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.