London Trains Suck

Tonight was proof again why I bought a car…

For the first year I was in London, I took the train to work. I was thinking… so it takes a little longer, but its better for the environment and probably cheaper.

Well, a big NO on cheaper. It actually costs slightly more than running my car. But as time went on, and the days turned to winter, the trains got more and more unreliable. “Leaves on the Track”[1] or “cold lines” so the trains are running extra slow. In the summer it was “hot lines” so trains have to run slow. Or, my personally favorite, “Crew didn’t turn up.”

Well, tonight, I took the train in so I could go right into the city to meet a friend from the US. I got to Staines Station by 5:15pm. I was about to put about £8.30 into a machine, when my friend Xav told me, “you better hold on a sec.” I looked up at the monitor, EVERY TRAIN IN BOTH DIRECTIONS WAS DELAYED… since 4:40pm! Then they slowly started to get canceled. And of course, there wasn’t a train worker to be seen, in fact they had closed the information office and the ticket windows. They were probably hiding in the back somewhere.

Well, to cut a long story short, I finally got on a train at about 6:40pm and home by 7:10pm or so.

I didn’t even try to get in the city. I chatted with two train drivers. Neither of them had any clue what was happening or which way they were going. I told them that it was a derailed train in Egham. So sad.

Well I have a few ideas for National Rain and Southwestern Trains specifically:

  • Staff the stations with helpful people
  • Make Public Addresses for all information that you have been asked for by three people in a queue in a row (hint hint… the queues will shrink)
  • Cut down trees near the track
  • Have extra staff in case someone doesn’t turn up
  • Try making people pay for riding on trains (another huge issue for me how many ‘upstanding’ people who don’t feel the need to pay)
  • Update the track to deal with hot and cold conditions that I believe occur in other metro areas, like I don’t know… NEW YORK!
  • Get rid of level crossings inside the M25 (duh!)

I love this article. I couldn’t find the next one where the German consultant came in and said, “IF YOU HAVE LEAVES ON THE LINE, CUT DOWN THE TREES.” It would certainly save on the “anti-leave” systems. Here is the article from Guardian.

bq.. “Is it so important, this attachment to trees, that we take the risk of delaying every year so many passengers? There are too many trees” - Antoine Hurel, former chief executive of train company Connex, in 1997

Network Rail estimates is 500,000 delay minutes a year - a big dent in performance figures and expensive in fines…

With passengers and the Strategic Rail Authority watching like hawks, Network Rail is under pressure to get these figures down, which is why it is spending 20m on its autumn offensive…

British Rail, with the help of consultants, developed two systems to try to deal with the problem: a computer-generated leaf-fall prediction model, based on climatic and vegetation data combined with observational data, and assessment methods for identifying sites of high risk where trees would need to be cut down…

Network Rail is employing a battery of anti-leaf systems and devices in this year’s campaign. Control centres across Britain monitor leaf fall with satellite-based warning systems fitted to trains to pinpoint trouble spots. “Leaf-buster gangs” respond quickly to train drivers’ reports, using a chemical fluid to soften the mulch, which can then be removed using hand-held, petrol-driven scrubbers…

In a normal year we have 400 incidents where trains hit trees or parts of trees.

[1] Leaves on the Track