the end of super commuting

October 12, 2008 at 9:57 am | Posted in News just in... | Leave a comment
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After 2 years of commuting Norwich to London, then Liverpool St to St James Park, I have done my last journey. That’s 3 hours door to door, there and back, ie 6 hours a day! My new commute will be much more sensible, just an hour door to door.

It has been over 700 trips on the Norwich to Liverpool St to Norwich train, equal to sitting on a train non-stop for the next 68 days (it did feel like that sometimes!). Check out my last day photo video:

 

It is proof (if anyone was after it) that you can live in Norwich, and work in London, ie have the best of both worlds. So, after having had my cake and eaten it, it is good bye from me….

The wrong type of lightening

July 8, 2008 at 9:33 pm | Posted in News just in... | Leave a comment
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Train from Liverpool Street to Norwich yesterday (Monday), the 17.00. We were 45 minutes late, due to lightening striking the signals near Diss! Sounds dramatic, it meant all the level crossings stopped working. (All in all a pretty miserable day, the morning train was 20 mins late). But at least we got the Olympics.

Review of the week commencing 30/06/2008

July 8, 2008 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Review of the week | Leave a comment
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The week was really made by my receiving a bonus £20 voucher from National Express, to add to the approx £12 which has come to me in recent days. Do you think it is actually possible to make a profit from travelling on the railways? You know, when people ask you what you do, you could say, ‘I’m a professional commuter’.  City College could start running vocational courses, and pretty soon the Norwich to Liverpool St line will be full of trainee commuters. This is turn will require additional or longer trains, which would silt up things even more, leading to more cash-backs. This could be a boom industry! A nation of commuters (we could show the continentals a thing or two).

But back to my review of the week, another zero I’m afraid NX, just because I’m pissed off with the whole affair (delays, expense, etc).

That don’t impress me much

July 4, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Posted in News just in... | Leave a comment
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So, National Express to offer 4 days free travel. Whoop-de-do-basil! I paid nearly 4k for 7 month’s travel this year. If you buy a 12 month season ticket, it has no trade-in value for the last 3 months. There’s a chance I won’t be commuting from September, hence the 7 months. But I hear today I will get 4 free days when (if) I renew. Well that clinches it, just watch me go tomorrow to buy up a whole year! Thank you National Express!

It is all such a con, I’m sorry, and I’m not impressed. I will take my custom elsewhere, to that competitor train company, eh, ah, oh, actually, there isn’t one. Looks like I’m stuck.

Not a good week to be using National Express

July 1, 2008 at 9:14 pm | Posted in Liverpool St - Norwich, Norwich - Liverpool St | Leave a comment
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They really are on an awfully bad run. Only Tuesday night, but already this week:

-the timeless phrase, ‘is there a doctor on the train’, for the 06.10 Norwich to Liverpool St yesterday. A poor chap had fainted. so we stopped at Stratford and waited for an ambulance ( I hopped off and got the Central Line from there into Westminster). This wasn’t NX’s fault – but it amplifies the problem they have at the moment, ie the trains are late due to track, signals, etc, so that when something like this happens, passengers just think ‘more of the same’ (hope the chap was OK)

- 15 minutes late back into Norwich yesterday afternoon, I think due to a freight train

- 15 minutes late again this evening, due to the ‘hot weather’ (!)

I don’t want this to turn into a crusade (I mean, I don’t hate NE, like this fella (http://ihatenationalexpress.blogspot.com/), but things really have taken a turn for the worse.

Review of the week commencing 23/06/2008

June 29, 2008 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Review of the week | Leave a comment
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The delays seem inevitable. When you get on the train, there is no certainty that a) it will arrive within 30 mins of the right time or b) get there at all. How did this come to pass? Record passengers, record investment, yet real frustration from passengers. And it seems, from my Virgin experience this week, that it is particular to National Express. It is hard to see how this situation can be remedied.

So, for the week, in the memory of the poor sods on the 06.10 last Wednesday, I award 2 out of 10. Too much delay, too much frustration, and no end in sight…

When 3 become 1

June 26, 2008 at 8:20 am | Posted in Norwich - Liverpool St | Leave a comment
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Ah, the sun is shining, happy commuters on their way to work, trains running like clockwork….sorry, must’ve been a dream!

I very neatly (but accidentally) avoided seat-less-ness yesterday morning. I was supposed to get the 06.10 Norwich to Liverpool Street, but I was running a little late. So, onto the 06.25, which then proceeds very slowly (putting paid to any chances of me making my 9 am meeting in London). Bad for me, but worse for the poor souls on the 06.10, which it is announced has busted and will be terminating at Ipswich.

We roll into Ipswich nearly 30 mins late (how is that possible, to be 30 mins late on a journey which should only take 35 mins??). However, for me on the 06.25, this is a moment of great smugness – Ipswich station is now like cattle pens on market day, with passengers from the 06.10 who got on at Norwich, Diss and Stowmarket, joined on the platform by Ipswich folk who were due to get on the 06.10, plus those there for the 06.25 and the 06.40 (hence ‘when 3 become 1 !!). 

Mayhem and madness, that’s what it looks like as I smugly look out of the window, from the comfort of my chair. It must be said that the people who got on the train first (after fighting and stamping their way to be adjacent to the doors) looked even smugger – they beat the odds, and got a seat at Ipswich.

But of course, many people don’t make it, the train moves off, trailing bodies, briefcases and newspapers (actually, I made that bit up, but the left behind people weren’t looking happy). Even better, though, the train then stops at Manningtree and Colchester, and we witness similar scenes – thousands of irate commuters thinking this is no way to run a railway; and finally, into Liverpool Street, very late, to great queues of people trying to get off the platform. What fun!

FOOTNOTE – I had need to visit Manchester this week so experienced Virgin Trains. Now, it could be that it just happened to be a good week for them, but the contrast with National Express was significant. All the trains ran on time to the minute, it was cheap and clean, and it felt modern and like French railways. The one blemish was me bursting in on the chap who hadn’t locked the toilet door properly, I don’t know who was more shocked, him or me!

Review of the week commencing 16/06/2008

June 21, 2008 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Review of the week | Leave a comment
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Altogether a calmer week than last! But that said, there were some oddities, ie a large number of delays for 20-odd minutes. This happened Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, to Liverpool Street and to Norwich. The conductor does makes announcements, but it only serves to deepen the mystery. For example, on the 17.00 to Norwich last Tuesday, the train just stops for 15 minutes at Marks Tey. The conductor apologises for the delay, saying it has been caused by a problem with the train in front. But of course, that is the impact of the problem train, not the reason there is a problem. I wonder if National Express are now reluctant to give the real reasons for delays – unless of course they can pin the blame squarely on Network Rail.

So, for this week, we can only award 5 out of 10. There are way too many problems, commuters just don’t have any confidence they will get where they need to be on time. Is the future?

All quiet on the western (eastern) front

June 16, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Posted in News just in... | Leave a comment
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No-one fell off scaffolding, bridges didn’t slip, lines didn’t fall and trains stayed on the tracks. Crack open the champagne!

Review of the week commencing 09/06/08

June 14, 2008 at 10:31 pm | Posted in Review of the week | Leave a comment
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A big week / month!

Four separate incidents recently:

First, the bridge chaos of 2 weeks ago: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7424757.stm

Next, this week, the overhead cables come down near Ingatestone: http://new.edp24.co.uk/search/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&itemid=NOED12%20Jun%202008%2008:59:58:527&tBrand=EDPOnline&tCategory=search

Then, workers fall from scaffolding whilst fixing it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7449026.stm

And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse!: http://new.edp24.co.uk/search/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&itemid=NOED13%20Jun%202008%2008:30:49:897&tBrand=EDPOnline&tCategory=search

What a tale of woe!!

Now, we can’t really point the finger of blame at any one person. These appear to be a series of very unfortunate events. However, commuters who have paid almost £7,000 to travel (i.e. me!), will naturally feel they can draw some conclusions:

i) What a shit week! Doing one’s work can be a challenge, but add on the absolute misery and mayhem of travelling from Norwich to London, and you have a recipe for despair and anger. I want someone’s head on a platter and I want it now!

ii) When it all goes wrong, National Express are actually pretty good at keeping people in the loop. Their conductors are polite, commuters get regular annoucements, delay repay forms are handed out, and overall, I don’t have a gripe with them. They are good professionals.

iii) Iain Coucher must be very good to earn the bonus he does. In his defence, after using the Cambridge line this week, it isn’t all bad for Network Rail. There just seems to be something horrifically wrong with the Norwich – Liverpool St mainline.

iv) The local press and the BBC love these train travel chaos / misery stories.

v) Maybe the solution is to do what Charles Clarke suggested a few years ago – close the line for a period, so it can be completely overhauled. At least commuters would then know where they stand. The worst thing at the moment is that the line can’t be relied on (see Ian Gibson’s comments: http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/search/story.aspx?brand=ENOnline&category=News&itemid=NOED12%20Jun%202008%2008:07:13:543&tBrand=ENOnline&tCategory=search

 Overall, then, a dreadful week! It has to be 0 out of 10 (it is hard to imagine how it could’ve been worse; this certainly sets a new benchmark for crap travel).

But there is a silver lining. Travel chaos means delay repay, totalling £24 this week. And my advice? Look very carefully at the Cambridge option if you use the the Norwich to Liverpool St line. It takes a little longer (about 20 minutes if you go from Kings Cross; there’s a pretty grumpy crowd who use it; but it is very reliable and won’t let you down, at least on this week’s evidence).

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