2 hours, forty miles, you do the maths.

This morning the train was working but the track was broken. Rubbernecking up the train line, as the passenger information system entered an electronic sulk some months ago, there was a complete lack of train shaped objects emerging from the pre-dawn gloom.

Then the flat distorted tones of the PA system informed us that a “major points failure at Amersham has suspended all southbound services indefinitely”. Only train companies and BBC announcers use this type of syntax – is there a school they go to? My fellow commuters remained unmoved on the platform even after a further announcement suggested re-routing via High Wycombe or Rejavik.

Sensing something afoot, I awaited further news which wasn’t long in coming. Alledgedly the “major points failure” was now magically fixed and the next train would be along as soon as the driver had finished his breakfast. We all shuffled forward to the platform edge, in the manner of lemmings facing a bit of cliff action, before old “flat-tones” on the PA cheerfully announced the points were, in fact, still broken and London bound services would resume sometime in the Spring.

Statuesque is the only word I can use to describe the platform dwellers. A slight shuffle back, a collective sigh, a squint at their watches in the grimy yellow platform lights and then… nothing.

Five minutes later the train arrived.

I’m not sure which is more worrying, Chiltern Railway’s inability to maintain a key part of the rail infrastructure or the fact that they aren’t sure if it’s broken.

We trundled off with all the speed required to hunt down a lettuce arriving some twenty minutes later at Amersham. Twenty minutes later we were still at Amersham, the train doors having opened and remained open. There was no communication from the driver so I assumed he’d alighted (another great railway term) for a spot of light shopping. Abandoned with no prospect of rescue, squeezed together like 300 unhappy frankfurters in a tin, we endured the indeterminable delay with stoicism and snuffling.

Having completed his retail therapy, the driver informed us we’d be calling at all stations to Marylebone including some “hidden” ones I’d never heard of. The train shuddered into life igniting brief hopes of arriving in London on the same day we’d departed before, such hopes as they were, being crushed at Pinner. A further 20 minutes gazing listlessly at the architectural masterpiece that is Pinner high street on a moist, gray winter’s morning must constitute a flagrant breach of my human rights. Continuing on this theme, I mused if a trial in the Hague could be convened for railway executives under the remit of a “War Crimes” jurisdiction.

Now – in spite of our genetic programming not to grumble – there was a low background rumble of discontent which is the ground state of a Chiltern Railways passenger. That and the instantly recognisable knurled thumb, hunched posture and runny eyes of the addicted Crackberryâ„¢ user. Others have been weaned off onto internal memos and printed emails but they’re not cured – snatching lustful glances at Satan’s communicator in the aisle opposite.

My only – legal – outlet for mounting frustration would be an old school letter to the appropriate amorphous entity allegedly responsible for complaints. I speak of course of Chiltern Railway’s customer services department. The customer services team (sic) is a bit of a misnomer since they don’t care about their customers and have no concept of service. Still we have come to an arrangement – I send them letters advancing reasonable arguments viz a viz running a railroad and they throw them into the bin unread.

Failing that, it’s all going to go a bit Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” and I shall be laying about me using that proven man management tool loosely described as “A stick with a big nail in it”.

Chiltern Railways again apologised for any inconvenience they may have caused by extending a 50 minute train journey beyond two hours and I responded by attempting to pick a two wheeled fight with innocent pedestrians and other road users. Traffic lights, tourists, lane drifters and even traffic wardens were all treated with the same aggressive disdain. If I’d been able to unleash the tool of war of my crazed imaginings, a good part of London and it’s inhabitants would have been flattened.

I’m treating this like a test. At some point I shall receive a certificate and possibly a small prize commending me for my patience and fortitude in the face of prolonged railway incompetence.

At least I hope that’s going to happen. Otherwise I’m outing the stick and to hell with the consequences!

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