Saturday, January 31, 2009

I have a confession to make

For the last week this blog has been running on auto-pilot.

If you have been commenting on my carefully crafted words, I apologise for the lack of response.

While I have been away, all my pre-written posts have been released to the world automatically, as I have had absolutely no access to a computer or the inter-web thingy.

Should all is going to plan, I ought now to be through the Arrivals Hall at Gatwick Airport and will be home shortly.

Hopefully, I have come back from a few days of skiing in France, sans injury, and normal business will be resumed shortly.

If the next posting you see here suggests something has gone horribly wrong, then it probably has. If all goes to plan you will never see it!

Fingers crossed- see you tomorrow!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bus route changes near Tottenham Court Road Station

The redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road Underground Station will probably become a recurring theme over the coming months. Possibly years (groans to self). Blame Crossrail, not me.

Therer are a number of reasons for this:

1) The planned size and impact of the works are huge.
2) TCR is the closest tube station to where I currently work.

The recent permanent closure of Andrew Borde Street has had the effect of diverting a number of bus routes in the area, closing some bus stops and (I think) adding an additional stop or two on Shaftesbury Avenue.

I tend to use the Central or Northern Lines when in the area, or I walk. I rarely use the buses around Tottenham Court Road, so do not feel suitably qualified to offer a blow by blow account on the changes to the various bus routes in the area.

Details of current and future changes to London bus routes are available here. A spider map is also available here, though personally I find that this style of map is less useful when focused on the target spot.

As some of the changes will either be permanent, or will last seven years, you'll have plenty of time to get used to them!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The end of the line

We all like a tidy tube train.

The advent of two competing free evening newspapers in London has not helped the cause.

Where the Central Line terminates at West Ruislip, there are people employed to clear the trains of rubbish before they reverse and wend their way back into central London. During the evening peak they fight a losing battle as the trains are only sat in the platforms for a few mintes before they set off again on their return journey.

This pile of neatly stacked rubbish sacks is the result of the cleaners' work only part way through the evening peak. Mostly the contents were the aforementioned free newspapers.

I saw one train where the 'rear' cleaner only managed to get 1 1/2 carriages cleared before jumping out of the closing doors.

Helpful hint: If you are wanting to travel on a litter free train in the early evening, into London on the West Ruislip branch of the Central Line, travel in the back carriage.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oompa Loompas and all that...

Great Missenden is a village in Buckinghamshire. It has a train station served by Chiltern Railways that is one stop after Amersham. Amersham is the end of the Metropolitan Line and is also the highest point above sea level on the tube network (147m / 490ft).

Fortunately the A413 now bypasses Great Missenden, because the High Street is very narrow. It is a bit strange - it is sort of picturesque, but somehow not really. Difficult to describe.

Walking along the street I came across two petrol pumps from a bye gone era. Apparently the 'Red Pump Garage' was the inspiration for parts of "Danny, the Champion of the World" a 1975 book by Roald Dahl.

Dahl spent a large part of his life living in Great Missenden. He is also buried there.

Just down the street from Red Pump Garage is The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. This museum concentrates on the life of Mr Dahl and how he developed stories. It also provides a super environment for children to develop their story telling skills with some super interactive displays.

My favourite display was one where you could make a 15 frame time-lapse film using toy animals. It's great (a) because it really works and (b) because it is so simple to do.

A lot of the items on display in the Museum are changed every three months, so regular visitors will often have different things to see.

Roald Dahl wrote many iconic books, both for children and for adults. What I cannot say where he got the inspiration for the Oopma Loompas, but certainly I didn't see any while walking up the high street.

After my visit to the museum, it was a five minute walk back to the train station for my journey home.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ticket Machines... Again

I mentioned back in August last year that Chiltern Railways had a major problem with their Fast Ticket machines being robbed and, in the process, being damaged beyond serviceable use.

There is no such thing as a ticket machine fairy and so it has consequently taken till now for the repaired machines to be reinstated at some of the quieter stations. Some stations are still bereft of ticket issuing facilities.

I understand that a couple of weeks ago, three stations in Buckinghamshire were once again targeted and their ticket machines broken into and robbed. One of them was on the day that the repaired ticket machine had been placed back into service, though that was probably a coincidence.

Personally the lack of a ticket machine would not affect me (I am in the fortunate position of buying just the one ticket a year). Nevertheless the problem must be annoying to those passengers affected, a major pain in the neck for the railway company and, of course, it must also be having an adverse affect on revenue.

I hope they catch whoever is doing it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Radio Silence

CU has been a poorly bunny this week. I don't do sick (I have managed to increase my total days off in 25 years from 8 to 10). I don't do doctors - today I have been to see my GP about an illness for the first time in 15 years.

Writing about planes, trains and automobiles has not been high up my 'To Do' list. Sorry.

If things are no better by the morning I have to start a short course of antibiotics. Potential side affects include ruptured Achilles tendons. Joy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Artificial Slippery Stuff

I don't particularly enjoy ice skating, but a lot of people do.

This evening someone at work organised a trip to the ice skating rink at Somerset House, which is is in the heart of London. I think a good time was had by most!

Afterwards I wandered over Waterloo Bridge to catch the Bakerloo Line from Waterloo to Marylebone and then onwards home. This must surely be one of the most photographed night shots in London. It shall remain nameless.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A bit windy

Last night the wind here was gusting up to 55 mph (88 km/h). Strong enough to blow the end ridge tile off my roof.

I am not quite sure how, but somehow it managed to land on the grass in one piece. I moved the car overnight, because a tile on the car would not have been pretty.

Amazingly a number of people who know me have asked "Oh, have you been up to repair it?" You have got to be flipping joking! Tomorrow, I'll have to find a man who can.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Big Weekend of Engineering Work - 17/18 January 2009

There is a huge amount of engineering work taking place this weekend across the London Underground Network.

The only lines that are NOT affected in some way, manner, or form are the Bakerloo, Northern, Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines.

Out West, the Central Line is totally closed today (17th January 2009) and tomorrow (18th January 2009) between West Ruislip and North Acton, with two rail replacement bus services in place.

Live updates on the status of the various lines is available here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Packed to the gunnels

I walked up to Marylebone last night. Just after I had arrived I got a text message from tfl to say that there were severe delays on the Central Line due to a fire alert at Mile End.

There followed a sigh of relief that I had walked, and then I thought no more of it.

That was until my big train passed a Central Line train on the approach to South Ruislip. The tube train had large numbers of people standing and it looked very full.

Bearing in mind that South Ruislip is in Zone 5 and half an hour from central London on a good day, it must have been an unpleasant journey home last night for many thousands of people.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wow - What a lucky escape!

News tonight on the main BBC News of an incredible escape for 150 passengers on a US Airways that has crashed into the Hudson River in New York.


It's the little things that count

I mentioned last week that Chiltern Railways had started to read my blog. I am currently being visited every weekday and have had 52 specific page views in all.

Some blogs get masses of readers - I don't, and am grateful for each and every hit....

Now, I mentioned in my previous post that the Chiltern timetables on display at West Ruislip Central Line Station (it provides an interchange with the Chiltern Line) were out of date.

It may of course be a coincidence, but when I visited West Ruislip yesterday, the up-to-date timetables were on display. I shall of course take all the credit!

West Ruislip today yesterday, tomorrow The World.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Andrew Borde Street

What? Where?

View Larger Map

Andrew Borde Street is a funny little street that runs south of (and east under) Centre Point. It seems to be part bus station and also takes the traffic heading from the Holborn area up Tottenham Court Road.

At least it did.

As part of the Crossrail redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road tube station, Andrew Borde Street is now blocked at it's junction with Charing Cross Road and will remain closed for the foreseeable future. I have seen mentioned elsewhere that the closure of the road is permanent.

The junction from Sutton Row (leaving Soho Square) is also closed to traffic.

Tottenham Court Road tube station is served by the Central and Northern Lines, and according to Diamond Geezer's number crunching is the 6th busiest underground station that is not also a National Rail station.

One of the four station exits from the ticket barrier area at TCR leads to a long subway (underneath some fountains), which itself has three exits. Two of those exits lead onto Andrew Borde Street.

Those two specific subway exits, and the long subway leading to them will be closed later this month. Given the nature of the development work taking place, I suspect that no member of the public will ever see the subway again in anything like it's current form.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Penalty fares go up

Starting on 11th January 2008, the penalty fare for non payment on London's Bus, Tube, DLR and London Overground services increased to £50 from the previous level of £20. Apparently the penalty is reduced to £25 if paid within three weeks. Conceptually this is similar to what happens to many parking tickets.

Spending in excess of £3,000 per year on my season ticket, I certainly have no problem with this increase in the penalty charge amount. What the tfl press release does not say, is how many people are actually fined, how many people are prosecuted and how much revenue is raised through the penalty fare system.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hours of endless fun

Ever since I was at school developing and printing my own black & white photographs, I've been keen on photography.

Over time I have been fortunate enough to visit some fabulous places that have been so photogenic that even I have been pleased with the results.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

I am sure that, with practice, my new camera will enable me to take the occasional half-decent picture.

In my experience one has to try, try and try again. I doubt if I will ever be as consistently good as Uphilldowndale, but that is the standard to which I aspire.

Anyhow, with practice in mind, I nipped out to a local station last night last night to once again try the panoramic functionality of my new kit. Clearly I need to take a tripod next time, but nevertheless I am impressed with the ability of the software to stitch the images together.

As you can see, it was a bit quiet out in rural Buckinghamshire last night. And windy.

More problems for the West Coast Main Line

There are no trains between Oxenholme Lake District and Carlisle until further notice. This is due to flooding.

Quite a lot of people will be affected by this temporary closure - it effectively blocks the West Coast Main Line for people going to Glasgow and also affects passengers of Transpennine Express.

For up to date information, please visit Network Rail's website (this blog should not be used for up-to-date travel information). This clickable image above was updated at 6.36 this morning, but it is an image and not a live link.

I suspect that the management at Virgin Trains will be particularly frustrated with this latest problem. However the truth is that if you want to drive trains through one of the wettest places in the country, you will occasionally encounter water.

Later: I've got home to note that train services between Oxenholme Lake District and Carlisle resumed at lunchtime. On this occasion UFN was precisely that, and not for too long.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

AVP - Part 2

On a Sunday, some of the Chiltern Railways' train connections in Aylesbury are so bad, that I didn't lose any time today by visiting the building site again. I ended up on the same train that I would have done if I hadn't made the effort.

I bought myself a new camera yesterday - the picture above shows the TTTs, the waiting room, ticket office, shop and (surprise surprise) the car park. I'm quite pleased because it's actually four pictures that some software that came with the camera has automatically stitched together into a panorama shot. Granted, a mountain top panorama would have been nicer, but I was in Aylesbury. Anyhow, at least I know the system works.

It was considerably warmer today, but the toilets were still dis-functional. I suspect that it may be a day or two before this sign can be taken down.

The next picture shows the location of the two thrones in relation to the rest of the thriving metropolis, with the new station building growing in the background. Even once the arctic tundra has given way to spring and the facilities become available to use, I suspect all around will know precisely where you have gone. No secret ablutions here. That's enough toilet talk....

Naturally, AVP wouldn't be a train station unless it had trains. It can only ever have one at a time.

Two things to note:
  1. As has been noted elsewhere the dot matrix at the front of the train simply said 'AVP', and
  2. It was another Ghost Train.
One final observation. It can be deduced from the number of regimented lamp-posts beyond the emerging station building, as seen in this last picture, that the car park will eventually be much larger than is currently the case.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


AVP is the Three Letter Abbreviation given to the new Aylesbury Vale Parkway station. The station is three miles North West of the centre of Aylesbury and opened on 14th December 2008. The station is served by Chiltern Railways.

I went to AVP today and can report that:
  • It is called Parkway because there is a car park there. Other than that it is a building site with some portacabins and two temporary toilets.
  • Eight people got off the train (it is the end of the line). Three had gone past Aylesbury by mistake and got back on the train. I wandered around a bit and then got back on the train as well. That leaves a man and his three toddlers- he clearly did want to be there because he got in his car and drove away.
  • There was a security man wandering around. He looked pretty bored, but did manage to find a discarded newspaper on the train, so presumably he would then have been less bored.
  • It was very cold - there was still freezing fog hanging around. The Portaloos were closed because the pipes were frozen. Even the sheep in a nearby field were running around to keep warm.
  • The ticket office was closed, the shop/ snack bar was closed, the buses don't currently run there on a Saturday and there are no ticket issuing facilities when the office is closed.

The station will probably be quite useful if you live within it's catchment area (parking is free while the station buildings are being constructed), but don't go there expecting wild excitement.

I'll link to some pictures and more information shortly.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gilligan and the Railways

Andrew Gilligan is a columnist with the London Evening Standard. He used to work for the BBC until he resigned over the 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' / David Kelly affair.

Mr Gilligan is certainly opinionated- he is often like a dog with a bone. I don't think that Ken Livingstone likes him very much. I don't much care for many of his views.

Yesterday's Standard saw a piece on the railways. As I was reading it my blood pressure went up and my blood started to boil. The article appeared to be a rant against the entire public transport infrastructure in this country. I was getting cross and was about to spit feathers.

Then I came across this sentence:
"To avoid Virgin, take the excellent (and cheaper) Chiltern trains from Marylebone to Birmingham, or the even better Wrexham and Shropshire service from the same terminus."

Goodness me. At last I have found something on which I agree with Mr Gilligan.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Falling down around our ears

Anyone with a modicum of interest in public transport in the UK cannot have failed to have noticed the string of problems that have affected the West Coast Main Line over the last few days.

Problems have included:

Now, the first of these incidents was obviously a tragic accident, but the rest do seem to call into question the nature of engineering work and/ or maintenance of the West Coast Main Line infrastructure.

According to reports, Network Rail have set up a major enquiry into the events of this week. That is good to note - in my line of work a Post Incident Review would be instigated for events that would have a far smaller operational or financial cost.

I do not know what staff turnover is like within either Network Rail or its subcontractors, but I do wonder whether the person who has trained people how to tie up the power cables actually knows how to do it?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Maybe someone will sit up and take notice?

Cor blimey - I've been wittering on here for three years. I've got a small number of loyal readers, an even smaller number of regular commentators and the usual surprised visitors who've arrived by means of weird search engine terms.

I've made it now though - someone at Chiltern Railways has been having a jolly good read of this blog in the last few days. Now generally I am pretty good about Chiltern because, by and large, it is acknowledged that they are one of the best railway companies in the UK.

Hopefully this will mean that if I make constructive suggestions, my reader in Aylesbury will prod someone to take action. I don't rant too much.

Chiltern Railways found me by doing a 'blog search' for Chiltern Railways. I've always thought that this is good corporate practice for any Media or PR department. Also, it seems that they might have bookmarked me, so hopefully they'll be back.

Whoever you are - Welcome!

Optional test: The timetables on display outside the main tube station entrance at West Ruislip are out of date. Could you possibly arrange to have the new ones put up? Thank you.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

So you got a new bag for Christmas...

I can see you got a new bag for Christmas. It looks as though it might have a laptop in it. It may only contain a few manky sandwiches, but I can't tell. Your bag is well attached to your shoulders. Up in the real world it is quite cold, so it may be helping to keep your back warm.

However, the Jubilee Line at Baker Street in the morning rush hour is not the place to be impersonating a camel. Take the bloody thing off your back and let some more people on the train.

Thank you.

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's slippery out there

At present it's a chilly -3.7 C out in my part of the Chiltern Hills. I can vouch for the fact that local un-gritted roads, where the snow has been compacted by vehicles, are quite literally sheets of ice.

If you are driving or walking in the area (or indeed anywhere else experiencing similar conditions), please be very very careful as it is treacherous out there.

Edit: Tuesday morning, 06:30. It is now -7.8 C and has dropped 0.9 of a degree in the last half hour. Brrrrrrr.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What do they teach in schools nowadays?

Last night, while in Princes Risborough, I spent the un-princely sum of £1.20 and paid with a £20 note.

After handing over the note, I then realised that I had a 20p coin, so handed that over as well. In my world that is called 'making it easier' for the assistant.

The cash register told the girl serving me to hand me back £18.80. Giving her the extra 20p totally blew her mind and she could then not work out how much change to give me. Duh!

Shopping Trip

M & S High WycombeAs it is nearly Twelfth Night, I thought I ought to get the Christmas present my parents had promised (and which I had asked for).

I am much more M&S than Prada, but no joy yesterday at the M&S store in High Wycombe.

This afternoon I decided to venture a little further to the new Westfield shopping centre in West London. I did pay a brief visit before Christmas, but it was then too busy for my liking.

It appears to have settled down a little now, in terms of the crowds, and I managed to purchase the coat I was looking for in the unsurprisingly modern M&S. I also latched onto a ridiculously expensive ski suit in Ellis Brigham that I first saw at the London Ski Show a couple of months ago, but fortunately managed to keep my plastic firmly in my pocket for that.

Getting to Westfield was quite straight forward. A Chiltern Railways stopping service saw me change to the Central Line at West Ruislip and it was then plain sailing to White City. I arrived at White City only two minutes after my first train would have arrived at Marylebone, so it was definitely the best way to go. Returning home was the same trip in reverse.

Edit:Westfield transport links are shown here (click image):

**Eden photo by kingpin1055**

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Balanced, Secure and Realisitic

Apparently that's me - based upon the following. It may be about as accurate as a horoscope, but I'm happy with the answer!

Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...

Balanced, Secure, and Realistic.

11 Impressionist, 11 Islamic, -6 Ukiyo-e, -7 Cubist, -11 Abstract and -11 Renaissance!

Impressionism is a movement in French painting, sometimes called optical realism because of its almost scientific interest in the actual visual experience and effect of light and movement on appearance of objects. Impressionist paintings are balanced, use colored shadows, use pure color, broken brushstrokes, thick paint, and scenes from everyday life or nature.

People that like Impressionist paintings may not always be what is deemed socially acceptable. They tend to move on their own path without always worrying that it may be offensive to others. They value friendships but because they also value honesty tend to have a few really good friends. They do not, however, like people that are rude and do not appreciate the ideas of others. They are secure enough in themselves that they can listen to the ideas of other people without it affecting their own final decisions. The world for them is not black and white but more in shades of grey and muted colors. They like things to be aesthetically pleasing, not stark and sharp. There are many ways to view things, and the impressionist personality views the world from many different aspects. They enjoy life and try to keep a realistic viewpoint of things, but are not very open to new experiences. If they are content in their live they will be more than likely pleased to keep things just the way they are.

Take What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test
at HelloQuizzy

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ghost Train

A first for me just now.

Traveled one stop on a train out in rural Buckinghamshire. I was the only passenger to get on, I was the only one to get off. Other than me the train was empty.


As the train continued on its merry way, I did wonder whether the driver was aware that he was there for his own pleasure...

Meanwhile, Chiltern Railways were featured extensively on this evening's main 10 o'clock news on the BBC. All the Chiltern trains and platforms shown were just as quiet as I have experienced all week (well- not quite as quiet as just now).

I guess it will be back to normal on Monday when everyone goes back to work and the usual drudge of commuting resumes.