People who know me will already be aware that it’s not often I’m left speechless by anything. But I was rendered silent – for a moment, at least – by an off-hand comment from a colleague this evening that there were no first class services on the Hounslow loop trains. We were standing waiting for the much-delayed 17:56 train (Due to ‘a fault on the train in Chertsey which has now been rectified’, apparently) and plotting where best to stand to get a seat when the train did deign to roll in.
It seems that there never was any first class service on that train (or indeed on most commuter services run by SouthWest Trains), and when they brought in the new rolling stock, which has first class compartments, they’ve been allowing ordinary punters to sit in the nice wide seats and admire the tasteful upholstery all along, it’s just they’ve never bothered to tell anyone. I listened to all this with some incredulity, but my colleague assures me that it’s true and that he regularly sits in solitary splendour on his way into work interrupted only by the odd discussion with some of the less well informed guards about whether he can sit there or not. I’ve been travelling on this route for well over a year now and only once have I ever heard an announcement that the service was declassified, and then I assumed it was a one-off. SouthWest Trains aren’t exactly shy with their onboard announcements – the average journey is like being talked to death by an automated train-bore – so why not slip this one in among the reminders about the quiet coach and the exhortations to keep our bags with us at all times? I think the answer is that they’re keeping it quiet deliberately, and that it’s SWT’s sneaky way of rewarding its old hands, its frequent flyers, the long term loyal customers who pass these hints and tips between each other by word of mouth.
In which case I’ve just buggered that one up haven’t I? Oh well. Keep it to yourselves, will you?