This Train is Formed of …

…what? Chopped liver?

I hereby officially fail to understand the SouthWest Trains train-length policy. For the first few months I thought that whether we got a four-carriage or eight-carriage train was entirely a matter of luck and so was forced to listen through the entire endlessly drawn out announcement at Kew Bridge until it got to the bit where it told us how long the train was going to be. This is the important part because it means the difference between standing room only and room for everyone to sit down, spread out, and even tapdance in the aisles, so of course they like to prolong the agony – first we hear where the train is going, then we hear where it will stop, then we get a great long list of stations where the train is not going but which we could get to if we were prepared to change at Barnes. Only then does the automated voice announce with a happy little pre-programmed lilt up (if it’s eight) or a solemnly aplogetic inflection down (if it’s four) what our fate will be.

After prolonged study and experimentation I have now worked out that the long and short trains alternate and it’s not done purely on the whim of some minor deity, but just because there’s some pattern doesn’t mean there’s any logic to it. The short trains seem to carry no fewer passengers than the long ones (except when they physically can’t get on, as was happening yesterday). I can see that they can’t make all the trains eight cars long, nice as that would be, but I did wonder why they don’t just do the logical thing, average it out and give them all six carriages. No doubt there’s some deeply technical reason to do with rolling stock configuration and power units and axle loading ratios that I wouldn’t understand even with diagrams. And there’s another obvious solution, which is to get rid of the first class sections and make more room for everybody to sit down (including the poor sods you see every day standing in the first class sections – how galling must that be?) But since when did logic ever have anything to do with running trains?


9 responses to “This Train is Formed of …

  1. I used to do a lot of train rant blogging when I was still commuting. Trains and reason and not necessarily mutually exclusive – look at lovely, timely, clean, rational, inexpensive (etc.) – continental trains. So why can’t we do it?

  2. I suspect the answer’s probably money, when you get down to it. Oh, and don’t privatise all the trains …

  3. Sometimes I think you read my mind. I have a REAL thing about how long the train is.
    However, I realised that WAGN had a policy of -if they got more then 4 complaints they had to be seen to deal with it.
    Hence after 8 months of having 4 carriages and no room to move I complained, and told a few of the regulars on the 09.51 to do the same. I can now read my paper, and eat my bacon roll is relative peace as we have had 8 carriages since December!!
    Trouble is, they NEVER give us more than 4 on the way home, and I hate having to sit next to sweaty men who have spent a couple of hours in the pub then spend the next 40 mins shouting down the phone to all their mates, or breathing stale beer all over me.
    Disgruntled goes with commuter!

  4. wait – you mean complaining works? I must try that sometime. I did once see in my stats that someone from SouthWest Trains spent about half an hour going through the blog very carefully – maybe that will be enough?

  5. Complaining worked for me that time. A long winded complaint via email always makes me feel better. Woe betide them if I get home from work seething for I am likely to fire off a missive if it involves trains.
    Another nice policy is the excessive lateness one, but I’ve yet to be able to take them up on that, I have the form handy on here just in case!!
    Try it!

  6. All my trains are the same length.
    Although the trains I catch on the main line, do vary
    Also I notice that if you live in a posh area the trains are new clean and shiney. But if you live in the poorer area’s like I do, then they are dirty old and smell, as well as over crowded.
    Hre here, lets do away with that empty first class section. Mind you if you cant find an empty seat in the standard class you are allowed to sit in the 1st class bit, I think.

  7. Jan – blogging is a great way to relieve the tension too … Good luck with the excessive lateness, I had endless battles with Silverlink over that one.
    Tube Dude – is that really true about the first class carriage? I always thought they had to announce it first. Which has happened about once in living memory …

  8. It depends on which ticket inspector (now known as Revenue control!) is on that particular train. I’ve seen them turf folks out for merely even glancing INTO 1st class some days, and other days they dont give a fig.
    I travel offpeak, NOTHING would entice me back to 9-5 in London. I loathe paying full whack to stand shoulder to sweaty armpit (being small isnt fun when you commute)
    However. Pregnant ladies travel in 1st class for free, or used to when WAGN owned that line. Ex-Thameslink dont have 1st class. Its all cattle class 😉
    I have no intentions of having any more sprogs though… cattle class works for me.

  9. Hmm… getting pregnant just for a seat in first class strikes me as excessive … I think I’ll just take my chances with the rest of the hoi polloi

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