Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To hell with global warming, give me a patio heater!

The weather's taken a bit of a turn for the chilly, as I'm sure you've noticed.
Whilst actually on the train, this is not an issue, as we are warmed in the same way as people stuck up mountains. No, we don't get naked and climb into each other's sleeping bags, but we do huddle close together, whether we like it or not.
No, the part of the day that really pains me is the bit where I stand on the platform with the wind somehow managing to bypass the gloves, the scarf and the extra pair of socks, in its mission to climb into my bones and stay there all day long.
At these times I crave the warmth of a patio heater. Just imagine how happy we'd be clustered around these planet-killing wonder-inventions, all toasty and warm and slightly less annoyed about the delays.
But we couldn't have those, as they're too bad for the environment. So, what else can we do to beat the freeze? I suppose the second-best option is the waiting room, but all too often these are locked, especially in the evenings when we need them the most.
My least favourite place to be when it's cold is the Hammersmith and City platform at Paddington Station. I'm convinced this platform exists in a separate weather system to the rest of the city, as it always seems to be at least three degrees colder there than anywhere else along the journey. And it appears to be something of a wind tunnel. I'm shivering just thinking about it.
So, what are your top tips for keeping warm on the platform? Maybe we could sing protest songs and someone could bring a guitar.
Or perhaps we could just huddle like we do on the train. Next time you feel someone invading your personal space, don't worry, I'm not getting over-friendly, I'm just trying to stave off an attack of hypothermia.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We are not amused, but not so angry

Well, it's been nearly a year since I started the blog, and as the long winter nights start to draw in, I have to say I'm a lot less angry than I was back in January.
And I think there are three reasons for this.
1) Moving house - I can highly recommend living nearer your place of work. It still takes me a fair old while to get to the office, but the delays just aren't as severe as when you have to travel out into the wilderness beyond Reading. Of course, I realise this is not a solution for most people, but it's certainly made a difference to me. And, is it just me or are things slightly better in terms of delays these days? I think they are, at least up my neck of the woods anyway.
2) Getting the full picture - My gratitude to those members of FGW staff who have made such an effort to explain to us why the trains are late, overcrowded and cancelled. Two have even set up their own blogs for the purpose, which is marvellous. It's so much easier to cope with delays if you understand why they happen, even if you don't have much sympathy at the time.
3) Having someone to talk to - Thanks to everyone who takes part in this blog on a regular basis. I find that it's very hard to explain to a non-commuter how awful things are sometimes - people either assume I'm a scary aggressive person, for wanting to give out badges with the word "hate" on them, or just switch off once I start relaying my morning commute to them, blow by blow. It's good to share, even if we're only sharing the need to have a good whinge.
But, on the flip side of the coin, there are things I still don't understand, and which still make me unhappy. And these are they:
1) Why are the train managers given stupid rules to follow that don't make sense?
- Not allowing season-ticket holders to sit in First Class if standard class is full, even though the Conditions of Carriage say you're allowed to ask
- Not allowing standard class ticket holders to upgrade to First Class on the train, even when they're offering you money up front and the rest of the train is full
2) Overcrowding
- It's still not okay to pay a large sum of money to be squished up to your neighbour's armpit on a regular basis, and no-one's come up with a really good explanation of where all the carriages went and why. It's something to do with money and the department of transport, but to be honest, isn't providing the maximum number of seats possible on each rush-hour service something that should be a priority?
3) Customer Service
- Why does the complaints department always try to fob you off with a standard letter, no matter what your complaint? It's insulting and makes us angry. No-one likes complaining, and certainly no-one likes complaining twice, or three times...
- Things seem very unclear. I've discovered that season ticket holders can reserve seats, although I'm not sure if they're supposed to. And I only found out about the off-peak upgrade from someone else with a season ticket, it seems that passengers could do with a bit of the website that would tell us about the reasons for delays, any offers, and other useful information. I'm sure it's all there on the website somewhere, but it's not the easiest to get around.
I shall be investigating, and see if I can find some answers...