Held Hostage By British Public Transport

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Spring is on our doorstep, flowers are bursting into bloom, the sun is shining (at least some of the time); those heavy winter coats can finally be put away. A long holiday weekend is on the horizon – the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, which starts on Good Friday and runs through Bank Holiday Monday. Plenty to do, lots of places to go. A perfect time for some Erotic Travel Tales, if you’ve a mind to book a trip out of town.

Well, just try to bloody get anywhere!

The sadistic stooges who run the public transportation system here in Great Britain (and, more specifically, its overcrowded capital London) prefer to hold many of us hostage in our homes rather than allow us to actually go anywhere and maybe, just maybe, derive a few minutes of enjoyment from this bleak joke we call “Life”. Oh, they may not wear balaclavas, but they’re as mean and unscrupulous as any band of hostage-takers you’re ever likely to encounter. Who needs the IRA or Al Kaida when we have these railway charmers in our midst? Foolish little me for making plans for Good Friday for what sounded like a fun night out in Brick Lane consisting of several live bands plus some rather interesting-sounding beer. Easter Sunday held the promise of a cracking good Sunday roast lunch at a city pub with a bunch of American expats, no doubt followed by still more pubs and invariably a discussion of British immigration policies and teeth.

And I was really looking forward to it too.

Well baby, it ain’t gonna happen. Why? Because this weekend is going to be chock full of engineering work on the rail lines, including those of the London Underground. Weekends are usually fraught with this sort of thing at various locations throughout Greater London and beyond, but when it comes to bank holiday weekends, they really get out the big guns. Now it isn’t completely impossible to get where I need to go, but when the routing takes on all the proportions of a clandestine attack on a major world leader, it’s time to call it a day. Both events I’d planned to attend take place in the city, near London Liverpool Street station – generally an easy commute by train, 35 minutes or so. Not this weekend, however. The trains from where I live will not be running past a certain point, meaning I cannot get to either Liverpool Street station or Stratford East London (where I could catch the tube). If I were to even attempt such a journey, I’d end up on some convoluted acid-trip of a route which would take more than two hours one way for what should only be a half hour. And let’s not even talk about whether I’d be able to make it home at night.

Fine, I’m resourceful; I figured I’d be creative and find another way that, although inconvenient, would not be quite as inconvenient as what the National Rail website was proposing I do: I’d get off the train at Romford and change to the Romford to Upminster line, then catch the District line tube from there into the city and directly to Aldgate East – perfect and right where I needed to be! Not the most convenient or ideal routing, but do-able. Well, the District line at Upminster also isn’t running, thereby cutting off yet another large sector of the population from the city. I wasn’t beaten yet though. The C2C train goes from Upminster into the city – so I could still get that train from Romford to Upminster, then catch the C2C and get off at West Ham, where I’d catch the District line to Aldgate East. Hey, not so fast, madam! The Romford to Upminster line isn’t running at all, and what should normally be a short hop on this particular line would now take nearly two hours via, of all places, Southend (no wonder the National Rail website had an ad for the local Holiday Inn posted right above the train routes). And this time frame doesn’t even factor in the other legs of the journey.

Looks like I’m not going anywhere. This reminds me of those deadly virus movies where they isolate whole segments of the population so they don’t spread the disease and infect others. Seems like a hell of a lot of people from the Eastern edge of the capital out past the M25 will be stuck at home this Easter weekend – or not going anywhere near London anyway.

I find it interesting that many third-world countries manage to maintain, upgrade, and expand their rail systems without causing serious disruption to its residents, so why can’t Great Britain? As for our European neighbours, I can’t imagine the French, Spaniards, Greeks or Russians putting up with this crap. There would be rioting in the streets, politicians would be hung from the branches of trees and publicly neutered with a dull knife. Over here in Blighty they only seem to get the fighting spirit when their football team has lost – or, for that matter, won. Sure people may moan a bit, but then they go have a cup of tea, and the rail fares continue to spiral upwards for what has become an increasingly eroded level of service.

But don’t worry, be happy! The Olympics are coming to London, and those of us who live east of the city will be made to suffer even more than we already do just so the tourists who come here to spend their money can enjoy a state-of-the-art British public transportation system (now if that isn’t an oxymoron I don’t know what is) – with nice places to wait out of the cold and wind (been to the train platforms at Stratford lately? Perfect for catching pneumonia!), and nice shiny trains that aren’t reeking with the stench of greasy chips, or littered with the gnawed-over remnants of fast food, empty beer bottles and ripped-open condom packets (I don’t even want to think about where the contents of said packets have ended up).

I don’t know about you, but I wish to make a complaint! http://www.youtube.com

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3 Responses to “Held Hostage By British Public Transport”

  1. Chaz Says:

    So it wasn’t just south of the river then…

    A door to door trip which should have taken fifty minutes took me two hours as Network Rail decided to dig up the line between Clapham Junction and Raynes Park. While I accept that a certain amount of maintenance has to be done, and that travelling on a weekend is not without its risks, on this occasion they seem to have conspired to bring the whole of the south east to a halt. The thought that those of us taking a well earned break might want to use public transport was neither here nor there. The attitude is quite frankly wanton!

    And be careful to whom you complain. If you cross words with the employees they’ll accuse you of being abusive and you’ll have your season ticket confiscated…

  2. Mr D Says:

    When the whole idea of public transport is to get from one place to another cheaper and faster than you would by car, then you can’t really define Britain’s train service as such. Its now far cheaper to buy a private jet and fuel it with frankincense AND have John Travolta pilot it to London for you than it is to buy a train ticket. Far more convenient too. The only people in the world who could enjoy the current state the service is in are masochists, which is probably quite handy given the intended audience: The British Public, who, like only we british can, crave dissapointment, just so we can moan about it. At this point it is probably only a french idea of protest that would help: That which does not work will burn.

  3. mitzi Says:

    daniel, you have summed up the state of public transport in britain and the british psyche far better than i could have done! but then, i’m only a brit by transplant!

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