Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Reserve Judgement.

I have taken some bad train journeys in the course of my glittering career, a couple of good ones, but mainly bad ones. If you've read this blog before you may have noticed me getting all grumpy about train stories from arguing with noisy girls in wheelchairs to having a breakdown and demanding that a child give me their shoe. But this past weekend, keeping in mind all the fucking shitty, noisy, horrible, incompetent train journeys I've been on, was the worst trip I have ever taken.

I booked my ticket to Edinburgh on, the online thief. When I bought the ticket, despite clicking the "Do you want to reserve a seat?" option, it told me that it couldn't reserve a seat at this time. Fair enough, there's a glitch on the system, they can't reserve seats but surely they wouldn't sell me a ticket if there weren't any seats available. I mean, if there weren't any seats available it would say something like "There are no seats available" not "We cannot reserve a seat at this time". You can probably figure out where this is going.

Have you ever been on a train from London to Edinburgh? It takes a long time. Over 4 and a half hours. If there is one thing that you need on a 4 and a half hour train journey it's a seat. I got on the train and sure enough every single seat was reserved. Even the ones in First Class. That's OK, not everyone turns up. I'll still get a seat. Just need to be a bit patient. It was just a few minutes from the train moving and the build up started. Dozens of people crowding around the vestibule area (such a lovely name for a place that is essentially dark, filthy and has a broken toilet in it) of every carriage. Then they filled the aisles of every carriage. There were people without seat reservations everywhere. There was one seat free in the carriage I was in and several of us with no reservation hovered around it waiting to pounce. Well, I did for a bit. Then I saw a woman who was trying to settle her three kids in to two seats and felt she probably needed it more. Sadly, the idiot who blocked the aisle with his DJ decks didn't feel the same and took the seat. Dick.

And that was it. I tried to find the least crowded part of the floor and unsettled in for 4 and a half hours of being treated like a cunt. To say the least, I was fucking furious. Still, at least the ticket inspector will reassure me that all is well, eh?

I asked him "Hello. I bought this ticket online and..."

He immediately interrupted me with "It has nothing to do with me". Fucking brilliant. Right. One more time I tried to explain that I bought the ticket online and it never told me that the train was heavily over subscribed. He kept sighing and eventually told me that he wasn't in charge of East Coast Rail, a ticket does not guarantee me a seat and that he doesn't have to explain why I don't have a seat. This is what this monkey is trained to do: fuck all.

I understand that people have the choice to get on a train that has no seats but surely the train company should tell you that that's what you're doing. Plus if you don't have a seat should you really pay £112 to sit on the floor? Isn't £112 just a bit steep to sit on the floor for 4 and a half hours? I mean, it's a train not a Travelodge. I mean if all the seats are taken then that means the train is sold out, right? It's made it's money, right? Any more money it makes is just a lovely little bonus for East Coast Rail, right? Surely, when the train is full, £20 to sit on the floor would be a lot better, right? But it wanted to make even more money because the worst part of the journey was when the prick with the trolley came round. THE TRAIN IS RAMMED FULL, YOU CUNT. YOU CAN'T EXPECT US TO MOVE. THERE IS NOWHERE TO MOVE BUT OUTSIDE. WE WANT A SEAT NOT A KIT-KAT.

The way home was a lot better. I had a seat.

A seat next to a child.


Yeah, that's the gamble that I can understand with trains. I MIGHT have to sit next to a child, I get that. Not I MIGHT have to sit on the floor next to a teenager who is drinking canned cider and has all his belonging with him in a bag that has been urinated on in every country in Europe. The child was noisy but it was a child, a very young not-yet-talking child, so I didn't mind too much. What I did mind was how it kept reaching for my cup of tea while it's parents did nothing to stop it. It was annoying. I'd had a bad journey on the way up and the return was turning out to be not much better. I decided I was fed up.

That's when the child grabbed my tea with both hands and poured it all over itself.

I laughed for an hour.

It's really the only way to travel.


Ross Eldridge said...

Michael ...

That East Coast rail had a security problem somewhere between King's Cross and Newcastle a couple of weeks ago. It was nearly two hours late by the time it arrived in Newcastle where I was boarding it. Only a few people on the freezing platform in Newcastle bothered to wait. And the entire train was very nearly empty (despite every seat having a reserve card for boarding south of Newcastle). We headed north for 10 minutes and then the train paused in a dark field for 25 minutes, leftover problems from the security scare.

Which reminded me of some wit's suggestion that the best way to get a seat on a crowded train is to hug a piece of luggage (if possible) and pray loudly to Allah. 30 seconds later and you've got an empty carriage.

So it goes ...


Anonymous said...

When theatre tickets are sold out (i.e. no more seats) they charge considerably less for standing tickets. Makes sense trains should do the same.

Andy said...

"That's when the child grabbed my tea with both hands and poured it all over itself."

And life is worth living again. Thank you.

Michael Legge said...

Brilliant advice, Ross. And cheers to you guys too.

roddy said...

If you really have to go by train, book online direct with East Coast -- it's cheaper than The Trainline too.

If you don't, British Airways from Gatwick is the best and if you have luggage they can beat easyJet on price.

Finally, if you only have handluggage, there is always easyJet. It's a pain getting to the airports and you don't save much time overall but you do get a guaranteed seat, and there are not as many children (or their chavvy parents) on planes.