Saturday, 25 June 2011


On the subject of public transport - a bugbear of mine as I try to reduce my car use but realise that the numbers simply don't add up even with petrol at an all time high price - we had a bit of a mishap today as we returned from a lovely day out to Kew Gardens.

Simply put, the issue was that our first train from Richmond to Reading was delayed by 16 minutes and our connecting train from Reading was due to leave 14 minutes after we were meant to arrive at Reading. So that's 14-16, which equals -2. Not good for catching the train.

What annoyed us was that we piled off the train - two adults, two small, tired children - and hurtled to the next door platform to try to catch our connection and we watched with dismay as the doors locked and it slowly moved away.

Now you could say that this is just one of those things and stuff happens. The problem is that the two trains are operated by different companies and they just didn't speak to each other, allowing the second train to hang on for 30 seconds. The very helpful station supervisor at Reading explained that his station is busy, it's a bottleneck and they can't afford delays and that's fine but I can't help thinking that if they were the same company - called, say, British Rail - someone, somewhere could have picked up the radio and called ahead to ask for a little help.

Youy may say I'm a dreamer but I grew up at Clapham Junction and I used to get the train everywhere and when there were problems we often came across something quite remarkable - flexibility - normally bad-tempered but still offered on the basis that the people involved were providing a 'service'. These concepts are obviously mind-boggling in this modern age of 'companies', service standards and all sorts of gobbledegook which not only doesn't work but costs us more to boot - both in taxes and fares.

It is so blindingly obvious to even the biggest Tory that the privatised rail system is a ludicrous, expensive joke that it beggars belief that no one, not even the estimable Norman Baker, will even mention the idea of providing a service first and foremost and then worrying about shareholders.

I must be fair and finish on a positive note: the supervisor at Reading called ahead to Oxford to arrange a cab, put us on the next train and we ended our journey being driven home by a very nice taxi driver who even lent my son his PSP - not something I'd do...So plaudits and thanks to the very nice people from First Great Western who went that extra mile but endless frustration that the Tories' private rail system is just abject, stupid nonsense.

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