“We’ve lost a carriage!”

LOST? How can you lose something 80 foot long full crammed full of noisy humans? I mean it was only standard class but even so, derailing the entire lot of ’em (or “ballast” as I believe the airline industry terms the poor buggers slammed into the cheap seats) seems to some way beyond a bit careless.

I have been re-introduced to what I believed was the lost art of shunting earlier (for those in London, this has absolutely nothing to do with attempting to remove a hamster from behind a gerbil, cunningly inserted in a bodily orifice) as we downsized the train for reasons lost in the feedback of the PA system. The delay was pretty epic but since I’d already been abandoned for 45 minutes in the pissing rain, at least I was merely irritated rather than partially drowned.

On finally arriving in London, my insertion into the late rush hour tunnel rats was met with a piece of marketing so breathtakingly deceitful, I found myself in grudging admiration at the chutzpah. It alleged the Circle line had “been improved for all passengers” which sounds good until you examine the facts swirling below the spin.

Because all the self congratulatory signage could have been simply replaced by “The circle line is no longer a circle, it’s more of an aspirational arc”. No longer can one travel from Paddington to Farringdon in spherical motion unless you’re desperate to change at Edgeware Road. A station just one stop from mine and clearly of not enough interest for any tube train to actually terminate there in my lifetime.

Slightly pissed off but unsurprised, I schlepped a mile on the lonely road of a windswept platform before being deposited at the Hammersmith and City line complete with funky new electronic information boards. Heading West it told me a train would be along in nine minutes which was somewhat superseded by the physical manistification of said tube turning up 30 seconds later. Not so much luck heading the other way with the cheerful LCD announcing “more information soon“.

Not soon enough, after five more minutes I’ll never get back, I engaged the only reliable form of transport – Shank’s Pony – and strode back past the train I’d left some twenty minutes earlier in a quest to find some transport that might take me to work. This proved to be down about a thousand slippy steps – lift broken for about the past epoch if the fading and careworn sign was any judge – finally transporting me to a destination for which I’d left some five and a half hours before.

On the way home, things went well up to the point where Edgeware road inserted itself unhappily into my travel plans. For a while anyway, certainly enough time for me to miss my train by a good twenty seconds. There is really no other feeling quite like running up a platform as the train ruthlessly steams out of the station. I particularly enjoyed the passengers waving and grinning as they flashed past.

So today I’ve been abandoned, randomly shunted, delayed and sent in every decreasing circles by smug signage and lies to the power of marketing. A Brit like myself can only be pushed so far so – in a moment of vibrating fury – I decided to complain. In writing. The response from various bored looking officials can be summarised thus: “Go bark at the moon, it’ll be about as effective and save on stamps and administration

Instead I’ve decided to conduct my own survey which can be found below:

1. Was your train:
a) on time
b) a few minutes late
c) apologetically wheezing into the station some 45 minutes past the scheduled arrival time

2. If you answered a) or b), how was this delay communicated to you:
a) Frequent updates and apologies on both platform and train
b) Apologies when boarding the train
c) Staff apparently either asleep or laughing behind their hands.

3. Was the weather:
a) Balmy and dry
b) A tad damp
c) Biblical characterised by a man with a beard looking for some cheap wood and a second giraffe.

4. If the train was not on time, was it able to make some up on the journey:
a) Yes, arrived early to London
b) No, but it didn’t get any worse
c) Not even close, over an hour late most of which was spent resting at Worcester Shrub Hill

5. Now on the train, was quiet carriage:
a) Quiet
b) Occasionally interrupted by pointless and desperate pleadings to use the travelling chef
c) In a state of barely contained violence as two brummies debated the finer points of the Villa front 2.

6) Was the quality of the Chef on Board food:
a) Excellent. Like a five star restaurant
b) Adequate, it’s only a little kitchen after all
c) Non existent after the oven apparently exploded while tackling a difficult bacon sandwich.

7) Was the Tube Journey:
a) Seamless, efficient, clean, well signed and quick
b) Slightly less unpleasent that being shot from a canon
c) Entirely useless with only the outside chance that random electrocution might visit IPOD’d passengers to cheer me up.

8) And finally,how would you describe your journey today as:
a) Excellent. Why would anyone choose a different form of transport?
b) Average, better than driving I suppose
c) Unflinchingly sh!t and depressing.

If you answered mainly c), you are clearly travelling First Great Western and London Underground. Our focus groups suggest investing in a time share donkey or training to become a ultra runner. Both of these experiences are likely to be cheaper, quicker and significantly more pleasant than continuing with the delusion that£150 and four hours should be enough to get one man to London for 9am.

If you answered b), then your trip is on one of the UK’s franchises not currently massively in debt, or having an accident.

If you answered all a), you are in Switzerland.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but BRING BACK CHILTERN RAILWAYS. No really, and a fully licensed bar on the 05:52 from Ledbury.

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