This week I seem to have been sending most of my time on trains, or in meetings. Out of the five working days this week I have only been in London for one, and am again elsewhere tomorrow. I often have meetings away from my main office, but not normally so many in a week.
Being constantly on the go is very tiring in itself and hence I decided to travel everywhere by train this week, rather than driving as I often do (mainly as to save time admittedly). As well as the obvious carbon benefit over driving I do find that there are many other advantages and disadvantages compared to just jumping in the car.
Going by train does at least mean that you can do other things whilst travelling. Several of my journeys have involved travelling with colleagues and I have to admit that it's been quite nice getting to know them outside of the usual office environment. There's been time to read and knit as well, but strangely the thing that I've enjoyed most is having some time to look out of the window at the scenery going past and daydream.
The biggest disadvantage has to be the limited routes and timetables meaning that extra time has had to be spent actually making the journey. St Albans is to the north of London and therefore on two days this week I've had to go into central London and use the tube to get to the other station that I am travelling out of on the mainline trains. The same then goes for the return journey in the evening. Very frustrating. Also, as I'm someone who hates being late for anything, I've had to leave super early to ensure that I've been in time for meetings. Quite often a train will be due to get in only just before the meeting is set to start, so I've had to get the train before to allow for any delays (and the possibility of cancellation). Where changes have had to be made there have been quite a few cold waits on bleak platforms. A thirty minute wait for an Abbey Flyer from Watford Junction tonight is a fine example of this. After a 6.21 train this morning to ensure I got to my destination on time it left me feeling very weary for the last leg of my journey.
I have travelled with four different train operating companies so far this week and the quality of the service they provide seems to vary greatly. Some trains have been efficient, on time and clean, whilst others have been late, decrepit and dirty. On one intercity service I had to find the
guard train manager to ask him to take a toilet out of service as it was overflowing. His comment when I explained the situation: "well no one else has complained". Amazing!
Compared to other countries that I've travelled in the train service here in the UK is very poor, and incredibly expensive to boot. Why do we seem to get it so wrong? The service appears to be getting worse and worse, yet I'm confused as to why it is so difficult to get it right. If this country wants to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport then I think they've got a lot of work to do to make it a pleasant alternative.
Another day of train travel tomorrow – I just hope it's a good experience!