helmsley and then back via Thirsk and Northallerton. Four hours and about 130 miles. Fantastic scenery.
  • Tuesday saw me on a lunchtime flight from Durham Tees Valley back to Heathrow, the 140 bus home and then (via the Central Line) to the London Palladium to see The Sound of Music with my parents. This is a good week!
  • Wednesday was a chill out day, though in the afternoon I went out to leafy Buckinghamshire (and also not so leafy High Wycombe) on Chiltern Railways. All will become clear in due course.
  • Thursday was a day of domestics with a quick trip to Ealing (Central Line and First Great Western) thrown in for good luck.
  • Friday was a correspondence day with a late shop thrown in (repeat of Thursday).
  • Saturday is well... now and I'm still at home.
Well if that hasn't done enough to shake off the die hard readers, I am not sure what to do next!

Pip pip!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pensioner Organises Rave at Golf Club

Late last month the authorities in North Yorkshire were alerted to potential trouble at a smart Golf Club in the Yorkshire Dales.

Mrs OS decided to comandeer the R Golf Club so that she and her friends ("The Mafia") along with some family could celebrate her 90th birthday.

Having already received well over 50 birthday cards, Mrs S was pleased and surprised to receive several more. Everyone enjoyed looking at an interesting collection of photographs complied from across the years.

Most of the attendees were so keen to attend the rioutous event that they arrived before the bar had even opened. The bar however soon opened and a good time was had by all.

Mrs S had received so many good wishes for her birthday that a thank you notice was placed in the R Advertiser. She said "I am totally surprised by the number of cards and good wishes I have received. How did so many people know it was my Birthday?"

Additional reporting by our North of England staff.

Naughty Blogger - Bad for the Environment

After the nesting birds a couple of weeks ago, the grass round our flats was cut yesterday. The trouble is, I think it has been cut every month and it is supposed to be mid winter. Global warming is not a myth.

Still winter is good, because winter (for now anyway) means skiing. I got back last Saturday from a week in the Italian Dolomites. Fantastic skiing and company, if slightly spoilt by the flight times meaning staying overnight at the hotel. Central Line (good), Victoria Line (packed), Gatwick Express (Expensive), Mono-rail to Gatwick North Terminal (Free), night in hotel followed by 4.30am check-in (tired), Astreus charter flight (32 breakfasts light but otherwise good) followed by three hour coach transfer to resort. Global warming is not a myth.

This morning I am flying Up North for some family stuff. The plane (an Embraer EMB-145) is the closest I shall ever get to being on a private jet. Still at least I got an email from BMI last week to tell me that they were taking more money from my credit card due to a tax increase. All because of that nice Mr Brown's sop to the environmental lobby, even though I bought my ticket an eon ago. Anyway the increased tax is nothing to do with the environment, it's just because he is like a mugger- he takes your money just because he can. Don't think we haven't noticed. Global warming is however not a myth.

Oops. I thinks I'm being bad at the moment. Naughty CentralUser.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Strange place to nest at South Ruislip

South Ruislip station, at the West end of the Central Line, has been going through the process known by some people as refurbishment.

Refurbishment involves the installation of various vertical poles for (among other things) platform lights, loudspeakers, Help Points and signs to be attached to.

Now, and you'll have to use your imagination here, the other day I saw a pair of blue tits attempt to start building a nest in a hole drilled in one of the lamp posts. The birds could barely fit through the hole and there cannot be much space inside.

A subsequent visit by me made me think that the birds had obviously continued their work as there was a slight lip of mud starting to protrude over the bottom of the hole.

I do hope that Metronet, the refurbishment contractors, have no plans for the hole. Somehow I don't think the 'Blue Tit Nest' was on the plans.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

No Baked Beans

Yesterday I was asked to attend a Vendor Presentation Workshop for work. It was on the other side of town and started early. I don't usually do this sort of thing so found it quite difficult. My nominated sessions were over by mid-afternoon so I was home in reasonable time, but with a stinking headache.

I have to do it all again tomorrow. Joy.

The only problem is, my solution to a stinking headache is to drink loads of water and go to bed. This I did.

Woke up at 5.30am this morning feeling quite hungry. I have nothing sensible in at all to eat for breakfast. No bread, no milk, three rashers of bacon and no baked beans. There is half a Victoria Sandwich sponge cake in the tin, but even I draw the line at eating that after no food whatsoever for eighteen hours.

I'd better go to the supermarket NOW to do some food shopping. 7.00am on a weekday morning... outrageous.

In the last week I've used Chiltern Railways out to leafy Buckinghamshire, First Great Western, the Docklands Light Railway, the Jubilee Line and the Central Line. Good for me as not a single delay or problem. Bad for blogging, hence the baked beans.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Greenford Station and the FGW line to Paddington

Greenford Station is in Travelcard Zone 4 on the West Ruislip Branch of the Central Line. It is the only station on the London Underground that has an escalator that takes passengers up from street level to the trains.

The station has a short bay platform between the two Central Line platforms, used by the 1/2 hourly (Mon - Sat) First Great Western service to and from London Paddington.

The station is operated by London Underground.

At the end of the FGW platform there are three notice boards for use by that Train Operating Company. As of yesterday (19th January 2007), one of the noticeboards had an up to date timetable, one had a notice about altered train times on 16th December 2006 and the third was a poster about engineering works between 2nd December 2006 and 1st January 2007. The departure screen for the bay platform (operated by FGW) was blank, it has been non-functioning for a while now.

Four stations down the line, at West Ealing, both platform clocks are still broken. They have been broken for several months.

A few years back I was given to understand that the FGW service to/ from Greenford was subsidised by the London Borough of Ealing. I do not know whether this is still the case, but I do struggle to see how the line can be economically viable without some kind of extra subsidy.

The lack of attention given by First Great Western to stations along the Greenford line does make me wonder whether (a) FGW management have forgotten about the service or (b) FGW are hoping the passengers will simply go away so that they don't need to run any trains.

What a sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bizarre Stopping Patterns

I've travelled a few times recently out to leafy Buckinghamshire on Chiltern Railways.

These trips have all been 'off-peak' and frequently against the flow of commuters. The services have invariably been on-time , hassle free and reasonable value for money.

I do however have a couple of observations which have niggled me recently:
  • Chiltern Railways operate the weirdest stopping patterns imaginable- most train operating companies offer services that are 'fast' or 'semi-fast' or 'slow', but with some predictability. Chiltern Railways seem to offer trains that, particularly in peak-hours, have no discernible pattern of stops- they usually stop where they say they will but seem to be entirely for the benefit of passengers boarding at London Marylebone. This particularly applies to services that terminate at or before High Wycombe.
  • Since the timetable changes early last month, it is apparent to huge numbers of commuters that Chiltern Railways have got the combinations of passenger loads, train times and train lengths totally wrong. Trains are frequently overcrowded (this was rare before December) and nobody seems to give a stuff. People on platforms, and while boarding trains, are openly discussing how their experience of the service have deteriorated over the last month. This is not good- Chiltern Railways risk plummeting down any performance league tables, which is a shame as they are usually a fairly good train company despite my occasional criticisms.
I don't have a full solution (maybe I should try to work one up), but would welcome any ideas.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Where is Platform 9 3/4 at West Ealing?

It came, it went and I didn't see it. Clearly my train had departed from Platform 9 3/4.


Well the 18:36 from West Ealing to Greenford may have been cancelled for a perfectly justifiable reason this evening. The only problem is that no-one on the platform knows for sure that it was cancelled, because the half-wits at First Great Western did not see fit to tell us.

It is not particularly cold at present, but after 40 minutes stood in quite a strong wind I was, nevertheless, chilled to the bone.

Oh, and they clocks are still broken.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two extra trains tonight from High Wycombe back to London [10 Jan 2007]

This is a direct quote from the Chiltern Railways website:

"Travelling to High Wycombe for Wycombe Wanderers vs Chelsea?

Wednesday 10th January 2006

Chiltern Railways is pleased to announce that two additional trains will run from High Wycombe back to Marylebone on the night of Wednesday 10th January. These services will depart High Wycombe station at 22:35 and 22:55 and will call at South Ruislip only, connecting with the London Underground Central line."

As I shall not be there I will not see how busy these services are. It would be good to know.

I've said (or implied) something good about Chiltern Railways... I must be building up to a rant.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Kensington High Street clearly has too many one legged people.

Sign seen in a shop window earlier today in Kensington High Street.

"All boots £10. Any two for £15".

Well... I thought it was funny.

Something about me

Apparently I've got a very experiential way of learning and a strong mathematical mind and have mastered the art and science of precision. That's what makes me a Precision Processor. For me, life is a series of equations.

My brain is naturally predisposed to intense mathematical acuity, so it's second nature for me to cut to the heart of an issue, to discover quick solutions while others get bogged down in unnecessary details. This allows me to communicate a variety of ideas to other people.

All this came about from an on-line IQ Test. The words seem fair enough to me, but I suspect that only my friends, family and colleagues will really know whether they are close to reality. I am not going to tell you my numerical score.

Christmas is officially over

Well that's it. Christmas is officially over until the next time.

How do I know? Well, it's not because the tree has gone on holiday to the attic (or mulcher), or because of Twelfth Night, or even because the card recycling boxes at the supermarket are overflowing.

No, it is because today we have the return of weekend engineering works to the Central Line.

Present indications (as of 6th January 2007) are that the following weekend engineering works are scheduled for the Central Line over the next couple of months:
  • 6th / 7th January 2007 - Marble Arch to West Ruislip/ Ealing Broadway
  • 13th / 14th January 2007 - Marble Arch to West Ruislip/ Ealing Broadway
  • 3rd / 4th February 2007 - Liverpool Street to Woodford, Leytonstone to Newbury Park
  • 10th / 11th February 2007 - Marble Arch to West Ruislip/ Ealing Broadway
As I am going in to work today, I had better set off shortly - sometimes the alternative rail replacement buses are good, sometimes they are less so.

As always, please do not use this as your official source of information. Live London Underground travel information is available on the tfl website, as is information about planned engineering works.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Great Portland Street - Customer Communications

This post relates to my personal experiences yesterday evening at specific stations on the London Underground. It is intended to be an illustration of the sort of thing that happens day in, day out, across the system. It is not a complaint about any individual or team of individuals who may or may not have been responsible.*

Station 1 (Great Portland Street)
  • Automated announcement (female voice) "A normal service is operating on all London Underground lines"
  • Recorded announcement (male voice) "Due to engineering works, Great Portland street Station will be closed after 10pm..."
  • Automated announcement (female voice) "Due to staff shortages, delays are reported between xxx and xxx on the Hammersmith & City Line"
  • Automated announcement (female voice) "A normal service is operating on all London Underground lines"
  • Westbound dot-matrix train describers "Train 1: Delayed, Train 2: Delayed"
  • Train then arrives.
Station 2 (Baker Street) Two minutes later
  • Announcement by platform staff "Delays are occurring on the Hammersmith & City and Circle Lines. Mind the doors."
Station 3 (Edgware Road) Four minutes later
  • Comment to member of station staff "Having fun tonight?"
  • Response "Allow extra time for your journey tomorrow morning, it will be worse." I will not repeat the next sentence, but it referred to a member of staff and the item within which Father Christmas often carries Christmas presents.
This morning's status on the tfl website "HAMMERSMITH & CITY LINE: Minor delays are occurring due to non-availability of staff. Message received 05:59am"

1. The automated lady at GPS was clearly being inconsistent, at best, with her status announcements.
2. Do we think that 'der management' on the H&C line may be experiencing a bit of a problem with industrial relations?

*Why the big disclaimer. Simply because I wouldn't want to upset one of my regular readers... you know who you are!

Monday, January 01, 2007

You Are 24% Cynical

Generally you give people the benefit of the doubt. But there are exceptions.
You buy into many of the things that mainstream society believes, but you're not anybody's fool.

A New Year and An Inauspicious Start to it by Network Rail

After a stormy night across the British Isles, a fantastic New Year's firework display from London (seen on the box) and a pleasant evening with friends in Abbots Langley, Network Rail have decided to scotch the best efforts of the Silverlink and Southern train operating companies at offering a good train service today, by offering a major signal failure just south of Watford Junction by way of a New Year gift. Thank you Network Rail.

I am not going to carry this on for the year, but... time lost so far in 2007 due to train delays... 60 minutes. As the song goes; "It can only get better."

Happy New Year!

Signalling problem between London Euston and Watford Junction

Time Reported: 12:18
Route Affected: London Euston - Watford Junction - Milton Keynes Central - Northampton/Rugby - Birmingham New Street/Manchester Piccadilly/Liverpool Lime Street
TOC/s Affected: Silverlink, Virgin Trains
Description: Train services between London Euston and Watford Junction are being disrupted due to a signalling problem.

Alterations and delays to services can be expected.

There is currently no estimate for a normal service to resume.
14:35 Train services are suspended again between London Euston and Watford Junction in both directions. Alterations and delays of up to 90 minutes can be expected.
Silverlink County are running two trains per hour between Hemel Hempstead and Northampton in both directions, departing Hemel Hempstead at xx:06 and xx:36, departing Northampton at xx:02 and xx:32. Silverlink County tickets are being accepted on the London Underground between London and Watford, also on Midland Mainline services between London and Wellingborough, on First Capital Connect services between London and Bedford, and on Chiltern Railways services.
Virgin Trains services are making additional calls at Tring for Silverlink County passengers travelling to/from Watford Junction.
Virgin Trains are terminating services at Watford Junction. Passengers can complete their journey to London using Silverlink Metro services. Midland Mainline are accepting Virgin Trains tickets.
14:58 Southern services between Clapham Junction and Watford Junction are now starting from/terminating at Wembley Central. Passengers can use Silverlink Metro services between Wembley Central and Watford Junction.

18:34 Train services are able to operate normally again between London Euston and Watford Junction. But residual alterations and delays of up to 90 minutes are still likely for the next 2-3 hours.
Time reported cleared: 20:29