The Lost SWT 18:30hrs Train From Waterloo to Portsmouth

An Epic Tale of Endurance


Monday was the anniversary of D-Day and I had hoped to post a little anecdote or too in remembrance of that fantastic feat of arms. Unfortunately, events rushed past and I neglected to post my piece. I couldn't anyway, have improved upon these two which you can enjoy here and here.

One of the reasons Monday was a wee bit hectic was in no small part thanks to our old friends at South West Trains. If any organisation exists to make a simple job really expensive and difficult whilst exacting maximum pain, discomfort and inconvenience on their customers it's the merry band of jolly souls at South West Trains.

We endured a grim start to the week, engineered by South West Trains unique but incompetent approach to customer service. Apparently, a passenger leaned against an electric door outside Woking and broke it; (the door, not Woking). Having evacuated the train at Surbiton I joined hundreds of other weary and sodden travellers in watching lots of other trains whizz through the station for the next half an hour before one stopped. Well, obviously I didn’t make it on to that one or indeed the next but I did manage to scuttle onto the third. I hate South West trains and it’s quite beyond me why on earth travellers to the City accept this and then go and research / recommend / buy Stagecoach, (owners of SWT), shares. We should tell Souter and his bandits to bugger off. They have a taxpayer subsidised licence to print money and constantly take the mickey out of us. I note, just to add insult to injury, that Souter recently donated £500,000 to the SNP.  

The day didn’t finish at all well either with SWT coming back to laugh in the faces of the weary home going commuting public with what I can only describe, even with maximum restraint, as a weapons grade cock up at Waterloo in the evening. Having received a number of texts from friends warning of timetable meltdown I arrived to find no one at the station knowing any more about departure times than the nearest foraging pigeon.

Queue at Waterloo Station on Monday

Battle hardened by years of SWT incompetence, I made a judgement call.  I boarded a train simply on the basis that it had a driver, was on the usual platform and was pointing West. It turned out to be a good call but it departed mostly empty, leaving hundreds of its usual passengers on the platform because no one had told them where it was, where it was going and at what time. It was a good call; I received this email later from a client…… “The 6.30 pm has just pulled to a halt at Surbiton again! 80 minutes in and still not halfway.” Honestly, these people would be out of their depth standing in a puddle.

If that were all we could perhaps put it down to experience but the laughs and giggles have carried on throughout the week. Ever wondered what you get for £6,000 a year from South West trains. Let me, with the help of a friend who is currently marooned outside Woking on the 18:30hrs from Waterloo, a little window into their startling and abject failure to get the basics even close to an acceptable standard. It is currently , by the way, 21:15hrs.

19:23hrs "Don't know if you are caught up in this but two signal failures and we have stopped dead. Announcement is that there are severe delays into Woking."

19:59hrs "We've been parked at West Byfleet for half an hour. The guard has just announced that those wishing to get out and catch a taxi to Woking can do so." Those who are a bit stressed about the situation are welcome to step outside for a cigarette. This is the 6.30 train. Not very encouraging."

20:16hrs "Its got worse. We moved a mile off West Byfleet. Stopped for 15 minutes and they have just announced that the crew of the train parked at Woking on our track has gone missing, and until a new crew is found we will be parked here. There's a group of loud Australians who have taken refuge in 1st class and drunk the trolley dry just to compound problems."

20:30hrs "They have just announced they are still looking for a crew. And that SW trains have said the next train from Woking to Basingstoke - for poor sods who intended to change at Woking....will now depart at 1am"

20:40hrs "Drivers just told the now plastered Australians that he will ring their campsite as they probably won't get to the Isle of White till after midnight. Now I'm depressed."

21:02hrs "The guard has just told us that the people he rings to get information (as we still haven't moved), aren't picking up the phone and appear to have gone home."

21:27hrs "The lights and air-conditioning have just been turned off and the Australians have started a disco and now have to shout to be heard. The train feels like its moving but its just the reverberations from the dance floor."

21:30hrs "The Guard has asked if there are any police on board."

21:55hrs "They have now called for a doctor; I think it was old age."

and another abandoned soul pings in a text from "The Lost Train From Waterloo,"......

22:04hrs "On the 18:30 and still haven't reached Woking yet. Doesn't get any worse - someone did a runner so they have turned the power off. Festival goers en route to Isle of Wight now well oiled."

back to our gritty correspondant,

22:07hrs "Hope - the power has now been turned on. Some of the Australians have started to wilt."

22:21hrs "Power has been turned off again. Apparently we are two miles from Woking and the state of the toilets has to be seen to be believed."

(SWT did of course refit the trains on delivery and reduced the usual number of lavatories the manufacturers build to enable them to squeeze more seats in).

22:31hrs: "It's a problem - they turn the power off because people jump off the train on the tracks. No air conditioning so they open some doors to stop people passing out and then more people jump off. The people going to Basingstoke are starting to worry they are going to miss the one o'clock train."

22:41hrs "Power turned on. Fingers crossed as tightly as my legs."

22:51hrs "Driver has just reported the train in front has started to move slowly to Woking. We haven't yet moved."

22:56hrs "The guard, who has been very good under the circumstances, has announced that he has asked for water to be brought aboard at Woking, but says that given staff shortages, it may not happen."

What they need here is every bloody manager out of his bed, on the job and sorting this out and they might well call the Sally Anne and get one of their brew wagons out while they're at it. I'm not joking, they did it for Eurostar passengers.....


It's more like Dunkirk than D-Day with South West Trains............... 

22:59hrs "He has also announced that those seeking compensation from SWT should quote a number. Now that will be interesting. And while we are moving - it's very slow and yet we are passing many.... crap, we've stopped.

23:04hrs "Woking - wonderful Woking. And in only four and a half hours. No sign of any water! And I hope we aren't going to be waiting for it."

Always with their finger on the pulse, this is what the SWT website has to contribute to matters,

"A signalling problem is causing disruption near Brookwood. Because of this, there are delays of up to 180 minutes through Woking. Delays will continue until the end of service."

Clueless as always, they don't even know where their own trains are.

23:41hrs "Well, it's all over. Petersfield in five hours and ten minutes. Third time this week that South West Trains has legged me over. However, the guard was a legend. He works for utter bastards but he has done a good job. Don't think you'll see me on the early train. Might take me a little while to get on a train again."

Well played to our hardy correspondent and oh my, I just can't wait to get on the 06:15hrs tomorrow............. who said commuting was dull?