Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Selective Door Opening - an Almighty Cock up - Health and Safety Paranoia

It is difficult to put words down to express how angry I am with FGW. Yesterday we have a successful day of virually on time trains - I got to work at the proper time, I got home at a decent hour.

But today.. No. Not a hope.

I arrived at the station to be told by Tall Man (aka Duncan) that the 7.18 would not be stopping at Kingham this morning due to problems with the sodding Selective Door Opening.

I went on to the platform in the vain hope that it might stop. Leon even put his head out of his hiding place and told us it might stop.... just as the train tooted at us and accelerated through 100mph as it passed through the station. I had to wait an hour for the next train and ended up arriving at the office for about 10am.

Honestly, how does this sodding company think that this is an acceptable way to run a business? It's a good job my boss is reasonably understanding as he does the same commute (albeit earlier).

I am literally at my wits end with this lot.

The problem was that the selective door opening wouldn't work and all they could do was unlock all the doors.... Which takes us straight back to just before Christmas when they would stop and tell everyone not to get out of certain carriages or risk a fall to a messy and painful death.

My question is then, what has changed? I have an idea that it's those Health & Safety people poking their noses in and making a difficult job almost impossible.

To add insult to serious delay, I couldn't get a seat until I persuaded the Train Manager (Rog I think) that there were actually no seats and that I should be allowed into 1st class where I was set upon my revenue inspection staff (what a great title).

They had been briefed as to my plight - and it's a good thing to for I was armed with the Times newspaper...

I have added below a picture of someone's "hotpants" that somehow had made their way on to the track. The thing that scared me (and should serve as a lesson to anyone who reads this) that after the train had gone by, there was absolutely no sign of the clothing anywhere -

I can only assume the aforementioned hotpants had been minced up and deposited somewhere a couple of miles up the track. As for the girl who was missing her hotpants..... well the mind boggles.....


Monday, 25 February 2008


I was standing in a generic retail outlet on Saturday while shopping with Mrs Trainfellow and Baby Trainfellow.

The chap came up to me and said "excuse me, my girlfriend thinks you're Dom Joly. Are you?"

Well.... I don't like to disappoint.


Person hit by a train

Most of us that use the Great Western Railway will be familiar with the level of havoc caused when there is a fatality on the line - generally in the Southall area.

There seem to be a variety of causes - all of them equally tragic - mis-adventure, suicide - and today's version - possible murder.

The police had to shut the line for 5 and a half hours which had the effect of knackering all the services between London and anywhere else.

You can imagine my delight to see that the train I was due to catch (that I had run for) was cancelled and I had to wait until a lot later - Got home about 8.30ish. Not so bad all things considered.

What I don't understand is why people choose this bit of track - my contact at FGW (Matthew Golton, Special Projects Director) tells me that this piece of track has the highest suicide rate of anywhere on the railway network.

I'm guessing there must be 20 trains an hour out of Paddington - maybe more but let us stay with this assumption. Let us also say that each train can carry on average (gross miscalculation coming up), 500 passengers. The line was shut for 5.5 hours.
Therefore, as a minimum, 55,000 people are affected and that's just the ones wanting to leave Paddington.
Then there's those on the way in and all of the others at stations like Reading who are also affected. Making a wild guess - another 20,000 people in all.
I am making huge leaps and assumptions but let us further agree that we all earn the minimum wage of £5.52 an hour - ok, let's be sensible - we work in Reading and London mainly - more likely to average £22 an hour (£4o k salary - tell me if I'm wrong...) We've all been delayed for a minimum of 1 hour - some much more. Time to recap...

75,000 people in total affected
1 hour delay
£22 per hour

Cost = £1,650,000

That seems remarkably cheap to me. We haven't accounted for the cost of police time, damage etc etc. Let alone the fact that once again I haven't been able to see my baby girl in the evening as she is asleep.

I'd love to hear some official stats on this and see how far off I am..

Yes, I am a sicko but your mind wanders when you're stuck on a platform waiting.


Friday, 22 February 2008

Drinking on the Train

On Monday of this week I had the usual pleasure of rousing myself and getting on the 7.18am train. To do this I have to get up at 6am. (Already I can see what a nonsense my life is... Honestly).

Anyway, you can imagine my state of mind when I get on the train - all I want is quiet and a sip of tea whilst I either check my emails, do a Sudoku or I sleep.

On this particular morning, I noticed nothing different in carriage B apart from a slightly chatty group of people who I assumed would quieten down when more commuters got on, carrying with them their slient air and speach forbidding looks.

Only minutes later, I heard the sound of champagne corks being popped, glasses being filled and shouts of "Cheers". Clearly on a jolly for the day. They got louder and louder and the female laughing in particular was glass shattering.

It went on and on. The funny thing about British society in particular is that we are all afraid of a confrontation with someone who may turn out to be quite violent. This has been illustrated again and again when a reasonable member of society has either been stabbed and killed or prosecuted for standing up to yobos.

I did my bit and got off the train as soon as possible.

However, I did tell someone to turn down their Ipod on Tuesday because they were annoying everyone and I had a lot of encouraging looks from people along with nods of approval..


Friday, 15 February 2008

Please do not flush the toilet whilst the train is at a station

There is a good reason why this request is made of us commuters. It's because sometimes the water and associated waste efluent comes out of the train.

I realised this today because, as I was standing on platform 4 of Reading station, staring into space, my eyes came into focus on the track in front of me.

And what did I see? I beige / brown "jobbie". Just lying there on the track looking at me. I looked around and there was loo paper and other general nastiness. Surely a public health issue but I don't blame the platform staff for not doing anything about it. I mean, who wants to do that job, especially with an audience.

So, let this be a lesson to you. DO NOT FLUSH WHILST AT A STATION.


Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Carriage B - the home of relationship breakups on the phone

We all know how painful it is when a relationship breaks down - and I'm sure it's sooo much worse when it's a "significant other" type thing.

You will have noticed the comments of yesterday and the woman discussing her problems loudly... Today another woman did the same thing whilst her 7 year old daugher listened in. Honestly it was excrutiating.

Some conversations must be had in private and definitely not in front of a daughter who will be deeply affected by it I'm sure. Mind you, sounds like the bloke involved needs to do a bit of growing up.

I mentioned this to the Royal Green Jacket. His suggestion was "sit down opposite her and take notes on the whole conversation, very obviously. When she leans over to say excuse me, this is a private conversation, simply respond: Yes, it is."

I love his style.


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Very loud woman in carriage B on 7.18

Visaman and a number of others including myself and the amusing "Jules" were treated to one end of what should have been a private phone conversation.

This lady shared at high volume the details of her recent break up with her ex-boyfriend who was "just being really petty". As a result of the break up she had moved out and is living with her mother somewhere in the Malverns (honestly this woman seemed like she hadn't been outside of London in years).

I can't remember all of the conversation but I know Jules and Visaman both were writing notes. I should point out that this conversation started at Charlbury and went on anabaited until Didcot when fortunately the silly moo had to buy a ticket from the distinguished Roy Harley (I really do like his style - recognisable and reassuring).

The moment her transaction was complete, she was back on the phone to the poor unfortunate at the other end and she just carried on - oblivious to the looks, shakes of heads and people actually changing seats to get away from her.

Visaman and Jules, your contributions please.


Monday, 11 February 2008

Selective Door Opening

You will probably know of the problems FGW have with short platforms and unlocking the doors.

Well as I was waiting to get off the train the other day I was given unfettered access to the panel on the train that is to blame. Pic below.


Not an auspicious start

I was wondering on my way to work this morning if I had lost my passion for commenting about FGW or my fellow commuters. You will be pleased to hear (?) I have not lost it after all.

Journey home today:

1) The magical mixture of a child and a dog in my carriage. I really couldn't have chosen any better. The poor child (age circa 18months) was clearly tired and needed to sleep hence the semi-tantrum coming from it's general direction. The dog was frightened of the small child hence pitiful whining noises.

And I messed up the Sudoku.

2) The train that had left Reading more or less on time achieve the brillant feat of getting to Kingham 20 mins late. The usual excuses were offered along with the line about "any inconvenience" but actually this is no longer good enough (as if it ever was).

I have to run my life on quite a tight timetable in order to get to work on time, get home, run (those that know me personally will testify to my needing to do this), spend time with beautiful wife and daughter etc etc. I do not have a spare 20 mins in my day to just give away. I know this sounds pathetic and that perhaps I should work closer to home?? Oh, it's too complicated to go into here.

The point is that FGW are supposed to run a "World class train service". How can they even dream this when they describe a train that is 15 mins late as "On Time".

Utter nonsense. I feel another email to the CEO coming up.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Rowan Williams needs to resign.

I know this is a departure from my normal rantings about FGW but I feel today that I need to comment on something else - the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As you will probably know from the news, Rowan has been discussing how Sharia law could come to the UK - albeit only for Muslims who opt to live under it's rules.

My problems with this are:

1) He is Archbishop of the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, not of Islam. As much as it would be nice to see peace between Christianity and Islam, they are different and separate faiths and it is not for the leader of the Anglican church to be an apologist for Islam. I have a lot of questions about Rowan's outlook.

2) The Rule of Law. The UK and it's stability is built upon the Rule of Law (A.V. Dicey 16oo odd). Society is built upon the population being subject to the same laws and conventions with all being equal in the eyes of the law.
We cannot consider having different rules applicable to different people. As a Christian, I still consider myself subject to the laws of the nation I live in - even if I don't quite agree with all of them.

Quite what the AOC thinks he is doing by pusing an Islamic agenda I don't know. If as AOC he is leading Christians in their faith, what does he think he is doing??????????

Not a very eloquent or well thought out item but it does reflect my thoughts this evening. Normal service will be resumed soon.


Wednesday, 6 February 2008


I saw Leon the station manager at Kingham actually on the train this afternoon. He told me he'd had a little outing (using his free train miles) to buy a treadmill for running on. His intention is to put it behind the desk at the station and get some exercise while serving the commuters with their daily diet of Travelcards and returns for Oxford. I wish him well.

He also raised a good amount of money for charity when he dyed his hair red. Apparantly his bosses at FGW were less amused. Major sense of humour failure.... Leon is a legend and how cool is it that he uses his job to raise money for charity. Outstanding.

I shall wait and see how he gets on with the treadmill....


FGW - we might even make it to Paddington

A very clever friend of mine has taken the time out to create a new FGW poster taking in the line from my previous post. I hope you like it as much as I did.

Monday, 4 February 2008

First day back

First day back..

As a little sort of reminder / welcome back from FGW I was treated to a late train - got "stuck" at Moreton in Marsh... What does this mean? It's not like it's having to make its way across a muddy field.....

Things got worse as the journey progressed. Apparently the automatic braking system was malfunctioning and the driver was trying to resolve it. I do have sympathy for the poor chap as it was chilly this morning. My feet still haven't warmed up from my 25 min wait on the platform (made more bearable by swapping anecdotes with Visaman and the Royal Green Jacket about rugby and how Wales isn't really a country so it doesn't matter that England gave away a few points on Saturday).

Anyway, I wonder if FGW could perhaps give a bit more thought to where the train breaks down as today we were stuck in a cutting with no views to take in. The British Railway network has some of the finest views available to it (and some of the worst - approach to Liverpool Street and approach to Manchester Piccadilly) and if we are going to be stuck, I'd at least like to have a nice view to take in.....

Sorry, I know I'm being unreasonable.

I knew it was going to be really bad when we started moving again and saw a car driving along a parallel piece of road and watching them over-take the train with some ease.

The "train manager" (TM) came on the tannoy and told us the train would "terminate" at Oxford due to an irreparable fault with the train. However, the level of excitement was raised further when the TM announced that they would "try and get the train as far as Didcot as we stand a better chance of getting a connection there". He then said (and I quote) "you never know, we might even make it as far as Paddington".

Part of me felt that this should be their new Corporate Brand Strapline:

FGW - you never know, we might make it to Paddington.

Eventually terminated at Didcot and had to get a connection.
A lovely welcome back.
Such fun.


Sunday, 3 February 2008

It's not all about commuting

I felt I had to share this story.

At church on Sunday, my good friend Keith was publishing the bans of marriage for a number of people. Among them were some other pals of mine, Brian and Anna.

So you can imagine my suprise when Keith accidentally published the bans of marriage between Brian and ALAN. You could almost see the ripple of anglican disapproval that went round the congregation.....

Poor old Keith.... He got it right the second time round although he did go on to refer to one of the other pastors as "hot".


Friday, 1 February 2008

A week of no commuting

For the benefit of Train Man and others, I feel I should update you on why I have been silent in a week when I would have had soooo much ammunition to fire at FGW / LWW etc etc. But I've been on a course in a hotel on a beach with a very fine restaurant! Lovely.

I've provided some pics of the view from my balcony. Back on the trains next week to see if the newly penitent (that is humble) FGW can do any better.

I am excited to hear that they will be provided a stonking discount on season tickets... Hopefully I'll still be doing the commute to take advantage..

Those of you who know my (tongue in cheek) feelings about northerners will be amused to hear that the course tutor this week was a Dyslexic Geordie with Tourettes' syndrome... Brilliant.