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.