The Anonymous Widower

Nightmare At Gatwick

I few out to Las Palmas from Southend and the experience coming back through Gatwick couldn’t have been more different.

I arrived in the North Terminal and this terminal is now very poor compared to modern standards.

  • The walk to Passport Control is long and tortuous compared to many other similar-sized European airports.
  • Passport Control was solid and was only half open.
  • The baggage took an age to arrive, but luckily my bag was off first.
  • I had to get the shuttle to the main terminal for the train, but it wasn’t a well-signposted route.
  • I of course just missed the shuttle.

The North Terminal is basically a 1970s design and it shows.

The terminal is a disgrace and doesn’t fit with any notion of Britain being open for business.

Did the Government plump for Heathrow, as they have all had very bad experiences of Gatwick.

To be fair to the Airport, their plans for the future look good.

Gatwick In The Future

Gatwick In The Future

But will we actually see it?


November 10, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

A Design Crime – Ebbsfleet International Station

If there is one station in the UK, that has been deliberately designed to be difficult to use, it is Ebbsfleet #international station.

Take this evening, when I had taken a lift to the station after the football at Ipswich, as the Great Eastern Main Line was having its annual rebuild and I didn’t want to spend an hour in a rickety bus, rather than in a comfortable Mark 3 coach.

Arrive at most stations in the UK or the world for that matter, and the first thing that you see is a ticket office or a ticket machine.

But not at Ebbsfleet International!

You are presented with a departure board, which tells you where trains will be going and if like me, you are going to St. Pancras International station, you notice that alternative trains leave from platform 2 and 5. Platform 2 is to the left on the level and platform 5 is to the right down a set of steps

So if you have just a fewminutes before your train, perhaps it would be a good idea to buy a ticket, as you enter the station.

But you can’t, as the only ticket machines are by the platforms. on either side.

Whose stupid idea was this?

If ever a station needed a ticket machine as you come in, with a sign saying that the next St. Pancras train leaves from platform X, it is Ebbsfleet International.

As it was, after about four minutes, I was able to determine that I had twelve minutes before the next train from platform 5, so I was able to walk down the set of steps, buy a ticket and get to the draughty platform about eight minutes before the train arrived.

Is Ebbsfleet International, the only station in the UK, where to transfer across a concourse between two ends, there is a set of steps in the middle?

It could be considered that Manchester Piccadilly has steps, but it does have fifteen platforms and was designed over a period of well over a hundred years.

The entry problem could be eliminated by more or relocated ticket machines and a small display telling passengers for St. Pancras, where to go.

It is all down to the bizarre layout of the station.

This Google Map shows the two-station layout of the station.

Ebbsfleet International Station

Ebbsfleet International Station

The lines going North South through the station are the Eurostar and the HighSpeed domestic services between St. Pancras International and Ashford International stations. The lines branching off to the South East, take the Highspeed domestic services to Faversham.

The Faversham lines have their own platforms 5 and 6 and there are two other platforms 2 and 3 in the other side of the station, sandwiched in-between the Eurostar lines.

This station was built on a green field site with plenty of space, so surely a better layout of lines could have been provided so that all Highspeed domestic services used the same pair of platforms.

Getting There

Ebbsfleet International was certainly designed to be difficult to get to from other parts of the London and the South East.

Romford is a major station in East London, with this recommended route to Ebbfleet Inyternational.

  • TfL Rail to Stratford
  • DLR to Stratford International
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International.

It may be step-free, but there is certainly quite a distance on the flat.

This is the route from Guildford

  • South West Trains to Vauxhall
  • Victoria Line to St. Pancras
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

Not a route that I’d recommend to anybody with a heavy  case or any difficulty in walking.

This is the route from Greenwich.

  • Southeastern to Charlton
  • Southeastern to Gravesend
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

That route truly is a corker.

This one might improve as according to Modern Railways for August 2016, that Thameslink will be starting a service between Luton and Rainham via Dartford and Greenwich. Hopefully this would mean a route from Greenwich to Ebbsfleet Internation as follows.

  • Thameslink to Gravesend
  • Highspeed to Ebbsfleet International

That is only one change, but you’d still need to go over the step-free bridge at Gravesend.

The solution would be to do either of the following.

  • Create a proper passenger connection between Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations.
  • Allow North Kent services that go to and from Dartford to call at Ebbsfleet International station.

Why didn’t the traditional North Kent services call at Ebbsfleet International station from Day 1?

Get the connection right and all those stations between London Bridge and Rainham would have a two trains per hour service to Ebbsfleet International.

Future Expansion

Ebbsfleet International also seems to be designed deliberately to make extension difficult.

Space for extra platforms for these possible services seems not to have been left.

  • Termination of Continental services, should St. Pancras get too busy.
  • A Crossrail extension from Abbey Wood station.
  • An East-West service from Reading and Gatwick.

Expansion can only probably be achieved by  adding further complication and difficulties for passengers at this truly dreadful station.

The designer’s dictionary, certainly didn’t include that important word future-proofing.

He certainly gave Eurostar and the Highspeed domestic services, one of the least passenger-friendly stations in the world. that fits well with Eurostar’s other crap stations.

  • The extremely passenger-unfriendly St. Pancras.
  • The bleak, isolated and draughty Stratford International

Perhaps the airline industry had a hand in its design, in the hope they could strangle the whole enterprise!

Stratford and Ebbsfleet could also have been designed the way they are, so that they didn’t have easy and quick interchanges with Crossrail.

That would have meant, that passengers would use this more affordable service rather than the expensive Highspeed domestic ones, that always seem half-empty, when I use them.

The three stations are all certainly design crimes and taken together they make the Channel Tunnel Rail Link a design crime of the most immense proportions

But given that it is impossible to do much with the station, what should be done now?

  • The draughty space between the two separate stations, should be made more welcoming.
  • Information should tell passengers the next trains to all stations.
  • Ticket machines must be provided as you enter, rather than being hidden away.
  • The steps to platforms 5 and 6, should be replaced by short escalators and an inclined lift.

Perhaps most importantly, contactless ticketing using bank cards and Oyster must be available on all Highspeed domestic services. I can use that to get to Gatwick Airport, so why not Ebbsfleet International?

Related Posts

A Trip To Sheppey

A Twelve-Car Ready Railway

Along The North Kent Line

Between Abbey Wood And Belvedere Stations

Connecting North Kent And The Medway Towns To Ebbsfleet International Station

Extending Crossrail To Gravesend

Rainham (Kent) Station

Thameslink To Rainham

Through The Medway Towns

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey?



September 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 7 Comments

Is A Big Row Developing Over The Northern Line Extension?

I have just read this article in the Evening Standard, which is entitled Northern line extension: Battersea Power Station’s Tube bill ‘to rise by £240m’. This is said.

The Standard understands that the changes relate to a section of the  39-acre site known as Prospect Place, a dramatic cluster of apartment buildings designed by the Californian “starchitect” Frank Gehry.

The new plans envisage more ambitious “over station development” (OSD) than in the original Battersea Power Station masterplan from Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly.

Obviously, the more you put on top of a station, the stronger the box that encloses the station needs to be.

Hence the redesign of the box and the greater cost.

I do think that some architects are a bit precious and over-ambitious, whereas others create spectacular buildings, that seem to cost a fraction of those by the so-called architectural superstars.

Some schemes only seem to be capable of being built at enormous cost.

Architects never learnt from the fiasco of building the Sydney Opera House.

And it’s usually the poor taxable who picks up the bill for bad design.

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell To BT Vision

I have not got rid of BT Vision and if I want to watch football that is shown on BT, I now watch it on Sky.

To say I’m pleased to be rid of BT Vision is an understatement.

  • BT don’t seem to have any logical channel numbering, unlike Sky and Freeview and I could never remember where something would be shown.
  • Often I had to resort to going through the channels one at a time, until I found what I wanted.
  • Sky is logical, as all the Sports channels seem to be together and if I want an event, I can easily find what I want, stating from 405 or so.
  • Regularly, I don’t watch a match, but listen to it on Radio 5. BT has this annoying habit of changing to a screen of programs that I might watch, if I had an IQ of about 12.
  • Sky just gives me information with a useful clock.

Whoever, designed their system should be sent to manage the satellite station on St. Kilda.

April 14, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , , | 2 Comments

A Design Crime – Manchester’s Totally Crap MiGuide

When I see things like this, it really gets my anger up.

All I want in a City Centre, is a map that will show me where to go, not some indecipherable device, that I probably can’t work, as I have the sort of fingers that don’t work well with touch screens. I don’t want to be bombarded with advertising.

If I need information, like the nearest gluten-free restaurant, I’ll search Google.

Give me maps on liths like Ipswich, Glasgow, Preston, Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton and Sheffield! Or big ones with seats like Krakow!

Manchester used to have some nice maps, but they seem to have been removed.

Perhaps they’;re kept with the Ed Stone?

These devices are total crap, that should be consigned to the dustbin of the future.

They’re certainly a Design Crime.

January 4, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , , | 5 Comments

So Near And Yet So Far!

This Google Map shows the geographical relationship between Northfleet station on the North Kent Line and Ebbsfleet International station on the High Speed 1 Rail Link.

Northfleet And Ebbsfleet International Stations

Northfleet And Ebbsfleet International Stations

Note Swancombe station at the top left, which is also on the North Kent Line.

In my view the designers of High Speed 1, lost sight of the ball here, just as they did at Stratford International station.

To many people and especially to a lot of rail commentators and builders, connectivity is very important, as it often gives passengers the ability to do difficult journeys easily with a simple cross-platform interchange.

If you look at the positions of Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations, as the crow flies it is about four hundred metres. But to walk it along the A226, Thames Way and a loop into Ebbsfleet International station took me thirty-eight minutes.

I took these pictures as I walked.

I am left with the following conclusions.

  • Northfleet station appears to only stand up because the woodworm keep holding hands.
  • Northfleet station is very welcoming to visitors to the town!
  • The current route is a badly-signposted disgrace.
  • I didn’t see any signposts pointing the other way.
  • It would be a nightmare in bad weather.
  • It is a step-free route.

It would not be the most difficult feat of engineering to build a walkway from Northfleet station to the Car Park C on the Northfleet side of Ebbsfleet International station.

Incidentally, the Ebbsfleet International station web site says this about getting to the station by rail.

If you can’t reach us direct then we’re just a 10 minute walk from Northfleet domestic station which is serviced by the North Kent Line.

For my age and health, I can walk reasonably fast, but it took me over three times as long. Did they hire Mo Farah to do the time test?

I think someone measured it on a map as four hundred metres and said that he or she could walk it in ten minutes.

If they did, it is downright incompetence.

I challenge Eurostar to find anybody over sixty-five, who doesn’t have form as an athlete, to walk the signposted route in ten minutes!

If they find someone, who can do it, I’ll give fifty pounds to Railway Children!

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Terrible Credit Card Reporting

Because I had a couple of my cards cloned, if I’m at home, I usually check them every morning.

As someone, who made millions by writing good reports for computer users, only one of my cards and banks has a proper reporting system, that you can use however you want.

And that is American Express!

For a start, when you look at recent transactions, they are shown by default on AMEX with the last transaction first. However all my other cards and statements are shown with the most recent last. So as one card is used a lot for small transactions, I have to scroll down to the bottom to check the transactions.

Also on AMEX, you can change the order to what you want, so perhaps if you want to locate a transaction at say Virgin Trains, you can put the descriptions in order and then scroll to V.

Why do Banks and Credit Csrd companies treat us with such contempt?

Some are a total disgrace!

If AMEX can do it, why can’t the others?

Because they don’t care about customers!

So if you’re thinking about changing your bank, make sure you have a run through the reporting of the new bank first.

In my experience most are total crap!


September 5, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , | Leave a comment

Suffering From Short-And-Alone Syndrome

It is amazing how many jobs around the house are difficult for someone living alone, who is short in stature.

My new bathroom, has a problem. I suspect that the electrician who installed the six spot-lights in the ceiling, bought a dodgy batch of LED bulbs, as one-by-one over the last few months, they have died. Having a bath in the dark or lit by candles may be fun for couples, but this sixty-seven-year-old doesn’t find it the tiny bit interesting at all.

So I bought some new bulbs and got my step-ladder out, but found that the builder had gummed up the holders with paint, so working with my head about twenty centimetres below the fitting and my arms at full stretch, I can’t get the dmn things out of the ceiling, as I don’t have a third hand to hold the torch.

So now, I’ll have to get someone in at great expense and time, to do a job that if I was ten centimetres taller and had a third hand handy, I’d have done myself.

I think there’s a moral in this story for everyone. If you’re going to have these ridiculous spot-lights, make sure that they are fittings like I have elsewhere in the house, that have lugs so you can easily turn them to change the bulb.

In fact, I could design a light and a special tool, that would enable the bulb to be changed by a person of very limited height standing on the floor.


June 29, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | 5 Comments

It’s Not Just An Elderly, White Male Prejudice

I find the pink, plastic interiors of British Rails Class 315, 317 and 319 trains not too my taste but I’ve always thought it was to do with being elderly, white and male.

The Pink Interior Of A Class 315 Train

The Pink Interior Of A Class 315 Train

But after a trip on a Class 315 train today, where I took this picture, I think there are others who think that the colour choice was that of a fifth-rate designer, who had some rather unusual preferences. An Asian lady in her twenties saw me take the picture and when I told her why, she wholeheartedly agreed with my opinion.

It is interesting to note, that all refurbishments of these trains in recent years have removed the pink plastic.

June 1, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

Boring Architecture

I passed the site of the old Middlesex hospital, where two of my children were born today.

The building except for the chapel and the Nassau Street fontage could be anywhere in the world and it doesn’t really do the site justice.

I don’t like it, one bit!

May 7, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment