Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Was highly suprised to see the gentleman shown below on the train this morning - got into my carriage as well. Didn't bother speaking to him though as he is a liberal, namby pamby, commie loving, ex member of the SAS who can probably pan my head in.

A friend of mine (Hitchmo) said that with the number of politicians I meet, I should consider these incidents as more than chance and that perhaps I am meant to be in politics.

Happy never to have met a labour MP as I would probably have to wash my hands with bleach.


Tall Man

I was amused the other morning - was chatting to Tall man (previously referred to as ridiculously tall good looking man)... He'd just tried to pay for his car parking using the "RINGO" service where you phone up a laptop in India and type or speak various details in.

This service is a pain at the best of times. But you can imagine Tall man's anger when his credit card got rejected by the Indian Laptop.. F****** thing, F****** to*****s etc etc. Never seen him quite so angry - I took an involuntary step back.

He's always so calm and collected normally... I ventured to mention the incident to him today and he was still seething...


Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Had to go to Edinburgh today. Jolly good meetings and dinner with old friend. However, there was a part of my travel that got on my wick....

The announcements.

They go on for ever.

It's worse than the train.

On one short flight from Edinburgh to Birmingham we had:

1) By cabin crew - Welcome aboard
2) Flight deck - Welcome aboard, blah blah, please pay special attention to the safety instructions that the cabin crew are, in a bored, humiliating and frankly unnecessary way, about to demonstrate for you.
3) Recorded. The actual safety instructions including which cavity to insert your sodding blackberry into.
4) Cabin Crew. Keep your seatbelts on.
5) Cabin Crew. Announcement about drinks and sandwiches trolley from which you can BUY stuff.
6) Cabin Crew. Announcement about the special stuff you can buy at "extra special prices" on board (or is that bored).
7) Cabin Crew - Customer feedback forms.
8) Flight Deck - where we are - somewhere above Manchester - who cares. At least we don't have to go there.
9) Flight Deck - 10 mins to landing
10) Cabin crew - fasten your seat belts
11) Cabin crew - please remain in your seats until.... blah blah blah, death.
12) Flight deck - slight delay - external power hook up.
13) Cabin crew - we've opened both front and rear doors.



Monday, 26 November 2007

The Projects Director - FGW

Well the day finally arrived when I had my appointment with Matthew Golton who is the Projects Director of FGW. We had arranged to meet on the train at Charlbury where he would be joining the train.

True to his word, as the train began to pull out of Charlbury, my telephone rang (embarrassing Nokia sound which I have since changed) and Mr Golton and I met up. I was escorted to 1st class and treated to a cup of tea and offers of just about anything I could eat.

We had a chat about the future of the line we use - in particular the option of rebuilding parts of the track so that there are less delays on the line.

The options seem to be:

1) Addition of track at the junction just north of Oxford and the upgrading of some goods lines to passenger standard (I never knew there was a difference - surely railway is railway...)

2) More track at another squeeze point near Moreton in Marsh.

3) The upgrading of the mainline track from Paddington to Didcot so that the slow tracks can cope with trains up to 90mph...
This move would include the upgrading of signalling to allow trains to run a bit closer and for there to be a single control centre in Didcot for a large portion of the country - more akin to air traffic control than an old style signal box.

A number of interesting facts emerged from our conversation:

1) The track out of Paddington to Reading has 25% of the country's suicides committed on it.. (Those that are done by jumping in front of trains....)

2) It costs about £3m for 1 mile of track.

3) A platform costs about £1m (but could be much more).

4) It will take until 2013 for all these upgrades to be completed.

5) The final iteration of signalling for trains - that is train to train transmission and proper aircraft type control will probably only be in place by 2035.

I intend to have retired by then.

Anyway. Matthew is a jolly nice chap and seems open to having sensible conversations. I was very amused by the reaction of all the FGW staff to Matthew - basically they couldn't do enough for us - literally falling over themselves to be nice. Every time a new member of staff saw Matthew, they would say "good morning sir". Hilarious. If only I had that sort of influence. .... The the world would be MINE. ALL MINE.

Train man - you'd have been in heaven with all the talk of extra sets of points and interlocking sleepers with a wide sweep round the corner...


Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Sick note

For the 3rd time in 6 months I have found myself not well enough to go to work. This is very out of character and I used to pride myself on having the constitution of an ox. No longer the case by the feel of things.

I managed to get home last night (although I'm not sure how) and went straight to bed for sleep and recovery. Woke up about 10pm and was very very sick... Felt immediately better and went out clubbing.


Now, I am tempted to blame all these episodes of sickness on our friends at FGW. Their infection incubation machines (also known as carriages) must surely contribute to commuter malady.. Here are some of the criteria needed to spread infection:

  • Overcrowding
  • Hermetically sealed environment
  • No fresh air
  • Filtered windows to prevent sunlight
  • Over-heating

All of these perfectly describe an FGW train. I feel ill just talking about it.

Sadly I can't blame this on FGW as I suspect the Cumberland Sausage I had at lunch was to blame. I checked with one of my colleagues and he reported similar effects.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Planes are no better

I had to go to Glasgow on Monday to see a client. Usual nonsense about getting up at 6am, get to the airport, check in and then look at the screen to find that my plane is delayed....

Now you may think that I would be well used to transport being late. In this country we really take the concept of "late" to a new level. In fact we are so often late (for work, social engagements etc) that people are suprised if you show up on time and very often aren't ready for you.

Anyway, check this out for a new excuse.. "Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Captain Jeff speaking. Sorry about the delay this morning. This was due to ground staff in Glasgow taking a long time to defrost the plane"....
I defy FGW to try that one. In the end I got to my meeting 16 minutes late - but that was only because I had allowed an hour to get from the airport to the office which I knew was a long time.

Can't rely on anyone these days.
Silly picture of Glagow airside from my window.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A different mode of transport

Once again I will be deserting the train for a more elevated form of transport. I am flying to Glasgow tomorrow.

I'm not sure how this form of commute will compare with FGW but I will provide a full report. My only hope is that the plane does not fly in reverse formation like it's land based cousin.

Another point to mention - since my tirade of emails to the CEO of FGW, I have now arranged a meeting with the projects director of FGW on 26th November. This will happen on the train.

Any suggestions as to what I should say are welcome.


Thursday, 8 November 2007

From Oxford

The little chuffer train I take home some days was waiting obediently for me at Oxford and off we went. The train manager came on the tannoy and apologised for the toilet being locked as it was in a "disgusting state"!
Apparantly they had the choice of either locking the toilet or cancelling the train..... Seemed a bit draconian but there we go.

2 thoughts entered my head:

1) What sort of filthy disgusting person trashes a public toilet - it's actually quite difficult to do unless you are really very very ill - as in so ill you can't leave the house so how come you're on the train.... ok, probably 1000s of reasons but I just can't stand the way that some people seem to treat public lavatories.

2) I really felt sorry for the bloke standing outside the toilet with his legs crossed and looking as if he was in a state of some desperation. In addition, he missed the announcement about the toilet so he was really struggling when I told him...

Ho hum.


Good things

I wonder if I will be less concerned with the train timings I I notice nice things out of the window (when it's light).

This morning, I happened to look up from my laptop (writing presentation on.,.. oh never mind) and saw 2 deer in the field right next to the train.

They looked so unconcerned by everything - just a lovely sight with the autumn leaves around them. It warms the heart and makes me think of nice weekends at Mummy and Daddy's place in the country.

As an amusing aside, I was talking to Tall Man, Visaman and Greenjacketman (who Visaman says should be called "Royal Greenjacket" and I agree) about the impending meeting with representatives from FGW and Royal Greenjacket mentioned something about the annoyance of having the train stop at Didcot Parkway. It used not to do this apparently. Anyway, the Royal Greenjacket went on to say that " a different type of person gets on the train at Didcot.. They're not like us." Nearly cried I was laughing so much. I've met someone who's politics are on the right of mine. Incidentally I asked him to describe the people who get on the train at Didcot - he said "you know who I mean".

You can safely assume he was referring to the tracksuit wearing, trainer attired, baseball hatted youths. (Also known as chavs).


Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A Response!

Having vented at the Chief Exec of FGW I am pleased to have had a response!!! See below... I sense that perhaps he didn't catch some of the barbs in my email to him but he seems like a decent fellow.

Dear Mr Hogg,

Thank you for your email and for your supportive comments which I shall pass on to the team at Swindon. I am sorry that your journey was badly disrupted.

The freight train failure tonight sat down right across the junction north of Oxford which prevented any movements to or from the Kingham line so in this case track doubling would have had no impact. However I met with Network Rail this afternoon coincidentally to continue to press the case for the doubling. The new Route Director is a supporter and the scheme is included in the NetworkRail Strategic Business Plan, published last Friday for the 5 year period from 1/4/09.

The key now is to progress with the development work and business case and I have appointed a projects director Matthew Golton to work with Network Rail on facilitating these schemes.

Best wishes

Andrew Haines

Monday, 5 November 2007


Oh the trains. RUBBISH.

I have this evening had yet another unique experience of FGW (the train company). Apparently there has been a train failure in the "Oxford area" which has led to my train being diverted via Swansea (well Swindon) and I am, as I type, in the back of a cab with 5 strangers and my boss as we make our way towards Kingham. The driver has already confessed that he has no idea where he is going. All jolly good fun really. I hope none of my fellow passengers are murderers, otherwise we'll all end up going the way of the squirrel in my previous story.

Trainman - I know you will be delighted to hear about this and will no doubt gloat at the Germanic efficiency of your run into London / Berlin. “Zer ar alvays plans JA?”

Visaman - you lucky git, you missed the excitement.

Lox - try getting my train one day. You'll learn what pain is.

Anyway, to end this otherwise negative rant, I thought I would amuse you with what Collyn the train manager said on the (late) 07.18 this morning:

Usual announcements about where we are going blah blah and then, when referring to the train, "SHE is booked to arrive at London Paddington at 08:45". Hang on a sec Collyn. It's a chuffing train not an ocean going liner. Maybe when you've spent that much time on the train you start to get an emotional attachment to the thing.


Sunday, 4 November 2007

The death of a Squirrel

I have a confession to make.

I was running late on Friday because:

1) I just could not be bothered to leave the house
2) Coudn't find a fiver that I knew was knocking around somewhere
3) Was having a clothing crisis and couldn't work out what to wear - get over yourself I hear you cry.

Anyway, I left the house with only 33 minutes to reach the station, park, get a car park ticket, leg it over the footbridge, engage in 5 minutes of witty banter with Tallman, Visaman, Greenjacketman and catch the train. (Incidentally, Greenjacketman is a very nice chap who has been doing the journey to London for 17 years. He has a very dry and amusing way about him).

Suffice to say I drove the car like it was stolen... although with strict adherence to all traffic regulations. On approach to a rather sharp left hand turn, I was braking and changing gears, getting ready to pull up the handbrake in a perfect rally driver manoeuvre when.... a squirrel crossed my path.

Unable to do anything other than make the turn the squirrel found it's way under the car and met with a wheel or 2. Nasty knocking noise from under the vehicle for a second or 2 and then nothing.
Mentioned this to Greenjacketman at the station who told me that they're all rats anyway and therefore count as vermin.

Caught the train, forgot to buy a ticket for the car park and got away with it anyway.


Thursday, 1 November 2007

Complaint letter to Last Worst Western

Ohhh. I needed to vent so much.

Copy of email sent to Cheif Exec of 1st Great Western..

Dear Mr Haines
Forgive my rantings below but I felt the need to bring a number of issues to your attention.
I am a regular commuter on the line between Kingham and Reading. I have an annual season ticket which I imagined at the time of purchase, would be a wise money and time saving purchase.

Unfortunately the service I use struggles to maintain an even vague adherence to the published timetable. In the last 2 weeks, the 07.18 from Kingham to London Paddington has been on time precisely once. I am forced to catch this train as it is the one the (according to published
timetables) gets me to Reading for 08.18 and then to my office for 08.30 I would catch a train from somewhere closer to home but the price of this is so prohibitive that even I (and I am reasonably paid) cannot afford it.

Due to the persistent lateness of the service, I am rarely in the office before 08.45 My job requires a certain level of commitment from me which includes a certain number of hours. In order to catch the 07.18, I raise myself from my slumber at 0600 hours and make myself ready for the day ahead, generally leaving the house by 0635 hours and arriving at the station at about 0710 hours.

You can then imagine my frustration when on a habitual basis, the train is more than 5 mins, often 10 mins and sometimes 20 mins late. This is time I would happily spend in bed rather than standing on a cold platform waiting for a train to come. When it does finally turn up, there is a string of excuses as to why the train is late, none of them satisfactory.

The return journey is worse.

I catch a variety of trains to get home - either the 1622 from Reading or the 1653 (change at Oxford) or the 1750. The 1622 is often late but I generally get a seat, The 1653 is almost never the advertised Adelante service but a 2 or 3 carriage turbo that has been yanked out of Royal Oak and pressed in to service. This makes for what can at best be described as an intimate journey with my fellow passengers.

The 1750 is a nonsense. It is always overcrowded (at least as far as
Oxford) with many people standing in the aisles and squashed into the "verstibule areas" (aka cattle class). This train is never on time. As I write, my fellow passengers are regailing me with stories of late service and uncomfortable conditions.

I can't help wondering whether these problems could be resolved by adopting a slightly less risk averse approach to Health and Safety - in my mind you could probably run trains closer together on the track and make them longer. In addition, Network Rail seems to treat timetables as more of a suggestion than a reliable service. This really can't be allowed to continue.

I understand that it is a very difficult job to try and run the trains on time but it would help if the trains left on time as a starter...

I do appreciate that these changes cost money and your organisation has probably suffered from generations of under investment but I sense that if many of your staff were to feel the commercial reality of working outside the rail industry, they might have a different attitude to the way in which they run the railways.

I look forward to hearing your responses to this and seeing the network improve.

Best regards