Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Those who don’t use the railways

Posted in London, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 5 June 2010

I think you’ll have noticed by now my love for the railways. Not merely for their intrinsic value, but, as someone that is limited to being a passenger in a car, as a means of getting from A to B. Of course, using railways virtually every day, and wherever I go, means that I am used to planning my journeys by them, and, while on my journey, making sure I’m clear where I have to go. This is most important when you’re making a journey that requires an interchange – you don’t want to be pulling into a station knowing which route you have to take to continue your journey, only to panic and jump on the first train you see pulling in that isn’t the one you’ve just got off. Allow me to regale you with a true story. My father works odd hours, and for various different companies. Because he works such strange hours, and all over the place, using public transport is usually not the best option. However, just over a month ago, there was an incident which caused the rozzers to close off the roads surrounding where we live. As a consequence, he was forced to deal with public transport, which is not one of his favourite pastimes. On this occasion, he was working at Chadwell Heath, where he’s been before, and on the train. So, his route home took him from Chadwell Heath station to Stratford, where the intention was to then use the Jubilee line to Canada Water, then jump onto a train to New Cross. OK, two changes, but a lot of people will have to deal with that on their journey. However, when his train was pulling in to Stratford on this particular evening, he saw an Underground train pulling in on the platform alongside. Those that know Stratford will know that the Underground and NXEA have cross-platform interchange. Seeing an Underground train pulling in thus led to my father panicking, and immediately jumping on it without taking just a few seconds to determine just where he was going. Because obviously he won’t see the immediate external differences between a 1996 Stock train as used on the Jubilee line, and a 1992 Stock used on the Central line. Which is what he got on. So now, rather than heading south towards West Ham, he’s heading west towards Mile End. This is not a problem for the person thinking clearly, with a rudimentary knwledge of the Underground (or at the very least a tube map), because Mile End is an interchange between the Central line and the District line, from where he can change for a train to Whitechapel and thus from there a train to New Cross. But this is a man panicking, not thinking especially clearly, without that kind of rudimentary knowledge of the network, his own tube map, or the foresight to look at the maps helpfully provided on the train. So, rather than continuing his westbound journey on the District line, he goes to the Eastbound Central line, back to Stratford, and then starts following the signage, which he should have done in the first place, to the Jubilee line (located on the low-level platforms) where he continues on his original plan. It is stories like this that make you think that it will be impossible to get those people that have grown up driving all over the place to give up their cars and let the train take the strain, because they will think “oh, it’s all too much hassle”. I was having a conversation with my uncle and this story came up. He now has a job that means it is easier for him to take the train rather than drive, but because he has been driving to where he needs to be for so long, he can’t work out in his mind the kind of alternative routing he may need should the journey he usually makes suffer delays of some kind, taking the view of “how much time would I save going that way, rather than just waiting for the delay to clear?”. Of course, that is a valid argument, but you leave yourself in the hands of other people to get things working again, rather than taking the initiative to get moving. And I just couldn’t handle that kind of inaction.

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