22 November 2007

Train in G Major

The only time a train will run impossibly late, or suffer cancellation, is when you have narrowly missed the one before it. When I realised that there were about half a dozen 0707 regulars on the platform as that train disappeared in the direction of London, the omens for the 0717 were clearly very bad, and inevitably it expired the other side of Swindon.
"I couldn't get the lock on my bike," claimed one passenger, explaining that his glasses had been too steamed up. He'd missed it only by seconds, and thought that maybe he'd have been able to jump on but the station staff were shouting warnings to stand clear and he feared that if he got on he'd have been pulled off again. "A demarcation dispute", explained another of the company, delayed this morning by a nose bleed: "You mustn't make the train late - that's our job."
The train operator's man on the platform, challenged by a disenchanted customer who complained that the trains broke down too often, was explaining that this was the maintenance division's responsibility and seemed unimpressed by the customer's argument that they were all the same company.
The 0730 pulls in ahead of time, perhaps helped on its way by the lack of other traffic on the line, and as the coaches making it up file past it is clear that its status is "full and standing". At least, that's the case with coached E, D, C and B (disregard H, G and F, in which you can only even stand with a first class ticket: the occupancy rate there is about 60 per cent). Coach D is a re-labelled first class coach, so it has about half as many seats as a normal standard coach - and the newly refurbished standard coaches that are now appearing have even more seats, and fewer (and narrower) tables crammed in. So when we file in to Coach A we have no expectation of sitting, except perhaps on the floor, but it seems that all the regulars find seats. Mine is next to a man who has disregarded the rule not to use a personal stereo (perhaps he would argue that his headphones are plugged into his computer) but the noise is not unacceptable. Perhaps the fact that he has indulged himself in Bang & Olufsen earphones assists.

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