Kings Cross to Cambridge: how nasty can a journey get?
I am afraid that this post will have most to say to those who travel by train between Kings Cross and Cambridge; but I suspect that my story will resonate with most other people who use London commuter lines.
OK, first off Kings Cross -- and, I guess, a minor quibble. The underground station there serves both Kings Cross and St Pancras (now the Eurostar terminal). Until a few months ago, if you came into Kings Cross on the mainline train you went straight down to the tube -- and, within a minute or two, to whichever line (Northern, Circle, Piccadilly, Hammersmith and City) you fancied. The Eurostar-driven redevelopment of the station means that anyone wanting to get to (say) the Northern line from Kings Cross mainline station has now to walk through a labyrinthine series of passages by a circuitous route which seems to take you over to St Pancras, and then back to the relevant tube platform (10 minutes, briskly) -- even though you know the trains go from just underneath where you started out.
If anyone's worked out how to avoid this marathon, do let us know. I am sure there are some short cuts if you ignore al the forbidding notices saying "No entry to the Northern Line" or whatever (I think this means that there IS an entry to the Northern line this way, but we dont want you to use it.)
But the main whinge of this post (which is unashamedly a whinge) is the misery of the mainline train service, from Cambridge to London.
At lunchtime today I went to London. OK, it was a reasonable journey, in some ways -- and I had a seat. But there was a complete bottleneck when we arrived, as someone had decided to check all our rail cards before we were allowed to cross the electronic ticket barrier. As no one had been warned (a little announcement on the train would surely not have been difficult, "Rail cards will be checked at the barrier, please have them ready") there was a long queue, as everyone searched their bag for their cards.
But that was nothing compared with the return journey.
I had been out to dinner and planned to be back on the 10.15. I got to Kings Cross by 10.07 -- but by then all seats were taken, and so I ended up standing for the 50 minutes to Cambridge (like many others). I was absolutely knackered, and had work to do, and this was a truly unpleasant way to spend the evening.
When we got to Cambridge, I came to the ticket barrier after a young guy who (quite understandably) said that he wasn't going to put his ticket in the slot, or show it, as he had been standing all the way, and that was not a reasonable service. I dont know whether he had a ticket or not. Maybe he was freeloader, but he didn't sound like one and I felt all on his side - even when he leapt the barrier.
The ticket collector complained to me, as the bloke disappeared. I said that I was on his side as we had just stood all the way from London, so why SHOULD we show our tickets. As far as I was concerned the railway company hadn't kept its side of the contract.
This went on for a few minutes, until a man from British Transport Police hove into view (complete with body armour and what looked like firearm under his bulky uniform, but on reflection probably wasn't....). It was nothing to do with the poor ticket collector that I didnt have a seat, he said. Well, no, I thought, true; but part of the problem with the British railway network is the fact that no one belongs to the same company and it's no one's responsibility to do anything.So who do you complain to. And might it be a good idea for someone to decide NOT to make a train load of people (many of whom have just stood all the way) put their sodding tickets in the slot.
Then this eighteen year old(-ish) cop pointed out to me that I had pointed my finger at the ticket inspector (since when was pointing a finger at a ticket inspector a crime?) but as I had obviously had a stressful day he wouldn't take it further. In his terms he was being charming and using his friendlyconflict resolution skills. All the same, "patronising teenager", I thought.
Anyway I hadnt had a stressful day... I had just had a very stressful, tiring, leg-aching journey from London to Cambridge and all I wanted was someone to recognise that (not to have the 'not my company' line). In those circumstances, I didnt want some late adolescent in uniform telling me what hand gestures were allowed (wagging in lecture style, not "pointing anyway)..
The upshot was that I skulked back home, having picked my bike up from the wholly inadequate bike racks at the station, where it was hopelessly squashed under a pile of others and took what felt like 10 minutes to extricate
Oh yes, I 've brought a complaint form home to fill in.