Whiling away an idle half-hour, I’ve just been checking some train journeys.
Let’s say I wanted to go from Liverpool to – oh, let’s go to Bournemouth. There are two choices – 1 change at £93.50, or 2 changes at £49.35. The first would be very difficult for a fit person. For a disabled person it’s impossible. The second is simply impossible for anyone. Rail travel, quite simply, sucks.
Let’s take the 1-stopper. You change at Birmingham New Street which, as stations go, is not a fun place to be. You have six minutes to make your connection – assuming your train is on time. It can take that long to find out which bloody platform you want – kiss goodbye to your connection!
I once had a six-minute train-change at Taunton (for Yeovil). My train arrived 4 minutes late, it took a couple of minutes to disembark, and I watched my connection trundle off while I was still looking for the platform information – as it happened, the buggerdly train was as far away as it was possible to be. The homeward journey, a couple of weeks later, was horrendous – a 5-hour journey took over 8. The next day I started looking at cars – I haven’t been on a train since. They clearly haven’t improved.
But what of the 2-stopper, I hear you cry? Well, trust me, it doesn’t get better. The first change is at London Euston, where you arrive at 14.05, then you get a tube to Waterloo Station.
You arrive at Waterloo 1h 7m later, but you really needn’t have bothered, because your connection departed at precisely the time you arrived at Waterloo (assuming you were on time – if you were late it gets even more surreal). Yep, I know, unbelievable. True, though. Look, here’s a screencap to prove it:-
Just for the hell of it, I had a look at the Liverpool – Yeovil route, and hey, there’s also an option that goes via Euston and Waterloo and has the Waterloo departure time exactly the same as the arrival, but this time the tube journey takes 1h 24m.
Doesn’t it occur to these cretins that a schedule with trains that arrive at the same time as the connection departs, but the connection is over an hour’s travel away, really is lunacy? It doesn’t just teeter on the edge of insanity, it plunges into the abyss.
And yes, I know you could wait for the next train – assuming there is one (there wasn’t from Taunton – I had to get someone to come and collect me), but that’s really not the point, is it? Train schedules should actually work – these two examples, and I have no reason at all to assume they’re unusual – do not work. At all.
There’s a one-word reason why the system is in such chaos – privatisation. British Rain, for all its faults, did actually know its own train times, and connections actually worked. I travelled all over the country by train, in the seventies, and never missed a connection. And hey, I had no trouble transporting huge rucksacks on backpacking trips, or my bike on cycle-camping expeditions. These days, if you have anything bigger than a laptop, you really won’t enjoy the experience. That’s assuming you can actually get where you want to go – and I really wouldn’t put money on that!