19 January 2016


I scraped the ice off the car windows, inside and out, this morning so I could make an early start. My neighbours, returning from Florida as I prepared to set off, reported that the temperature was minus 3. My early departure was necessary ‎because I have to hand in my visa application before 10 so I can fly to Moscow on Friday, where minus 3 would count as shirtsleeves weather.

At the station, a robot announcement tells us that the 0820 to Reading and Paddington - a civilised train, not too early and almost empty on account of its having started in Oxford - is delayed. That's all: just delayed. Later a figure of seven, then eight, minutes is mentioned, along with the useful information‎ that the fastest train to London will be the 0820 from platform 5. So, no change, except for the odd eight minutes.

Posters on the platform explain that FirstGroup has taken the "unprecedented " step of removing its name from that of the railway it operates. The company tells us that it sees itself not as a franchise but as a custodian (using a clumsy split infinitive in the process).

‎What fools do they take us for? The First brand is so toxic, it's no surprise they want to hide it. Some people might mistake the revived Great Western Railway brand for that of an efficiently-run public service.

At Reading a woman sits next to me and proceeds to attend to her makeup. When did this become acceptable behaviour, I wonder? Casting a glance at the end result, I think her time was wasted anyway.

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