Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The same again (but not quite)

I hope that you had an enjoyable Christmas.
Back to the grindstone this morning, although I do hope to be able to bunk off early today to attend a family celebration in Hampshire.
In one way, this morning's journey to work has been remarkably similar to last year's return from the Christmas break. I was the only person to board the train at my station.
The principal difference to last year is that the train was already a third full. That is unusual for a normal day. A check of the timetable shows that the train has come from Banbury - that explains why everybody looks half asleep.
It seems that we are following a First Great Western service (on diversion from Oxford) and a train that started from High Wycombe. The result - only a handful more people have got on since I did and we are now running fast to Marylebone.
I've just noticed that, according to Live Departure Boards, the first two FGW trains from Oxford are due to stop at West Ruislip (interchange with the Central Line). I cannot say that this is a first, but it is certainly highly unusual.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Greetings

I would like to wish my reader a very Happy Christmas and all best wishes for a fruitful, happy and peaceful New Year.

Apologies for the re-use of the card, but I like it!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Chiltern Railways This Morning

It's Christmas Eve, I am going to work and I am just about ready. Ready, that is, except for the wrapping and the packing.

Chiltern Railways should have been running a special Christmas Eve timetable today. They are, but I think it's a "Special Special" timetable. At this moment, believe nothing except the Chiltern Railway's website as to what is going on.


Well, after two days of fairly well organised chaos, station Passenger Information Screens are either wrong or blank. Also the Live Departure Feed on the National RAil website is displaying a normal timetable.

On the up side, today is a long train and the front carriages only 50% full. It must be like the Marie Celeste at the back.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting Better

It was definitely less cold last night - the station car park is now a slush pool.

Train only six minutes late (don't ask about yesterday's journey) and it has plenty of carriages.

AND the Passenger Information Screens have been uploaded with the emergency timetable being operated today by Chiltern Railways.

All a vast improvement on the last couple of days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chiltern Railways - Snow

The trouble with running a railways is that (a) Drivers and other staff have to get to work themselveand (b) Snow and ice do not do much to help improve the reliability of the infrastructure.

As a consequence of this weekend's snow, Chiltern Railways are today running an emergency timetable.

The problem is that the train I am on has another eight stops before it reaches Marylebone. The aisles and vestibules are completely jammed with people already.

It's going to be a fun day. Stay safe.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Chavs breeding Chavs

I've previously mentioned Chavs on the trains.
Well, I am currently sat near two, with an accompanying gaggle of screaming Chavlets.
Said one of the bigger ones "Look - when you shout, they all turn their heads and look at you. Shout ('Shaart') as much as you want."
Charming. Roll on Marylebone.
By the way, it is bitterly cold today in Rural Buckinghamshire, with freezing fog. Well done Chiltern Railways for keeping the trains running bang to time.
Edit: OMG - one of them called "Sky". Aargh.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Boris Bikes Go Casual

Tomorrow, 3rd December 2010, the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme (aka 'Boris Bikes') becomes available for casual users.

I hope the launch goes well and that everything goes well technically. There should be plenty of bikes available as during the current inclement weather, fewer bikes than usual are being used. Yesterday afternoon at Soho Square there were about 15 spaces available in the docking station - the most spaces I have ever seen at that time of day.

Be safe!

By the way, I'm back, but still with a small backlog of holiday posts.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Manuel Antonio National Park

Today we took a 15 minute bus ride to Manuel Antonio, a small tourist town at the edge of the National Park of the same name.
Having paid our $10 to gain entrance to the park, we then also clubbed together (5 times $10 each) to pay for a guide to show us round on a 2 1/2 hour tour. We definitely swa more wildlife than if we hadn't have had a guide - he also carried a spotter scope which was worth it's weight in gold.

The highlight for me was seeing (and being able to photograph) this Laughing Falcon. We also saw a humming bird sat on its nest. Sadly though when we returned the following day the nest had gone - a sign of the effects of occasional irresponsible tourism.

We also saw lots of monkeys, though in reality they are so tame as to be a pest, as are the racoons.

After the walk, I took the opportunity to swim for an hour or so in the Pacific breakers before heading into town for some lunch. I then caught the bus back Quepos for a bit of shopping and a lazy late afternoon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Down from the hills

Today saw us leaving the Cloud Forests of Monteverde and head out of the cool dampness to the hot and humid Western (Pacific) coast.

We had chartered a mini-bus today as the public bus left at a thoroughly undesirable 4.00am. Before we got on board, we saw our last local wildlife across the road - a woodpecker of some description.

As soon as we left Santa Elena the road became unpaved and remained so for the next hour or so - the bumps were punctuated by the most stunning scenery.

We lunched in Jaco, a tourist town on the coast and eventually reached our next accommodation in the mid-afternoon, just outside Quepos. Some in the group thought the accommodation was a little below par, but for three nights I thought it was OK, if a little disappointing for our final main destination of the holiday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I forgot to mention that last night, as it was getting dark, I went for an organised night hike in the forest.

We did see a bit - a Porcupine up in a tree, a rather large Red Kneed Tarantula, a couple of tiny frogs and some birds asleep in the trees. The main thing to remember though was that throughout the 90 minute walk there was a continuous torrential downpour. Fortunately I had proper walking boots on and was wearing appropriate waterproofs, unlike some of my fellow explorers.

Today was a fairly quiet day - I went for a walk back down to Monteverde where there is a large co-operative souvenir shop which is well worth a visit. I then walked back to Santa Elena for some lunch before visiting the Ranario Frog Pond.

Here there were many species of frogs, mostly tiny, in fairly large terraria. Thanks to my guide I did manage to see each species on offer. When I re-visited for my after dark free re-entry (self-guided) later, my frog spotting was much worse.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Up In The Trees

Today a few of us went to experience the 'Hanging Bridges' tree-top canopy walk at Selvatura, about 7 KM North of Santa Elena.

We were picked up from our hotel just before 8.00 am. After picking up some other people, we headed up into the Cloud Forests.

The weather was good to us (ie it didn't rain) and so we managed to stretch out the 3 KM walk to tale 2 3/4 hours. Normally that would take some doing , but we thoroughly enjoyed investigating all the the forest trail offered to us to see.

The bridges themselves were eight sturdy structures. All were solid suspension bridges - I do not like heights, yet found crossing. The bridges absolutely fine. Some were very long (over 200M / 600 ft) and most were so high up over the tree tops that one couldn't tell how far it was to the ground.

Following a quick coffee & cake, we then paid a further $5 each (on top of the $25 already paid for the Hanging Bridges), to visit the Humming Birsd garden.

Without doubt the best $5 spent all holiday. I will post some pictures when I get home.

Once dropped off near the hotel, I then walked Towards Monteverde proper. By that, I mean the site of the original Quaker settlement - the main town is actually Santa Elena.

I had a yummy lunch at the Paso de Stella visitor centre and fleetingly called into The Monteverde Cheese Factory shop.

A busy day.

Sent from my iPhone (some days later).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Bumpy Road

We were picked up from our hotel shortly after 7.30 am to begin our journey to Monteverde.

The day was billed as 'Jeep-Boat-Jeep', but for each Jeep read 'Mini-Van'.

A 20 minute journey to the shore of Lake Arenal saw us board a small ferry boat that was to transport us across the lake.

Laguna de Arenal is a man made lake. The principal dam contains a hydro-electric plant that produces 40% of Costa Rica's electricity. Just 5% of the country's electricity is produced using fossil fuel, referee to as 'Dirty Electricity'.

The lake crossing saw many birds, including Ospreys and a Kingfisher.

We then took a very bunny and unlaced road, for a couple of hours, to Monteverde, where we are to stay for three nights. This afternoon was spent wandering around Santa Elena.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Volcano & Hot Springs

This morning was spent walking around La Fortuna and catching up on postcards etc.

A quick lunch at Soda La Parada (lots of locals on a Saturday lunchtime), then back to the Hotel San Bosco. From there, six of us were picked up by Aventuras Arenal for our trip to Volcano Adrenal.

After picking up a few more tourists, we traveled less than seven miles into the National Park. We parked and, having split into two groups, walked up to a viewing station to get some fantastic views of the volcano. The top wascovered in could, which is apparently the norm.

We then did a short circular walk which took us a bit higher. We also saw a Howler Monkey, plenty of birds and some unusual orchids.

After returning to the minibus, we were then taken to the Eco-Termales hot spring complex and left for an hour and a half of the most glorious relaxation. Thoroughly recommended.

We were then taken to the Volcano Springs restaurant for a meal. The only good thing about it was that it was included in the cost of the excursion.

All in all, a good day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Towards the Volcano

Another two buses today. The first was to Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos), where we were unable to get on our planned bus.

So, after an extra 45 minute wait, we all managed to board a local bus service to La Fortuna.

La Fortuna is a tourist town that has developed since the sudden explosion of 'Volcan Arenal' on 29 July 1968. It is totally unlike any other place we have visited since arriving in Costa Rica, however it is still pleasant enough.

Tourist town meant my last satisfactory evening meal so far. A deep sleep beckons

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Few Bus Rides

Today saw us leaving Cahuita on the 8 o'clock bus, heading for Puerto Limon. The journey took about an hour. For much of the time the road followed the never ending string of beaches along the coast.

Puerto Limon is Costa Rica's principal port on the Eastern seaboard. This means that the local economy appears to depend on the container port / ship trade, along with that of visiting cruise ships.

After 3/4 of an hour and a short stroll to a different bus station to the one at which we had arrived, bus number two set off for Guapiles.

A quick change of buses saw us on the final stretch of the day to Puerto Viejo De Sarapiqui. There we crammed into a number of taxis for the short journey to the El Gavilan Lodge.

The lodge is set in fabulous grounds next to the Rio Sarapiqui. We took a boat trip after lunch and saw some fabulous birds as well as other wildlife.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Slothful Day

Today we went to a Sloth Sanctuary. It was very interesting, though the animals did lack a little pace! Sorry.

Then, after lunch, back to the beach for another final linger in the Carribean before heading inland tomorrow.

I´ll post some pictures when I get home but don´t currently have that technology.

Still chillin´.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Strolling along the coast

Nothing on the agenda today, so after breakfast I set off on a longer than exected walk into the Cahuita National Park (yes, I am in Costa Rica).

Saw loads of wildlife, walked round some headlands and came across the most stunning beach. You know, like a picture postcard. White sand, Azure blue sea, like swimming in a bath. Luvverly.

Evening was a please enough meal at a local bar and then a relatively early night to shake off the last of the jet lag.

This sure beats London in November!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Leisurely start to the day

Breakfast today was  from 6.00am, but on the basis that we  weren´t leaving until after 9.00am,  most people emerged from their jet-lag at about 7.00am.

A beautiful day, the morning of which was spent on a public bus traveling through lush hills and banana plantations. We then reached the coast and ended up in a small village, heavy on reggae and an extraordinary laid back feel. Now just chillin!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A long day

This morning the taxi came at 7.00am to pick me up to take me to Heathrow.

I caught a mid morning flight to Texas, where I then spent 3 1/2 hours on the ground  before  catching another flight to central America. Total time traveling: 21 Hours. Time spent in hotel room before falling asleep: 10 minutes.

Hopefully some interesting days to come.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Route 18 is fifth in London to banish bendy buses

I use the number 18 quite a lot.

Whatever the spin (and it is drivel), my journeys will now be worse.

Traveling along the Euston and Marylebone Roads (long and straight) on a bendy bus (long and straight), with three sets of doors to get on and off, has been really quite painless. Given a choice of buses, the bendy bus has had my preference on this route.

It's early on the first day of the new double deckers - I may nip along later to check them out. I want to dislike them. Boris should be focusing on more important things.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Somebody is in for a telling off

This evening's 19.37 Chiltern Railways service from London Marylebone to Aylesbury was terminated early at South Ruislip due to 'a train failure'.

My understanding is that 'a train failure' should more accurately read 'running out of fuel'. Oops.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Sunrise this morning in London is at 07.43.

The whole of the Southern sky is an incredible pattern of deep reds.

Amazing, but probably gone in 5 minutes. Enjoy if you can.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The steam has now stopped

Coming out of my ears, that is.

Following my earlier post, things went from bad to worse... the trains did eventually start running, though I walked in my front door 50 minutes after I should have done.

Part of the problem, from my perspective, was the short notice (actually 'No Notice') cancellations and changes to stopping patterns. These conspired against me - resulting in a train that could have got me home a lot quicker than I managed, whizzing through a station where I was waiting to catch it, without stopping.

I was not happy.

When things go wrong, it must be difficult for Chiltern Railways (or any railway company) to get things back on an even keel. However passengers have a lot more sympathy, and a lot less to complain about, if communication with them is effective. That should include timely station announcements and station dot matrix indicators being accurate. In both regards Chiltern Railways fell short tonight.

Bad Day All Round

This morning's journey to Canary Wharf was bad due to the Jubilee Line being part suspended and Bank being closed due to overcrowding.

Unfortunately, the day is now getting worse.

Currently I am sat on a Chiltern Railways' train in West London, stuck behind a broken down Wrexham & Shropshire service. This is not good because they are apparently having to send a fitter out, by road.

Have been stuck here half an hour so far.

Still, I suppose it isn't a good idea to run a train with defective brakes.

No doubt more to follow later.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


This morning I am sat at the back of the last carriage of my Chiltern Railways train to London Marylebone.
One of the engines under the carriage is not working, which makes for a strange feeling of coasting along in near silence.
The train is due to head off up to Birmingham in a few minutes. I do hope it makes it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Evocative Excuse

Early this morning I had to wait well over 20 minutes for a Central Line train from West Ruislip.

When it eventually came, the explanatory apology over the station tannoy advised us that the delay was due to "A couple of engineering trains floating around". Hmmm.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Monday Morning (Strike) Blues

Just whizzed past the Ruislip Central Line depot, currently rammed full of trains.
Some people need to get a grip.
Have already had one call from a colleague who would rather take holiday than face a three hour journey due to tube strike.
I don't understand why we should be constantly facing tube strikes. It's been the same for the 24 years that I have been commuting.
My Chiltern Railways train is much quieter than usual, so many seem to have chosen not to travel in today. I wonder if there will be any Boris Bikes left at Marylebone?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bloglines to bite the dust

I use Bloglines to bring together all the blog feeds that I am interested in reading.

The browser system has always worked for me, though the mobile version is rubbish.

Bloglines is closing at the end of this month, which is a shame. I don't like change. Never mind, I'll just have to get a grip and move on. I'll leave the link in my Blogroll for a couple of weeks.

Oh, and I've added a couple of blogs to the list.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

HS2 at Northolt

On Saturday I travelled Along the Central Line for a short while, from West Ruislip to Northolt. It was fine.

This picture is taken from the Eastbound platform at Northolt. It is possible to make out the over-bridge station building, which is also where the main A412 crosses the railway.

Running parallel to the Central Line is a little used single track railway line. It runs from Northolt Junction, has a triangular junction at Greenford and then continues on to the Paddington main lines just East of North Acton station. The line used to be double tracked - I think there is a passing loop somewhere just East of Greenford.

The current plans for High Speed 2 involve the entire stretch of parallel line being part of the route from Euston to Birmingham.

There are all sorts of contentious aspects to the HS2 plans - tunneling underneath grumpy people on the route from Euston and carving up parts of the Chiltern Hills, never mind burning truckloads of money that we don't have.

To give some idea of the work involved, never mind the impact on those living nearby, imagine what will be needed to upgrade this single bridge (and probably the entire underground station building) to allow two high speed (up to 400 kph / 250 mph) tracks to pass through the area highlighted. Simply mind boggling.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

As busy as a week day

There is a rugby league match this afternoon at Wembley Stadium. Kick off 2.30 pm.

Both teams are from Up North (it's Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves), so travel is ideally suited to supporters who want to Park & Ride using the services of Chiltern Railways.

Nearly every station between Princes Risborough and South Ruislip has been buzzing with rugby supporters all morning.

Extra trains have been laid on, they are longer than usual, yet still packed.

It's a gloriously sunny day, so a great time should be had by all.

Obviously, by the end of the afternoon, some travelers will be happier than others.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Live life to the full

Last month I celebrated another birthday. My parents came to stay and we had a really pleasant evening. Early on the morning after the night before, my mother took a phone call to be told that her brother had died suddenly, at home.

Tonight I took a call from one of my best friends, with whom I go skiing every winter. She was ringing to let me know that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is to have a double mastectomy next Monday.

Meanwhile, at work, my team has just been given a warning that we could fail a compliance audit because some of our electronic file folders on our network drive do not quote destruction dates.

My 93 year old Grandmother, who has just lost one of her two children, still has an active social life and has a positive outlook.

My friend has, since her diagnosis, bought a BMW sports car and is insisting that we continue to plan for next Winter's ski holiday.

Please keep things in perspective, focus on what you can do in life and try not to worry about the things over which you have no control. You never know what is just around the corner.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Holiday Friday?

No more major stops for the train this morning, only three out of fourteen seats in use at my end of the carriage.

Just gone over the M25 - Very quiet.

Maybe when I get into town, it'll be quiet enough to get a Boris Bike?

Probably wishful thinking.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another new mode of public transport

After my riverboat experience on Monday evening, today I went for a practice spin on a couple of Boris Bikes.

I have paid for annual access and, even though there were no usage fees today, I didn't keep either of my bikes for 30 minutes (which is when usage charges will usually kick in).

I picked up my first bike at the Harewood Avenue docking station outside Marylebone station. There were three members of staff on hand and they made a particular point of telling me that there were no usage fees today.

My first trip was up Harewood Avenue, down Lisson Grove, across the Marylebone Road, along through Marylebone and East into Fitzrovia. After entering a wormhole of infinite circling one-way streets I eventually docked the bike at Foley Street before walking down into Soho.

Result? I am still not entirely sure that I have a sensible route planned all the way to work.

Coming back was much better - I picked up my second bike in Soho Square, walked it up to Rathbone Place and then cycled all the way back to Harewood Avenue in 15 minutes, including a slight wrong turn down some narrow streets (I was trying to avoid main roads).

One family exclaimed "Wow! Look!" as I passed them on the inward journey, while someone else commented "Cool Motor!" to me as I passed. All a bit strange really.

Now I will be the first to admit that I am slightly overweight. Nick Ferrari might call me fat. The Boris Bikes are not lightweight racing machines - they are designed to be functional, hard wearing and vandal-proof. This means that they take a bit of effort to use and they will definitely be useful as part of a calorie controlled diet.

I am thinking that my colleagues might not appreciate me using the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme to get to work each day, if you get my drift.

The tfl website has a brilliant map showing all the docking stations. It includes live details of how many bikes are available at each docking station and how many empty spaces are available.

Generally most working docking stations seem to have bikes and spaces available. The exception is that at present the docking station in Soho shows that there are 37 cycles available and no spaces. It might be interesting to see how that changes as time goes by. Managing flows and demand will probably be one of the biggest challenges facing the operators of the scheme.

Boris Bike - My Experience

My first mention of the Boris Bike (sorry.... "Barclays Cycle Hire") was supposed to have been one about ease of use, good bike availability, working docking stations, wind blowing through my hair, fresh air and relaxation.

I was to be an early adopter. My electronic bike key arrived last Tuesday, I was away for 24 hours and then activated the key on-line.

Yesterday was Day 1 though, for various reasons I didn't use a bike. The plan was (and still is) that I am going to go into London today and will have a practice ride or two around central London. I am particularly encouraged by the email that I have received from the Scheme this morning that (a) describes me as a "Barclays Cycle Hire Pioneer" and (b) includes the sentence "As a way of saying thank you for your support we have agreed that no usage charges will be incurred by users today."

Now my real question is 'Can I trust them when they say I won't be charged usage fees today?'. The reason why I say this is that I have just come off the telephone from the Help Line having noticed that I have already been charged twice for my annual access charge to the scheme. If they can mess up with a once a year fee, what chance do they have of getting a Do Not Charge day to work?

So to sum up: I haven't yet used a bike, but if I use one today I can have it for longer than half an hour without paying a usage fee. I've paid forty eight quid twice and am now trying to persuade the Cycle Hire people that I am not fibbing, so that they will give me the money back.

As a public service, I also detail below the top tips for use of the scheme as emailed to me today:
  • When you undock your bike,don’t forget to remove your key from the key slot before you set off.
  • When you return your bike, wait until the light turns green to ensure you have successfully docked your cycle and completed your journey – remember – make sure you get a ‘green light and click at the end of every trip!’
  • If you have yet to activate your key, do remember to go online and click on “sign in” to activate it – otherwise you won’t be able to hire a cycle.
  • Look after the scheme – it belongs to London and Londoners. If you see someone vandalising the bikes or docking stations please report it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A fresh mode of transport

I regularly have to travel out to Canary Wharf, the large office development that has been built over the last quarter of a century in East London on the Isle of Dogs.

Usually I manage to escape before the evening rush hour. Tonight I didn't.

At about 18:10 I got down to the Jubilee Line platforms to head back over to central London. It was horrendous. So far as I could tell, there was nothing wrong with the train service, the problem was that there were simply so many people trying to get on the trains.

After a few minutes I decided that getting on one of those trains was, on that occasion, not for me. I returned to street level and pondered what to do next.

Then I had a brainwave - it was a nice pleasant Summer evening, so what could be better than a trip on the river? It took me a while to find Canary Wharf Pier, but eventually I found myself a Riverboat and had a very pleasant half hour trip up to Embankment, from where I caught the Bakerloo Line up to Marylebone and then a proper train home.

Much nice, most civilised and just £3.55 with a Travelcard.

Door to door the journey took a bit longer than just catching the Jubilee Line, but I could shave some time off the journey because (a) I now know where the pier is and (b) If I were to make the trip regularly I would plan the start of the journey to fit in with the riverboat timetable.

So a new way home, for use in emergencies. Plus we saw Tower bridge in the Up position, something that I don't recall having seen before.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Yesterday I caught the first train of the day to Birmingham Snow Hill.

The train ran to time most of the way. It then left Birmingham Moor Street two minutes early, arriving at Snow Hill seven minutes ahead of the public timetable.

That's good, though I would have preferred a lie in! With that sort of timekeeping, I could have caught a later train.

The trip back to rural Buckinghamshire was hassle free.

Coming back, a huge number of people boarded the train at Bicester North. Most had obviously been to Bicester Village, for their dose of designer retail therapy.

Chiltern Railways must be raking in the dosh on the route between London Marylebone and Bicester North.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Well done Chiltern!

Following a fairly major signal failure in the Beaconsfield area this evening, Chiltern Railways seem to have done a pretty good job at recovering the train service.

There have been some fairly lengthy delays and a small number of relatively short distance services cancelled, but they do now seem to be running most services now, to time.

Not as bad as I (and perhaps many others) feared!

Traveling from Marylebone tonight?

If you are planning to travel home from Marylebone this evening, 19th July 2010, I'd either head over sharpish or simply be prepared for a long trip home.

This is a snapshot of the Live Arrivals Board as of a few minutes ago.

Logic says that pretty soon, Chiltern Railways are going to run out of trains at Marylebone.

Click for live arrivals and departures or here for the Chiltern Railways page.

Oh dear!

A close shave

After my quiet commute in to town today, I later had to travel out to Canary Wharf.

I wandered down to the Bakerloo Line, down to Waterloo and then caught the Jubilee Line out to Docklands.

Coming back, I noticed that the electronic boards at the entrance to the station said that there were severe delays to the Jubilee Line. I whipped out my phone and the Live Departure Board confirmed that this was indeed the case.

I then trogged over to the Docklands Light Railway, caught a train to Bank, the Central Line to Oxford Circus and the Bakerloo Line up to Marylebone. I then had to walk half way to Hampstead (well Platform 4 at Marylebone anyway) to catch my Chiltern Railways train home.

I was dripping (ugh).

I've just noticed that the Jubilee Line is now part suspended with severe delays on the DLR.

Could be a fun journey home for many.

If you are reading this on a normal web page, the Live Service Updates should show to the right.

All quiet on the western front

My journey to work this morning is very quiet. Two reasons. (i) There is hardly anyone on the train - The effect of school holidays, maybe? and (ii) the engines under the carriage of my train are not working, so we are zipping along with only the sound of the air conditioning. It's really quite relaxing on Chiltern Railways just now.

The M25 was exceedingly quiet when we passed over it just now.

Other than an over-run of engineering work on the Victoria Line, all currently appears good on the London Underground.

It all seems to be too good to be true!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not the best of weeks

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of those involved, things don't go to plan. My experiences with Chiltern Railways over the last couple of days lead me to believe that the management of my local railway company probably want to stop banging their heads against the proverbial Brick Wall...

Wednesday 14th July 2010

The 0629 train from Aylesbury to London usually consists of a four coach 'Clubman', with an empty two coach 165 class unit tacked onto the back. The train usually arrives at High Wycombe where the rear train is de-coupled. The front four coaches then head off for Marylebone at 0702 with the two coach train then forming the 0708 train, calling en-route just at Seer Green & Jordans and Gerrards Cross.

Yesterday the train was 20 minutes late leaving Aylesbury. The departure boards indicated that it was to terminate early at High Wycombe. When the train came round the corner there was clearly something wrong as the front four coaches were missing and the train was made up of just the two rear coaches.

At High Wycombe no announcements were made. Half the passengers got off and the platform was deserted. The platform indicator did however suggest that the train was to be the 0708, due to leave at about 0720.

While we were sat at the red signal a fast train ran through on the 'Down' line, overtaking us. When we got a green signal we then set off, again without so much as a squeak from the driver. The train was almost empty.

Ten minutes later we pulled into Seer Green & Jordans, a very small station in the middle of nowhere. The train almost filled up with all the passengers that got on. Highly unusual.

At Gerrards Cross a shoe horn would have failed to get all the passengers on board.

We eventually got into Marylebone at 0802 - on the approach the driver made the sole announcement of the journey to apologise for the late arrival.

Problem: A cancelled train will inevtably lead to overcrowding. However communication with passengers (and possibly to the driver) was terrible. Must try harder.

Thursday 15th July 2010

The 0733 Wrexham & Shropshire service from Marylebone broke down this morning and the passengers were turfed off at Wembley Stadium.

The 0736 Chiltern Railways from Marylebone was terminated early (I don't know why) at Princes Risborough. This train usually goes another two stations up the line to Bicester North where passengers have 4 - 7 minutes to cross the footbridge to connect with a fast running Birmingham train that zooms up behind it.

The 0750 Chiltern Railways (aforementioned fast running Birmingham train) today picked up the W&S passengers at Wembley Stadium and then ran non-stop but slowly to Bicester North.

Anyone who wanted to have connected at Bicester today would have struggled because the 0839 arrival didn't get there. If you are still with me, that train had stopped several miles south at Princes Risborough, with no imminent connection to the Birmingham services from there.

I was meeting a colleague on the fast service at Bicester North. Fortunately I had caught the preceding Birmingham service, so 'only' had to wait on the platform for 50 minutes for the fast train which was by then running almost half an hour late. We eventually arrived into Birmingham 24 minutes late.

Problems: Passengers from stations outside London who caught the 0736 departure today, and who wanted to connect to the Birmingham service at Bicester couldn't. This was because they were stranded at Princes Risborough. Also not a single announcement was made at Bicester North about the late running of the Birmingham service. Not good.

This Evening

A tree came down on the Metropolitan Line this evening, somewhere near Harrow on the Hill. This meant that all Aylesbury trains had to go via High Wycombe. One such diverted train (possibly the first?) did stop at Wembley Stadium. The train was then to run fast to Aylesbury on the Highy Wycombe line, but the passengers managed to persuade the driver to stop at Beaconsfield (the nearest alternative station to Amersham). A lot of passengers struggled to get home.

The 1812 service to Aylesbury from Marylebone managed to depart before the 1809 departure. The trains have different destinations and stopping patterns. At High Wycombe trains were randoly appearing and disappearing from the departure boards. No non-automated abnnouncements were made and neither staff or train drivers had a clue what was going on.

Things can and do go wrong, but someone at Chiltern needs perhaps to think about passenger experiences at a micro-level. Communications need to improve.

For much of the evening trains were backing up from Princes Risborough, presumably due to the number of trains fighting to get up the single track line from there to Aylesbury.

OK: I've got that off my chest. Boing... Off to bed. Oh and the bacon baguette sandwiches sold at the cafe at Bicester North are superb.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Geeking about Television

If I go to the cinema, I generally like to wait until the end of the production credits before I leave. Sometimes I'm worried that I may miss a bit of extra action, often it's because I am looking for the name of someone I know.

It's the same for television programmes that I watch- very often I have met or know people involved in the production of them.

I have just watched a documentary on Channel 4 about Bruce Forsyth called "Living with Brucie". The nature of such programmes is that they tend to include archive footage - that footage is usually subject to copyright. This means that as well as paying the holder of the copyright for the right to use the material, there is usually an acknowledgment in the credits at the end of the programme.

The programme that I have just watched was produced by RDF Television, part of the RDF Media Group. In the acknowledgments the name of one of the copyright holders of some archive footage was spelt incorrectly. That is just sloppy and careless.

I think I need to get a life!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't wind up the ticket inspectors

Last night the Chiltern Railways' ticket inspectors were out in force at High Wycombe. Tonight was the turn of the the good folk of Beaconsfield.

One guy had traveled with a 'Permit to Travel, that he had paid 5 pence for. The 'Revenue Protection Officers' were not happy. I make no observation as to the right or wrong of the situation, however.....

The passenger did have a bit of an attitude.

Observation No 1: It is rarely sensible to accuse a Chiltern Railways ticket inspector of being rude. They aren't.

Observation No 2: If you do want to try to talk aforesaid ticket inspector out of a £20 Penalty Fare, it is probably best not to refer to him and his colleague as 'Tweedle-Dum' and 'Tweedle-Dee'.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What a waste of time

I regularly have to travel over to Canary Wharf for meetings.

Today's meeting lasted 25 minutes.

I traveled for two hours to get there and it took me two and a half hours to get home.

The Jubilee Line was suspended on the way, which meant that I diverted from Baker Street along the Hammersmith & City Line to Moorgate, then took the Northern Line one stop to Bank and then the DLR out to the East End.

Coming back, I did catch the Jubilee Line, but the gaps in service were such that I missed my train.

I know that dialing in or video conferencing ought to be the name of the game (the meeting room is set up for that), but it isn't, and my boss is rather self centred.

Bottom line - I do as I'm told!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Steaming through the Chilterns

This picture is GWR King Class 4-6-0 no 6024 King Edward I trundling up through the North Western edge of the Chiltern Hills at about a quarter past nine this morning.

The train was due to have a busy day traveling out from Paddington to Worcester and then back to Paddington later, via Reading.

Quite a few people turned out to see the train which is what I would call a 'Proper' steam train.

Interestingly, while cropping the picture just now, I saw another steam train trundling up the valley with just a couple of carriages behind it. Not sure what it was or where it is going to, as I cannot find the movement detailed on any of the usual websites that show such things.

This morning's train was a few minutes late, so held up a Wrexham & Shropshire service along with a couple of Chiltern Railways' trains.

Edit: Thanks to the tip from Anonymous, I've tracked down this video of the Scots Guardsman traveling through Lancaster, on its way to Carnforth.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Confession Time - and a Thank You!

Over the last few days I have been finding it difficult to become motivated to blog. It shouldn't be because I don't have the time (I spend three hours a day comuting and can post from my phone). I have even thought about stopping my blog, but the fact is, I quite enjoy it.

I think the problem is to do with work - too much of it.

I need to snap out of my malaise and find some backbone.

Some bloggers are clearly highly motivated. One such person is Diamond Geezer who (a) posts every day with well written and researched posts and (b) clearly has a large and loyal following.

DG has appeared in my blogroll for a little while now. Every year he (?) publishes a survey of blogroll links that link to Diamond Geezer. The survey was published today and my stats have gone through the roof. It shows you (a) the power of recommendation and (b) that I must try harder to drive my own readership. So that is what I shall attempt to do.

Thank you DG for a well deserved kick up the bottom and do, please, keep up the good work.

Note to self: Must try harder.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tickets Please!

I am on my second train of the day and have had my ticket checked twice so far.

We have just whizzed through West Ruislip and I noticed a ticket inspector stood on the platform there.

If you are planning to use Chiltern Railways today, make sure you buy a ticket. If you don't, expect no mercy...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Passport Inspection

Actually, it wasn't a passport inspection, it was an on-train ticket inspection.

First of all, I wish to make my position entirely clear. Within reason, Chiltern Railways can check my train ticket as often as they like. I pay the railway company over £3,500 per year for my season ticket and I think that fare dodgers are scum. They should be caught. sucked into as many civil and criminal justice systems as is possible and spat out of the other end, in bits.

Sorry, I rant.

Yesterday's ticket inspection was a little different. It was a woman I have never seen before, carrying none of the normal 'Revenue Protection Officer' paraphernalia. That was left to an accompanying 'regular' colleague.

She examined each and every season ticket, compared the details on the ticket with the information on the accompanying photo card, and then looked each passenger in the eye to check that the photo card was theirs. Very thorough and a trifle unnerving.

It looked and felt like a check against fraudulent travel (ie forged travel documents or using travel documents belonging to someone else), rather than the usual ticket check.

I wonder who the woman was. I wonder whether she caught anyone? I wonder whether we shall ever see her again?

Compare and contrast with this evening. I am obviously 'known'. The ticket inspector on the train tonight (more of them about than usual, probably because of the 'Green Day' concert at Wembley Stadium) walked past me quickly, saying "hello" before moving into the next section of the train. Now, even though I know plenty of the staff by name I always offer my ticket when I should - tonight I simply wasn't given the chance. Actually, I'm quite chuffed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Have you got six and a half minutes to spare?

Should you be the remotest bit interest, the announcement referred to in my most recent post was heard at Princes Risborough station, operated by Chiltern Railways. I have no idea why other than stating that it was clearly a 'malfunction'.

Speaking of which, have a look at this YouTube clip. See if you can last to the end! Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Strange Station Announcement

Announcement just heard:

"Would any passengers for; and Abbey Wood, please make their way to the rear of the station."

Where am I?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not what was planned

This evening England are to play Mexico in a 'friendly' football match at Wembley Stadium.

Those who are in the know will often choose to travel from central London to Wembley via Marylebone Station.

Chiltern Railways have, this evening, been affected by Signalling problems at Leamington Spa. Unfortunately the same sort of problem is now affecting equipment in the Wembley area.

There do appear to be a small number of train cancellations. London bound trains seem to have delays of about 10 minutes, while Northbound services seem to be worse, at about 25 minutes.

I am not there, but I don't suppose that Marylebone is a sea of tranquility at the moment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Katla is not erupting

As of 0532 GMT this morning, the Icelandic Met Office stated
"Katla is NOT erupting and there are NO indications that Katla is about to erupt."
Clear enough?

Whatever they say, accurate long term planning for airlines that fly through European airs space will be a little tricky for a while.

Hat Tip to Uncle Bill

Nails anyone?

The Rugby Union team that I support won the Guinness Premiership semi-final on Sunday. Saracens beat Northampton Away by 21 points to 19.

If I were someone who chewed my fingernails, then I would have none left. The game was a scintillating game of rugby that saw two evenly matched teams show off all that is good about the game. I got home with a bit of a sore throat.

Subsequent to the match, and following an incident eight days before at Leicester, Director of Rugby Brendan Venter has been handed a 14 week touchline ban by the RFU. This is to be appealed. The full Saracens statement may be read here. The club is appealing.

There was a second hearing in which Schalk Brits was reprimanded and warned as to his future conduct by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel. This is good news - It is probably fair to say that Saracens go into the Final as second-favourites, so the fact that Brits is available to play is a relief. He has made a fantastic contribution to the Saracens since he arrived at the club and now has a week and a half to work with the team to finish preparations for the Final.

I shall now jump in the car to drive to Twickenham - I may have to consider staying over a week on Saturday, just in case a sherbert or two are required. Either that, or go the long way round by train. Weekday rush hour on the M25 followed by South West Trains or the Piccadilly Line (to be decided).... Yumm!

Come on you Sarries! Or should that be "way-a/Lay-o, Lay-o, Lay-o"?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Changing the character of the game

I am a Saracens season ticket holder. We have an important match against Northampton on Sunday - if we win, we will be in the Guinness Premiership Final at Twickenham at the end of the month. I hope Saracens do well.

Last weekend, Saracens played Leicester away, and won. The win was a bit of a surprise to many. I wasn't at the match, but imagine that the Leicester supporters were not happy that their team had lost.

There were a couple of incidents at the match. The RFU have charged the Saracens Director of Rugby with ‘pushing a lady supporter from Leicester RFC’ and with ‘conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union and/or the Game’. Brendan Venter, the Director of Rugby, is clearly a man of some passion who has been responsible in a distinct uplift in results since arriving at the club.

In my experience, Mr Venter is however a miserable git - I sat about five seats away from him at one away match and it was like sitting near a man with his own personal thunder cloud. It was not a pleasurable experience - there was certainly no bon-homie.

Sarcens have but out a statement relating to the RFU charges, which may be read in full here. It reads well and is nicely polished and full of corporate spin.

One paragraph stands out:
“Brendan was put in an impossible situation at Leicester. Imagine Arsenal playing at Stamford Bridge, and Arsene Wenger being made to watch the game from a seat in the midst of passionate Chelsea season-ticket holders. It would not happen in football, yet that is exactly what happened on Saturday."
Yes, that's the problem. Rugby isn't football. Supporters from opposing sides sit with each other. We can drink beer in our seats and yet remain reasonable human beings.

Clearly as a Director of Rugby Mr Venter has to bring out the best in his players, usually involving some aggression and adrenaline. Mr Venter, leave it on the pitch. We do not want the game of Rugby Union going the way of professional football, where the behaviour of some supporters means that those from opposing teams are segregated. It would totally change the character of the game.

I would hope that rugby clubs would deal with opposing team officials with the utmost courtesy when seating their guests - but it is always down to the individual to behave appropriately. If someone can't stand the heat, then they should get out of the kitchen. It's a lot quieter in the car park.

Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. I am now running late.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Quotation

"The difference between a misfortune and a calamity is this: If Gladstone fell into the Thames, it would be a misfortune. But if someone dragged him out again, that would be a calamity."

Benjamin Disraeli

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2010 General Election - Number Crunching

Following Thursday's General Election in the UK, there will no doubt be an ongoing debate about reform of the 'First Past the Post' voting system.

I have extracted the following two tables which aim to show;

(1) The Number of votes / eligible voters per constituency


(2) The number of votes it took for each party to obtain each seat.

Two observations:
  • The number of electors per constituency is just a number - I don't think my table proves anything, as individual seats range from about 22,500 to as much as 105,000. Such discrepancies cannot be right.
  • I absolutely understand why Liberal Democrat voters might feel hacked off.
The arguments can go any way you like - I have neither the will, nor the knowledge, to write a coherent argument either for change or for the status quo.

For me, even acknowledging the view of the Liberal Democrats is an attempt at partisan rehabilitation.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A true story

Two of my neighbours originally came from a country in the southern hemisphere.

While stood at the station this morning, one of them told me that in one local election, his mother did not vote.

The election was a dead heat.

Please don't let the toss of a coin decide who is to be your next Member of Parliament.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Volcanic Ash - The Return

According to RTE, Irish airspace (affecting airports, not the high bit) will close from 7 am tomorrow, 4th May 2010.

The Outer Hebrides are apparently already affected.

As these latest closures are in line with the new internationally agreed guidelines, one can only assume that the ash must be a bit more dense than last time.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Beaconsfield on a Saturday morning

Someone was seriously assaulted late last night on or near the Northbound platform at Beaconsfield station.

It must be bad because a large area of the platform is taped off with various colours of police tape, with the British Transport police in attendance with cameras etc etc. I do hope that the victim recovers. Highly unusual thing to happen for the area.

As of an hour ago trains were stopping, though taxis were picking up and dropping off by the London bound platform.


While walking over the footbridge, I noticed that someone seems to have been having a good try at nicking the lead from the roof of the station. I have no idea whether this is new damage or old - whatever, it can't be good for the integrity of the station roof.


It may not have passed your notice that I use Chiltern Railways a lot. I do this because I live a little way out in rural Buckinghamshire and my annual season ticket enables me to let the train take the strain without spending more than I already do.

The only problem with this is that my ticket does not work the barriers at all stations, because Chiltern do not seem to be willing to upgrade the software that enables them to recognise that my ticket is valid, but being used at an intermediate station.

I've never had this problem at Beaconsfield till now.... As of this morning my ticket will no longer open the barriers there. This is going to be a nuisance for me.... I guess the station staff will just get to know me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


In the current higly politically charged environment surrounding next week's general election, I might be expected to get a bit more political in my observations.

I might be expected to observe how, yesterday, the Lib-Dem Treasury spokesman was pictured on a train from Waterloo. He is obviously a clever man but, caught off-guard, looked to me like a tired old man on his way to a charity board meeting. Maybe if we had more people like him, our politicians would be inclined to do less?

Speaking of cable, overnight some thieving scum-bags have stolen some signalling cable between Banbury and Leamington Spa. This has led to delays and some cancellations to this morning's train services, affecting Chiltern Railways, Cross Country trains and Wrexham & Shropshire.

There are currently masses of people stood on my train (last stop before London - Gerrards Cross). Throw a pebble in the pond and see how far the ripples spread...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

High Speed 2

First things first.

I live in the beautiful Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, to the North West of London. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of the Green Belt, supposedly safeguarded land.

I like where I live, and moved here for some very specific reasons which include peace & quiet, natural beauty and an abundance of Flora and Fauna. I particularly like the fact that I live in an area that packs in an unbelievable number of Red Kites.

Recently the current government announced its plans for 'High Speed 2', a high speed train line to link London with Birmingham and eventually cities further North. The preferred route will head through West London before diving into a tunnel just before the M25, traveling underground for several miles before emerging to desecrate the landscape somewhere in the Great Missenden area. The line would then continue through the AONB towards Aylesbury and then on towards Birmingham.

The total width of the line and associated workings will be approximately 25 metres wide - the same as the length of a typical municipal swimming pool.

This afternoon I traveled on a Chiltern Railways train from Aylesbury to Amersham - the stretch of line between Wendover, Great Missenden and Amersham passes through some fantastic scenery. The thought of that countryside being forever blighted by a 25 metre wide concrete scar, with electric pylons and express trains passing through every two and a half minutes is not something that fills me with glee. Many people feel the same.

As the proposed route is the preferred choice of the existing Labour government, it is natural that their manifesto has the most specific detail on the proposals. Explicitly it says:

Rebuilding our transport infrastructure

Britain needs to invest in modern, high-capacity and low-carbon transport infrastructure. At the heart of our growth plan is the commitment to a new high-speed rail line, linking North and South. Built in stages, the initial line will link London to Birmingham, Manchester, the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds, and then to the North and Scotland. By running through-trains from day one, cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool will also be part of the initial network. Journey times will be slashed – those from the West Midlands to London will be as little as 31 minutes. We will consult fully on legislation to take forward our high-speed rail plans within the next Parliament.

I am not overly keen on the proposed route tearing up and through, as it will, a relatively nice part of the South East of our Green and Pleasant Land. I will admit to breathing a sigh of relief that none of the three preferred routes in the HS2 Report cut through or near the valley where I live. Call me a nimby if you like.

The Conservative Party's election manifesto states:
We will begin work immediately on a high speed rail line connecting London and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with construction beginning in 2015, as the first step towards our vision of a national network joining up cities across England, Scotland and Wales. Stage two will deliver two new lines bringing the North East, Scotland and Wales into our high speed rail network.

What worries me about this is the directly stated intention to connect HS2 to Heathrow Airport. The reason this causes me concern is the lack of specifics on the stated route that such a line would follow - one possibility is that from being a reasonably content but unhappy nimby, I would become an "Oh my God you've got to knock my house down" nimby. That is not a good position to be in. A level of ambiguity and uncertainty that leads me to dislike a Conservative manifesto pledge.

The Liberal Democrats' transport policy is exceedingly wishy washy on HS2 simply stating:

Only the Liberal Democrats have costed plans to put the passenger first, with plans for a rail renaissance, reopening closed railway lines and new stations and building a High Speed Network to cut journey times to Scotland and the north of England.

So, I have previously been open about my political leanings. I need to cast a vote inside of two weeks. What difference will my single vote make in the context of a relatively safe-seat parliamentary constituency?

I know which political party I believe will be best for the country. I know which party's view is least worst for me on HS2. I know which is potentially the worst for me, and I know which one says nothing to help me form any opinion.

Conundrum, conundrum.

Recycling - But please use your vote!

I am not a particularly erudite blogger. By design, I tend to say things about public transport, occasionally I witter on about other things, and now and then I stray into politics.

For those who may not have noticed, the UK has a general election coming up in 11 days. A rare opportunity for some voters to make a difference.

My politics are fairly obvious to those who know me.

A can't stand Gordon Brown, I don't like the politics of the party that Nick Clegg heads up and I feel uneasy about David Cameron, the leader of the party whose policies trend more towards mine than those of the other main parties.

In September 2006 I wrote a post that I titled "This one is politics". A lot has changed in the last three and a half years, particularly from an economic perspective. Fundamentally though, I still believe in what I wrote and I think my words have stood the test of time.

If you are entitled to vote, please do. Vote for whoever you want. Vote for the party which has a leader you like, or vote on the strengths of a good local candidate. Whatever you do though, please use your vote.

If my personal views are not obvious enough, this video may help it become a little more obvious.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interesting Routing on the way to Heathrow

In the lead up to UK airports re-opening last night, for some unknown reason I was wittering on about flight paths and made specific observations about Flight BA84 from Vancouver to Heathrow.

For the record, this image shows the merry dance that the flight made over the British Isles before becoming the first flight to land at Heathrow after 5 1/2 days.

The image is from Please click on the picture for a much larger version.

For the avoidance of doubt

Last night I was was clearly bored. There will be no repetition. I am not suddenly going to appear at an airport near you with a notepad and pair of binoculars.

Normal service will be resumed.

Very early this morning, the Central Line was suspended between North Acton and West Ruislip, due to over-running engineering work at Perivale.

All appears to be back to normal now as tfl are currently reporting a good service. A random check of the Live Departure Boards concurs with this message. Good thing really as the closure would have knocked out one of the three main train depots for the line.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So what about the flight from Lusaka?

Flight BA254 has just taken off from Barcelona and is due to land at London Heathrow at 00.50 tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

It would appear that night time flying restrictions have been lifted tonight for the world's busiest international airport.

I have a colleague and his family stuck in Cyprus with another stuck in Madrid - I wonder how long before I see them.

It has been really quite pleasant having aeroplane free skies for the last few days. I have family who live in Twickenham, very close to the Heathrow flight path - it's back to the usual noise levels for them.

Happy flying!

I think that Heathrow Airport is about to open

I've been blogging for the last couple of hours about BA flights wandering aimlessly over the skies of North Western Europe.

NATS made an announcement an hour ago which said

Statement on Icelandic volcanic eruption: Tuesday April 20, 2040

Response to CAA statement

NATS has received new direction from the UK’s safety regulator, the CAA, on applying restrictions to UK airspace following the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

As soon as revised accurate information is available from the Met Office on the location of the dense ash cloud, NATS will review

airspace availability and provide an update to airline operators on any airspace that has been restricted for safety reasons. We will i

ssue a further statement by 2200.

Now take a look at this image - What do you reckon?

Lost in space...

... or perhaps that should be 'How to throw the losing dice'?

This image, from the excellent shows four long haul British Airways jets currently heading for Heathrow.

So long as you are not geographically challenged, you may notice a slight problem.

The planes left Lagos (Nigeria), Calgary (Canada), Vancouver (Canada) and Beijing (China).

Houston, I think we have a problem!

Whether they end up in Madrid or Paris (either of which looks possible), I think if I were a passenger, I would rather have been diverted to Newcastle or Durham Tees Valley, both of which appear to be capable of receiving flights at this moment in time.

Ho hum.

20.30 I think the most easterly of the four planes was from Beijing and that plane landed at Amsterdam's Schipol airport. The 'orange' flight from Calgary is due to land at Paris CDG, the flight from Lagos has just done a circuit over the Channel Islands and doesn't seem to know what it is doing while the flight from Vancouver is currently doing lots of circuits over the Irish Sea.

20.50 The flight from Vancouver appeared to be about to land in Dublin, but then headed out over the Irish Sea again.

20.57 I've just noticed that flight BA254 from Lusaka (Zambia) appears to have done an about turn just South of the French coast and may now be heading for Spain? This looks interesting.

21.09 I hope the B747 from Lagos has plenty of fuel - it is still doing circles over the Cherbourg peninsular. The Vancouver flight is currently over Chester at 26,000 feet and heading South East towards Birmingham (currently closed). It must be an interesting evening on both of these planes.

21.20 The fligh from Lusaka appears to be heading for Barcelona and is currently descending through 17,000 feet. The Vancouver flight got as far South as Stratford-Upon-Avon and then did an about turn and has now done a circuit over Birmingham! The Lagos flight is still going round in circles.

21.27 I can't find the Lusaka flight any more. I am getting bored. You must be!

21.33 Just a thought... I wonder whether BA are trying to bully the UK authorities into letting them land at Heathrow. Currently there is a flight from Vancouver doing circles over Birmingham, a flight from San Fransisco that did a fantastic dance off the West coast of Ireland and which is now heading for the Welsh Coast, a flight from Lagos whic is still doing circles off the French coast, a flight from Los Angeles currently over Plymouth and a further two from Abuja (Nigeria) and Mauritius which have been circling over France and which are now heading across the English Channel.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yuck - Look away now!

Beaconsfield is a generally charming town in the Chiltern Hills. It has a train station run by Chiltern Railways.

Yesterday (Saturday) at 10 am there was a pile of something rather yucky on the Northbound platform. It wasn't pleasant and was reasonably fresh. Uggh (shudders)!

Today (Sunday) the pile of unpleasantness is still there, looking less fresh, though just as unpleasant.

To be quite frank, the fact that the mess has not been cleared up in 24 hours is just bone-idle laziness. Beaconsfield is a staffed station and I know for a fact that roving station staff (whose jobs include cleaning) were out and about yesterday and are on duty today.

I know it's not nice, but if you are paid to do a job, get on with it. Don't just hope that management won't spot a problem and then leave it for someone else to clear up.

Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Unacceptable.

Rant over... It's a glorious day in rural Buckinghamshire with droning and vapour trail free skies. I'm now going to do some gardening.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Escalator Work at Oxford Circus

London Underground have announced that from next Monday, 19 April 2010, until summer 2011 Oxford Circus station will be exit and interchange only before 10.30 am on weekdays.

That means that before 10.30 am on weekdays it will not be possible to enter the station at street level to join the Central Line, the Victoria Line or the Bakerloo Line. The restrictions may also be implemented at other times if the station gets too busy.

It sounds bad, but the reality is that these restrictions shouldn't affect the majority of passengers. The access arrangements are being implemented to allow engineers to replace a bank of three escalators.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Away we go again

Back in January I went to Stockport, to watch Saracens play Sale Sharks. Except I didn't, but I did.

The match was cancelled due to snow, but I went anyway. I went anyway, because the trains were running and I couldn't get the money back that I had spent on my train ticket.

Anyhow, the re-arranged fixture was last night. I took the day off work and traveled up in the afternoon.

The match was enjoyable. Unsurprisingly there were only a tiny number of Saracens supporters who had made the trip up North (I'm guessing, less than 40), although the game they saw had just the right amount of stress.

The final score was Sale Sharks 19 - Saracens 30, so a good result for a small proportion of the people at Edgeley Park (Stockport County's ground).

There's a football match on at Wembley this afternoon, so there were quite a few Aston Villa fans out and about on the way down from Birmingham earlier.

Again Chiltern Railways and Cross Country Trains both behaved themselves each way.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Oh yes you are. Oh no I'm not!

I am currently sat on a Chiltern Railways 'Clubman' service from London Marylebone that will terminate somewhere in Oxfordshire Buckinghamshire*.

The dot matrix screens inside the carriages tell me that the first stop will be Banbury, followed by a number of stations in the Midlands, and finishing up in Shrewsbury.

Now, let's assume that the displays are wrong. I certainly hope so, otherwise I shall be very late getting home.

What I find strange is that the driver has even been able to program the displays with a set of destinations to which I don't think any Clubman has ever run in passenger service.

I wonder whether the separately badged Wrexham & Shropshire services have anything to worry about?

W&C is of course a sister company to Chiltern Railways, with a shared Marketing Director.....

*Edit: Correction made - I didn't have my timetable with me and had assumed the train was going to Bicester or Banbury, which was not the case.

Please stick fingers in ears and shout "La La La"

Repetition... Boring.... Repetition..... Boring......

The train is short formed again today. Grrr.

Still, at least the Chiltern Railways driver has apologised.

Beautiful morning. Not a cloud in the sky. A bit of ground frost at 6am this morning. Could turn out to be the warmest day of the year so far.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


"Oi! Are you calling me short?", said the train to the crowd of commuters waiting on the platform at Gerrards Cross.

Dead right. A carriage carelessly dumped in some siding somewhere. Not much of a welcome to all the commuters returning from a over-extended Easter break.

No mention of train dwarfism on the Chiltern Railways website this morning. Maybe it's to be the norm and they hope no one will notice...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Back of an envelope calculation

OK, the train I am on has lost 20% of its usual seats.

Where I am sat still has 20% of the seats empty. No one else will get on.

Some people usually stand.

I guess that 35 to 40 percent of Chiltern Railways' commuter passengers have gone AWOL today.

Short Today...

The Chiltern Railways' website advises that a few trains are a carriage short today. Obviously those particular carriages never made it back from their Easter holidays.

The website makes no mention of the train that I am sat on, which is also missing a carriage.

Actually, whatever the reason it shouldn't really matter - Trains and car parks seem fairly quiet this morning.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Doom Monger

One of my work colleagues, who is of the 'the glass is half empty' type, said to me on Thursday that the London Underground was 'virtually shut' this weekend due to Engineering Work.

I sort of poo-pooed him and, as if to make a point, travelled along a bit of the Central Line yesterday morning - it was working fine.

Today is different.

At present, only the Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly Lines are operating a normal service. All other London Underground Lines are either (i) totally closed, (ii) partially closed or (iii) partially suspended.

This image above is here to mark the position for posterity, though the clickable widget to the right should show the live position.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Igloo on Wheels

The 10.18 Chiltern Railways departure from London Marylebone is currently en-route to Birmingham Snow Hill.

Don't get on the third ("Quiet") carriage. The lights are off, plenty of people are sitting in it, and they've all got their coats on. The engine underneath the carriage isn't running and I suspect that unless the driver gets it started, the train will struggle to maintain time all the way to Birmingham.

*Perhaps Igloo isn't the most appropriate description - I understand that igloos are supposed to be surprisingly warm inside.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Over Running Engineering Works - EG3 v1.0

After a few weeks of relatively harmless week-night engineering works, the gremlins hit last night.

Early this morning, Chiltern Railways didn't seem to be able to run Up (London bound) trains between Princes Risborough and High Wycombe.

Inevitably a few trains were cancelled. Trains have been running through for the last hour or so, but there will still be some problems for a while yet, as a few trains will be in the wrong places.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Two Fridays in a Row

Last Friday evening, at about six o'clock, some poor soul lost their argument with the front of a Northbound Chiltern Railways' train at Beaconsfield. The line was closed for two hours, a family received some very bad news, and the services were completely messed up until the last few trains of the day.

I got home one train in-front so did not suffer the problems that thousands of people did.

Tonight I was a bit later coming home - a train a couple behind mine broke down on the Northbound line at Neasden, at one time trapping five trains behind it. I suspect they've managed to move it into the depot or sidings at Wembley, as trains appear to be moving again with some minor delays and just the odd cancellation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More of the white stuff

I spoke to my Grandmother last night. She lives up in the Yorkshire Dales and is now 93.

She told me it had been snowing heavily all day. She agreed (!) that she wouldn't try to clear the snow and would stay inside. I was also told that food stocks were good.

At six o'clock this morning, it was chucking it down with rain in my neck of the woods, the North Western edge of the Chiltern Hills, in Rural Buckinghamshire.

By 6.45 the rain had turned to big white fluffy snow flakes.

I doubt it'll amount to much as the heavy rain means the ground is simply too wet and warm.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Well that's a first!

I don't get very many comments. That I can cope with.

What I don't want to have to cope with is sexually explicit comments in Korean.

Deleted. But really, such behaviour is not necessary and is inappropriate.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What Happened Next....

It was all pretty good:
  • The flight took off about an hour late, partly I think due to de-icing the wings.
  • We were only in the air for 95 minutes, so landed just half an hour late. Mind you, we did land so heavily that some passengers squeaked and, because the plane was going to bed, we taxied to such a far flung area of Luton airport that we couldn't even see the terminal!
  • The immigration desks were fully staffed and
  • Best of all, our luggage was already on the carousel by the time we got to it.
Sleep beckons.....

First Out - Last Back

Last Saturday we caught a reasonably early flight from Luton airport.

So far as I can tell, the plane then then did a couple of return trips from Salzburg to other UK airports, before making a final trip back to Luton at the end of the day.

Tonight, we are on that final leg back to Luton, before the plane goes to sleep for the night.

These arrangements meant that (a) we were able to make our own arrangements to travel to Salzburg this morning, thus having the day free to look around the city and (b) there was always going to be the possibility of our flight being late, due to the compounding effect of 'issues' throughout the day.

Having had a good day, after having checked in we were told that our flight could be up to two hours late. The good news is that all involved appear to have made up some time and our cases are now loading and a departure about 45 minutes behind schedule looks likely. Not bad.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life without a smoking ban

Despite my continuing to babble on, I have not been in the Uk this week.

I have been fortunate enough to have been enjoying a skiing holiday in Austria.

I have always liked Austria. I probably always shall. That's that!

One thing that I have noticed is that people in Austria can still smoke in bars and restaurants. In the UK, smoking in such places is banned.

In Austria you can smell smoke on your clothes after an evening out. In the UK, you can't. The smell is horrid and I had forgotten about it.

Having said that, I am firmly against rules, regulations and the interference of the state in our daily lives. I therefore remain against the smoking ban in the UK and applaud the approach of the Austrian people towards the avoidance of the nanny state.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Back to my roots

Crikey - I have actually been back Along the Central Line.

An emergency appointment at the dentist saw me heading back towards Northolt. So it was one stop Eastbound from South Ruislip, an un-enjoyable* 30 minutes in Northolt and then 30 minutes into the West End from Along the Central Line.

I waited no longer than 30 seconds for either train, the journey times were quick and each train was quiet. If only I could always travel to work at lunchtime!

The only problem with quiet trains is that they can't last for ever. If trains are consistently quiet, due to less people traveling, then eventually the operator will cut services. One should think before wishing too much for quiet trains - regularly quiet = uneconomic.

* I don't like going to the dentist, but do try to go regularly. Upon explaining the problem, my dentist looked in my mouth and said "Oh, that's not too bad. I can fix that". In and out in 10 minutes. Fortunately, not back to my roots. Result!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Yoof of Today

A girl was waiting outside Beaconsfield station. I guess she was about 14. She looked as though she was waiting for a friend.

Sure enough, after a couple of minutes her friend turned up - from over the footbridge on the platform side of the barriers.

It quickly became apparent the the waiting girl had neither the intellect, nor the ability, to purchase a ticket unaided. She did not appear to have what are described as 'learning difficulties'. Quite simply she was what I would call 'scatty'.

Anyhow, through the railings her friend patiently described the process of buying a ticket and the girl eventually flourished her train ticket in the air proudly saying "How do I get in?".

There are two ticket barriers to the platform. Having spent 20 seconds trying to ram her ticket into the 'way out' barrier (the one with the big RED light), she eventually gained access through the 'way in' barrier (yes, you guessed it, the one with the big green light on it).

Most Chiltern Railways stations have automatic Ticket Vending Machines. They are generally pretty straight forward to use. They are also good because if you buy tickets online, all of the TVMs will print out your tickets, provided you designated the appropriate station as your collection point.

Following some robberies, a small number of Chiltern's un-staffed stations have had their ticket machines removed. This is a significant inconvenience for some passengers. It is thought that the thieves may be currently enjoying a stay away from home at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

It would be nice if the railway company could reinstate the machines, but that is as likely as it starting to snow Smarties.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sign of the times

Walking between Marylebone and Baker Street stations are two blocks of small shops.

Out of ten shops on one of the blocks, three have recently closed.

It may well be a particularly greedy landlord. In a way, I hope that is the case. Otherwise a 30% closure rate in the space of a month would seem to confirm that the retail sector is currently suffering a nightmare.

Unless that is you are one of the large supermarket chains.

Obviously, we want to live in a world where we are forced to shop at one of the large supermarkets. Naturally, life would be better without local independent shops and speciality retailers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Travel Information Call Centre number for London

About a month ago Transport for London launched a new number for their Travel Information Call Centre. It is 0843 222 1234 which is reassuringly similar to the old number (020 7222 1234).

Just be aware that this number may not be included in your 'free local call' quota if you have such a thing in your landline or mobile package. If you were previously calling from within London (or from just outside), then the old '020 ' would have been included in most quotas.

The old number is still working.

Thanks to London Reconnections for the tip (and see for more detail).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How deep can we go?

Over the last few days I've done quite a bit of driving around the bottom half of Buckinghamshire.

The state of the roads is quite shocking. There are potholes everywhere, some of which are quite big. Big as in some are wide, big as in some are deep and big as in some are wide and deep.

The potholes are on busy roads and on quiet roads. They are in the towns and in the countryside.

The potholes will have been caused by the recent long cold weather. Combined with the modern cheap and cheerful way of patching up roads, their really is an epidemic of them.

Last week the Bucks Free Press quoted the Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council as saying that the authority would not be borrowing money to fix the road network stating "Borrow £10million and look for another £1million cut in frontline services".

I totally understand where the Council is coming from, but it doesn't help to fix the roads. If we have another cold snap, some roads will be virtually impassable at anything more than 20 mph.

On a separate but related matter, I was chatting with a fellow commuter last week. I know what he does and where he works, which is in the public sector. Most people would probably want what he does to continue, and to a high standard.

In the upcoming financial year, his department / team / function is facing having its £2.5 million budget cut by over 80%. That means job losses, site closures and significant challenges in the future.

These two examples of public finance problems are what I have heard of in the last few days. Many people simply have no idea of the scale of the economic problem that this country faces.

We are all going to have to face up to a challenging future for public finances. Please do not underestimate the scale of the problem.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Watch out if you are heading to North West London on the Underground this weekend

If you are in or are heading towards North West London this weekend, the chances are any underground journey will be disrupted.

The Metropolitan, Jubilee, Bakerloo and Piccadilly Lines are amongst those with part suspensions.

Visit the tfl website for more information (this link should always show the current position for planned weekend engineering works).

Mustn't Drive

An hour's drive to get here. A lovely meal in good company. A couple of bottles of wine, some Port and fun conversation.

Bodies spread all over the house - I am on the sofa. Fire in stove nearly out. Room warm.

Early start, lots to do. Sleep is rushing upon me. Zzzzzzzz.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Luck lucky

On a couple of evenings this week, the Central Line has had 'issues'.

Somewhat unusually for me, I have made various return journeys on the Central Line on three different days, this week.

On every occasion, the line has behaved itself, so I really mustn't grumble!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on seat management...

Off to a breakfast meeting in town, then out to the East End, then back to Soho.

Not quite as bad as Tuesday where I had seven hours of back-to-back meetings, plus traveling from Soho (the first), out to Canary Wharf (second & third) and back again for the rest. For the record, that would be the Bakerloo, Northern & Jubilee Lines.

I am currently sat on a Chiltern Railways train that runs non-stop from Princes Risborough to London Marylebone. It started at Warwick Parkway at 0540.

Everyone who got in the back carriage at the last stop got a seat. There are no empty seats.

That takes very good planning. Oh, and luck.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A minute saved

As of a few minutes ago, Oxford Circus station was closed due to a fire brigade investigation.

My Northbound Bakerloo Line train did not stop at the station, thereby saving about a minute off the journey time.

I caught my train at Marylebone with 45 seconds to spare.


Front or back?

I usually sit in the back carriage of this train. Usually the same seat. The perk of a moderately long commute - one can choose where to sit.

At the last station before London Marylebone, Gerrards Cross, few people who get on at the back get a seat.

Today, I need to make a quick get-away when I get to London. I have chosen to sit in the front carriage.

We have stopped at the last stop before Marylebone and there are still quite a few seats available.

They will be like cattle at the back.

The usual doctrine is that passengers heading for a terminus will tend to bunch towards the front of a train

Clearly the clever folk of Buckinghamshire are far to clever for that. Shhhh. Don't tell them, there may be a rush!