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Archive for November, 2009

British Rail Broadband

On the London to Edinburgh line today, this is the BEST I could get checking the broadband speed….. that’s when it worked AT ALL.. Note the ping time of nearly 1/4 second and the almost non-existent upload speed. 2 commercial companies and now the government and they STILL can’t get this right… Facebook says we’re in an “unknown location” and Google thinks we’re somewhere in Europe!

Rubbish broadband with British Rail

Public Services – or not?

With the utter failure of various commercial entities trying to run our Eastern rail, the names on the trains have once again been changed  – this time to the singularly unimaginative “east line”.  It is lunchtime on Sunday and having had our very expensive first class tickets checked while standing in a queue in the station, we’re now sitting on the train having them checked again.

In the background I can hear a member of staff uttering “I don’t make the rules” as yet another disgruntled passenger fires off a salvo. In the space of 5 minutes we’ve been deafened by the Tannoy, followed by another message buried in static.. and now we’re told there will be no trolley service due to the over-crowding (we’ll it beats “leaves on the line” as an excuse”). The first class compartment is packed – this is not going to be a pleasant 3-hour journey to Newcastle.

It worries me immensely that on the one hand many of us have worked our entire lives to maintain a level of comfort and yet our various public services live in another world completely and simply don’t see our comfort as being important. If the car as a method of transport fails in the future due to fuel shortages or climate change dictats – are we to suffer being treated like cattle as we’re forced onto public transport? The cost at worst of getting from London to Newcastle on the train would take most budget holidaymakers to France AND BACK…indeed it would cover a month’s car payment for many -  and VASTLY exceeds the combined fuel and depreciation costs of a typical motor-car despite what you might expect to be economy of scale…  and yet I cannot remember the last time I got on the train WITHOUT a Tannoy apology for SOMETHING they’ve gotten wrong… and that was in commercial hands… goodness knows what delights we’re in for now that the government has it’s grimy hands the trains again.

As we leave the train late afternoon, the staff have left the trolley to one side of the door and a bag of waste to the other – handy for them, about as ill-placed as is possible for those leaving the train, as a fellow passenger pointed out to me!

London – the New Middle-East

When I was a youngster, one of my favourite treats was to come down to London to Edgeware Road, a delightful place full of electronics and hifi junk stores, one of the more interesting being MORGANs who used to sell surplus gear at really good prices.

Well, Morgans is no longer but more worryingly, yesterday we spent a couple of hours on the street to see what’s new. What’s new (to us, though not to Londoners) is that streets like this are now an object exercise in how NOT to achieve racial integration.  Far from the ideal of integration where people from all over the world would come over here, adopt our ways and become “British”, the exact opposite has happened here.  For all the world, walking down Edgeware you’d think you were in a foreign country, far away from the British Isles. Shops proudly display signs in utterly indecipherable language and to the last one are oriented to promoting foreign culture, not the opposite.. and frankly, the place is a DUMP.

I think that’s probably the last time I will ever visit Edgeware road. I felt like a minority. From now on when I hear Londoners complain, I shall reply appropriately – you get what you ask for.

Progress on the Rails

Shiny new stiles at Newcastle Central Station

As you can see by the photo on the right, Newcastle Central Station now has itself a shiny new set of people control booths. Apparently the idea behind this is to keep scruffs without tickets away from the trains. It certainly can’t be to stop them boarding trains without tickets as they pester the life out of people every single time I get on the train for their tickets.

Unless there’s a more sinister background to this?  Reducing staff levels on the trains? Allowing them to employ hapless, untrained kids without fear of them being attacked by ruthless, ticketless passengers perhaps?

Crappy old lounge at Newcastle Central StationThe problem with all of this is priorities… clearly the rail authorities feel that this is where they want to spend their money. The fact that when waiting in Newcastle station you generally end up freezing your PARTS OFF unless you happen to have an open first class ticket (they don’t let the unwashed riff-raff with discounted tickets into the first class lounge, the only place that is even remotely warm in the station apart from Burger King. The only other place is the excuse for a lounge you see on the right, a few plate glass windows and a large sign that says “no eating, drinking or smoking” -  I’m surprised they don’t add “or having sex or breathing”

So they COULD have spent the money on a decent “second class” lounge for us commoners, OR they could have spent the money on a TOILET (the attached pub doesn’t take kindly to non-customers using their facilities) – or HEY – Packet of mini-cheddars destined for jamming behind a sign somewhere at Newcastle Central Stationhere’s a thought – how about some BINS!!!  Having encouraged us to buy food and drinks, once out of the shop we’re faced with a total absence of anywhere to put our rubbish… leading most of us – and I include myself as a matter of principle, to find little nooks and crannies to shove our empty packaging. Hey – if they don’t like it – give us some bins!

Still at least now we won’t have to suffer the INDIGNITY of standing next to someone who doesn’t have a ticket.  That’ll be a relief then.