The Anonymous Widower

Reflections On My Journey From Gatwick

After a good night’s sleep, it is perhaps worth taking a look at my experience yesterday in getting through and home from Gatwick Airport.

The train problems were hopefully exceptional, but having seen the new plans for Thameslink’s services, which make it difficult for anybody in East London to go South, I suspect that these problems will go on for some time.

The trouble with the new Thameslink is that it has no step-free interchange with any of the main North South routes through East London.

East London Line

Currently, you can change at New Cross Gate for Gatwick services, but after Thameslink fully opens, this connectivity will be lost under current plans.

It looks like the best route will be to go to West Croydon station and take the tram to East Croydon.

Bank Branch Of The Northern Line

Currently, the interchange at London Bridge between Northern Line and National Rail is not good, although it is step-free.

Hopefully, it will get better.

But the problem with the Northern Line is that many of the stations need reconstruction for full step-free access.

If the London Bridge interchange is improved and the excessive walking is cut, I could use this route a lot to get to Thameslink from Angel station.

But Angel is not a station for a large case, a wheelchair or a baby in a buggy.

Victoria Line

Many on the Victoria Line go direct to Victoria and get a direct train.

Victroria Line access to Thameslink is currently terrible with the only interchange at Kings Cross being step-free and a very tortuous and long walk.

After Thameslink is fully open, there will be a much easier change at Finsbury Park station.

Conclusions

I’m still not sure that the new fully-open Thameslink will not be without controversy.

There is also a need for a solution to the Freedom Pass problem.

I suspect that savvy passengers will just buy an extension ticket between East bCroydon and Gatwick Airport.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t put it past Gatwick Airport to fund the moving of Gatwick Airport into Travel Zone 6, if Heathrow does something unfriendly with Crossrail ticketing. After all, each return ticket costs just £6.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

SBB To Sell Bitcoin

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Global Rail News.

If you don’t know; SBB stands for Swiss Federal Railways.

It’s an interesting development to say the least!

Especially, when you read the last paragraph.

And you can’t buy SBB train tickets using your shiny new currency, it isn’t an accepted payment method by SBB.

I wonder how long it will be before, I can buy and use bitcoin on a UK rail station?

November 1, 2016 Posted by | Finance, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Northern Rail’s Ticket Machines

This picture sums up Northern Rail’s ticketing machines; lonely, unreliable and crap.

A Niortern Rail Ticket Machine At Manchester Victoria Station

A Niortern Rail Ticket Machine At Manchester Victoria Station

This machine at Manchester Victoria station did work though and after scratching around for a few coins, I was able to get to Blackburn.

A few other comments on my trip to Blackburn on Saturday.

  • On my arrival at Liverpool Lime Street station, the queue for the ticket machine was at least fifteen people. So by the time, I’d bought a ticket, my train had left.
  • At Manchester Victoria station, there were only two machines for a very busy station.
  • At Blackburn station, the machine was hidden in the subway.
  • I never saw a machine at the two small stations; Clitheroe and Whalley.
  • The last two stations have independent platforms, so if you’re travelling from one without a ticket machine, you’ll have to have a long walk first.
  • When I passed through Manchester Piccasdilly on Saturday evening, neither of the Northern Rail ticket machines were fully operational.

The company needs a lot more machines, hopefully with better functionality and reliability. They should also make sure they’re better placed.

Whilst, I’m giving Northern Rail a good kicking, here’s some more annoyances

A couple of stations I visited had a truly dreadful mobile phone signal. I think the law should be that all stations and bus stops should have a top class signal, so that those, who need to text or call their partner, friend or parents can do so.

The two-coach Class 156 train, I rode from Blackburn to Preston was the most overcrowded train I’ve ever ridden. The staff must have known it was so bad as Blackpool had just been beaten at Accrington. So why weren’t we  told by the station staff?

Probably because they were keeping well away!

At least we had a nun on board and she probably prayed for our safe deliverance to Preston.

Surely, Northern could have rustled up another or bigger train from somewhere. A four-car Pacer would have been manna from heaven!

What’s missing from this picture?

Getting My Train To Blackburn

Getting My Train To Blackburn

Although, it was the Peak, there was no prominent staff on the platform to help unload and load this four-car Pacer.

I had to look it up on the Internet, whether our train stopped at Rochdale for a fellow traveller.

Incidentally, Manchester Victoria is starting to look tired and dirty. Is it all the diesel exhaust?

Northern also seem to specialise in bad information on stations. The bus information at Blackburn was abysmal and pointed you to a non-existent bus stop to get to Ewood Park.

I do wonder that Northern are worried if they improve things, then too many passengers might want to use the service and they’d have to buy more trains.

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Hopefully, The First Of The Many!

Transport for London have placed this ticket machine on the island platform 7 and 8 at Stratford station.

A Ticket Machine On Platform 7 And 8 At Stratford Station

A Ticket Machine On Platform 7 And 8 At Stratford Station

Hopefully, it is the First of the Many!

The Germans do it all the time, as this picture, taken at a station in Leipzig shows.

A Ticket Machine On The Platform At Leipzig Markt Station

It is just so convenient.

When I took the picture of the Stratford machine, I was going to Braintree, by using my |Freedom Pass to Shenfield and then buying a ticket to Braintree from Shenfield in the machine there.

But as I had my Shenfield to Braintree ticket before I left Stratford, it was just so much more quicker, not having to go through the barriers at Shenfield station to buy a ticket.

Knowing the way the self loading cargo ducks and dives its way around East London, I think it won’t be long before this machine at Stratford gets used in all sorts of legal ways.

  • Buying a ticket for a train later in the day, or even later in the week, month or year.
  • Buying an extension ticket to a Freedom Pass, Travel Card or even an ordinary ticket.
  • Topping up your  Oyster whilst waiting for a train.
  • Avoiding queues at machines in Booking Halls and busy stations.

I do wonder how many people on seeing the mchine, are reminded to buy a ticket for a future trip.

I don’t know whether the machine at Stratford is an experiment or permanent, but this user would like to see more machines on platforms.

Stratford, is one of the few stations, where you can catch both Underground and National Rail trains. So I suppose, there could be times where passengers get to the station on the Central or JubileeLines with Oyster and want to use main line services to perhaps Colchester, Chelmsford or Southend,  that stop at Stratford.

A ticket machine inside the barriers, avoids the need to go out to buy another.

 

 

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Never On Sunday

There have always been things that were banned on Sundays or because of personal reasons, you never did on that day.

  • A Welsh friend at Liverpool University called David Roberts didn’t use to drink on Sundays when I first met him. But we soon cured him of that!
  • My late wife, who had been a Sunday school teacher in her time, wouldn’t go to the cinema on Sunday, as her mother thought it ungodly.
  • For myself, I don’t think I went to a football match on a Sunday until I was about forty, as they were never staged on Sundays.

I also remember the first day, that C and myself went to the first 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on a Sunday. Now horse racing and most other sport on a Sunday is considered normal, just as it is in the rest of the world.

It also used to be that the Northern City Line didn’t run at weekends, despite having three stations that served The Emirates Stadium.

This morning before it rained, I took a trip to Harringay station to view the Wightman Road Bridge, by taking a 38 bus to Essex Road station and then going three stops to the North.

The line is getting new Class 717 trains, but I do feel that some work to improve the stations might not be a bad idea.

I actually wanted to buy a ticket on that dreadful machine from the Zone 6 boundary to Guildford, but unlike London Overground and some other companies ticket machines, it doesn’t sell such a useful ticket, which I wrote about in The Price Of Freedom.

More details of the Class 717 trains are given in this article in Rail Magazine, which is entitled New Govia Thameslink Railway trains to be Class 717s. This is said.

They are similar to the Class 700s being built by Siemens for GTR (of which 16 are in the UK), but they must have end doors as per safety regulations due to their operation in the Moorgate Tunnels. The design of this is at an advanced stage, with construction due to start this year.

I have felt that the Northern City Line, would be a classic application for an IPEMU for some time, as this would enable the Moorgate tunnels to be electrically-dead, as the trains would use batteries between Drayton Park and Moorgate stations. This would have the following effects.

  • The third-rail electrification could be deactivated or even removed.
  • The trains could also be 25 VAC only, if they wouldn’t be going into any other third-rail territory.

How would this impact tunnel safety regulations?

Whatever happens to this line, running a seven day a week service, will make the Northern City Line a valuable rail line in my part of London.

On a personal note, the line and Essex Road station in particular,  will help me cut-out the dreaded Highbury and Islington station, with its long passageways and lack of lifts.

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Disappointing Cologne

Cologne and its station disappointed me.

I was hungry and the hotel wasn’t exactly brimming with gluten-free food options. Or guests for that matter.

In fact, the whole city centre was dead.

Was everybody tucked up in bed watching the vEurovision Song Contest or because of the attacks in the city centre in the New Year, does everybody not go there any more.

In the end, I got supper in an Argentinian steak house, where the food was a lot better than the service.

In the morning, I didn’t have a ticket, so I arrived at the station a bit early, only to find that the machines didn’t seem to see the ticket I wanted and the ticket office wasn’t open.

It was a repeat of the customer service of the night before.

There are a couple of things to note in the pictures.

  • I had to go through all the rigmarole of getting a number to buy a ticket.
  • I had masses of paper for my ticket compared to what I get in the UK.
  • Comfortable seats were thin on the ground.
  • There was a smoking area on the platform.
  • Lots of trains seemed to be locomotive-hauled.

Eventually, I arrived in Brussels with plenty of time to spare.

But surely the biggest disappointment about Cologne is why the Germans haven’t developed it as a gateway for Cross-Channel passengers.

Consider.

  • Cologne has very good connections to major German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, which are much better than those from Brussels or Paris.
  • A lot of visitors to Germany from the UK, may be going to Cologne anyway, so why force them to change trains in Brussels?
  • According to the Demographics of Cologne, the city has around a million inhabitants and is in a region of three million.
  • Cologne is about the same size as Birmingham, Glasgow or Liverpool/Manchester, so it could probably sustain a direct service.
  • If you need to waste an hour or so in Cologne, whilst changing trains, you are by the cathedral and the Rhine.
  • Cologne to London by train must be around four hours, which must be very competitive with flying.
  • A Sleeper train between London and Cologne would probably work. I’d use it!

I think the Germans can’t be bothered, as they’d have more passengers to cater for, who knew about customer service.

I know there’s the problem of Customs and Immigration, but if Deutsche Bahn were serious about running a service, I’m sure the problems are solvable.

I’ve been through small airports where excellent, efficient and probably very thorough systems had been setup to encourage traffic.

The problem could of course be the UK Border Force, who in my experience don’t seem to be the best in the world.

But then, the world needs to develop fast, efficient, automatic border checks, that I’m certain if we got right, would actually discourage illegal immigration.

As it is, we set up such weak checks, that they encourage criminals to encourage and fleece, those that might want to come to countries, where work might be available.

 

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m All For This!

This article on the BBC web site entitled Lib Dems pledge to halve London morning commuter fares, caught my eye. This is said.

London mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon has promised if she is elected in May she will cut Tube and rail fares for journeys before 07:30 by half.

As someone who has generally started work before eight, ever since I marked up newspapers at 05:30 in the morning as a sixteen-year-old, if I’d worked in London over the years, I would have saved money.

Now of course, I don’t pay, as I have a Freedom Pass. it would be interesting to see how many journeys, I do start before 07:30. It’s probably about four a week.

This is one of those ideas that could be tested using sound Control Engineering principles.

At the present time, any journey starting before 04:30 is in the Off Peak.

So for a period of six-months say, you would use 05:00 and see how the usage and revenue changes.

And then later, you move it to 05:30 for a period.

With some clever analysis of the data, I suspect that the time that is the best compromise between customer satisfaction, service costs and revenue can be found.

Giving a fixed time now, is totally wrong!

But in my view, if a politician said, they were aiming to increase the time in which Off Peak fares applied, it would be a sensible policy.

 

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Do The English, Scots And Welsh Work Better Together Than The Belgians, Dutch And Germans?

If we take these two groups of three countries, they all have different railway companies, but do they illustrate a problem in the relations between various EU countries.

I know my experience of travelling between these six countries is mainly on the trains, but to travel between England, Scotland and Wales by train, is a lot easier than travelling between Belgium and The Netherlands and the Netherlands and Germany is full of little difficulties.

Strangely if you add France into the mix, that is generally as easy as the three home nations.

Judging by my experience in Europe, there are many ways that the Scots and Welsh could make the English unwelcome. But they don’t, except for the Seniors Bus Pass, although the same Senior Railcard is valid everywhere in the UK.

I know we’re all part of the same country, but I think where something has to be agreed across a border, we generally find a solution that is acceptable enough!

In the important area of rail ticketing, there seems little agreement on common standards between Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

Imagine how difficult it would be if ScotRail had different ticketing rules to say Virgin.

Surely, if Europe can’t get its act together in something like rail ticketing, how can it get something important like dealing with migrants working?

 

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , | Comments Off on Do The English, Scots And Welsh Work Better Together Than The Belgians, Dutch And Germans?

Den Haag HS Station

This is the station from where I left The Hague

Over the years, I have used it, Den Haag HS station has been cleaned up, but in some ways it is a rather soulless place, except for some of the old details.

I had bought my ticket earlier, but at least there was a machine at the station, where I could get a ticket to Brussels.

Unlike at Brussels, where there were no machines selling tickets to The Netherlands that I could find.

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Off To The Hague Today

Is there any other train journey between two capitals in the world, that is more difficult now than it was six or seven years ago?

When I first did this trip, I was able to buy a Eurostar ticket from London to Any Dutch Station, as many visitors to The Netherlands did.

But when Fyra; the high-speed train started, this was not possible any more. I couldn’t even get to the Dutch capital without a second change.

Today, I’ve bought a Eurostar ticket to any Belgian Station and will go to Antwerp for a spot of lunch, before I buy a ticket to Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie, so that I avoid all the hassle of using Dutch local ticketing, which will mean buying an Oyster-style card.

I will then use Shanks’s Pony to get to my final destination.

If that is progress, you can stick it up your backside.

Suppose to go between London and Edinburgh, you had to change trains at Newcastle or Berwick! Even the most rabid of Scottish Independence advocates, would never want a service like that between Scotland and England!

Also, if I was going to most important stations in Switzerland, I can buy one ticket from London.

Surely, this should apply to all major cities in Europe, that are within say five or six hours from London.

Going the other way, I could buy a ticket from say Paris direct to virtually anywhere in the UK.

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments