When there is more than one team from the same city in the same division, you get to know the routes to and from where you are to where they are. I’ve no doubt that, given there are six London clubs in this season’s Premier League, and that many fans will have been to all six by train, that people have come to know the various London termini quite well by now. However, this is as nothing when it comes to people travelling to see the two teams in the city at the end of the M62, because it isn’t just a case of travelling to the same city terminus…the proximity of the two of them means that they even share the same local station. Which is a bugger then that, because of a certain horserace putting the kibosh on my trip to the red half, I can’t simply copy the same post twice, and can only report back on my trip to Everton.
Date: 12th May 2013
Stadium: Goodison Park
Away Section: Bullens Road Stand
Score: Everton 2-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Kirkdale
Local rozzers: Merseyside Police
Total Travel Cost: £78.00 (2 x Advance Singles, 1 x Weekend First, 1 x Soccerbus Train Return)
09:11 – New Cross to London Charing Cross (Southeastern Class 465/466 Networker)
Northern Line – Charing Cross to Euston (1995 Stock)
10:15 – London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street (Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino)
13:55 – Liverpool Central to Sandhills (Merseyrail Class 507)
17:14 – Sandhills to Moorfields (Merseyrail Class 508)
18:48 – Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston (Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino)
Northern Line – Euston to London Bridge (1995 Stock)
21:43 – London Bridge to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Station to Stadium: Goodison Park, much like its near neighbour on the other side of Stanley Park, is something of a trek for those favouring “shank’s pony”; the nearest railway station is Kirkdale, which is around a mile away through myriad side streets. This is why it’s a lot easier to take advantage of the shuttle bus service that operates from outside Sandhills station and drops you on Walton Lane at the Park End of the ground. Then it’s merely a case of a short wander (which is nice if it’s sunny, and rubbish if it’s raining) along the road to Bullens Street, and hey presto, the away turnstiles.
Anything else?: The “Soccerbus” scheme operated by Merseytravel is in place for both Everton’s and Liverpool’s home games, and run from the same railway station, Sandhills. Similarly, Kirkdale is the closest railway station for both Goodison Park and Anfield.
Eventually, we all have to make that journey; the journey that all teams that win promotion to the top flight have to make at least once a season, and that is the one to the home of the reigning league champions. And, most years, that will involve a trip to what is arguably England’s second city…although the people that live there can fight out that claim with the other one that is arguably England’s second city. However, just for once, it isn’t to the home of the ones that bear the name of one city but reside in another that this accolade belongs, but instead to their “noisy neighbours”, Manchester City
Date: 27th April 2013
Stadium: City of Manchester Stadium
Away Section: South Stand
Score: Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Etihad Campus
Local rozzers: Greater Manchester Police
Total Travel Cost: £32.20p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return; 1 x Tram Only Dayrider; 1 x Matchday Return)
Line 1 – Nottingham Trent University to Nottingham Station Street (AT6/5 Incentro)
09:45 – Nottingham to Manchester Piccadilly (East Midlands Trains Class 158 Express Sprinter)
East Manchester Line – Piccadilly to Etihad Campus (M5000 Flexity Swift)
East Manchester Line – Etihad Campus to Piccadilly (M5000 Flexity Swift)
15:43 – Manchester Piccadilly to Nottingham (East Midlands Trains Class 158 Express Sprinter)
Line 1 – Nottingham Station Street to Nottingham Trent University (AT6/5 Incentro)
Station to Stadium: Initially, on construction of the City of Manchester Stadium, Ashburys was the closest railway station. The construction of the new Metrolink line to Droylsden has since seen a new transport link adjacent to the stadium, with a station serving it directly. The station is located at the north end of the ground, which is also where the club have built a “plaza” for pre-match entertainments; to reach the away end entails simply walking around the exterior of the ground. However, this can prove inconvenient as the police helpfully cordon off the away section at the end of the game – as a consequence, it may be more convenient for away fans to use Velopark, one stop further on, which is also closer to the away end, just five minutes down the Ashton New Road.
Anything else?: Etihad Campus was the third name assigned to the station before it opened, having initially been known as Sportcity-Stadium and then Eastlands City Stadium, before gaining its present name with the advent of the Etihad Campus development.
The great showpiece of English football, the FA Cup Final, will this year feature Manchester City and Wigan Athletic, two teams that are (in case you hadn’t noticed) from the north-west. Following on from last year, the game will kick-off at 5.15pm rather than the traditional 3.00pm. Last year, because the game was scheduled for a league weekend, this was to ensure that it was not “devalued” by having it played at the same time as all of the league fixtures (though having it on a league weekend devalues it anyway). This year, all of the Premier League fixtures have been moved to the following day (Sunday), which means that there is no reason for the game to be at 5.15pm, as there will be no other major fixtures. Yet the Football Association have done it. And what this means is that, because the last direct train from Euston to Wigan North Western leaves at 20.31, a lot of fans may well have to leave early to avoid getting stuck in London. Indeed, the last train to Manchester Piccadilly leaves at 21.00, which will probably make it quite tight for the City fans too. There was some significant outcry, especially from the Wigan fans – their semi-final (also played at Wembley) also kicked-off at 5.15pm. The FA’s rationale for scheduling the game at this time goes as follows:
…only a minimal amount of fans (used) trains and that the kick-off time gave more
people an opportunity to see the game and proved very popular last season…
For “giving more people an opportunity to watch the game” read “giving more people an opportunity to watch it on the telly”, and that means not people here, but overseas markets. Which is the FA prostrating itself in worship at the altar of the almighty television dollar and losing sight again and again of the most important person in football – the fan who chooses week in and week out to fork over his or her money and go to see the team. Not wanting to sound big headed, but I am the most important person in football, because that is what I do; me and everyone like me (and I know that Wolmar can be included in this, given he follows QPR around almost as much as I follow West Ham) that follows their team around; that goes to home games in all weathers; that schleps to far-flung outposts. As for the argument that “only a minimal amount of fans use the train”, what has that got to do with it? Why should people that choose the railway be penalised simply because it runs to a timetable? It’s a more civilised way of travelling than by road in any case. Wigan Council have waded into the argument by asking Virgin Trains if they can put extra services on later in the evening, which Virgin have said would be “operationally very difficult”, understandable given the timetable that already exists on the WCML. What I would say is that the clubs, plus Wigan Council should try Network Rail and see whether specials can be chartered that take advantage of other routes. And, for everyone to put pressure on the FA to ensure that the Cup Final is restored to its right and proper 3 o’clock time from now on.
I’ve made no secret of my dislike for Euston station; I believe it is the worst kind of 1960s eyesore, a bland box of concrete that bears no comparison to its Italianate and Gothic Revial neighbours, and can’t even at best be described as an example of Brutalism. As a gateway to London it does not serve up the necessary inspiration that St Pancras does, and I was therefore delighted when it became apparent that it would be replaced by something new, light and airy as part of the HS2 project. Imagine my disappointment then to learn today that the plans have been scaled back – there will now be no total rebuild of Euston, with instead what amounts to another station built for the platforms that will connect to the high speed line, which will then be connected to the existing station (much as was done with the building of Waterloo International). Of course, the complete rebuilding of the station from the ground up would have caused immense disruption for an awfully long time to what is, after all, one of the capital’s major transport hubs. Doing this will no doubt save money on the project, and it will still include a new ticket hall for the tube station, as well as a direct underground pedestrian link to Euston Square. But it still disappoints me that the full work won’t now go ahead, ditching the opportunity to create something nice in its place.
I’d imagine that it’s a truism accepted by all that the less notable a celebrity is, the more important they think they are. Thus we have the story of Sarah Harding and her speeding ban. Having engaged the services of the noted solicitor Nick Freeman (aka “Mr Loophole”) when she came up before a magistrate charged with using her mobile phone while driving, the argument put forward by her solicitor was that:
Becase she is high profile she would find it impossible to use public transport because of the attention she would attract
Fortunately, the judge recognised this for the total bollocks that it is, and gave her three points on her driving licence, which, given that she already had nine (as a result of various speeding convictions), means she is now banned from driving for six months:
Mr Freeman is asking the court to deal with you as opposed to a normal person. Well you are a normal person. I can see no reason why you shouldn’t be disqualified.
District Judge Nina Tempia
The judge went on to say that she was not suggesting that Harding use “public transport”, as she could quite easily engage a driver, as another part of the argument was the need of a car for her work, and the fact that her mother lives in Stockport. The fact that she doesn’t do an ordinary job that makes public transport convenient I can understand, and therefore engaging a driver is of use. I go back to the fact that Daryl Morgan stopped using the train to get to work because of the nature of her hours. However, there will be instances where using the train is perfectly acceptable, and the only reason that a person will not countenance that is because they are “too famous”. Of course, the vast majority of us that have to travel by train, tube or whatever recognise that sort of attitude for what it is, hence the ridicule Geri Halliwell opened herself to when, having made her first journey on the Tube in nearly two decades, she decided it was the dog’s bollocks and would share her newfound wisdom on commuting with the world. Intercity trains have first class carriages, which are rarely full, and allow the “celebrity” to be a little more anonymous. After all, if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for someone who, frankly, isn’t even the most famous person in her (now defunct) band.
Finally, at long last, an away game to get excited about. You might wonder, dear reader, why this particular one is such a one to get my juices mixing and gushing with excitement. Well, I’ll tell you – I’ve been travelling around the country under my own steam (well, my own money, and National Rail’s steam actually) for some time now, and for most of that time I’ve been watching a Premier League team. And therefore I’ve been going to the same old away games year after year. That’s why last season was so exciting, as it meant trips to a load of places I’d not been before. This season, I’ve had just two opportunities, and one of them went for a burton right at the start of the season. That, and the lack of a run in either cup competition, has meant that this one is my only opportunity to add a new ground to my list. Hence I’m morbidly excited about the trip to Southampton.
Date: 13th April 2013
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Away Section: Northam Stand
Score: Southampton 1-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Southampton Central
Local rozzers: Hampshire Constabulary
Total Travel Cost: £37.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return)
10:58 – New Cross to Cannon Street (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Waterloo & City Line – Bank to Waterloo (1992 Stock)
11:39 – London Waterloo to Southampton Central (South West Trains Class 444 Desiro)
17:47 – Southampton Central to Reading (CrossCountry Class 221 Super Voyager)
18:39 – Reading to London Paddington (First Great Western InterCity 125 High Speed Train)
Bakerloo Line – Paddington to Charing Cross (1972 Stock)
20:02 – London Charing Cross to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Station to Stadium: St Mary’s is yet another one of the brand new stadia that have sprung up around the country over the last few years, and is also one of those that is a fair heft from the railway station. Fortunately, although a fair old walk, unlike some others, it is still in the city centre, and therefore does not require walking along a dual carriageway. Southampton Central has two entrances – by leaving the station via the southern entrance, you find yourself on the Western Esplanade. Walk straight on up here, past the Civic Centre and onwards down to the major intersection, where there is a comprehensive pedestrian subway system. Ensure that the route you take through the subway brings you to opposite where you’ve just come from, and carry on walking down, past the gas holders, and you end up at Britannia Road, which will then take you to the away end.
There is also a shuttle bus that runs from the northern side of the railway station, which, today certainly, would have been a better option to avoid getting wet.
Anything else?: The South Western Main Line branches just north of St Mary’s; the main line continues on to into Southampton Central, while the branch continues past the ground and onwards towards Southampton Waterfront. The route has been safeguarded, and there have been calls for the route to be reopened for passenger trains, including a station to serve St Mary’s.
Once again, I paid note of an interesting story in the Evening Standard yesterday (all of the interesting stuff I have seen recently seems to come from there). Hounslow Council have written to Boris Johnson asking the Mayor to try and persuade Heathrow Express to integrate its fares into TfL’s fare structure, and to allow passengers to use Travelcards and Oyster on the service. The rationale for this is that it would improve traffic congestion and pollution by getting more people to travel to the airport by train. As it stands, the cheapest standard fare for the Heathrow Express is £20.00, while bringing it under TfL’s prices would reduce this to a mere £5.50. Heathrow Airport’s argument is that it is a non-stop, fast (15 minutes end to end), premium service intended primarily for air passengers, and that there are already two other rail services from London for local residents and people that work at the airport (Heathrow Connect and the Piccadilly Line), while the Mayor states that he has no control over Heathrow Express’s pricing as it falls outside his purview, being as it is an open access operator outside the framework of the National Rail network.
The argument put forward by Heathrow is entirely valid – the intention of Heathrow Express is to allow air passengers primarily to get to the airport with a minimum of fuss, as passengers can actually check-in at Paddington before they get on the train. While people that work at Heathrow can get a discount to use the service, Heathrow Connect was originally set up to offer workers and local residents a cheaper alternative to get to the airport, even if it is now being actively marketed as a cheaper alternative for passengers as well. However, Heathrow Connect is planned to be absorbed into Crossrail once it starts running its full service, which got me thinking along one thread. Although the full Crossrail through route is not due to start for another six years, the Crossrail operation will actually begin in 2015, when TfL takes over the operation of stopping services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. In 2016, it is then planned to transfer services to Maidenhead and Heathrow from Paddington. However, given the “difficulties” with the establishment of new franchises, with the Greater Western one of those due for renewal, would not an idea be for TfL to step in now and take on Heathrow Connect directly. As it stands, there remain significantly more expensive fares on this service for the journey between Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow Central than for the rest of the route. Allowing Oyster to be used, and pulling it into the TfL price banding by immediately making it part of the Crossrail concession (like the “Shenfield Metro”) would seem to me to be a logical way of improving the rail connection straight away. Then of course there is Wandsworth Council’s proposal to resurrect in part the aborted Heathrow Airtrack scheme, to provide a connection into the nascent but currently unused west facing platforms at Heathrow Terminal 5, intended to provide an alternative connection into the airport from the south, which would likely reduce numbers of passengers using the services out of Paddington, making it easier for the local residents Hounslow wants to put on the train to actually use the train.
My philosophy when it comes to rail travel is “you pay for time”. If I need to get to Birmingham in a hurry, then I’ll fork out the exhorbitant prices that Virgin Trains charge and go from Euston. If I can take my time, then I’ll get a much cheaper ticket from Chiltern Railways and get the train from Marylebone. Similarly, there will always be people who want to go fast, and who are happy to pay a premium price, and people who aren’t quite so fussed about getting there quickly. For me, I’ll happily take the tube if I need to get to Heathrow, but I’m not going to begrudge people that want both the speed and the level of service you get on the Heathrow Express. In any case, there is a difference between Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express, which does operate through trains for commuters now in addition to its fast, non-stop service between Gatwick Airport and Victoria - Gatwick is a major stop on the Brighton Main Line, while Heathrow is a stub branch to a terminus; the only commuters to and from Heathrow are the people that actually work there. In any case, are there many local people that will want to go non-stop between Heathrow and Paddington?
There was a story in yesterday’s Evening Standard that made me chuckle on the way home. The Primrose Hill Business Centre is a complex that offers accomodation and service provision for businesses, located in Camden. In fact, the two buildings that it occupies are located right next to Camden Carriage Sidings, off the West Coast Main Line, a location that is used by London Midland for stabling purposes during off-peak hours. Frank Carson, the owner of the centre (yes, seriously, Frank Carson, but not that one) has complained that the presence of trains so close to his building means his tenants are denied natural light, as some of the offices in the centre are a mere ten feet from the line side. The manager of one of the businesses that use the centre, Companions of London, also believes the presence of trains so close to his office affects the phones and internet connection. It seems that London Midland, while sympathetic, can’t do anything, given that the sidings, which were originally used for cleaning trains, received a major DfT funded upgrade in 2010 so that they could serve as a stabling point for peak time services. Now, I would have thought that, given that the upgrade would have involved some significant work, local stakeholders would have had a chance to make their objections clear at the time. And perhaps Mr Carson and his tenants did. The fact that the work went ahead perhaps shows the importance of the project in the wider scheme of things. Mr Carson is seemingly considering legal action against London Midland; why didn’t he take legal action in the first place to try and stop the work? I’d venture a supposition that he had no objection when the work was done, and is only raising a stink now because he’s had to lower the rent he can charge his tenants due to the natural light issue. As to affecting the phones and internet, rather than speculating as to that, would it not be better to actually investigate whether there is a problem with the connections due to the presence of so many Desiros parked outside? All in all, as the late Hugh Francis Carson might have said, “it’s a cracker”.
Ah, the derby. It is completely alien to me what it’s like supporting a team from a one club city, given that it’s a rarity that the Premier League has less than five clubs from London in it. As a consequence, when you support a London club it ends up as derby after derby, with the occasional visit from a team from the north-west. Well, this is the last of my away trips in the nation’s capital for this year, and the one that, were it a midweek game, would not even entail a rail journey to get to the ground, given that in my day job I work not ten minutes walk from Chelsea.
Date: 17th March 2013
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Away Section: Shed End
Score: Chelsea 2-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Fulham Broadway
Local rozzers: Metropolitan Police
Total Travel Cost: £4.80p (2 x Oystercard extension, 1 x Oyster Tram single)
13:39 – Lewisham to London Victoria (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
14:36 – London Victoria to Clapham Junction (Southern Class 377 Electrostar)
14:46 – Clapham Junction to West Brompton (London Overground Class 378 Capitalstar)
District Line – West Brompton to Fulham Broadway (D78 Stock)
District Line – Fulham Broadway to Wimbledon (D78 Stock)
Route 3 – Wimbledon to East Croydon (CR4000 Flexity Swift)
18:47 – East Croydon to London Bridge (Southern Class 377 Electrostar)
19:27 – London Bridge to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Station to Stadium: The area around Stamford Bridge could be described in part as one of the more affluent locations to host a football club, which is why Fulham Broadway station has an upmarket shopping centre with a cinema, several eateries and a gym/fitness centre over it. Of course, in order to avoid the centre being swamped with a load of plebby football fans on matchdays, there are now separate entrance/exit routes off the platforms, which bring you out behind the centre with a direct walk onto the Fulham Road. Then it’s simply a case of turning left and finding the right entrance, as, like other grounds I’ve been to, this one opens out in one direction. For the away fan, the entrance is the one on the east side of the ground, next to the two hotels that Chelsea decided were a better idea than a larger ground to build.
Anything else?: Heading south from West Brompton, the Wimbledon branch of the District Line runs along the north side of Stamford Bridge to call at Fulham Broadway, while the West London Line runs along the east side to Imperial Wharf, effectively hemming the stadium in and making any expansion difficult, hence the reason for Chelsea’s bid for Battersea Power Station.