Right Way To Waterloo

Bemused passengers on the 05:19hrs Portsmouth Harbour to Waterloo train this morning were surprised when told by the train guard to move to the right hand side of the train between Haslemere and Guildford where the train was taken out of service due to a failure of it's Ballast Management System.

'Most passengers don't realise that our new Siemans built trains have a ballast management system which stabilises the train carriages when going round bends,' said Tony Cocking, Chief Engineer for South West Trains. 'Ships use water for ballast management but we use a low viscosity oil.  A series of barrier valves failed which meant the oil was unable to flow freely from side to side requiring all passengers to sit and stand on the port side of the train to maintain stability at reduced speed until the train safely reached Guildford. All Portsmouth bound trains were halted at Woking but only for a short time.'

Another spokesman for South West Trains thanked passengers for their cooperation and apologised for any inconvenience incurred. Most passengers took the incident in their stride with Bill McDuff, a regular Haslemere commuter commenting, 'It's all a bit of a laugh really, surely it must have been an April Fool?'


Commuter Hell

Service as usual at Waterloo last night

Well, I waited for an hour and a quarter before chucking the towel in. I repaired to the Club and treated myself to a dozen oysters and a glass of Chablis as a respite treat from Commuter Hell. I returned at 9pm when trains were at least running, albeit somewhat late. How many of the people in that picture, when they left school with exciting hopes dreams and aspirations, ever thought they would expend a significant part of their lives in cumulative time spent waiting on Waterloo Station concourse? How many toddlers missed their bedtime stories? How many “dinner is in the dog” moments, anniversaries missed, school parents meetings, school plays……….? Quite sad really.


Bloody South West Bloody Trains

05:57 at Petersfield station. Unfortunately, the thing missing in this picture is the 05:57 train which again failed to show. The 06:29 did though and boy did it tear through the station at a lick.

Shame it didn’t stop, that really would have been something of a help. Of course, as all commuters know, these bxstard train operators game the system by cancelling trains which are likely to be late so they don’t incur late arrival penalties. I genuinely hate the government for letting those mendacious thieves get away with it. 

Starving Baboons on South West Trains

Now, I have no idea who this chap is. He must though be a man of fortitude and self reliance for given the way he was gorging on that giant burrito thing, and gurgling from his water bottle like a dehydrated water buffalo, on the 19:30hrs to Portsmouth last night, I have to think that he had just returned from 2 years in the Serengeti or 6 months up the Limpopo without a paddle or bag of chips to his name. Oblivious to all around why wouldn't you buy the messiest, smelliest food available and then proceed to eat it in the close confines of a railway carriage like a starving baboon? He did and to keep him company the girl in front was wading her way through  some Asian creation just opposite the American girl who was yapping away on her telephone while glugging her bottle of red wine (large). 

The thing is, individuals can mostly do what they please in the confines and privacy of their own homes. Why though, can't they wait on returning home to make their call or wolf down some street food?

Given they display zero consideration for their fellow commuters we need to change the rules, or in fact impose some rules. Travellers should be made to sit a test in front of a board of senior commuters to ratify that they are fit and proper citizens before being allowed to acquire a season ticket. They'll be questioned on platform etiquette, enquiries to the guard etiquette, attitudes to adopt in moments of severe disruption and delays, allowable snacks and refreshments, courtesy to fellow travellers (including use of electronic devices and allowable films), and correct use and storage of umbrellas.

Train Goes Walkabout

Class 170/3 set of the type used by South West Trains on the Salisbury to Waterloo line

In a worrying incident this morning, several hundred passengers on the 06:45 commuter train from Salisbury to London have become stranded in Matlock, Derbyshire; some 150 miles from their intended destination. In what Network Rail managers called, a rail traffic control nightmare,€ the South West Trains service was redirected several times following an electrical fault which delayed the train at Basingstoke.

Mr Roy Parrish, Director of Services for Network Rail said,  "The train experienced electrical issues at Basingstoke and was moved temporarily onto another line to keep the main line clear. When the fault was cleared it was unfortunately not possible to move the service back because of other services using the main London line."€ He went on to explain that once on the Reading line it was easier to divert ahead via Reading but due to confusion there, the service was misdirected to Oxford by which time it had been inadvertently labelled in the Network Control Centre as a train destined for Birmingham New Street. Mr Parrish continued, "immediately the error was spotted, a decision was taken to bypass Birmingham and route the service up the Sheffield line from where is would continue to Doncaster and join the high speed East Coast line back south to London. The train though, broke down en route to Sheffield several miles outside Matlock."

€Although it sounds like a comedy of errors,€ a harassed Mr Parrish explained, "€œit really is just an unfortunate sequence of events. I want to emphasise that passenger safety has not been compromised and everything that can be done is being done to get these people to their destination."€

Matlock Station

Passengers on the train however, vented their anger and irritation to news desks by mobile telephone. Mrs Margaret Evans-Pritchard (67), a retired teacher from Shipton Bellinger was an exception and said in a telephone interview, "it's all been rather fun really, a sort of mystery tour and the Peak District is so pretty at this time of year." However, a Mr Francis Dart, (45), an insurance broker from Salisbury, summed up the prevailing dark mood on the train when he said, "it's utterly absurd. What should be a one and a half hour journey has taken all day going in the opposite direction and now we'€™re stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one loo between us. Just sums this country up."

Investigators from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch are said to be not involved given no incident€ has actually taken place but, they €œmay take an interest to see if lessons can be learned, an unnamed spokesman said. 

South West Trains said they were confident of getting all the passengers to their ultimate destinations in time for work tomorrow.

Pains on Trains

I've traveled up and down the Portsmouth line to Haslemere for years. I've done it in first, in second, I've done it standing and I've done it staggering. I've traveled with loud drunks, happy drunks, noisy drunks, and punchy drunks. I've sat with the interesting, the dull, the entertaining and the downright miserable. I've listened to jokes, to tales of woe and of wonderment, sports reports and holidays from all over the world from companion travelers, some of whom I've known, many I haven’t. I prefer to sit in silence, happy in my own bubble for the 58 minutes in the day each way that is mine. In the old days it was 5 hours in Club to New York or Tokyo or even shorter on Concorde but we are where we are. Like many others, I've occasionally tolerated loud music from other peoples headphones. Although with whatever suppressing technology they now use it’s not the plague it used to be, most passengers ignore the hip-hap-housy-rag-rip-roll junk that some of these idiots play with equanimity.

Crumble's carriage on the 18:15pm shortly after switching his one-pod on

Crumble's carriage on the 18:15pm shortly after switching his one-pod on

That is, until one very particular piece of music is played. I've never seen such shuffling, nodding and shaking accompanied by those Death Ray Eyes as I do when I happen to play some pipe music on my one-pod. Indeed, the alacrity displayed to any other social nuisances is replaced with heightened tension, bulging eyes and elevated blood pressure. Poor souls, it’s not my fault if modern headphone sound suppression technology can’t cope with the massed bands of the Gordon Highlanders.

I simply like to think I’m there to enlighten and educate; I’ll bring them round......... eventually.

The Train Tantrum Thing


You don’t have to go to Global markets to witness a tantrum. The brand new, “it doesn’t cost anything to be nice,” campaign which I have initiated suffered an early setback today when, because of unforeseen car issues, I was forced to rouse the Sleeping Lioness at 05:30am for a lift to the station. In fact, it would have been easier to deal with a Sleeping Lioness than the snappy, bity thing I had to share a car with and I stumbled on to the train after a short but memorable journey, somewhat shocked that Mrs Flashbang even knew such words. I won’t be seeing her for a few days; I’m hoping the swelling should be down by Thursday though.

Crumble Returns

It's been a while with some interruptions from work and elsewhere that have precluded my full attention. Never mind, I've enjoyed driving myself witless trying to re engineer this wretched page and I've ended up with a worse version than the last, (Thanks Squarespace, this new version 6 reminds me of trying to make sense of Microsoft Vista  with instructions in Swahili tabulated in Braille). Much more work required but we all need to start somewhere I suppose.

Still, not much has changed. The Government remain utterly clueless and are driving the ship hard toward the iceberg marked, "debt implosion," in a land fit for wind turbines and £80bn railways to nowhere. Bloody Downton Abbey is coming back and we're finishing one war but warming up for another. What's more the bins still are being emptied only once a fortnight and South West Trains and the public school system continue to send me into penury.  

Still, we all make our own choices in life and we can enjoy trying to make sense of it all with a bit of stoic humour and common sense. There will be something more of a financial tilt to the blog going forward; I simply feel that the financial car crash that we're hurtling toward needs a broader airing and unless the passing reader knows where to look he may remain blissfully unaware of the structural problems out there. Perhaps thats the best way to be.

Go, Having Gone


Time for a quick update from our chum Dirk in Kent,

"Just a few more days of the summer holidays and then the trains will be back to normal.  The first few carriages from the buffers should be studiously avoided for this is where families head, looking ideally for a table, where an early incumbent with any sense will quickly make himself scarce....chivalry has nothing to do with it. 

They will need a surface on which to eat their food, a last-gasp treat of Burger King the bribe for foregoing yet another ice-cream earlier in the afternoon.  If really lucky this sticky pod will also be close to one of the train loos, for apart from the obvious reasons they can play with the automatic buttons on the doors.  It hasn't happened in a while, but until we got the hang of how to lock from inside it used to be common for people on the loo to suffer the indignity for the doors to mysteriously gape open of their own accord.

A particularly restless little tyke couldn't resist the inviting yellow button, pressed it, and was so startled by the ensuing command to "get out" hissed from the wretched woman within that instead of hurriedly closing the door she ran away.  It must be said that these loos are generously proportioned to cater for disabled passengers so it's more than just a stretch to reach the 'close/lock' button.  Men can at least be facing the far wall, but women have no choice but to hide their faces and pretend it's not happening. 

Be warned that in this open-plan situation there's not a lot you can do until you're ready to get up and go, having gone."


SWT; Stand & Deliver


I hate South West Trains. If they walked around in striped jerseys, masks and carried large bags marked "swag," it couldn't be more obvious that they have been given free license it relieve passengers of hard earned money at every available opportunity and with precious little oversight.

Yesterday, in the modern equivalent of highway robbery, the scheming swine relieved me of £930 for an annual car park space at the station. It wasn't the fact that the car park was unusable for 3 weeks earlier this year because unlike all the other local businesses they couldn't be bothered to clear the snow that irritated me with the intensity of a hemorrhoid flare up. No, it was the fact that £930 represents a more than 10% increase on last year's cost. £930 for a bit of tarmac 50 miles from London....... sods.

Moving on, we have an update from our friend Dirk in Kent  for whom the lights of the commuting experience seemingly grow ever dimmer; enjoy,

"Overflowing man was jutting out into the aisle, probably deliberately so as not to miss the refreshment trolley as it lumbered past.  With his foot acting as a stabilizing chock he was able to place a substantial order to help fill that needy little hour between tea and high tea, certainly he’d left plenty of room inside for it all to be packed.

It was with some reluctance that he eventually drew himself in to allow the trolley past and we could see what he’d ordered: 3 packets of crisps, 3 packets of fruit cake, 2 kitkats, a packet of miscellaneous biscuits and two cups of tea.  The Snickers bar (one of a double-pack) that he’d been nuzzling as he’d boarded was left half demolished while he tucked in to the main course…or that was the plan for he’d just torn open the first packet of crisps when his phone rang.  “About 7.30” was his response to whatever was asked, and after the next question which we could only guess at there was a considered pause until he answered “boiled would be nice”."



Tickets Please!

After our recent adventures with South West Trains it's over to our old friend Dirk in Kent for another of his "Episodes of the Kent Commuter......"

A lovely scene witnessed on yesterday's train when the ticket-inspector lurched into view.  
The man wedged in by the window pleaded to be excused proof of his validity, his ticket being stowed on the overhead rack in his jacket pocket.  Our inspector obviously got a ratty whiff in his nostrils and calling his bluff asked which jacket that would be and would he like him to get it down for him.
Unfortunately, on retrieving it from its folded position the SE Trains man let loose a shower of coins and a mobile handset which clunked down onto the head/lap of a dozing commuter who nonetheless remained oblivious.  We then had the surreal situation whereupon the ticket's verification became a sideshow while the by-now ruffled ticket collector rummaged around in a stranger's groin trying to make good, and no doubt contemplating being charged with assault of one man and robbery of another in the course of trying to do his job properly. These weren't just pennies, they were £1 coins and their loss therefore not to be sniffed at, especially given where they'd vanished. Their combined worth might even have been enough to pay for the wretched ticket had it been required but our man proved to be an innocent season-ticket holder after all, though possibly a couple of quid poorer for his efforts to stay cool.
That'll teach him to travel in shirt-sleeve order.