Today’s little quiz? How many trains does it take to travel from Ledbury to Paddington? Come on, who said “One”? You’ve not enjoyed the legendary efficiencies of First Great Western I take it? “Two”? Oh please, it’s nearly 150 miles and you cannot expect 40 year old rolling stock to bridge that distance with only two engines.
“Three?” Indeed. The first one failed squibly due to an electrical fault* apparently disabling the speedometer. Now these trains travel slowly enough to make any instrumentation relating to velocity largely irrelevant. If the driver hangs his head from the window and feels anything other than a small breeze, his reaction is to throttle back so as not to asphyxiate the customers in the cheap seats.
The second coming of the Cathedral Express put in a turn between Worcester and Oxford before expiring with some unspecified engine fault. I can only assume the hamster passed away, and no shoving of dylithium crystals up its bum could revive it.
This third train spent a useful twenty minutes idling in a siding while FGW appeared to forget that the Dead-Hamster Express was blocking all of Platform 1. The back-pressure from ever more cancellations means this carriage is full of tossers shouting their importance down mobile phones. My favourite so far is “I don’t give a fuck if it says 10 o’ clock, the meeting starts when I get there”.
And while I cannot relate to these self-aggrandising empathetic voids, I can entirely understand their frustration as we slow and stop again. The increasingly desperate train manager** explains a downstream train has arrived in the station with an open door, and we’re on a go-slow to ensure nothing has fallen out.
I suggest it’s probably some poor bastard who can take no more and has thrown himself from the train. Various curt nods and grunts put me in mind of the movie Falling Down, only with assault weapons being replaced by aggressive tutting.
Some days you know you are going to be tested every minute of every hour. And when I hear “we’re adding Slough to our itinerary” I know this to be one of those days. Apparently they have to change drivers, which is understandable considering the poor lad’s been at the controls for a good thirty minutes. I overhear a terse “fucking Trade Unionists” and that makes me smile.
Which was quickly replaced by a frown after being marooned in the seventh circle of hell that is Slough Central station for the last 20 minutes. The vox pop train manager is either hiding or has been hunted down and killed by an increasingly feral pack of sweary customers.
Still got the tube to look forward to if we ever get to London. I will certainly run out of life force way before FGW run out of trains. Apparently I am due a refund? What of? Getting out of bed at 5am? Being shuttled between broken bits of ageing and fading rolling stock? Bits of my life that could have been better spent doing almost anything else?
This can’t go on? Anyone know anything about SCRAM Jets?
* Which – in my world – is any engineering quandary that cannot be solved by smacking it with a mallet.
** Will someone – anyone – tell me what the hell was wrong with “Conductor” or “Guard”?