Tag Archives: Trains

So, who are we going to eat first?

Admittedly, it has been some time since I’ve complained about the service on South West Trains.

Today, though they have made up for the recent exemplary performance with a real cracker.

On the 1815 from London Waterloo towards our first stop Guildford, we were about 25 minutes into the journey when I felt an unusually sharp braking from the train. Instinctively looking up and around, I noticed a few other passengers with equally curious looks on their faces. The train quickly ground to a full stop.

The conductor proceeded to announce, much to everyone’s amusement, that they were experiencing technical difficulties, followed a few moments later by word that he and the driver were carrying out tests to diagnose the problem.

The eerie glow of laptops

Thing started to get serious when he stated that they were going to cycle the power to ‘reset’ the train. Light hearted mutterings about the train being MS-Windows powered and the driver pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del were then accompanied by the lights and air-con going off, and a deathly silence descended upon the occupants of the coach as the thought of what might happen if the power did not come back on, crossed everyone’s minds.

It did come back on, but the now familiar voice over the PA then confirmed our suspicions that the reboot had not cleared the fault.

After an announcement that the conductor was coming through the train to carry out further tests, I had the vision that a big spanner would be required to ‘fix’ things. I was not too far from the truth.

They had decided the only way forward was to split the 10 coach train into its 5 coach parts and then reattach it. This technical sounding operation appeared to be more akin to a jump start than anything else, but all credit to the driver and conductor as the train slowly crept back into life after the bump starting. Muted cheers from the passengers ensued after the 40 minutes delay seemed behind us.

5 minutes later the brakes came on again 🙁 and now I had not phone network service to let Liz know what was going on.

The operation to split the train was again carried out, a lot faster this time, and within 15 minutes we were on our way again.

Only to stop suddenly again 2 or 3 minutes later.

Coupling mechanism

The problem, apparently, was that the train’s control system kept getting confused and indicated that its constituent parts had been decoupled, hence the sudden and, in the right situation, necessary application of the brakes to arrest what might otherwise be a runaway train. Clearly, while coupled to another set of coaches, this is not particularly helpful.

The same ‘bumping’ procedure failed to work a third time, and after another 30 minutes or so we were told our best bet was to head back to the previous station (Clandon), but it was another hour at least until a second train crew arrived to allow the schizophrenic train to be split into functioning parts.

The final journey was uneventful and we arrived at our destination at 2130 – 2½ hours late; pretty impressive for a journey normally of 45 minutes.

My day had started early with a run, a which had been good, but I had missed my post-long run stretching Pilates due to a lunchtime meeting, and now I’d missed swimming.

In contrast to yesterday, a far from perfect day.

Monday, Monday

A usual Monday today, although the trains conspired to spice things up a bit.

Very cramped this morning on the commute, after a power outage further down the track and cancellation of a train, leaving Guildford platform three people deep trying to squeeze into the coach with two more stops to go!

The rest of the day was fairly mundane, with a break for Pilates at lunchtime.

Pilates on a Monday used to be the soul preserve of women escaping the office routine, until a couple of other guys and myself started two or three years ago, but interestingly the word of the core benefits must have got round as there were 7 or 8 chaps today, probably a third of the class. How times change!

STA Badges

The elder boys had their final swimming lesson of the term this evening, and got their badges for consistency towards various efforts today and during the term. Joshua got badges for his ‘medley’ transitions, which he has done particularly well at this term. Liz said a final farewell to Jean, her friend, who she met at swimming some years ago and with whom she ‘connected’, and this was to be her last term with her son, Jack.

It was my final swim of the term as well, which turned out to be a relatively easy forty minutes of lengths. Now I must remember to swim during the summer, otherwise it will be back to square one in September – assuming we are still in Guildford at that time, which is looking likely, given the continuing state of our housing chain and the British housing market in general!

Good to see that Bradley Wiggins is extending his lead in the Tour de France as well; he won the stage today, a 40km time trial, and his Sky Procycling teammate, Christopher Froome was second. Sky are now the team to beat and it is shaping up into an interesting Tour 🙂 although with only 1:53 lead over last year’s winner, Cadel Evans, it is still anyone’s race.

HS2 – Crown Jewel or White Elephant?

So, what do you think? A flag ship British infrastructure project which will provide benefits for years to come, or a waste of capital during a time of necessary austerity benefiting only the rich who can afford to use it?

High Speed Link 2

Either way it is going to cost each UK taxpayer £1,000’s.

The HS2 is a proposed rail link from London To Birmingham which will reduce the journey time to 45 minutes (from the current 1 hour 24 minutes) with trains running at up to 225mph. The first part of the scheme is likely to cost a minimum of £17bn and not be ready until 2026 and the second phase which would extend the line in a ‘Y’ from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds cost a comparable £16bn and not be complete for 20 years.

Purely from a economic point of view, the Government have got it horribly wrong for the following reasons: –

  1. All government infrastructure projects overspend, this is unlikely to be any different. £33bn in the present environment is a huge undertaking which will saddle our children for debt for a generation.
  2. The benefits of the project are dubious and likely to be far less that predicted. Far less people are likely to use it than predicted.
  3. Probably 2% of the population will use the link and yet 100% of taxpayers will pay for it. Even if the over-egged sales predictions come to pass, only 42% of the capital costs of the project will be covered over 60 years of the life of the project.
  4. The cost/benefit ratio of the first phase of the project is a paltry 1.6, which is actually below the cut-off for normal infrastructure projects.
  5. The scheme is meant to reduce the north-south divide, but is just as likely to make it worse by allowing people to travel to London.
  6. The economic case depend on assumptions about demand growth which are highly risky (209% over 45 years)


Needless to say with facts like that the whole business case is flawed and the decision should be reviewed if not overturned immediately.

If you would like to know more then here are some links of interest.


Technology Trial

NFS Shift 2 by EA Games

A quiet journey in today, but the funniest thing that happened was that I sat next to a guy playing a motor sport racing game on his iPad, NFS Shift 2 from EA Games. I have to say the graphics and flow were excellent for a mobile device, but it did look rather odd to see this iPad twisting and turning like a steering wheel to my right as the rest of the commuters and myself were digesting our morning dose of City A.M., Metros and Financial Times, with the odd smattering of Telegraph, Times and Guardian thrown in. That wasn’t the funny thing though. Although I thought little more of my morning journey next to Mr Schumacher, the irony was not lost on me when at 12:00 midday, I received my ’12 Days of Christmas’ download notification from iTunes, and what should the free download for today happen to be? NFS Shift 2 for iPad 🙂 – needless to say I immediately downloaded it and will try it out with the boys later – a bit of a step up from Mariokarts!

My gym session was much less entertaining. I had planned an interval session of about 6k and chose to do 400m intervals. After a bit of a warmup I only managed 3 reps at my target pace (which I am NOT going to share with you!) before almost expiring. In my defence I have been recovering from a cold which has been blocking me up for the last couple of weeks and I was thrown by having to visit the cario equipment on the second floor of the gym, something I haven’t done for a good 30 months or so. Have you noticed how runners seem to always have explanations and excuses ready for their potential impending failure at the start of a run, especially races; in fact come to think of it, it is practically obligatory to toe the start-line and start discussing how badly your training has gone, whether your little finger has recovered from the frost-bite you had last February or whether the altitude induced stress fracture you had to the anvil in your inner ear really will heal before the London Marathon next year. I just had a cold. So I called a day early and did 20 minutes of physio exercises instead. Gym honour retained.

The trains were delayed again today. It seems like any breath of wind over 2mph is likely to upset the signalling network at this time of year. Or maybe they’re just waiting to see what type of snow falls in a few weeks time and, let’s face it, it’s hardly worth moving all the rolling stock around only to leave it somewhere else. I’ve only been commuting for about 6 years – imagine how cynical I would be if I been living the Waterloo dream for 20 years!

Given the delays, I decided to try to update my blog on the train today, something I am going to have to figure out if I am going to do this for the whole year. The wireless hot-spot of my iPhone has failed me though and doesn’t seem to want to play ball. Probably something nasty in the wireless setup of my (Bank) laptop which I’ll be unable to circumvent without contravening several million security guidelines and a similar number of the rules of the Geneva convention. Probably.

The children were just bathing when I eventually got home and since it is back to school tomorrow – Liz is doing cartwheels around the room at this point 🙂 they have just bedded down for an ‘early-ish’ night.