Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another one bites the dust

Bumped into a fellow blogger on the way home tonight - he was working, so hope it's not too busy.

The big trains this week have been marvelously quiet. This morning my four carriages had a total of 14 people got off upon arrival at Marylebone. Not many more on the way home just now. The underground was pretty quiet as well.

I'm off to Abbots Langley now for a quiet, hopefully sedate dinner party, with bed thrown in as well. Result!

As another year bites the dust, this post marks the end of my third year of infrequent blogging - it also means that 2008 does not have the lowest number of posts. Yay!

Thank you for coming to read my meanderings, especially to those of you who take the trouble to comment.

May I wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope that 2009 brings you everything that you hope for.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And the wind down begins....

Well, the Underground was particularly quiet this morning.

My 'big train' to rural Buckinghamshire (en-route to Birmingham), mid-afternoon, was packed to the gunnels.

A very Happy Christmas to my reader.

Chiltern Railways are running to a special timetable over Christmas and New Year, with no trains whatsoever on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. A copy is available to download here (walk to your manned Chiltern station if on dial-up).

London Transport Christmas and New Year travel arrangements are still available here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I have a pet hate - people who file their nails on the train. I don't know why, but I find it revolting.

Today it went one worse - someone clipping their nails. Click.. ping.. click.. ping..


Monday, December 08, 2008

Is the competition hotting up?

Over a large number of weekends this year, mainly due to engineering works in the Rugby area, Virgin Trains have been running hourly trains from London Euston to Coventry and Birmingham International, diverted up the Chiltern Railways route through rural Buckinghamshire.

According to a Network Rail press release put out today, the engineering work is now complete. Starting from next weekend the number of trains using the West Coast Main Line will increase dramatically, with journey times seeing significant reductions.

This is of course good news for travelers who will see a significant increase in seat capacity between London, Birmingham and stations north.

Hitherto, Chiltern Railways have offered the best value (ie cheapest) easily available fare between London and Birmingham at £5 each way (obviously, subject to restrictions).

In tonight's evening papers were Virgin Trains adverts offering tickets from the same price between London Euston and Birmingham, supposedly from next Sunday which is when the new timetable starts.

What a fantastic way for Virgin to thank Chiltern for their co-operation during the weekends of the Rugby blockade (see press release of 12 June 2008).

I do admire Chiltern Railways, but I've just checked with Virgin and it is possible to get a weekday mid-morning booking next month, from Euston for the promised £5 and the journey is scheduled to be as quick as 1hr 22 min.

Chiltern would appear to have some stiff competition!

Christmas & New Year Travel Guide for London

Transport for London (aka tfl) have today published a Travel Guide to getting around London over Christmas and New year.

It weighs in at a hefty 2Mb and is in pdf format. For now the guide is available here, but if they move or change the file name, please let me know.

A summary is:
  • Christmas Eve 2008: Most stuff finishes early
  • Christmas Day 2008: London stops
  • Boxing Day 2008: London starts to get going again, except for the Jubilee Line (no service Friday, Saturday or Sunday), the Metropolitan Line (no service) and the Waterloo & City Line. There are also other station closures on the Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Northern Lines.
  • There are also pages and pages of guidance should you be in London on New Year's Eve.

It isn't possible to summarise here all the travel changes detailed in a 25 page guide, so I recommend you obtain a copy if you intend to travel in London over the holiday period.

I note that there is no mention of a corporate sponsor for the free late night travel arrangements on 31st December. The economy really must be in a bad way.

Edit: 2 January 2009. Tfl have removed the guide from their website. At present I do not have any suitably anonymous webspace to host the document. If you can host, please let me know - if you want a copy emailed to you, please let me know. Thank you.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I went to Banbury today, by train, using the ever efficient services of Chiltern Railways. One of the trains was too short (no room to swing a cat), but it was a bit parky outside- huddling together helps one to keep warm

Where was I? Oh yes - Banbury.

Woolworths, to be precise. The sadly soon to be gone, in Administration, up to 50% off sale shop that holds a strangely nostalgic piece of most peoples' hearts.

I spent a grand total of £15.56 and did pick up several bargains. The best of which was a ice cream scoop, for which I paid the princely sum of 40 pence.

The item comes with a 5 year guarantee which states;
"This item is guaranteed for 5 years from the date of purchase. It will be replaced with the same or similar item, if there is a defect due to faulty materials or workmanship, during that period. The guarantee does not cover defect occurring due to abuse. This does not affect your statutory rights. In the unlikely event that a fault should occur, to claim under this guarantee return this item to your nearest Woolworths store, together with the purchase receipt."
May I be so bold as to state that this particular guarantee is probably not worth the paper it is printed on?

Oh, and they didn't have any carrier bags, so my haul of goodies was transported home in a marvelous black bin bag.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A new world record

What? Two hours and thirty eight minutes - that's what....

The length of time it took this morning from walking out of my front door to arriving at my desk.

That is a long long time for a commute. Indeed a world record for me. To say I was a little jaded upon arrival would be an understatement.

There was a fatality at about 5.10am this morning, on the railway near High Wycombe station. The police took some time to release the line back to the railways, so the line was closed until about 7.40 am. Understandably, it then took Chiltern Railways some time to get trains running in any sort of order.

I managed to grab a lift to Great Missenden and traveled to Marylebone on the Aylesbury via Amersham line.

It would seem that a lot of people gave up, because the trains home this evening were very quiet.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Compare and Contrast

After the shambles of Saturday evening, a decent video of Tangmere passing through my local Buckinghamshire station has now been sourced.

Note the still red signal on the Northbound platform, showing how close the photographers came to having their views blocked by a Chiltern Railways service, along with the carefully positioned yappy dog - aimed at preventing any commercial sales of video footage.

It was a very strange experience (but somehow rather pleasant) to be shrouded in the swirling mass of steam lingering after the passage of the locomotive.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My camera skills are getting worse

Actually, not only are my camera skills going downhill, but things have got so bad that tonight I couldn't even remember how to use my Digital SLR.

So, I proudly present an incredibly lousy video of a steam train traveling down the Chiltern Line a few minutes ago:

Why is it truncated? Because the memory card on the spare camera was full and I didn't know!

The funny thing was when a northbound Chiltern Railways Clubman stopped at a red signal on the Northbound platform just before the steam train was due. You had to smile at the sight of all the real enthusiasts really panicking as their carefully framed photographic angles were suddenly blocked. Cruel.

Autumn Pruning

I've had a really good sort out of my Blogroll.

Should you really want to, the entry called 'My Bloglines List' may give you a wider view of my interests.

Two to specifically note:
All dead or deleted blogs have been culled.

Work, sleep or blog?

To put it mildly, work is interesting at present. Very early starts, later than usual finishes and projects that have nothing to do with my usual job. All in some way connected to the unprecedented happenings in the financial services industry over the last few months.

My use of public transport has not diminished - the only problem is that I am generally dashing from A to B to C and using the down time to think, and plan how to move forward with the various projects. Usually such in-depth use of brain power isn't required. It's great fun, but something has to give.

Decent sleep is a necessity, I need to keep my job (and I enjoy it), so blogging has slipped down the to do list recently. Sorry.

The one thing I would say is that the Jubilee Line is beginning to seriously hack me off. The other day I was traveling from the West End to Canary Wharf when I had to get off the train somewhere South of The River to join a conference call, simply because the 'Good Service' Jubilee Line was actually crap. That is just one example.

Also it has been mentioned elsewhere that changing lines at Bank is not as bad or inconvenient as tfl would imply (though there are definite issues if you want to interchange at Bank Station with the District/ Circle Line platforms. On Thursday I was so hacked off with the silver line that I decided to use the DLR for the first time in months, it was mid afternoon. The interchange was so good (two upwards escalators from the DLR platforms towards the Central Line), that I shall certainly be traveling back to the West End that way for the foreseeable future.

If you have the willpower, please read Diamond Geezer's excellent 'transforming the truth' article.

Now some sleep...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So, how was the Crystal Ball?

OK, here are the results of yesterday's informal predictions:

A number of people DID turn up for this morning's first train, not realising that a replacement bus had gone a few minutes before.

1 - 0

There were issues with rolling stock, as I thought there would be. I know of at least one early train that was cancelled.

2 - 0

My 'Fast' train (a) turned up on time and (b) still had the extra carriage glued to the back. It also had plenty of seats spare. The train did stop at a couple of extra stations en-route, presumably because of the aforementioned cancellation. Fifteen minutes late into Marylebone, but that wasn't really a surprise.

2 - 1

Tonight's train(s) home had loads of spare seats and one was also longer than usual.

Now we just have to hope that the engineering work at Aylesury is completed on time tomorrow night.

Another day beckons...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aylesbury Parkway Signalling Works

Should you be using Chiltern Railways over the next couple of days, please be aware that there are major engineering works in the Aylesbury area between now and end of traffic on Thursday. As their main depot is in Aylesbury there will no doubt be the odd issue or two with rolling stock and anyone travelling to or from Aylesbury will end up on a rail replacement coach to/ from Wendover or Princes Risborough.

One thing that I do know is that some regulars will get caught out tomorrow morning, as the very first train of the day on Wednesday 19th November will be replaced by a coach between Aylesbury and High Wycombe. Having discovered this earlier today I contacted two people who usually catch the first train, neither of whom were aware of the revised arrangements for tomorrow. Oh well, that's my good deed for the day.

Full details available (for now) here.

Like children in a sweetie shop

Just recently I have taken to catching an early Chiltern Railways train that is non-stop to London Marylebone.

It is the first train of the day that has come any great distance and usually has three carriages. On Monday you are indeed fortunate to get a seat, by the time it gets to Friday you are unlucky if you don't get one.

So, this morning our little commuter club was standing by the designated spot on the platform - you know, the one precisely where your door opens without having to move unnecessarily to board. We had been chatting about this and that and simply commented, as the first two carriages chugged past that there were a few seats free today.

Suddenly, to our consternation, we realised as the train stopped that we were not stood at the rear most door of the last carriage. An extra carriage had been tacked onto the back of the train (not literally, but you know what I mean). So en-masse our band of happy foot soldiers traipsed along the platform, boarded the extra carriage and marvelled at the incredible choice of seats available to use.

We were indeed like children in a sweetie shop... choices, choices, choices.

I have never known a train at that unearthly hour to be anything other than three carriages long. It will probably never happen again, but one can but hope.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Driving to the Cinema

I can go by train to the cinema or I can drive. I could walk (though it's nearly five miles), I could go by bike (if I owned one) or I could go by bus if I was willing to wait a couple of days.

So last night I decided to drive. It had been raining fairly heavily for quite a while but, nevertheless, I was still surprised to see water fountaining up into the air out of some drains along the main road. It was a sign of how much water was running down from the hills. It was certainly an interesting drive back home later, with some stretches of road having considerable amounts of water standing on them.

I was quite pleased I didn't go by train - when I go to the cinema I like to see the credits through to the end. If I had done that last night I would have missed a train and would not then have got home until the last train. Too late, even though it wasn't a school night.

Timing shouldn't have been a problem - in my head I allow 10 minutes to walk from the station to the cinema, 20 minutes for the adverts/ trailers, add on the full film length and then a further 10 minutes back to the station. Unfortunately last night's film had 30 minutes of adverts and trailers - that 10 minutes extra would have been the reason for a missed train.

I thought there was an advertising downturn at present?

By the way, the film was 'Quantum of Solace'. If you have been hiding under a rock, it's the new James Bond film. James Bond has been with me all my life and I couldn't not see one of the new films. Bond = Big Money = Adverts.

This is not a film review blog, so I shall keep my observations short. QoS is dark, action packed and humourless. I understand that it is also the shortest Bond film to date. I enjoyed it, though thinking back, I think I most enjoyed the adrenalin packed aspects of the film as some of the story lines were confusing enough to just wash over me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'd be better off keeping On Topic

Yesterday morning I suggested that the M40 may have reopended following an accident.

That information was incorrect - I've just heard on LBC that following two early accidents, the road didn't properly re-open until almost 9 o'clock last night. Sorry if I misled - the good news is that nobody reached my pearls of un-wisdom by searching directly for news on the incident(s).

There is still quite a bit of snow hanging around, but I've only seen it in the dark. Three train companies used yesterday (Chiltern, First Capital Connect and East Midlands Trains), hopefully, just the one today.

Mind you I got suckered into one of those wretched paper Travelcard surveys this week.... Joy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sleepy Head

I mentioned a few days ago that, at present, I am starting my days a bit earlier than usual.

Well, my chickens came home to roost last night.

Having got on the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf, I had been completing a puzzle in my newspaper when... I woke up just as the train was pulling out of Baker Street.

This meant I had to get off at the next station, travel back south again, get to Marylebone (by which time my train had long gone) and then wait.

Those few seconds of extra relaxation meant that my journey home last night was extended to over two hours. Damn.

Crunchy Morning

I think a lot of people are going to have a testing commute today.

A short while ago the M40 was closed in both directions between Junctions 4 & 6 following an accident. I think the motorway itself is now open, with some of the slip roads still closed. Visit the Traffic England website for more.

Meanwhile, the station car park and platforms are covered in a thin layer of snow that has frozen into a solid mass of ice. From what I can see of rural Buckinghamshire this morning (there's a faint glow in the sky), it will be picturesque this morning, but I'll be long gone before it is light enough to take a picture.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Golf Mike Tango

Should you be reading this in the UK, I take this opportunity to remind you that our clocks moved one hour back in the early hours of this morning. We are now back on Greenwich Mean Time until 1.00 am on Sunday 29 March 2009, when the clocks will go forward again.

When I was young different parts of Europe changed their clocks at different times but, according to BERR, an EU Directive now steers the various Member States towards harmonious timing (even though the UK and Ireland are an hour different anyway).

Two things:
  1. "BERR"? I dread to think how much money this country could save by doing away with the government department that thinks up new names for government departments and
  2. "Member States"? These two words just wind me up - we are a sovereign state, but why can't we just be a Country?
Thank you to London Stuff (currently in Thailand) for feedback on yesterday's picture.

My recollection is that the Greek origins of the word 'photography' may be paraphrased as "Drawing with light".

I've added a further picture below- today's is but a few minutes old. It is currently raining with some considerable persistence and the temperature is 15 degrees warmer than yesterday morning. It is a cruddy photograph that is published just to highlight the importance of the word light in the phrase "Drawing with Light".

BTW, technically yesterday's lunch was free though I did buy a round of drinks. It was enjoyable, though Watford lost 2 - 3. I hope the weather clears up for the rugby this afternoon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Free Lunch

Have you ever heard of the phrase "There's no such thing as a free lunch"?

Well, time will tell, but I may have found me one today.

There is only one problem in that it involves me going to a footall match.

Now, as I don't do football, I am being a bit of a hypocrite in accepting the invitation, but the person who has invited me knows me well and is a good friend. And I like food.

I'll let you know whether it really is a free lunch.

The next conundrum is how do I get there? I usually drive, but if I am on a freebie in a paid-for box, I quite fancy a drink or two. That means doing battle with several Chiltern Railways trains and the Metropolitan Line. I've even found my empty Oystercard so that I don't have to pay silly cash fares for the last bit of the journey to Watford.

I think I'll drive tomorrow for the rugby and go by train today.

Get up... get out... it's a lovely Autumn day here in rural Buckinghamshire. I've just taken this picture shown at the top of this post from the bedroom, especially for you! Enjoy.

Stupid O'Clock

For the last couple of weeks I've been spending most days at Canary Wharf.

To retain any sense of sanity this means that I tend to travel in to London earlier than I normally would, which entails me setting my alarm for stupid o'clock.

Many years ago, before it got extended, I used to commute along the Jubilee Line from Stanmore to Green Park. It was then a pretty short line and Canary Wharf was but a twinkle in the property developer's eye. The journey was generally pretty good.

Moving forward a couple of decades, the Jubilee Line is twice as long, twice as stuffed and generally unpleasant during peak hours.

I try to be at Baker Street by 7.30 am (which means me being out of the door not long after 6.00 am). At the other end of the day I try to leave work a little early so that I am home around 6.00 pm.

Because I am doing a job and a half for a little while, I then usually spend part of the evening sorting out the accumulated electronic detritus otherwise known as my In-Box.

This all means that by the time it gets to Friday night I am knackered. So, last night I went to bed reasonably early, set my alarm for 8.00 am (no point wasting the day) and managed to get to sleep quite quickly.

What time did I wake up this morning? Grrrrr..... you guessed it..... Stupid O'bloody Clock.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This picture is only a week late...

Another new (or rather a replacement) station opened on 5th October 2008. I do think the new Shepherds Bush station on the Central Line is quite impressive.

Downstairs is fairly bright (on Sunday it smelt of damp plaster) and upstairs is so totally different to the old station, it really is quite incredible. It is amazing what can be done in quick order- retail money obviously talks.

My visit to the station was mid-morning on Sunday. All was quiet and there was a fantastic blue sky.

Just one negative comment - because the sun was shining directly in to the ticket barriers, it was impossible to see which ones were 'way out' and which were 'way in'.

I have a cunning plan to solve, but need to do some more digging before I launch it on you!

The biggest surprise is that while there is a small entrance onto the Shepherds Bush Green aspect, the whole look and feel of the upstairs has been rotated 90 degrees - it is an integral part of the new transport hub. Mind you, there is absolutely no encouragement for visitors to go anywhere but into the new Westfield Shopping Centre, which opens at the end of the month.

Wood Lane - I think I did it?

Goodness me. Purely by accident, I think I took a photograph of the new Wood Lane station on the Hammersmith & City Line, on the day it opened. I know it's a bad picture, but nevertheless I am happy that I accidentally got the picture on opening day.

Today's tfl press release simply confirms that the station is open - not that it actually opened on Sunday.

Another picture of somewhere else coming up soon... I bet you can't wait!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Running Trains to Time

Certain European countries have longstanding reputations for railway systems that always run to time. Switzerland is the obvious one, though Germany also springs to mind in the regard.

Talk to anyone who has traveled on German Trains regularly and they will tell you that they achieve their punctuality by way of the simple mechanism of building in lots of spare time to the timetable. This means that if a train has actually traveled between two major stations at its optimum speed, there will usually be wait of several minutes before the journey continues.

A similar system now operates on many of our lines in the UK - London bound South West Trains trains frequently wait at Basingstoke, off-peak, to enable the timetable to catch up. Similarly during a recent journey from Edinburgh to London on a Sunday, there was a fair bit of waiting at major stations.

Chiltern Railways, so far as I can tell, automatically build in an extra three minutes leeway to all their final destination arrival times. That is on top of the magic leaf-fall timetable currently in operation.

I've just spotted the most blatant attempt so far for trying to make sure that a train reaches its destination without being late:

Most long distance Chiltern Railways services from London Marylebone terminate in Birmingham at Birmingham Snow Hill station. It takes about three minutes to travel in a tunnel under Birmingham city centre from the preceding station, Birmingham Moor Street.

There is, as a type, a train running towards Birmingham. It left London Paddington on time (diverted due to engineering works) and is currently running just over 20 minutes late. Trains that are 10 minutes or more late show in red on the National Rail Live Departures boards.

If you look at the current journey board for the train, you will note that rather than being timetabled to take 3 minutes (or six, or nine) between the last two stations on the journey, a total of fourteen minutes have been built into the timetable. It's magic - all of a sudden a 'Red' journey turns into a 'Blue' journey and the bean counters are kept happy.

What a con!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Back to Basics

Sometimes I think back to the inane ramblings that I used to post here - generally about the intricacies of my public transport travels around London. I still ramble inanely, but less frequently.

The reason for the reduced frequency of such posts is because I now tend to leave London pretty sharpish in the late afternoon and not return until the next weekday.

Anyhow here is a sample of tube journeys I've taken over the last week or so:

Northern Line: Warren Street to Tottenham Court Road (twice). No delays, no problems, probably only marginally quicker than walking. Also TCR to Waterloo, same again.

Metropolitan Line: Great Portland Street to Baker Street (twice-ish). Ditto.

Jubilee Line: Several trips out to Canary Wharf and back. Two from Baker Street and one from Waterloo (ex Northern). No delays, no problems, definitely not quicker than walking.

Central Line: South Ruislip to Northolt and back. Nothing startling there - over the years every bump in the track between those two stations has become imprinted on my mind.

As you can see, other than going out to Canary Wharf, no tube trip was for longer than two stops and everyone of them was walkable. Tube avoidance is obviously still doing OK and I think I've lost an inch or two from around my waist. Too boring to turn into a blog post really

Coming soon... buses along the Marylebone Road.

I can't see a publisher knocking on my door any time soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

DLR services Monday 29 September

TFL have been pretty quick to put out a press release this morning to say that there are unlikely to be any Docklands Light Railway Services between Bank and Canary Wharf during today's morning rush hour. This is due to over-running engineering works in the Westferry area.

Fortunately my plans to travel from the West End today to Docklands were to go via Waterloo. (a) I prefer to and (b) that's what we are encouraged to do, because of ongoing escalator works at Bank station.

Well done TFL for the prompt advice. Less well done for the works over-running in the first place.

NB: Usual disclaimer - this is not a live site. Click here for current position.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Knife Arch in the Country

Friday evening, Princes Risborough station - What's this? A knife arch and lots of police (well, four) stood around.

Obviously not fitting the right profile, I just wandered into town to do some late night shopping, without having to be analysed, probed, questioned or otherwise delayed.

Once I got to Tesco, another surprise. In the side car park was a huge police lorry belonging to the Thames Valley Police 'Mounted Section'. What? Police horses and a knife arch. What was happening to this backyard of relative rural tranquility?

Well, it transpires that two things had caused are local boys and girls in blue to get a bit twitchy and to bolster the local police cloak of invisibility with a year's worth of resources:

  • On the previous Saturday night, according to the Bucks Free Press, there was a mini-riot with a fight erupting at a private party on the north side of the town. Apparently there were worries that some of those involved might return to continue their misdemeanours on Friday. On the night in question I had been enjoying a meal in a local pub with a friend and we had noticed a number of police cars haring up the road from High Wycombe toward Princes Risborough. As we live in such a quiet relatively crime-free backwater, we had just assumed that there had been a road traffic accident somewhere.
  • Trouble makers from the Thame Show were expected to come into town and cause a bit of bother. A quick bit of research into this theory would suggest that it can quickly be discounted as the Thame Show is a one day show that finished the day before.

When I returned to the station, the number of police had increased to 9 or 10. It transpired however that, as it was getting a bit late for them (it was nearly ten o'clock), they needed to work out how to remove the aforementioned knife arch and return the train station to its usual state of late night desolation. I can't say for how long the police horses stood in the Tesco car park, munching their hay.

As an interesting aside, a local commented to me yesterday that he hoped that Risborough 'wasn't going to go back to how it was in the 1970s'. Apparently Princes Risborough was a regular hot-spot for Mods & Rockers who would travel on trains to the town, half way between High Wycombe and Aylesbury, to fight. I am unable to confirm this by means of a link to some obscure corner of the internet, as I usually would.

How the world has moved on - Princes Risborough has, I think, changed little over the years whereas the population mix of the two larger neighboring towns has changed dramatically over the last three decades.

As if I hadn't already had enough excitement for one evening, a broken down train on the Risborough to Aylesbury single track line had caused some delays to Chiltern Ralways' services, so I was almost 30 minutes later than expected in getting home.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Anonymous Blogs - Is the writing on the wall?

Apparently the European Union is currently investigating whether to force all bloggers to register their real identities, with a photograph.

Now, I know of many bloggers who would simply stop blogging if they were no longer anonymous. I choose to be anonymous, simply because it suits the style of writing that I seek to achieve.

Personally I think it would be a shame to impose public profiles on people - it would certainly make the Blogosphere a less interesting place.

Thanks to Monday Books for pointing me in the direction of this.

Do please buy some books from them - it might be a bit cheaper to go via Amazon, but Monday Books always post via first class post, don't charge postage and are really nice people to deal with. When I look at the sort of books they publish, it makes me realise how valuable some of our small independent publishers really are.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

DIY Sauna

Late Monday afternoon. Wandered down to Marble Arch to catch a train out to Stratford.

La la la... through the ticket barrier. La la la... down the escalator. La la la... along the passage way and down the stairs. La la la onto the platform.


It was as though I had walked into a brick wall. It felt really hot. It wasn't particularly hot outside, or anywhere elso on the station, just on the platforms. I acclimatised fairly quickly, but the contrast in air temperatures over the space of a few feet was incredible.

I seem to recall that the Evening Standard ran some articles a few years ago about the differences in ambient air temperatures on different London Underground lines - my recollection is that the Central Line was the warmest because of the type of braking system that the trains use.

Anyhow, if my experience of this week is anything to go by... Need a sauna? Don't spend big bucks on a fitness club or gymn. Don't fly off to Scandinavia to experience the real deal. Just buy an Oystercard and check out the platforms at Marble Arch. Delightful.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I say it as I see it

In some circles, National Express East Coast ("NXEC") has a pretty bad press.

NXEC operates a high speed train service up the east side of the UK from London Kings Cross to Scotland, with an offshoot to Leeds.

Over the weekend I've traveled by train on NXEC from London to Edinburgh and back.
  • On Friday we were six minutes late into Edinburgh, while last night we were seven minutes early back into London.
  • The trains were full, but the vast majority of seats were reserved. It was after all the busiest weekend of the year in Edinburgh, so no surprise there.
  • The trains were clean and tidy and each had 'litter pickers' walking up and down the train clearing away rubbish.
  • There were no grumpy staff - everyone seemed professional, polite and well organised.
  • Between Newcastle and Edinburgh there is some stunning scenery, though I will say that only a tiny proportion of passengers paid the slightest attention to the views. You also get a true feeling of the scale of Durham Cathedral when pulling in and out of that North-Eastern city.
All in all, a positive experience.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fast Ticket Machines out of use due to a recent spate of thefts

There is a gang (presumably) of thieves targeting the Chiltern Railways ticket machines in rural Buckinghamshire.

The news announcement about the extent of the problem is here.

All rather troublesome really (a) because this part of the country is generally pretty low on crime and (b) it's a huge inconvenience to passengers and the railway company. I hope they catch the buggers, else what's to stop them doing it again when the machines are fixed?

The queue for tickets was out of the door at Princes Risborough this morning - it'll be chaos there next Tuesday morning after the bank holiday weekend.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy...

I've had good value out of my Chiltern Railways season ticket today.

Trip (1) was an early morning visit to Northolt to get my hair cut. I wonder just how long I am going to keep commuting for that? My dentist is still there as well. A couple of one stop trips on the Central Line (I don't use it that much any more) and I even bumped into my boss on the train at South Ruislip on the way home. Not a total surprise as I did know he was tee-ing off at Ruislip this morning - he did look a bit more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than I was feeling.

Trips (2) & (3) (a couple of shopping trips) then followed - there still seem to be lots of photographers out and about stalking the Virgin Trains. Oh and lots of people wearing Arsenal shirts on their way to the 12.45 kick-off against West Bromwich Albion. Apparently the trains from Birmingham were packed for that.

I'm off down to Hampshire now for the rest of the weekend, to get rained on (I think). Enjoy yours.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Replacement Trains... Again

Today there have been further engineering works on the West Coast Main Line, meaning that trains from London Euston cannot get past Rugby. Virgin Trains have once again been running an hourly service to and from Coventry by means of a maze like route through West London and then up along the Chiltern Railways routes. Further to my previous post, I've found this blog post which has marked the london end of the diversion route on a map.

Chiltern Railways (which services include trains from Birmingham to London Marylebone) have been running as many seven carriage trains as they can muster on their long distance route and they have been pretty busy.

London Marylebone is one of the smallest London terminus stations and it is feeling a little crowded at times. It also sits on just one underground line (the Bakerloo) with quite lengthy escalators to and from the platforms.

This morning the down escalator was broken down. What with it being peak holiday season and the large number of extra people using the station, there were a lot of people struggling down the very long central stairway with quite heavy bags and cases. I hope they get the escalator fixed soon.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

You Get Less for Murder

I knew it was coming, but I'd forgotten all about it.

There I was yesterday, at work minding my own business, when my boss walked up to me and said "Congratulations".

"For what?" (I didn't actually say that, because I knew.)

Twenty Five years working for the same company, that's what. I started off as a spotty 18 year old working up in Yorkshire, two weeks out of school. You can do the maths yourself, but here I am 25 years later working in the heart of the West End and, by and large, still enjoying it.

Over the years, the jobs, the company, technology and customer expectations have all changed dramatically.

The job security and satisfaction has enabled me to do lots, to see lots and to generally be happy.

I have traveled extensively abroad, around the UK and around London. I now don't quite live at the western extremities of the Central Line, but I do see it every day.

The company is actually very generous on these sorts of occasions: As well as the desk ornament thingy (pictured, but with the company branding smudged out), I also received a commemorative framed certificate, a bottle of champagne, a large box of posh chocolates plus a choice of really quite smart gifts from a rather natty catalogue. I was (and am) actually quite chuffed.

The actual anniversary was today - I wonder what I'll be doing in another 10 or 15 years?

BTW, congratulations SS on the 20.

CU later.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Clever Branding

Whenever I have family round, which I did on Sunday, I always buy a carton of Innocent Fruit Smoothie. It's for the kids, but not really.

The drinks are yummy, though not cheap. The cartons are very clever - they are witty, often carry jokey comments and give the impression of beguiling innocence.

Of course I don't expect the folk at "Fruit Towers" (I kid you not) to be all folksey and sucking on straw. I suspect that, to the contrary there are some very clever minds, outsourced product suppliers and a not insignificant marketing budget.

As I was squashing down the empty carton just now, I noticed that the latest bright idea is to print a secret code on the side . Entering that code on a website means that a tree is then planted on your behalf. It's all jolly clever - if over time the 'tree count' below changes, it will show that the Innocent people have mastered technology as well as making yummy drinks (and probably lots of money as well).

A superb example of successful branding.

Fruit Towers is actually in Shepherds Bush in West London- still at least they are nearer to Goldhawk Road station (Hammersmith and City Line) than to the currently closed Shepherds Bush Central Line station at the far end of Shepherds Bush Green.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's warm down there

Yesterday afternoon the Bakerloo Line had 'minor' delays due to signalling problems at Queens Park. This morning (as at 06:30) the problems have moved down the line a bit to Baker Street.

You can check the departure boards for Baker Street here, to gauge whether things have got any better by the time you read this.

What I can say is that it is going to be jolly uncomfortable down there today. Today's weather is forecast to be hot and sunny, a little warmer than yesterday. I know that the British definition of hot is not the same as in some other parts of the world, but nevertheless I can vouch for the fact that the Bakerloo Line was sweltering yesterday. It is likely to be just as bad today.

It is probably a good idea to heed the official advice - carry a bottle of water with you. I'm still tending towards tube avoidance, so walking today will probably raise my temperature just as much as entering the underground furnace.

Be careful out there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Voyeurism in Reverse

One of the things that I find fascinating about this blog is the nature of the vistors to it and, particularly, how they get here and whereabouts they are.

I had a first this morning - a vistor from Zimbabwe. Specifically their ISP is said to be located in "Mashonaland Central", which apparently is in the North of the country. Whoever you are/ were: Welcome!

Given the current problems in Zimbabwe and the tight control over many aspects of the media, I suspect that one has to take some news items with a pinch of salt. However a quick skim through the headlines of a Google News Search shows the dreadful state that the people are in. Can you imagine living somewhere where you are sentenced to 6 months in prison for organising a political meeting?

What is reassuring is that this morning's vistor was 'normal' enough to be visiting the most popular post on this blog. Quite why an innocuous article about steam trains should be read so much is quite beyond me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Using the phone when on a train

Would all users of mobile phones please note the following:
  • Rule 1. All mobile phones are fitted with very sensitive microphones. If you cannot hear the person on the other end, shouting will not make any difference. Do Not Shout.
  • Rule 2. Some trains on the National Rail network have 'Quiet Zones'. If you sit in one of these areas, it really is quite simple. Turn your phone off if you are sitting in a designated Quiet Zone. The world is not going to stop spinning on its axis if you are temporarily unable to make or receive calls. The alternatives are to (a) sit somewhere else or (b) stand by the doors, but always remember Rule 1.
  • Rule 3. Mobile phones do not work in tunnels, unless very short.If you are traveling on the London Underground this will generally be a concept with which you are familiar. If you are on the phone and you lose your signal while it has 'suddenly' gone dark outside, you have probably gone into a tunnel. Do not try to use your phone in a tunnel. Banging your phone sharply on a hard surface or shouting "Hello, Hello, Hello" into the phone will not, by itself, alter the fact that you are now de facto in a Mobile Free Zone. Should you already have been breaking Rule 1 or Rule 2, your fellow passengars will each be breathing a sigh of relief at this stage.
  • Rule 4. Swearing is not clever, nor is it a sign of intelligence. Swearing in public demonstrates an absolute lack of consideration for others and many find it offensive. Do not swear in public. With very few exceptions, the amount a person swears is inversely proportional to their IQ. Unfortunately anyone who breaks this rule probably doesn't even understand Rule 1, Rule 2 or Rule 3.
  • Rule 5. If you are unable to comply with Rule 1, Rule 2, Rule 3 or Rule 4, then please walk.
Please note that the events leading to the publishing of these rules are not fictitious. Any similarity to real life events, or references to the behaviour of any person living or dead, is totally none-coincidental and probably deliberate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Toilet Talk

The new gents toilets at Marylebone Station have opened.

I think they opened a few days ago, but I only found them this morning.

The new facilities are slightly further away from the centre of the concourse than was previously the case, though presumably this means that the ladies will be much enlarged once the refurbishment is complete. They can be found just past the Etsu Cafe and opposite the cheese shop.

The highlight? A row of Dyson Airblade hand dryers.

Oh, the things that make me happy....

Later: Less than 90 minutes after publishing this post, my blog had a visit from the people at Dyson. It's probably a good thing I didn't say anything bad!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Birthdays all round

It's a popular week for birthdays:
  • Tuesday: Station Supervisor
  • Wednesday: Central User
  • Friday: Ian P (who I first met on the way to Venezuela in 1997 and who hosted a reunion for us on the south coast at the weekend). Thank you.
  • Sunday: Julie P (wife of Ian) who was super-organised and a great hostess. Julie had two Grandchildren when we arrived and three when we left, so there were plenty of distractions.
Happy Birthday to the three who aren't me.

In terms of the weekend, I went by car. The best I could manage on public transport was this ferry, which has to be the least formal mode of public transport I have been on in the UK. Happy days.

Oh, and we did drop one of our party off at Chichester station to travel back to Yorkshire by train. I cannot speak for the whole journey, but the Southern train to Victoria departed spot on time.

The ripple effect

There has been a building on fire this morning in South Molton Street, close to Bond Street tube station. The fire was reported in the early hours and was under control by 05.54am.

This means that Bond Street station is closed at present and neither the Central Line nor the Bakerloo Line are stopping.

The closure* will lead to elongated routes for many (Bond Street is a surprisingly busy station) - journeys out to Canary Wharf are particularly painful anyway for those changing from the Central Line, due to ongoing interchange difficulties at Bank.

*As always, I should point out that this blog is not a 'live travel service'. I recommend you use alternative sources of data for up-to-date information.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chiltern Railways Timetable - It Does What It Says On The Tin

I can tell that quite a few people reach this blog looking for public transport information.

Sometimes it's weird and wonderful routes (often repeated) and sometimes, like many people, I think 'How did Google dish that one up?'.

Anyhow, a recurring theme is the Chiltern Railways timetable. Chiltern Railways run from London Marylebone to High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury (and other stations in Buckinghamshire), Birmingham and Stratford-Upon Avon, to name but a few.

Rather than host the document myself, here is a link to Chiltern Railways' timetable page. The full timetable is a pdf at the foot of the page, but there are other options dotted around.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Damn - I've Been Rumbled

I really am a silly sod!

A few days ago I'd sort of made an informal commitment to pop in to say hello to the Station Supervisor on my way home from work. It would have been sensible to have blogged about a thing or two during the last few but no... muggins here walked straight into it...

SS was very pleasant about it. Paraphrasing slightly, I think the the comment was along the lines of "Yeah, I'd noticed you hadn't been posting so much". Ouch.

London Underground Life has just passed the 100,000 hit mark, against my paltry nearly 10,000 hits. Congratulations on this significant milestone.

There is of course one major reason for the difference in blog traffic and that is content. Content is King.

If The Sun or The Mirror decided they occasionally couldn't be bothered to print a newspaper, they would over time lose their readers. It's the same for a blog - if you don't type, regular readers wither and disappear. Write regularly, and about things that people are interested in or can relate to, then repeat visitors and referrals grow exponentially.

So John, first of all thank you for offering to meet up. It was good to say hello to you and your colleague. Secondly, thank you for your kind comments. Thirdly, now that my (pc) problems appear to be out of the way, I shall endeavour to try a bit harder!

Why has this post got a logo? 'Cos that's what it looked like to me!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

So what's going on here then?

I thought my eyes were deceiving me earlier today.

There I was, stood on the platform at Princes Risborough, when a Virgin Super Voyager train whizzed through. Eh? Has Chiltern Railways had an upgrade? There have since been loads more or these trains go through, so I thought I'd best find out what is going on.

Apparently the West Coast main line is closed at Rugby and a 'freight only' line somewhere in North West London is being used to get trains from Euston onto the Chiltern Railways lines.

Later: I've also just found a more recent Virgin Trains press release. Oh - And you can tell that I know nothing about trains. Until corrected, this post had the wrong sort of train (and wrong picture). Oops.

And a few grey hairs later

Sorry about the break.

The last month has seen me remember far more about the workings of my PC than I knew I'd forgotten.

The purchase of a Memory Stick and an external Firewire enabled hard drive have meant that the only data I seem to have lost has been my Outlook information (everything). No photos lost, no music lost, MS Money file protected. All in all lucky, lucky, lucky.

Oh, and the Bar Stewards at Adobe won't reissue my Dreamweaver activation code despite having the CD and access to my original on-line invoice. Gits.

So, one completely re-formatted hard drive later and I'm gradually getting back to normal.


I'd better go and cut the grass now. Chanting as I go ..... "Back up your data, back up your data, back up your d...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Houston - We have a problem

My home PC has gone the way of the Dodo, so I'll be back when I can.

A boffin at work is sorting me a bootable Linux disk which may enable me to recover files etc before contemplating serious action. No point worrying - just hope I can get my MS Money file back.

Ho hum.

No tubes or trains till Tuesday. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back on topic

I've hardly mentioned the Central Line recently, so to totally get back on topic why not have a look at this song.. it made me smile:

Tube Avoidance - Progress Report

Since a particular post last month, I have managed to significantly reduce my usage of deep-level tube lines. This isn't because I dislike traveling on the Underground (far from it), it is simply to avoid becoming over anxious.

My alternative journey between work and London Marylebone involves a walk from Soho up to Great Portland Street, followed by a bus or sometimes one stop on the tube along to Baker Street.

Morning journeys via this route ('door to door') take about the same time as my old route. Evening journeys take about five minutes longer than was previously the case, but I feel a lot better for it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Unsung Heroes

Rotary is a worldwide organisation, with widely different levels of understanding and standing in the communities in which it operates.

In Cornwall, the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard runs a scheme called Shelterbox which aims to provide urgent relief around the globe when natural disasters occur.

I quote from the Shelterbox website regarding the immediate response to the Cyclone Disaster that struck Burma (Myanmar) over the weekend:

"May 6th - Myanmar (Burma): ShelterBox responds immediately to the devastating cyclone to hit Myanmar. 22,000 lives are reported to have been lost and 95% of houses are destroyed as the cyclone swept in-land after several days at sea. 224 boxes left from the pre-positioned site in Dubai over the weekend, 220 boxes have left from Melbourne, Australia and a further 200 boxes with two tents each were packed this morning at the ShelterBox HQ in Helston, Cornwall. A team of four SRT members are making arrangements to assist with the difficult distribution of vital aid."

A number of things strike me:
  • The speed of response
  • The fact that ShelterBoxes are pre-positioned around the globe
  • This is done by a voluntary organisiation that, in the UK, has an image of wrinkly doddery old farts. Clearly nothing could be further from the truth.
A quick review shows that Shelterbox distributed over thirteen thousand boxes in the aftermath of the South-East Asian Tsunami three years ago. Please explore the ShelterBox website and learn just how good some people can be.

Shelterbox team - I salute you. Why not give them a few quid? Thank you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A new railway is born

With a minimum of fanfare (I have seen no publicity), today a new railway company was born.

Wrexham & Shropshire started running passenger services today. Trains do what they say on the tin - offering a direct service from Wrexham & Shropshire to London Marylebone.

Currently the timetable has five return trains on each weekday, four on a Saturday and three on a Sunday.

Train politics mean that you cannot get on a train from Banbury to Marylebone (or from Marylebone to Banbury) - you have to use Chiltern Railways services instead.

I wish the new venture well - any new service has to be welcomed.

Trains have been running empty for a month for driver and route training, so hopefully today's niggles will soon be ironed out. There were unfortunately a couple of serious delays today, but I doubt that many people were affected.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Alternative career choice looming for train driver?

I was waiting at Princes Risborough train station this afternoon for a fast train to London (one stop only en-route, at High Wycombe).

Out of the Aylesbury branch line there suddenly appears a rubbish train which I know is heading for the WLWA Transfer Station in South Ruislip.

"Uh-Oh" me thinks - my train is going to catch that up.

Sure enough just as we are adjacent to Ruislip Gardens Central Line station my Chiltern Railways "Clubman" service grinds to a halt. It transpires that the waste train has suffered some kind of technical hitch while entering the siding and is blocking the points and the main line in towards Marylebone.

Driver: ".... the rubbish train is blocking our path and we can't get around it, maybe that's why they call it the rubbish train".

Maybe you had to be there, but the whole carriage cracked up. Definitely a comedian in the waiting.

Anyhow, we soon got moving and arrived only 7 minutes late into Marylebone.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In the manner of a Hedgehog


Bloody stupid name.


Cute to look at from a distance with but prickly to handle.

Ancient history for me but a big worry for a while. Gone.

Sorry to talk in riddles.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do I have 'Gullible' stamped on my forehead?

I switch on my PC, it goes through the normal warm-up routine. Mailwasher launches.

While I am out of the room the normal couple of dozen spam emails are deleted.

Three are left:
  • One from the "Executive Governor, Cent. Bank Of Nig" offering to courier me USD 10 M in cash.
  • FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA" apologising for the delay in sending a different wire transfer to me for USD 11.3 M
  • and the third from a named individual simply described as 'The Legal Representative'. This man purports to be a barrister distributing the assets of a dead person. This offer is low at only USD 5 M.
Wow! That's USD 26.3 M waiting for me in Nigeria, all in the last eight hours. I am so excited. Not.

The most worrying thing is not that I am particularly gullible (my job ensures that I receive regular Fraud Prevention and Anti-Money Laundering Training), but that the scammers have managed to get as far as the penultimate wall of my anti-spam armoury.

Fortunately I just see the words and smile. They sit in a benign environment on a preview screen in Mailwasher and I simply hit 'Process' and then they are gone.

Empty screen. Till the next...

Edit: I haven't even finished proof reading this post and another one has arrived. This time it's a paltry USD 1.3 M. Change of country - this one is from Benin. Grrr.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What do we expect from 'A Good Service is Operating on ....'

Some time in my pre-blogging days, London Underground changed its house style so that a 'Normal Service' became a 'Good Service'.

This means that when you are stood on a packed platform at Oxford Circus desperately hoping that, if you fold yourself in half and leap over the heads of 25 people stood by the door on the next train to gain access, you are safe in the knowledge that this isn't just Normal but it is actually rather Good.

This linguistic nuance bothered me when the change occurred and it still grates a little.

Yesterday morning the Southbound Bakerloo Line platform at Marylebone was absolutely heaving, such that I eventually managed to squeeze onto the second train that arrived, and that was after going to the very last door. All the while we were breezily being told by the public address system that this was 'Good'.

The Eastbound Central Line platform at Oxford Circus was worse - this time I had to let two trains through despite, as instructed using 'The Full Length of the Platform'. At least there was a man there making the announcements rather than an automaton.

For a long time last year the Inner-London part of my journey involved a bus or tube along the Marylebone/ Euston Road to the The Station Supervisor's territory, then a meander down through Fitzrovia to Soho. I think I shall have to revert to it, as my current journey is not good for the soul.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Have we lost the spirit of the Olympics?

Diamond Geezer has this morning posted a poignant blog about the parade of the Olympic Torch around London yesterday.

I cannot add much to DG's observations. DG's posts are always written well, but I think that the mood of yesterday's dispiriting and rather tacky event is wonderfully encapsulated here. Take a look.

Sorry to harp on about it, but compare and contrast to the sea of rugby supporters at Vicarage Road yesterday afternoon. The only police there were either outside keeping an eye on the traffic, or inside the stadium getting a cup of tea.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

It was a bit nippy

I went out at 10.00am and it took 10 minutes to clear the snow off the car. There was a good two inches. There was a tiny bit of snow on the road for the first couple of miles, but then plain sailing all the way to Watford.

The rugby match was good. I was perhaps a little surprised by the result, but the good thing was that compared to the previous meeting in Cardiff two weeks ago, my side won.

Hat and gloves were worn throughout. The car definitely won today - the train times meant that going by public transport would have doubled the journey time.

I note that while I was out today, the Olympic Torch has been traveling around London, causing a bit of fuss on the way, and itself needing a fair pit of protection.

Compare and contrast with these three pictures that I took of Sir Richard Branson, 4 years ago, outside Tottenham Court Road tube station. I think I got a bit closer than most people were allowed to today.

Oops - And I have a rugby match to attend

I like snow. I think snow is great to walk around in. It is also great to ski down mountains that are covered in loads of snow.

What is less good is when I looked out of the window just now and saw that we had had the first covering of proper snow of the winter. It is only an inch or so here, but having lived in London for 18 years, I am a member of the "Snow = National Emergency" brigade when it comes to driving.

Every route from where I live to Watford (directly across the huge mountain range North West of London called The Chiltern Hills) involves steep hills or narrow country roads. The trouble is I don't particularly want to take the train. There is a very high risk that something will go wrong with either Chiltern Railways or the Metropolitan Line, and I do have to get back.

Why Watford?

There is a 12.30 kick off for the Saracens -v- Ospreys match at Vicarage Road. It is an important match and the stadium has totally sold out (all 18,214 tickets have been gone).

Having just listened to the travel news on LBC, the tube appears to have problems on the Bakerloo, Central and Metropolitan Lines. Common factor: all in North West London, not far from Watford.

I shall have to put on a pan of porridge and then carefully consider my options.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It seems that next week's tube strike has been called off

According to the BBC News site and tonight's Evening Standard the 72 hour tube strike, due to start on Sunday evening, has been called off.

Perhaps I should have put a pound on that happening after my recent thoughts on the matter.

Interestingly the tfl website just says that the industrial action has been 'suspended', so we'll just have to wait and see whether it really is all sorted.

Happy days. The only problem is, I have no excuse now for not going to Canary Wharf for a meeting next week.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

To strike or not to strike?

Ok... the pressure is building.

A joint strike is planned on the London Underground from 1830 BST on 6 April to 9 April by the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA).

At this stage in the proceedings I suspect that there is more than a 50% probability that the industrial action will not happen. This is based on observation of many many disputes involving London Underground over the last two decades.

It has proven incredibly difficult to find any quality information about the dispute, so that I could present an informed view. Anyhow, here is what I have found:
  • It seems to be about safety issues. Here are the blunt facts as presented by the RMT. It seems that 1,673 RMT union members voted for the action. This seems like a really low number of people across the whole of London Underground. This implies that either many people really couldn't be bothered to vote, or that this dispute doesn't involve all types of staff working on the underground.
  • The TSSA have 3,000 members working on the underground. They had an 81.2% vote in favour of industrial action, but their media release does not say how many members actually voted.
  • London Underground have responded to the strike announcement by saying "There is simply no reason for a strike, or even the threat of one, as all of the issues being raised can be resolved".
My personal views are:
  1. Every station on the London Underground ought to have a physical ticket office that is open between, say, 6 am & 9 am and between 3 pm and 7pm every working weekday. The hours can be worked on, the concept is not negotiable. Bricking up a ticket office, such as happened at Regents Park during last year's refurbishment is a big no-no.
  2. Health & Safety legislation in the country is very strong. If LUL decide they want to vary an aspect (S 4.2) of THEIR Congestion Control and Emergency Plan, then that is down to them. If the unions believe that a proposal is unsafe, they should challenge the matter through the courts, using injunctions if necessary. I suspect this is about job protection, not safety.
  3. I agree with the unions that only directly employed LUL staff should be used for stations and ticketing operations, however I disagree with them about security staff being directly employed by London Underground.
Please note: I dislike Ken Livingstone, I am against the monolithic nature of 'Transport for London' and I have seen evidence that London Underground has bullied those with whom it deals.

Please also note: I view Bob Crow as a dinosaur and the way that the RMT behaves as belonging to another era.

We should not have to deal with incessant strikes or threats thereof. I really don't know what can be done about it, but I am fed up to the back teeth with a small number of people being able to hold London to ransom.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chiltern Railways problems in Birmingham resolved

The National Rail website confirms that Chiltern Railways are today offering a normal service to/from Birmingham following removal of the derailed freight train at Birmingham Moor Street.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alternate day problems for Chiltern Railways

I have already mentioned that, on Good Friday, Chiltern Railways had to suspend services between London Marylebone and High Wycombe for almost three hours due to signalling problems.

At about 8.00pm on Easter Sunday services were affected for a while by a broken down train just outside High Wycombe.

Today (Tuesday) services are badly affected by a derailed freight train in the Birmingham Moor Street area, causing all Birmingham services to start/ finish at Dorridge. The derailment means that this disruption is likely to continue until the close of play tomorrow (Wednesday).

Chiltern have published an emergency timetable for tomorrow (pdf). Be aware that it appears to only cover trains that would have been north of Banbury for any part of their journey. People wishing to travel are advised to check any of the following information sources:Please note that the Chiltern Railways website gives explicit guidance on other train operators acceptance of Chiltern Railways tickets.

Some London Midland routes are also affected by these problems - I am afraid you will have to do your own digging for more information on that Train Operating Company. This link is currently active.

I hope this information is of some use.

Important: This blog is not actively updated during incidents such as this. Please ensure that you check alternative sources of information. All information is believed to be accurate as at 21.15 on Tuesday 25th April 2008.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boring pictures

On this Easter Day, the 1/2 hour of Breakfast/ BBC News 24 that I have just watched was totally devoid of any meaningful reference to Easter. There were plenty of pictures of snow sent in by viewers but, to be honest, they were all pretty boring. A photograph of Dr John Sentamu tobogganing down the slopes of Clifford's Tower - that would be more fun and perhaps of some relevance to the day.

On Friday afternoon I went to the cinema. When I got back to the station I commented to someone what a beautiful day it was.

My train journey home was less than 15 minutes - in that time the sun disappeared, the sky darkened and white stuff started to fall out of the sky.

Not white fluffy snow, but hail stones. Tumbling as though someone above was tipping them out of bags as fast as they could go. The hail storm lasted a couple of minutes, but it was enough to whiten things over. These anonymised pictures show the immediate after effects of the hail on this green and pleasant land immediately around my home.

I suspect that the hail got into the railway cogs somewhere, because shortly afterwards Chiltern Railways suspended all services between London and High Wycombe due to a signal failure between West Ruislip & Gerrards Cross. It took around three hours to resolve, so it looks as though I just got home in time.

A little bit of suffering on Good Friday is good for the soul!

Yesterday (Easter Saturday) I was at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff for the semi-finals of a rugby competition, sponsored by an energy company that has resorted to initials because it otherwise sounds too French.

I am not going to mention the rugby - I am a Saracens season ticket holder. It had been a gloriously sunny afternoon for the first match- then briefly the weather closed in and a brief light sprinkling of snow obviously made everything so slippery that it was enough to cause Saracens significant disadvantage. Hmm. This picture is more exiting than the Saracens -v- Ospreys match. The better team won.

For information, we drove along the M4 to Newport (Gwent) and then caught the (arriva) train to Cardiff. This seemed like a sensible option, though we never did find the long-stay car park at the train station. I did wonder whether they take all the signs down for event days?

Back to today: I live in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, to the North West of London. We are supposed to catch every snow flake as it travels towards London to create its own national emergency.

I look out of the window and I see green. I see birds flying around. I see ramblers. In short, I see a typical day. Two main differences- It is a special day when god fearing folk are supposed to be at church and one when you will have great difficulty in shopping as, by law, all but the smallest of shops are closed.

We did have a bit of the white fluffy stuff earlier, but it has all gone. For the latest weather, visit the Met Office website.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How was my first day back?

Yesterday was my first day back at work and it was not good!

It started off well, with my train into Marylebone arriving 3 minutes early. Actually all trains are timetabled to arrive 3 minutes early, though they rarely do.

Each of the Bakerloo Line and the Central Line were absolutely heaving (big gaps in service on both).

Still, looking on the bright side, given the atrocious weather yesterday (storms lashing much of South England and Wales), at least I got to work with no cancellations or service suspensions.

Coming home in the evening, London Underground were announcing delays on the Central Line and the Bakerloo Line. The Central Line was fine, but the brown line was just that.

Chiltern Railways were clearly suffering with operational difficulties at Marylebone. I don't think it was due to the weather, just a broken down train. The train that was causing problems eventually left late and subsequently had to be taken out of service at Gerrards Cross.

Chiltern operate what I think is an unusual sort of timetable- there is no discernible stopping pattern to peak time trains. Train times and their stops are precisely managed to follow passenger flows. This is fine until you dump a couple of hundred people at Gerrards Cross who want to get to a range of places from High Wycombe to Stratford-on-Avon.

The station staff did little other than talk loudly at their customers while at least two nearly empty trains went through (each of which would have stopped at High Wycombe, where most people wanted to be).

It was certainly not an evening where the staff at the 'Integrated Control Centre' excelled. Chiltern Railways might think they did, but that particular train operating company lost a lot of Brownie Points last night.

Choices: Ski Lift or Commuting. I know which I prefer!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Excuses excuses...

Well, my PC had the Blue Screen of Death for a few weeks and I have also managed three weeks skiing in the last month.

The BSOD appears to now be fixed and it looks as though my panda eyes are going to recede rapidly, given the current weather forecast.

The usual intermittent service will now be resumed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chiltern Railways is to be taken over by Deutsche Bahn

According to a report on the BBC website, the sale process of the Chiltern Railways franchise by Laing Rail appears to be drawing to a close. Formal approval is required from all and sundry, but I reckon it'll happen.

In theory nothing much will change- the trouble is that Chiltern Railways are highly regarded and generally thought of as being just about the best reailway company. 'Best' costs money (or good management) and these things are often in short supply after a corporate takeover. We'll just have to see how things shape up.

By the way, the Central Line is an absolute bloody nightmare at the height of the morning peak. No problems with how it runs, there are just too many people. Roll on the Olympics.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Happy Ending

First of all a very Happy New Year. I hope you and yours had an enjoyable Christmas.

Tonight I was at a quiet country station in Buckinghamshire waiting to catch a train home to somewhere even quieter, when a youngish man tried to engage me in conversation. The trouble was he couldn't engage in a proper conversation because he appeared to have some form of learning disability. He was carrying a small bag with some clothes but did not seem to know where he was, where he was going or how he got there.

Eventually, after a lengthy conversation he showed me a tag around his neck which had his home address and telephone number printed on it.

Using the Help Point on the platform I was able to contact the Chiltern Railways control centre who were in turn able to contact the man's parents. His Father then set off on a journey of over 80 miles down from Birmingham to collect him. S was left in the safe company of the parking attendant in a warm and cosy hut. I suspect the parking attendant will be having a late night and S & his family an even later one.

I can't even begin to imagine the worry his parents must have been going through. Hopefully S will get home all right - well done to the lady at Chiltern Railways for taking ownership of a really human problem, and to the parking attendant for doing the right thing.

The original title of this post was "A Sad Tale" but, with hindsight, it is always better for the glass to be half full, rather than half empty.