Adventures of Ninja Phil – Ep 7 – First Class Delay!

 

Blog #17 - 25.05.2014

So the title of this week’s post could have several different meanings. Interpret it as you will. But I think the best way to begin this week’s post is to say that I hate trains! Ok, perhaps not entirely. There are several things which trains have going for them. Generally (if you can get a seat) they are comfortable and, as long as your face isn’t being crushed against the wall due to the number of people on board, they are a fairly stress free method of travel.

But overall they annoy me no end and here’s why…

Coaches

So you’re stood at the station waiting for your 11 coach Pendolino to pull into the station. There’s about 50 of you on the platform as not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 first class coaches drive passed. Once the train comes to a stop 49 out of 50 of you congregate around the other 7 coaches while the 1 sole first class passenger saunters up to the other end of the coach and picks which of the 4 doors he wants to get on. He then ambles through 4 coaches worth of empty seats to find his own, while the other 49  of you find themselves packed in like sardines in standard class coaches which are full to bursting.

Now I know that this isn’t always the case and that sometimes the first class coaches are pretty full too. But I’ll always remember the times when I got on a train without a reservation (not that things are often any better with one) and there was barely a place to even stand in the standard class coaches. I, being the intrepid explorer that I am, decided to go investigate the first class coaches to see if I could stand in some doorway and in the end I found one (after walking through 3 of the 4 first class coaches).

Now first class was busy compared to what I usually witness (i.e. there were more than 1 person per coach) but even so I would reckon there were more empty seats in those 3 first class coaches then there were filled.  I don’t believe that first class should been done away with (I’m no Karl Marx of the railroad). I do however believe that it wouldn’t hurt to make that 11 coach Pendolino with 4 first class coaches an 11 coach Pendolino with 3 first class coaches. I don’t think it would really hurt that much and it would give the rest of us much more space.

People

Rail users

During my time as a rail-user I’ve seen all of these types of fellow commuters and been a few myself (i.e. the one with the crushed face). If you feel I’ve missed any or the image just gives you an uncontrollable desire to rant let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, let me elaborate on just a couple:

The Refuser & Indiscriminate Reserver: As pointless as reserving a seat often is (most of the time you can’t even reach it for the number of people in the way) when someone comes to you and says “that’s my seat sorry I’ve reserved it” you expect to move. But there are those who will belligerently refuse to shift even when confronted in this manner, which is not cool. But what’s even less cool is the person who makes someone move out of their reserved seat regardless of who they are. Seriously, if you get to your reserved seat and the place is cram packed full of people and the person in your seat is old, or pregnant, or a child, have some mercy, suck it up and stand. Don’t force them out of your seat (unless of course you are one of the above in which case that’s a real ethical dilemma) it’s just not cricket!

The Refreshments Guy/Girl: So you’re on a packed train, becoming physically acquainted with about three other people you’ve never met before.You look over your shoulder and what do you see ploughing a steady path through the crowds? The refreshments trolley. All of sudden what was a can of sardines turns into a human game of tetris. I understand that it’s the persons job to do it. But really, whoever sent that poor soul on that suicide mission should really have thought, “Hmmm, perhaps today isn’t a good idea”. I mean is it really worth it just for a pack of Cheese ‘n’ Onion crisps which cost more than the train ticket itself? Which leads us to our next point.

Price

So with the image of the downtrodden rail-user in mind (honestly not the Karl Marx of the railroad) let’s briefly discuss prices…

They’re ridiculous!

That’s it… well it isn’t, but it sums it up. A few months ago my family (2 adults and a 1yr old) decided we wanted to go to London. It’s a long journey and one that you always consider using the train for. Now we don’t have railcards, but the following principal still applies. When calculating costs to travel down we realised that it would be cheaper for us to drive for 500 mile round trip that it would be to take the train even if we had had railcards.

I had the privilege of living in Germany where Deutsche-Bahn runs a fantastic service. Whilst living in Munich I repeatedly made use of something called the Bayern-Ticket (which back then cost €25) which allowed me and up to 5 other people to travel where ever I wanted in the state of Bavaria for an entire day. That was several years ago of course, but I checked it out and now it costs €23 + €4 for every additional passenger. In the same period I’ve seen the price of a ticket to London go up from about £60 to £80. Imagine unlimited travel around a certain area for €23 ( about £18) for yourself and then add just €4 (about £3) to get another person on board! Now that’s what I call günstig!

Train Delayed

The other thing that I remember about German trains was their punctuality. If you were late for a train in Germany (even by 30 seconds) you knew that something would have to be seriously wrong for your train to still be there. Ok, so they’re not perfect. But I remember being in Munich Hauptbahnhof following quite a serious storm and the trains were a mess (by German standards). We were wanting to get to Passau and were informed that the train would be delayed because a tree had fallen on the line. “How long?” we asked… half an hour was the reply.

Half an hour! For a Tree! If you turn up to catch an English train and there’s so much as a single leaf on the line you might as well call it quits and walk to your destination. Here we routinely expect for a train to be at least 5 minutes late. And we don’t expect an apology for at least another 15 minutes after that. And Germany is not the only one that shows us up. In Japan (if Wikipedia is to be believed), if a train is 5 minutes late, the train companies will issue certificate confirming that this was the case, because strolling into work 5 minutes late and blaming it on the train is the Japanese equivalent of saying your dog ate your homework – it never really happens.

Conclusion

Ok, so maybe things aren’t quite so bad as I make out. Things are improving on our rail networks (about as quickly as a train confronted with leaf though). Unfortunately for Ninja Phil these improvements haven’t come fast enough. At least he now has Captain Jimbo’s plans in hand, let’s see what’s in store at Headingley!

Phil

********************

Postscript: Just briefly. This coming Sunday (Sunday? Is that when you’re supposed to post? I’d forgotten) things will be a little different. Sometime before Sunday I’ll be putting up a profile of the Incredible H and I’ll post up a little filler for the comic. This is just because of my own currently hectic schedule.

Episode 8 will land Sunday 8th June – Don’t miss it!

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