Friday, July 18, 2008

Apparently, I don't Hate FGW enough

When I started this blog, I was angry. Livid. To mention the words "First Great Western" to me were unwise, as they would spark a lengthy rant, full of expletives. I was highly pissed off.
I feel I should mention this at this juncture, because I have recently come under attack from someone who feels I am not angry enough, and am some kind of champagne-sipping toff who gets narky if commoners try to invade my space in the first class carriage.
It's true that I'm not as angry as I was, but to be honest, I don't think anyone could have that much energy, as being angry is pretty hard going, even for a few days, let alone for 18 months, and makes you liable to lose friends and alienate people. What I did instead was start a blog, in order that I could share my ranting with others with a similar hatred of FGW. And then, I moved house, in order to be nearer to my work. And then, I discovered the alternative service of South West Trains. And, all of these things have made me calmer, because I am opting out of the thing that makes me angry. I think this is called anger management. And, I suggest to Samuel Roberts, rather than simply being angry for its own sake, it's better to try and find out why something is making you angry, and to do something about it. It helps me to be sane, whereas you sound like someone I'd be very frightened to share a train carriage with.
But, I now have the honour of someone blogging about hating this blog, the imaginatively titled "I Hate I Hate First Great Western". Please visit it here:
In other news, my car has sold in a rather alarming three days, leaving me to mourn its absence, as I really am rather fond of driving. However, the bundle of cash I now have in its place enables me not only to pay the troublesome unexpected tax bill I mentioned in a previous post, but also to invest in a shiny new bicycle. I haven't been this excited since I was a child, and got a bright red shiny racer for Christmas. How I loved that bike. I hope I am able to be as fond of this one, as it will help me to get over the loss of my four-wheeled friend.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Not very app-Ealing

Isn't Ealing Broadway station horrible? Specially late at night. No, actually, let me rephrase that. Aren't the drunk people at Ealing Broadway station horrible?
Last night, after a late shift, I arrived on the tube to get my train to Slough just as the one I was hoping to catch was pulling away, so had to wait half an hour for the next one. This gave me plenty of time to think about station improvements, most noticeably that the dark and grubby nature of the platform I was standing on seemed to give the drunk people the idea that it was okay to gob on the floor, or generally be unpleasant and intimidating. I would like to see a bit more lighting and a bit more seating, perhaps a few more benches further down the platform for those who don't want to sit amongst the beered-up people who always want to talk to you for some reason, no matter how close to your face you put your book.
There are times when I think I'd really like not to have to deal with people at all, especially drunk ones. The way they fill the train with litter and unmentionable stains must rile the poor cleaning staff who have to deal with it. It certainly riles me and I don't have to pick it up or wipe it up - eugh. Perhaps FGW should initiate a "night-status" carriage, which is entirely covered in the kind of plastic that sofas are wrapped in. Much easier to clean, and drunk people don't care where and what they sit on.
Me, I'll bring a cushion. And a larger book.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What do you think the train manager said?

I had a bit of a bad day on Monday. I had finished work early, and decided to walk from Camden lock to Paddington along Regent's Canal, as the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and everything was hunky dory. Then I got diverted off the canal path because of some work being done there, and found myself rather hot and bothered on the Edgware Road, not the pleasant stroll through Little Venice that I had been expecting. When I arrived at Paddington I glanced up at the board and saw the 1651 to Oxford was about to leave from Platform 10. I ran across the station, and jumped aboard, assuming that it was the same as the 1851 I normally take, which runs fast to Slough. Not, as it turns out. In fact, it doesn't stop at Slough at all, though it does go through it, at high speed, on its way to its first stop - Reading. D'oh.
I only realised my mistake when the train manager started to make his announcement about all the tickets that weren't valid on the service. He sounded quite strict and I was a bit concerned about what he would say when he found out that about halfway through the journey, my ticket would stop being valid on any service. Short of throwing myself off the train at Slough, I could see only two options - flash my ticket fast and hope that he didn't notice, or come clean. I'm not one of the world's best liars, in fact, I'm terrible at it, and have therefore come to the conclusion that honesty is the best policy. There was a glimmer of hope when he came into the carriage, as it seemed that everyone on the train had got the wrong ticket, so he spent quite a lot of time charging people extra. But this made me all the more nervous, as it seemed my mistake was going to be quite costly. When he came to me, I showed him my ticket and said "I made a mistake, I thought this train went to Slough". "No", he said flatly, "this train doesn't stop at Slough". Then, to my surprise, he helpfully looked up the next train, and its probable platform for me, and moved on to the next customer. He didn't even attempt to charge me.
On my way back to Slough on the next service ten minutes later, the train manager didn't get as far as my seat before I exited the train, so I didn't have a chance to test the theory twice.
But there you go, scary-sounding train manager being completely reasonable about a genuine mistake.
So, why did I have such a bad day you ask? Well, I got home to find a large and unexpected tax bill on the doormat. I hate the tax man.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Let's get something clear here

I'm getting a bit fed up of people thinking that because I encourage people to wear badges saying "I Hate First Great Western" when they are receiving a bad service, that I am also the kind of person who kicks puppies and pushes old ladies into the road.

One comment in my last post suggested I might be related to a lady who got off at Slough, who'd been abusing a train manager with bad language when he tried to remove her from the first class carriage. Another recent comment has suggested that I am personally responsible for people being rude to staff on board trains.

This is, of course, nonsense. I am in fact most charming and polite, and would never condone bad behaviour of any sort on trains. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to use my first class upgrade, as I realise it's a perk I've done nothing to deserve. My embarrassment is not, however, great enough to stop me using it so far, as it allows me to get some quiet time away from the enormous number of people with pushchairs and children with sticky faces all bellowing away in various languages as they make their way to visit the wonderful tourist sites of Windsor or London.
But I do sit meekly in First Class, never demanding my free cup of tea, or taking away the copy of the Times that has been kindly left on the table. I don't talk into my mobile in a loudhailer voice, put my bag on the seat when there are people who need to sit down, listen to loud music, smell bad (at least I hope not) or generally make a nuisance of myself. I am, in fact, a model passenger, so please desist from casting nasturtiums, it's most distressing.
In other news, I am currently musing on whether to buy myself a folding bike, to take on the trains and spare myself the sweaty crush of the tubes. There seem to be several Brompton owners amongst my usual commuting crowd, so are you one of them, and can I ask about your experiences in terms of suitable clothing, cycling in London, and whether you wimp out and take the bike on the tube if it's raining?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cutting the mustard

I'm not sure exactly what's going on at First Great Western with regard to First Class passengers, but something's up. As I reported in a previous post, my friend wrote to me complaining that there were staff on the platform at Reading trying to stop people even standing where the First Class carriages were going to stop, and threatening penalty fares for anyone who set foot in so much as the vestibule of the First Class section.
Then, this morning, I was standing quite properly at the front of the platform at Slough, ready to take advantage of my First Class off-peak upgrade. But the FGW dispatcher clearly didn't think I was up to scratch, and checked with me and another passenger before we even entered the train, that we were aware that only First Class passengers were allowed into this hallowed door to enter the world of free Times newspapers, and faux-leather seating. "Standard class is at the back" he muttered gruffly, as if to say we weren't really dressed for the occasion.
For goodness sake! It's not as if you even get a cup of tea between Slough and London, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about, and this was at 1245 in the afternoon, so the train was hardly packed full. Has there been some kind of anti-riff-raff rebellion by the besuited types? I feel that FGW should perhaps be considering their priorities in regard to what they're telling their staff; talk about making us feel like second-class citizens. Or perhaps they know who I am, and are trying to indicate their feelings for the blog. I think I'd be a positive asset to First Great Western, I'm full of great ideas, how about bringing me on board? On board, see what I did there? I'll go now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Standing room only

I've been thinking about setting up a survey, to find out if things have changed on First Great Western in the past year, and whether you're seeing any improvement in the service. The company says nine out of ten trains are now running on time, so it sounds like things are getting better, but if anyone will know the truth, it's the 'haters' who visit this blog, so I'll be putting together a few questions in the next few days, and asking you for your opinions.

In the meantime, it seems there's still hate out there. I received an e-mail from a good friend this morning as follows:

"I'm so angry!! There are 'revenue protection officers' at Reading station this morning stopping anyone not holding a first class ticket from even standing up the first class end of the PLATFORM! They are now saying you can incur a penalty fare for STANDING in the first class end of the train! I wish I had some of your badges this morning I can tell you! So cross, on a 7.42 overcrowded service to not allow people to stand in first class is utterly ridiculous!"

Surely, surely, on a seriously overcrowded train, not to even allow passengers to stand in the vestibules is unreasonable? Reading to Paddington is only 22 minutes, so first class passengers don't have that long to put up with not being able to move around the train freely, and surely, surely, the aim is to move as many people back and forth along this busy stretch as possible, so why are FGW clamping down on this in such a heavy-handed way? Those of you who work for FGW and visit the blog, please let me know, as this is one of the things that really annoys people. If commuters are prepared to pack themselves in like sardines in order to get to work on time, at least you should let them. Even better, let some of the poor buggers sit down in First Class if they've paid full price for a return ticket, considering how much they cost. Surely, surely, empty seats in First Class and people packed like sardines into standard class is not the way forward? Somebody say something sensible on this please.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On yer bike

Many thanks for all your supportive messages on my newfound cyclist status, it's good to know there are plenty of other people who've given up relying on public transport to ferry them around, and are taking to their own two wheels. I may have to invest in a new bike sometime soon, as the one I've been given has been sitting in someone's garage for a few years. The front wheel is wobbly, the brakes don't really work and the whole frame's a bit small for me, but I'm having a surprising amount of fun, specially since I discovered that you can cycle round Dorney Lake, which is where the rowing for the Olympics is going to be. It's a brilliant man-made facility full of birdlife and rabbits, and no traffic. It's also measured out for the rowers, so you can log how far you've cycled, if you like doing that sort of thing.
Back to First Great Western News, and I've found the website for last night's Week In Week Out programme, which was all about FGW, with Christian Wolmar travelling from London to Paddington and asking the hard questions we all want answered. You can watch it here for the next six days. Try and ignore that funny woman with the badges, there are some crazy people out there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On the buses

I have made the momentous decision to sell my car, and become reliant on public transport. The continuing rise in the cost of petrol, plus the fact that my car spends most of the week gathering dust and bird poo on the driveway, means that it's just not worth keeping any more, particularly if you factor in the cost of insurance, tax and servicing.
However, the thought of being completely at the mercy of buses and trains makes me very nervous. As a country girl, where public transport is limited, I've been driving ever since I was allowed. I passed my test four months after my 17th birthday, and have been the owner of a series of old bangers ever since. In chronological order, I began with a dingy orange Vauxhall Chevette, graduated onto an ancient brown Audi 80, followed by a beige Maestro (this was a low point). Once I was employed, things took a turn for the better, and I've been a happy car owner ever since. So now, for the first time since I was a teenager, I shall be without wheels. I may even have to learn how to use buses, something that I've never fathomed anywhere I've lived. And, you may ask, who is the provider of our local bus system in Slough and Windsor? Why, it's none other than the First group, what are the chances? I am not heartened by a conversation with a work colleage from Bristol last week, who requested an "I Hate First Great Western" badge for her husband, who doesn't even use trains, but has lots of bad things to say about the First bus service there. Still, I shan't judge until I've tried it, and just think of all the fun characters I'll meet on my way to and from the supermarket.
I've also taken to riding a bike (ooh, get me and my non-existent carbon footprint), but although it's glorious at the moment, I can see a time in mid-November where all my best-laid plans go horribly wrong, and I am trapped at bus-stops for hours on end, with the rain soaking into my shoes. Perhaps the purchase of some all-weather gear might be a good idea, and if I wear it on the bus, it might even deter people from talking to me. On reflection, I am far too unsociable to use public transport.
Just time for one more plug for tonight's Week In Week Out rail special, at 22:35 on BBC Wales One, available on satellite, digital, and Welsh televisions. I think you can also watch it on the internet after the event. At least I'm hoping so, otherwise I will miss my short moment of fame.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

And now, for our Welsh viewers

Hello all
Sorry it's been a while since my last missive. I have been away to the fair isle of Ireland, and not a train did I see during that time, armed as I was with a Ford Focus and a road map.
But, on my return, I have discovered that viewers in Wales will be able to watch the Week In Week Out programme about the train service from Wales to London (featuring my good self) on the 10th of June. So tune in, and let me know if I sound like a bit of a loon, as when you have to explain why you run a blog called "I Hate First Great Western" and send badges out to people bearing this legend, it's hard to come off as normal. Still, no change there.
I was interested to read a comment on my last post from a visitor who thought that free WiFi access was a great idea, and one which would affect their choice of train provider, so hopefully FGW will be watching and listening, and fingers crossed this perk may be available soon. I'm still very much enjoying the free off-peak first class upgrade, that really is a favourite.
This led me to wonder what other PR victories the company could score, by simply adding a few extra bonuses to their service. Answers on a postcard.
I've also been whiling away my leisure time coming up with a controversial theory as follows (I expect much abuse for this one, but hear me out):
Why not make the trains slower? In other words, leave a bit more time for them to get between stations, and stop for a few minutes each time. This is what the little shuttle does between Windsor and Slough, it sits for at least five minutes each end, and as a result is never late. If the train timetables were more realistic, and allowed for a minute or two extra at each station, the trains would be much more likely to be on time, because a few minutes delay here and there could be soaked up by not stopping so long at the next stop.
And, if you think that's mad, just ask yourself if you'd rather take a 30 minute journey that was always on time, rather than a 15 minute journey that was very often late?
I always choose South West trains from Windsor to London. It takes twice as long on paper, but in practice, it's often quicker, and it's virtually always on time.
So, should First Great Western take a look at their services, and give themselves a reality check?

Monday, May 12, 2008

No free WiFi? Why?

So there I was, smiling valiantly and answering the questions of rail expert Christian Wolmar, as he asked me exactly why I spend my spare time moaning about First Great Western and sending people badges to wear when their trains are delayed, when something unexpected emerged.
We were filming for the BBC's Week In Week Out series, and I'd agreed to do an interview on Reading station. I dutifully brought along my massively heavy and rather out-of-date laptop, as we'd been told there was WiFi access at the coffee shop on platform four. And so there is, but you have to pay for it, at the rate of £2.50 per half hour, or something like that.
There followed much hassle and bother as the producer tried to use his card to log us on to the system. It took us about ten minutes. My question is: why not make this service free? If it takes ten minutes to log onto it, many people won't bother, and the amount of money it makes must be negligable. So, why not give everyone a treat and offer something useful and free, which they can use when their trains are delayed, thereby distracting them from thoughts of penning a complaint letter to FGW.
Just a thought.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Suddenly it's summer

The sun is out, the sky is blue, I wish I didn't have to be in work today, as it seems such a waste of one of the really glorious days of the year, and we have too few of them as it is.
It seems a shame to moan about First Great Western on such a day as this, so I won't, since I've only taken one of their trains this week, and my only complaint was that its predecessor was bang on time, so I missed it, as I was late leaving work, so I had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. And, since I can't really expect the company to delay their trains to suit me, it seems a little churlish to mention it at all.
Following my plea for people to take part in a BBC Wales documentary about the transport problems between Cardiff and London, it looks like I shall now be appearing in the programme, so for those of you who tune in to Week In Week Out, watch out for a cameo appearance at Reading station by yours truly. There's still time for you to take part, particularly if you're of the Welsh persuasion. Just get in touch with Jeremy Davis at BBC Current Affairs in Cardiff - either on the generic e-mail address of, or if you e-mail me - address on the right hand side of the page, I'll send you his direct contact details, as I don't want to put them on here, or he'll never see the end of the spam. My IHateFGW address is full to bursting since I put the address on the blog. I never realised there were so many members of the African royalty desperate to give me money, and requiring my urgent assistance.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Buffet, or no buffet? That is the question

Did everyone catch Dom Joly's Complainers tonight? I'm quite glad I wasn't in it to be honest, as he did rather take the mickey out of everyone, to say the least, but well done everyone who took part, it's always nice to see FGW getting a bit of a roasting. It was particularly good in the way it highlighted the ridiculous situation where FGW doesn't have enough carriages, as it is still one of those issues I simply can't get my head round.
In other news, I hear on the grapevine of something really scandalous. An e-mail arrived in my inbox, bearing the following message:
"Did you know that FGW are experimenting with doing away with the buffet car on at least 6 sets running between Cardiff and London? It's being done completely on the quiet and they're waiting to see how many complaints they get, which I reckon is going to be an awful lot. In fact, we need to encourage everyone to write in or that's going to be it - no buffets."
Now this really is serious. We finally get our much-deserved First Class Off-Peak Upgrade and then they threaten to take away our flapjacks?
Please, someone say it's not so!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hey, Welsh people, want to be on the beeb?

Hello all
I have been contacted by BBC Wales, who are making a 30 minute programme on the transport problems between Wales to London. As I have mentioned before, I've had more than a few requests for I Hate First Great Western badges from Welsh people, so if you're Welsh, fed up with FGW, and have a yearning to see your face on the big screen (or at least the medium- sized one in the living room), please write to me with your contact details to, and I will pass your details on to the producer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Train pushers, and the new timetable

Here's a suggestion for how First Great Western staff can help get round the overcrowding problem. Watch this video.
I'm not sure how long this has been around, but I think it's excellent.
Basically, we know the trains are going to be packed at busy times, and to a certain extent, we accept that. Let's just push as many people as we can onto each one. I'm sure the casualties will be minimal.
In other news, the May 2008 timetable is out. Find it here. How is it for you?
In the interest of fairness, as I am an exceptionally fair person, I took First Great Western yesterday, as I needed to get to West Drayton, and SWT don't go there.
The train was on time, pretty clean, and not overcrowded, a textbook journey.
If you're wondering why the picture is of sweets, freefoto doesn't have any photos of sardines, and I thought this one looked jolly instead.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The ignorant and the gay, and an appeal for help

Now listen, I'm not averse to a bit of healthy criticism. I realise that not everyone in the Thames Valley and the west of England hates First Great Western.
I also realise that to many, this blog has extremist tendencies, with my use of the word 'hate' appearing to have echoes of 'hate crimes', 'hate mail' and other not-very-nice things.
I don't even mind being told to get a life, since to those who don't use FGW on a regular basis, the depth of feeling about it cannot easily be understood.
What I do object to, however, is the suggestion that not only are we, the FGW-hating public, a bunch of saddos, we are also gay.
Surely, I mean really, honestly, are we not aware these days that accusing someone of being gay is not an insult? It also immediately reveals you as someone ignorant, whose comment I have to delete from my blog because it is offensive, thereby depriving you of your right to voice your opinion.
Also, if you think we're sad for spending so much time complaining about a train company, how sad are you when, on coming across the blog, feel so much rage that you feel compelled to spout your badly-spelt feelings, thereby showing that you yourself have nothing better to do than get all annoyed about something that you don't like. Either say something sensible, or: Just. Go. Away.
There, I feel much better now. I'm just getting annoyed at the amount of time I have to spend cleaning up the blog, although I suppose that's the price you pay for putting something on the internet in the first place.
Anyway, that's not what I was going to talk about today. I was, in fact, going to ask all those of you who are supporters of the blog to help a campaign group which is campaigning for a better service for the nice people of Wiltshire. Please sign the petition here to persuade First Great Western that the draft timetable they've agreed really will have the support of the people who will use it. They'll be very very grateful, and perhaps Wiltshire will get the service it needs.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

First Class? Hardly

My business (okay, it was a friend's birthday) took me to Paddington last night for a bite to eat and a few drinks.
It seemed ridiculous for me to take South West Trains to Waterloo instead of First Great Western to Paddington, so I bit the bullet and got onto the dreaded Slough train. The journey there was fine, apart from being crowded and dirty, but so far so normal, it came on time so that was the main thing. On the journey home, I took advantage of my free off-peak first class upgrade (see previous post for how you can receive yours) and got into the first class section of the 2214 Paddington to Reading train.
Now, I realise that these small stopping services don't have swish carriages, but honestly, there was very little to differentiate this section of the train from any other. It was covered in rubbish, the seats were torn, and various annoying loud people came and sat in it even though they didn't have first class tickets ("Come on, it's fine, they don't check at this time of night").
To be honest, there's no point in having a first class section on these small chuggy trains, because to call them 'first class' is a bit embarrassing. They're just a very slightly cleaner, very slightly quieter area where there's a door protecting you from the full horror of what's going on in the rest of the train. And, the worst thing of all - there's no free cake and tea!
I realise that there's usually no train manager working on these trains, but, as I've said before, there should be, because travelling in the evenings on FGW is a horrible horrible experience, and those people who pay for a real first class ticket must be horrified when they see what their extra millions have bought them.
Note to self - arrange to go out in Waterloo next time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Seeing Red

I cannot tell you how eye-poppingly angry I was last night at First Great Western. Of course this is not true. I can, and am about to tell you in great detail, so please brace yourself.
Here goes: I was at the pub after work, as someone was leaving, so I stayed for a few drinks. I left the pub at half past nine, aiming to catch the 2221 from Paddington, getting into Slough at 2243, and with a comfortable seven minutes to wait until my Windsor train at 2250, getting me home around eleven, in plenty of time for a reasonably early night.
I got to Paddington in plenty of time to catch the train, but of course they left us standing on the platform in front of the few grubby carriages, no-one thinking to open the door and let us sit down like the tired human beings we all clearly were. They announce the platform and open the doors immediately the train arrives on South West Trains - why don't they do this on FGW? Still, I digress.
They finally opened the doors and I settled down with my book, unaware that 2221 had come and gone until an announcement revealed that the driver was late arriving at the station "but should be here in approximately three minutes". The driver being late is one of the worst excuses of all time, as it's entirely avoidable. Why the hell was the driver late?
The train finally pulled out at 2236, fifteen minutes late, meaning that I missed my connection at Slough, and had to ring home for a lift. If I'd waited for the next Windsor train, I'd have been home at about half past eleven.
So far, so normal, you might say, but this is why I was so angry.
I had chosen FGW over South West Trains on the basis that the journey was considerably quicker, at least on paper. But here's the thing. It would have been better for me to take the longer tube journey to Waterloo, catch the 2228 (leaving seven minutes later than the Paddington train) and stop THIRTEEN times at stations on the way to Windsor, and I still would have arrived home earlier than if I'd waited at Slough for the next Windsor train, having missed my connection.
Let me say this again: The fast train from Paddington to Slough, stopping ONCE, followed by a six minute trip to Windsor from Slough, took longer last night than a South West Train service stopping thirteen times, and leaving seven minutes later.
This is just simply not good enough, and I'm absolutely furious about it.
I'm delighted to say that South West Trains have now cancelled their planned strike action, so I have no reason to set foot back on FGW for the time being, which is probably a good thing, as I would be freely flinging I Hate First Great Western badges around with great abandon.
The only good news for those poor souls who have no choice in their train provider is that the free off-peak First Class upgrade is back. It can't make the trains go faster, but at least you can have a free cup of tea while you wait. For your voucher, go here.
Anyway, rant over, thanks for listening. Sorry to go on, but it could have been worse. I was so angry last night, only the lateness of the hour prevented me from logging on and updating my blog then and there. I think it's safe to say it's lucky I didn't, or your poor ears might have been insulted by my terrible language.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Sarkozy Effect

Well, my goodness Windsor is clean at the moment. It's normally pretty tidy, one of the advantages of having the Queen as a neighbour, but at the moment it's absolutely spotless. I have also seen more policepeople on the town's streets in the past two days than in the entire six months I've lived there. A state visit is all rather exciting. Unfortunately, I've missed the whole thing because I've been at work, so as a commuter have only witnessed the imminent closing of roads and police dogs sniffing around in bushes, but I enjoyed the hustle and bustle and sense of expectation all the same.
Since I last wrote, I've been dutifully sending out badges, which it seems are still in big demand (thank goodness, since I ordered quite a lot of them, so don't be afraid to ask!) and avoiding the FGW issue altogether by travelling on South West Trains. Unfortunately the honeymoon appears to be over, because the train drivers' union ASLEF has announced four days of strike action, which will hit SWT on the 31st of March. Notice how they've now become abbreviated to SWT because they're in my bad books - that'll show them!
So, it's back to First Great Western next week, and back to Paddington Station. I have to admit to being quite a fan of Waterloo. The platforms seem to be announced with at least ten minutes to spare. The trains are always at least eight, and sometimes twelve carriages long, and they mostly appear to be clean, warm and on-time. I'll be sad to revert to the stress of running between platforms, waiting on cold stations and missing my connections.
Perhaps if we could get the Queen using a bit more public transport, the system could be smartened up a bit. There's no way they'd let her stand on the station at Slough on a freezing March morning, or sit in a carriage that smells of sick from the previous evening's drunken idiots. At least you'd like to think not anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What about Wales?

Last night I returned home to find that the postman had been unable to deliver a package because it needed to be signed for. I'm hoping it's the badges, how exciting. This means they will soon be winging their way to those that have asked for them.
I noticed whilst making a list of everyone's addresses, that there seem to be an awful lot of requests from Wales this time. Are things particularly bad in Wales, and is this recent, or have FGW been letting down the Welsh for a while now? I'd be interested to hear from you.
At the moment I am blissfully unaware of any FGW problems, because I am finding that using South West Trains to get to and from Windsor is a far calmer and more reliable experience, and the difference in the time is negligible, which is funny, since there are 13 stops between Waterloo and Windsor, and you would think it would be much slower.
Anyway, I don't mean to gloat while things are going well for me, as I know the rest of you don't have the choice to use a different train company, at least at the moment, though what with all these threats and rumblings from the Department for Transport about First Great Western losing its franchise, you never know. I'd be very interested to see if anyone else would be capable of running this, admittedly, very difficult part of the country's rail network.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Introducing Terry Mechan

Hello all, hope you're having a good and trainless weekend.
I am very happy to say that my inbox at is filling up with requests for badges, which will be sent out as soon as I receive the new batch from the badge-making elves, who are busy painting them in the FGW colours as we speak.

In the meantime, while you wait, please enjoy the genius of Terry Mechan, who has taken his feelings about First Great Western and put them into song form in a Jonny Cash style, which you can listen to here.

I think we should invite him to busk his way up the First Great Western line and play for us on the platforms while we wait for the trains. I for one would definitely throw him a couple of quid for turning our frustrations into such an amusing ditty.

Monday, March 03, 2008

New badges on the way

I'm delighted to announce that after a short absence, the badges are back. I think it's something about the beginning of March that has galvanised me back into action, as I feel like we're finally emerging from winter hibernation.
I've received several requests over the past few months, I have saved all your details, and your badges will soon be arriving through your doors.
If you too would like a completely free badge expressing your feelings towards First Great Western, please send an e-mail with your name, address and the number of badges you'd like to
I'm also happy to receive photographs of you sporting your badges, so please send those to the same address.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I don't hate South West Trains

I took the South West trains service from Windsor to Waterloo today, as allowed by my new dual availability ticket, and from thence, a Northern Line train to my destination.
I was at work 15 minutes early, I had a seat throughout, and I enjoyed the scenic views of Staines and Feltham as we sailed through (okay, that bit is a slight exaggeration). It went slowly, but, crucially, it went slowly exactly to time.
It was brilliant. I'm a convert.
Next week I shall be testing the system by trying to use it in both directions to see what happens.
The former drill of either running between platforms or standing and shivering for ages, whilst relying on four separate services to get me to my destination was clearly madness.
Slowly but surely wins the race. Tortoise Power!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

DfT and FGW don't tell the truth shocker

The Times newspaper reports today that London Travelwatch has accused ministers of colluding with First Great Western to conceal the true extent of its failures. Read the full story here. It seems that 311 cancellations over the past 11 months went unreported, according to the DfT.

Well, safe to say, I am un-flabbergasted and not at all surprised by the allegations. We all knew things were worse than FGW let on, and I suspect no commuters will be shocked to hear this news, as we've all known for ages that the system has been crap over the past year, to the extent that even a lazy person like me started a blog to complain about it.

At least the new management is, as it puts it, "blowing the whistle on itself".

In happier news, I have taken advantage of the "double discount" currently available due to the crap service before Christmas, and have renewed my season ticket this morning. Having taken the advice of a station manager who commented on an earlier post, I've got myself a ticket which can be used for trips both on FGW's services, and the South West Trains service to Waterloo from Windsor and Eton Riverside.

This means that I can opt out of FGW when the constant train-changing gets too much.
I might experiment with a journey on SWT next week and see how that goes. I think the trip will take longer, but since it's two trains instead of four, I might be able to put up with that.

I like this new management team that admits to its mistakes and offers cheaper tickets as an apology. That's all we really wanted from the start wasn't it?

Well, I suppose what we wanted was a good train service, but I'm beginning to wonder if that might just be pie in the sky. For now, an admission, an apology and a discount are working for me. Any chance of that off-peak upgrade again? That was good.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Half a Cheer

Latest News for those in the more Westerly areas of the FGW region. Full report from the BBC here:
"First Great Western is to pay for more trains and better passenger compensation after poor service on lines to Wales and the West Country.
The Swindon-based train operator agreed the £29m investment package after discussions with the government. Extra drivers and guards will be recruited to resolve a staff shortage.
FGW announced that five extra three-carriage trains will be leased for the troubled Cardiff to Portsmouth service. Compensation for delayed passengers next year will increase by half, on top of the doubling of compensation already announced for this year.
There will be extra discounted tickets available, better information systems and £4m will be spent on staff training."
More Train Less Strain, who organise the fare protests, have given the announcement "half a cheer", saying "We're very pleased to see more trains on a particularly troublesome route, but things like more cut price tickets are, to our mind, gimmicks."
Myself, I'm quite a fan of gimmicks, especially off-peak first class upgrades, or free cups of tea. Anything that acknowledges that travelling by train is not that fun and tries to improve it is fine by me.
Of course, the best gimmick of all would be cheaper tickets and fewer delays, but we can only live in hope.
Talking of delays, last night's trip out of Paddington was so bad I had to get off the train three stops early and get a lift home. I do wish suicidal people would find some other way to off themselves than throwing themselves under a train, it really is most inconvenient. I know it sounds callous but really, it throws the whole system into complete chaos for hours.
And, if you're standing nose to nose in a crowded carriage on the one train leaving the station for your destination (who knew there were 10 stops between Paddington and Slough?) please don't chomp away on something with open mouth whilst you're in close proximity to my ear, or you might end up one of those casualties on the tracks yourself. You have been warned.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back on track

Greetings friends. I've returned from a week up a mountain covered in lovely snow to find that we still haven't had a proper attack of winter at home, and now I'm wondering if we are actually going to see any of the white stuff this year.
Since it was a skiing holiday, we were up at 7am every morning, so I've now come back to work for a rest. As a result, the alarm clock did not, er, alarm me this morning, and I barely noticed the commute, except that the fast train was delayed, so I caught it, which was good. Also, I'm enjoying my current book so much that getting on and off at the necessary stations was feeling like a real inconvenience. If it's still good at the end, I'll add it to the book list on the blog.
My season ticket runs out tomorrow, and I can't help but wonder if it might make more sense to buy a ticket from South West trains instead, as the Windsor - Waterloo service seems to be much more reliable, and only involves one train instead of two, though it takes a bit longer. It's a bit late now to make a decision, and I suspect I will stick with FGW, who are quicker when things are working properly. I look forward to seeing if the "double discount" announced by Andrew Haines a short while ago has a noticeable effect on the price of my ticket. It will still make me quite grumpy to hand over such a large amount of money, but it's so much cheaper than buying weekly and monthly tickets, and so much less hassle.
Mind you, it doesn't bode well for my work-from-home campaign that I'm planning to buy a year's ticket. Hum.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pants on fire!

Now, I'm not sure how this happened, but my ire is beginning to turn and point (can ire point? If it doesn't, I think it should start, and, why not, let's have it stamping its feet too) firmly in the direction of the DfT. Sure, we all like to hate FGW, because they're the ones running the trains, and they've certainly made their share of mistakes, but it rather gets on my nerves when MPs start slagging off the company, when the DfT are the ones who are pulling all the strings.

Read the following, from the Sky News website: (read the full report here)

Chancellor Alastair Darling criticised First Great Western while in the West Country city of Bristol.
"I know there have been very great problems with this particular franchise that have gone on far too long. Frankly, the travelling public using the line are entitled to expect far better reliability and punctuality in a far better service. First Great Western need to get a grip of it. But I know that the Transport Secretary is very focused on this."
And fellow MP Dawn Primarolo said: "I share the rage of thousands of passengers regularly when I'm on a service where I can't get a seat, I'm tired, and I can't get home.
"I think they (First Great Western) have got to be given a clear ultimatum to improve the service. If they don't, we need to reconsider (renewing their franchise)."

Righty ho, so it's all their fault and not yours at all in any way then? The problem is, I don't believe it. It's just all such a lot of finger-pointing crap, and not in any way helpful to sorting out the problem of GETTING THE TRAINS TO RUN ON TIME!
Yes, FGW have their problems with staff-shortages, being a bit rubbish at giving us information sometimes, and putting up prices, and all of those things are their fault. But if they weren't so shackled by the DfT, they'd be able to sort out some of their problems and get the service improved.
I'm quite riled now. Which is a shame, as I'm off on holiday next week, so was having a lovely term's-out kind of Friday.
I'm all for getting a few "I Hate the DfT" badges printed, but I think there would be a queue of car drivers ahead of us, and who ever heard of a government department listening to anyone anyway. Golly, I've gone all political. Someone bring me a magazine full of celebrity gossip, quick!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Days when I like delays

Happy Valentine's Day everyone, unless you hate the whole concept, in which case, happy 14th of February, hope it's a good day generally and the shops full of gaudy red hearts don't get you down too much.
I had plenty of time to look at the inescapable flowers and assorted sentimental goo this morning. I arrived at Slough station to find that the fast train I usually miss had been delayed, which meant that I caught it, and sped into London, arriving 15 minutes earlier than usual, and arriving at my destination with plenty of time for a relaxed stroll into work, rather than the usual swearing and huffing and puffing.
Talking of huffing and puffing, in my continuing quest to work from home, I've realised that I'm definitely going to have to build some exercise into the equation. I've worked out through a process of counting (yes, I'm that weirdo walking up and down with my lips moving) that I get through at least half of my recommended 10,000 steps a day just by walking to the station, walking between platforms, walking between tube stations, and walking to my work. And back again. Whereas, the distance from my bed to the kettle and from thence to the computer is approximately 20 steps, and although these are in the form of stairs, I don't really think that's going to be sufficient to keep me fit and healthy. Even wearing my heaviest dressing gown and with the occasional trip to the phone or front door. Which is a worry. Mind you, with the extra three to four hours a day Former Commuting Time (FCT) I'll have at my disposal, I could go to the gym, have a shower, maybe even get dressed too and possibly interact socially with some people in my area. It's a tempting prospect. I must start a list of more 'Things To Do With My FCT', when I've got a moment.
Finally, I must draw your attention to the following site, which will also be appearing in my links list on the right hand side of the blog. Lee Fletcher from the First Great Western Coffee Shop has, along with several other people and groups, started a new site called "Campaign Against New Beeching Report", or CANBER, which campaigns against the closure of existing rail stations and train services nationwide. Find it here. Give it a visit, as it's only if we all get together and complain that anything will get done. Muttering under your breath in a packed train will not change the world. Eh, I'm right philosophical today.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spring has not sprung

So, there I was, having a lovely Sunday walk, admiring both the snowdrops and the daffodils, and all the while pushing aside the nagging feeling that this might not be the right state of affairs for the beginning of February.
I shouldn't have worried. Things came right this morning. I walked to work amidst the freezing fog rolling across the Thames, which was making the swans go fluffy as they tried to keep out the cold.
And, bizarrely enough, I rather enjoyed it. Really cold weather has been so rare this winter, that I quite enjoyed the feeling of being properly dressed in a coat and scarf, rather than feeling a bit too bundled up for the clement weather.
Normally by this time of year I'd be at my most miserable. In fact, if I look back at my posts from February last year, I see that I was considerably less cheerful, although this might have been due to the rather longer commute I was undertaking when I started the blog. But I think the only thing I'm enjoying about the cold weather is the fact that there's only been a very small amount of it.
I'm off up a mountain next week, with planks stuck to the end of my legs in a most unnatural way. I expect this will bring my love affair with the winter to an abrupt end, as I'm really much more of a summer person.
In fact, if this is global warming, it's very pleasant. Maybe I should increase my carbon footprint rather than doing the opposite. Back to your cars everyone!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Becoming Blogless

So, we've made it through January, and so far, it's been pretty kind to us on the whole, weatherwise at least.
But this morning I found it harder than usual to drag myself from my bed, even though it's Friday. It was quite noticeably colder too, and although none of the trains was delayed, I was becoming impatient on the platforms, because of the increased chill factor. I also feel more gloomy than usual, and for no discernable reason. It must be February.
I've recently been finding the commute more laborious than usual, and I think it's because every day is such a battle. Even when things are going well, it only takes the tube to stop for a few minutes at Edgware Road and the journey starts unravelling. I then end up taking a later, slower train from Paddington, and pull into Slough just as the Windsor train is pulling out, which means a 20 minute wait for the next service.
For non-commuters, 20 minutes probably doesn't sound like a lot. But if you factor in a 15 minute wait at Paddington, plus a couple of minutes on the two different tube stations I frequent on an almost-daily basis, and the time I get home can differ by up to an hour, and this is when the delays are just a few minutes. It's a daily battle of wills and elbows just to get a seat, and to get home in an hour and a half, rather than two, or two and a half, and it's so tiring.
For this reason, my thoughts have been turning towards the idea of working from home. I have fantasies where I wake up in the morning, make myself a cup of tea, and sit down at my computer in my dressing gown, ready to write something inspiring, for which I'll be paid goodly sums of money - or, at least, enough to cover the mortgage. Since moving to Windsor, this feeling has become stronger, because it's such a nice place to live, but I seem to spend most of my time struggling in and out of London, and it seems so absurd.
The comment in my last post from frequentlyfazed really hit the nail on the head, it's all just such a bloody grind, and it wears you down.
So, at the risk of making myself blogless, this year I'm going to channel my energies towards working from home, and leave the world of First Great Western behind. Maybe I'll find that it won't all be snug cups of tea and walks by the river, so keep watching - by next year, I could have a parallel blog up and running - But I doubt it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Prices frozen!

New news from First Great Western. This is from the BBC, who've linked it to the upcoming fare strike:

"A train company is to double the amount of compensation it pays season ticket holders after failing to meet its punctuality and reliability targets.
First Great Western (FGW) apologised for poor service and said it would also freeze fares and car park charges until the end of the year.
Most season ticket holders are expected to pay the previous year's prices when they renew their 2008 ticket.
The move comes days before a planned fare strike by disgruntled passengers.
Pressure group, More Train Less Strain, said it had received widespread support for the protest scheduled for 28 January across the West Country".
I have already found out how much my season ticket is due to be, when it runs out in a month's time. So, will that amount go down, if it's going back to 2007 prices? I wait and see with much excitement.

Strike details for the 28th January

Hello peeps

No reason for the picture, except that it's a lovely day and pictures of strikes are a bit dull, so this is a statue called "The Meeting Place" on St Pancras Station. Nice...

On to business.
Here are the details of the upcoming fare strike. The point is not necessarily to try and dodge your fare, but to bring the company's attention to the number of us who are unhappy with the service, so please take part even if, like me, you're already a season ticket holder. Details follow from More Train Less Strain, who are the organisers:

"The stations known to be partcipating are Yate, Yatton, Bath, Oldfield Park, Frome, Oxford and Bristol. Other stations may also partcipate so be prepared to pick up a strike ticket wherever you are.

At each of those stations you can expect to be given a fare strike ticket and explanatory leaflet between around 7:15 and 8:30 am.The leaflet says as follows:

FARE STRIKE DAY 28 01 2008.

Our aim is to demonstrate to First Great Western that their passengers will not tolerate their expensive and unreliable service any more, and that the government must take back the franchise from FGW. To do this you can

1. Show your FARE STRIKE ticket to staff on the train and at the barriers instead of your proper ticket. (It is your decision whether or not you have a proper ticket and you could be breaking the law if you travel without one!)

2. Avoid confrontations with staff, they are on our side!

3. TV and press will be at many stations on the FGW network. Tell them what you think.

4. Send a FARE STRIKE ticket to your local MP and local paper and tell them that the time has come for FGW to go. Email the CEO of FGW and tell him what you think:


They look similar in design to a standard ticket. If the barriers to the patform are open we suggest you show this ticket rather than a valid ticket to gain entry to the platform. Once on the platform, we suggest that you show your strike ticket when requested to show a ticket by staff on the train or at the exit barriers.It is up to you whether you travel with a valid ticket in your back pocket. The law states that you should have a valid ticket. It is not our intention to defraud FGW even though some might consider they are generating unreasonable profits from us. Our aim is to generate publicty to highlight at a local and national level the failure of FGW to provide an affordable and dependable service. We anticipate that this in turn will make it harder for the Department of Transport to continue to turn a blind eye to the collapse of FGW's franchise.


There is no party line. That depends on your politics. Some would say take the franchise back into public ownership, others would say hand it to a company who really can run a train service. Whatever you believe it is important that you make your views known to the media who will be out in force on the 28th and to your local MP.Whatever you do, please be polite and respectful of FGW 's long suffering staff.

Regards,The More Train Less Strain Team."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Slight disappointment re: the free money

I was very excited last night to find a letter had come from First Great Western. I was slightly less excited to find that the rail voucher enclosed was for the grand sum of £4.00.
Yes, you read that right. 400 of our British pence. This is Andrew Haines' compensation for the less-than-excellent service throughout December. Although, to be fair, that will buy 5.12 copies of my favourite Take a Break magazine, which provides much needed opportunities to laugh at other people's misfortunes during train delays.
For example, this week's edition, bought as compensation when I missed a connection last night, had finished my book, and found myself with nothing to read, contains the following headlines - Child with a Junkie Father - "wake up daddy, I'm scared"
They Were Burnt Alive - "Yobs murdered my pets"
Amazing! - I became pregnant - and shrank!
Britain's Got Love Rats - "You can run, John...but you can't hide!"
Quality entertainment I'm sure you'll agree. However, I can't help but be slightly concerned that the cost of sending out all these £4.00 vouchers may be more than the value of the vouchers themselves.
Still, I am now armed with four rail vouchers, as a result of all my careful complaining last year. Sadly, they add up to a mere £34.00 at the last count. Which probably won't even cover the recent fare rise. Still, it's something. As various celebrities continue to say annoyingly in Tesco adverts, "every little helps".

Friday, January 11, 2008

We can strike too!

As if by magic, my question from the last post has been answered. This comment from Tony at More Train Less Strain was received:
"If anyone from Reading or Maidenhead would like to help to co-ordiante a fare strike on the 28th January we want to hear from you.
Email: and join the 6 fare strikes curently planned."
So, what are you waiting for? Join the strike and make your feelings known.
Even if the drivers and guards don't go ahead with their strike action, we can, and we have lots to complain about.
Also, an interesting discussion on overcrowding is taking place on the Insider's blog In Defence of First Great Western. Go and have a look. He explains it all in a clear and understandable way, but my question is: why is the system in such a mess that First Great Western hasn't got enough carriages (ie: why is no-one making any new ones?), and why does it have to run and ask the government every time it wants more? Why isn't it in control of its own trains? It's a rum old world I tells thee.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Can we strike too please?

So, guards and drivers at FGW have voted to go on strike. Apparently, they're fed up with FGW's "confrontational" style of management, and they don't like it when managers drive the trains.
Hey, guess what, I don't like it when managers drive the trains either! I want my trains driven by train drivers please.
The problem is, we passengers can't go on strike, so we'll have to put up with even more cancellations and delays, because the company can't get it together to look after the people who work for them, or at least keep them in dialogue long enough for them not to go out on strike.
Sometimes the words "piss-up" and "brewery" come to mind when I think of the way that FGW try to run their bit of the railway. The words "bull" and "china shop" occur to me too, when you look at the way they deal with problems.
Look, we know there aren't enough trains, the staff morale is low, the tracks need fixing and the stations aren't big enough. We know all this. We just want you to sort it out. All we can see from our end is the cost of our tickets, and the constant failure to get us from A to B. Surely you can see why we might be as annoyed as the drivers who object to managers driving the trains. My message to First Great Western is take your hands away from your ears and stop shouting "la la la, I can't hear you". It's good to talk, as they say.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Stop press: free money alert!

I should probably visit the First Great Western website more often than I do.
I must admit that, considering the nature of this blog, it is very remiss of me. But, better late than never. A peruse of some of the other websites which are not best friends with FGW (a list of links to which you can find on the right), has led me to find the following link. My thanks to Economy Klaus from First Late Western for being on the ball and bringing it to the attention of his readers.
It is a letter from Andrew Haines, FGW's Chief Operating Officer, apologising about December's bad service, and offering season ticket holders two day's worth of travel vouchers as an apology.
All you have to do is write to the Freepost address provided and give a copy of your ticket, and, hey presto, free vouchers come through the door. My letter is already written and posted. Hopefully the aforementioned vouchers will arrive before I renew my ticket in February.
So, a slightly more Happy New Year after all. I stand corrected.

Let it snow!

Ah, New Year. A time for fresh new beginnings, soon-to-be-broken resolutions, and the feeling that a new page has been turned, an opportunity to get fitter, get a better job, get to work on trains that run on time, and are not crowded. Ah.
I, like many of you, went back to work yesterday after a longer-than-usual break. It's delightfully quiet on the trains this week, I got a seat on the tube from Paddington this morning, which is unheard of. However, despite being delighted about arriving at work early, the only reason I did so is because the fast train from Slough that I usually miss was badly delayed, so I caught it. Everything was delayed at Slough this morning. It seems the system still isn't working, and they can't blame passenger numbers, because most of us aren't even there to get annoyed by it.
So, what has the New Year brought for First Great Western? Well, fare rises for a start. That got everyone talking on New Year's Day, probably because there wasn't much other news. I won't be getting all irate about that until February, when my season ticket runs out, but expect to hear some pretty loud bellyaching then.
No, I'm most aggravated by the fact that I'm really looking forward to the promised snow, and it hasn't come. Also, if it does come, I shall be forced to be annoyed about it messing with the trains, rather than stomping about enjoying it and throwing it and making it into snowmen as I did in my childhood. Being grown up is rubbish and forces you to be grumpy about things that used to be fun. Remember how cool it was to travel by train when you were a child? Perhaps we should try and recreate that innocence of youth, and be genuinely surprised every day when we arrive at the station and find that the train isn't there. Then we could all play clapping and skipping games while we wait for it to arrive. At least it would confuse the hell out of the staff, who seem pretty grumpy themselves about working on the trains, something they too would have thought brilliant as children.
Or maybe we should bring the age of steam back. Even adults think steam trains are cool. Choo choo!