A Train in the Hand

Coming home this evening I was greeted at Kew Bridge station by news of debris on the track at Feltham, with all trains subject to delays. After standing around in the cold for a while watching the train indicator board try and decide whether the trains were simply ‘delayed’ or running 15 minutes late, the position stablilised: the eight-car 18:11 was running 20 minutes late and thus behind the four-car 18:26 which laughed in the face of debris on the track at Feltham and was running on time. Just to up the stakes a little, the 18:41 had been cancelled.

This sort of situation leaves the passenger with a dilemma: do you get on the train that arrives first, knowing it will be hideously crowded, with little prospect of even room to breathe until Clapham Junction, or do you wait a few minutes for the following train and travel home in solitary splendor? The risk of course with the latter strategy being that the second train gets later and later, and eventually gives up the ghost altogether and disappears or is turned around early or – SWT’s favourite trick in times of trouble – doesn’t bother to stop at any of the intervening stations on the way.

It’s a finely balanced decision, a tricky one to make, but fortunately it doesn’t really matter what you decide. For as soon as the first train hoves into view, the commuting instincts take over and you will be fighting to get on it. No matter what the attractions of the train that’s following on behind, the first law of commuter survival is to get on the train you have as long as it’s physically feasible to do so. Because as every London commuter knows, it may well turn out to be the last train you ever see …


3 responses to “A Train in the Hand

  1. Kind of like Supermarket check out queue Roulette.

  2. I was thinking rather like a wildlife documentary, with a large herd taking flight at a sign of danger.

  3. Probably nearer to one of those riots whenever the latest Ikea opens, and everyone’s trying to get their hands on a 30 quid sofa… or in this case, a seat

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