Wednesday, 5 December 2012

By a long margin, the biggest delay yet!

OK, so I normally just update the morning's blog at the end of the day, but this whopper deserves its own again.  Excuse was simply the weather again, so no Tube Bingo bonus there.  And I'm not even going to bother with the tube delay because it pales into insignificance next to the trains.

Waterloo was chaos.  A huge number of services had been cancelled or were operating a reduced service.  All - without exception - were running with severe delays.

My wife had warned me that there were problems as she went earlier to pick up our daughter from day care.  So I checked the TfL web site before I left work.  Nothing mentioned on my route.  So I checked the South West Trains web site: only one train an hour now to Hampton Court, instead of the usual plethora of two.  Never mind, at least it's still running.  I aimed to take the 19:36.

I got to Waterloo in plenty of time to make my way through the heaving crowds and waited.  And waited.  No information on the big screens about my train at all.  No PA announcements about that service either.  Plenty of trains calling at most of the same stops still running, albeit massively delayed.

Because my wife had had to get off at Norbiton and use the bus to pick our daughter up in anything vaguely resembling the right time, our car remained at Hampton Court station.  Because we will need this for the drop-off and pick-up tomorrow, and because there was no advice that my train was cancelled - even on repeatedly checking the South West Trains and TfL web sites on my mobile phone, and because it's really cold out and I wanted to endure the least number of changes on freezing platforms possible while my direct service was still running, I waited.  And waited.

A little while after 20:00, there was still no news, though the big screens were still featuring trains originally scheduled to depart before 19:00 that were idling - sorry, 'boarding' - on the platforms.  I looked around for a station employee to ask.  Not a one in sight.  Then, I found a single, roughly 39-inch flat screen TV, conveniently located about 10 feet above head height displaying a rolling text of several hundred words in micro-font from South West Trains.  And when I say micro-font, I mean it: I've had my eyes fucking lasered to get perfect vision and I have to stand on my tip-toes (I'm over 6 feet tall) and squint to make it out.

'Blah, blah, adverse weather, insincere apologies, lots of delays, reduced services, blah, blah.'  And then, as an afterthought 'there is a train shuttle service operating between Surbiton and Hampton Court'.  No hint that there might not be a full service running, but I know rank fucking inefficiency and thinly-disguised contempt for customers when I see it (I should do after more than a decade using London's transport 'services').

I hopped on the next severely delayed train passing through Surbiton and was off.  The train's automated station announcement told me every station on the way to Surbiton was Surbiton, which was helpful, and at the real Surbiton, there was no mention of a train to Hampton Court at any time whatsoever on any of the boards on any of the platforms.  Nor were there any station or rail employees around anywhere.  Not even the nominally open ticket office.  I finally found some 'rail community support' officers outside the station standing around chatting.  They had no idea when the next train to Hampton Court was running, but advised me the shuttle had been running for hours (why wasn't it updated on the South West Trains web site?) and if I just stood around on the platforms one would turn up sooner or later.

Back into the station.  A few minutes later, a screen told me the next Hampton Court train would arrive at 21:05, roughly 20 minutes away.  Well, better than nothing.  Went down to the platform just in time to jump, Indiana-Jones-escaping-the-closing-cave-walls-style through the closing doors of an unadvertised train to Hampton Court.  Wankers.

Upshot: I left work in time to get the 19:06, had it been running.  I should have been at Hampton Court, therefore, by 19:42.  Instead, I arrived at 20:51.  All because of a quarter inch of snow, mostly melted away by the time I travelled.  That's a 69-minute delay.  I'm pretty sure that's a record.  I'm also damn sure I can claim even under TfL's and/or South West Train's stringent rules to prevent people claiming money back.  But I'm not going to, because I'm owed so much more than that.  A total of £177.50, in fact.  And that's not even adding a special tax for denying me time with my infant daughter and pregnant wife tonight.  Damn, but those fuckers are lucky I'm such a reasonable man.

Nighty, night readers.

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