Try to stay awake

10 minutes late is the new normal and doesn’t even merit a “sorry”.

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Oh great“, I hear you say (or “Oh greewt” which is what my banana-fingers wrote first of all), “here’s another blog about how the trains are messed up, as if there weren’t more of those every day than there are trains”.

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Add pictures for more page hits they said. So here’s a picture of a goose to drive up the stats.

Consider this a vent or rant so that I can get on with my life afterwards. You can get on with your life sooner than that: can I recommend “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix?

This is not a kick against Southeastern Trains in particular. They are crap but not uniquely so, as shown by the wails of overprivileged rail travellers from all over the land.

We have something in the nature of a contract* with these train people which goes like this: “I give you nearly all my money, and in return you do your level-best to provide me with train services in accordance with the timetable that you kindly provide. I understand that asteroids or bombs will provide you with an excuse to reroute the train and I’m OK with that”.

Most of our railways have been there since before Charles Dickens grew a beard. The advantage of this is that railway companies have had over 150 years to work out how long it takes a train to get from any given station to any other station. If you start at Warrington Bank Quay and want to go to Glasgow Central, 150 years of expertise has shown us that you can do that in about 3 hours. Or, you want to go from Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge, depending on how many stops the train takes in, you should do it in 45- 55 minutes. 150 years of experience has informed the makers of the timetable, that, barring alien attack or the like, you can do these trips within these times comfortably. Experiences of something called “punctuality” have shown us there’s a fair bit of slack built in to these timetables so that trains can spend an extra minute or two at a station if there’s a wheelchair or similar to be loaded or unloaded.

And yet.

If stations were people, they’d be those people who act all suprised when you go to see them even though they knew you were coming, and make you wait outside looking into other people’s back gardens while they tidy away their mucky books.

If signals were people they’d be the people who pretend to be out when you ring the bell, thinking you must be Jehovah’s witnesses.

10 minutes late is the new normal and doesn’t even merit a “sorry”.

Most companies operate a “Delay Repay” scheme, whereby if you are delivered to your destination more than 30 minutes late you can fill in a form to get a bit of your money back. This is by way of compensating you for missing your connection, flight, aunty’s wedding etc. The main effect of Delay Repay is to make ’29 minutes late’ a punctuality target in someone’s Key Performance Indicators and brings no good to the service.

I composed this bilious diatribe in my head while involuntarily inspecting a golf course while stationary this very day. I feel I could play that hole blindfolded, and I don’t even play golf.

* I know it isn’t a contract. The small print tells us this in a small way. Small print is for weasels**.

** unfair to weasels.

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