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