Cars v Trains: We are sorry to announce that the seventeen oh four is delayed…

This post is far more descriptive than previous posts, as there is a lack of photos… it’s about trains, which are rather busy in the mornings and don’t give you much time/space to take a photo or video.

I like trains. No, honestly, I do. I respect the engineering in them and marvel at the fact they we’re invented over a hundred years ago. What I dislike, however, are the people who run them, run for them and work for them.

There are many downfalls to trains in the modern convenience age. We’re used to being able to access everything instantly; facebooking on the train, twittering on the toilet, ebaying in the shops trying to find whatever you’re looking for that little bit cheaper. Trains fit into this lifestyle like a square peg in a round hole.

 

Firstly, they don’t wait for you; if you’re late, it leaves without you. Full stop. And because trains go from train stations, you have to get to wherever that maybe, which for me is a 15 minute walk to the station, and then another 15 minute walk at the other end. Providing your organised this isn’t a problem, but be warned; something as simple as a little tummy upset can completely destroy all this careful planning – as I found out this morning.

Having ran most of the way to the station, I had 3 minutes to get a ticket and onto the right platform. Usually, there is a queue out of the door (it’s a small station at Coseley) but this morning, it was empty. “There’s been a system crash, everything is broken. Just get a permit to travel and you can get a ticket at Birmingham”. Unusually, this inconvenience turned into a convenience, as I was on the platform and had chance to catch my breath before boarding the train.

“TIM!”

I turned to look for where this exclaimed voice had come from – an old school friend, Nick, was also catching the train to Birmingham. That’s a very good strength for the train, there is the chance of bumping into someone you know (or getting to know someone for that matter) and you can give them your fully attention. I suppose that can be a negative as well though: arch enemies, ex-partners… mad drunkards. At 8am though, they are less likely.

Arriving in Birmingham, there’s a good 12 minute window between arriving and leaving, plenty of time, you’d think, to go and get a ticket. Apparently not – the technical failure was spread to more than one station, so the queue for tickets was horrendous – and they only had three people serving – and they were position across the main entrance/exit of Birmingham New Street, one of the main hubs of transport in the Midlands.

By the time I’d got to being served, I had 93 seconds to buy a ticket, fight my way through the army of people, find the platform, climb the stairs and get on the train. It wasn’t looking good at all, and now I was facing an added half an hour for the next train.

“Return to Coventry, from Wolverhampton, asap, I’ve got 60 seconds to catch this train.” The man at the till scuppered into action.

“It’s cheaper for a daytri…”
“Great, whatever mate, I need get this train.”

I don’t like being rude to people – in fact, I always try to be nice to people. Two phrases that are in my very fabric of being is to always ‘super serve’ the customer; going that extra mile to make sure they feel special. And the classic saying ‘it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice’. No matter where this life takes me, I will always keep my heart true to these mottos.

“Here’s your ticket and change mate”
“Cheers, thanks for that – COMING THROUGH!”

I love seeing people run in stations. That feeling of all or nothing, those moments which mean they are either about to make it onto their train and go somewhere to meet someone, or missing them missing it. Maybe my imagination runs away with me, but it’s got a romantic feel to it, the idea of the guy coming over to his emotions and running to try and get the girl before it’s too late…

My story isn’t romantic at all; I just needed to get to uni. Platform 5, perfect. Stairs one, two, three, four, five, jump, land, one, two, three, four, five, jump. Land. Train. Run. The bleeping has already started signalling the doors are about to close. Leap… On. I’d made it. Literally, just made it.

As the doors closed themselves, the noise from the busy platform muted down and people manoeuvred themselves to try to find a place to lean. It was rammed – I’ve been on busy trains, but people were standing all the way down the coaches. I wrote the notes for this post standing on that train. An announcer started bellowing over the tannoy outside;

“…advise all passengers that due to the problems we are experiencing, passengers can purchase tickets on the train.”

Useful. Very useful now one of the main services, the 9.30 to London Euston calling at Birmingham International and Coventry, not to mention a whole host of main stations had already began to leave. Another train company, who shall remain nameless for legal reasons, did exactly this to me last month – only they told me after I’d left the station, after over an hour’s delay, did they inform passengers they would no longer be stopping at some stations, one of which was the one I needed.

When I complained about this, they replied a ridiculous 27 days later saying if I sent my tickets in within 28 days of travel I could be considered for a refund – one day to send in a ticket for a maybe refund, it’s not even worth the stamp is it?

Anyway, we got to Coventry on time (ish) and got on with the day’s work. Little did I know that the delays which had unconvinced and stressed me so much this morning would work in my favour later on that evening.

I had an interesting meeting this evening, which could lead to an exciting announcement over the coming weeks, but it resulted in a drink at the local before heading home. A very big plus to the train is that your social life needn’t suffer for the sake of driving. Heading to the station, a service had been delayed and was due any moment – and it was going to Birmingham directly. Perfect.

Again, at Birmingham, another delay meant I was able to catch another direct train and I was home surprisingly quickly. A word of advice; if you are travelling, splash out for a more premium service – one that goes direct with fewer stops. Sitting there, you can watch the world go by without a worry, and you can get some work done too – something you can’t do driving.

Oh, I did see something I’ve always wanted to see today as well – you know you always hear the announcer on trains telling you what station is coming up ect, well I saw him do it! Sad I know, as I already work in the radio industry, but still it was a nice little glimpse into how trains work.

One glimpse I wasn’t keen on however was my reflection in the dark windows – I saw a man staring back at me, I really am getting old…

Hard to believe that this…

…is the same person.

Oh, there is one other good thing about the train… if you imagine really hard and close your eyes, they do sound like a F1 car… or a guinea pig.

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