Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Joys of Rail Travel 2016

An Eventful Run from to Shoreham-by-Sea
The first crisis developed on Thursday last towards the end of the first stage of the journey; as the fbb's approached Clapham Junction en route with SouthWest Trains from Axminster.
Oh, dear, what can the matter be,
One old lady was locked in the lavat'ry,
She was there from Woking 'til latterly,
But somebody knew she was there.

fbb hears his mobile ring
His old lady was locked in and panicking,
"Come right now, some help you must bring",
Said fbb, "I will be there!".

Her unmoving door just kept her abiding,
Her fear of entrapment was quite over-riding.
fbb got there, he got the door sliding,
And rescued his dear wife from there.
Now, readers should be aware that Mrs fbb does not trust these new-fangled push button slidey door "facilities". SouthWest Trains 159 units have one "accessible" toilet per three car until. Accessible is a daft epthet; you wouldn't want a loo that was inaccessible, would you? And a "disabled" toilet is equally unhelpful, semantically!

Be that as it may, Mrs fbb's fears can operate like a fear of dogs. The animals sense it and become more terrifying. Thus it was with the technology of SWTs not very "accessible" WC. Having used the facility, she could not make good her escape!

But, ever resourceful, she phoned fbb who was three rows of seats and a door away. fbb lept into uncharacteristic action, skipped to the loo; inserted fingers in the rubber grommet and hauled the door to an open position; a second burst of relief for the Mrs!

The next visitor had to abandon his errand as he prodded the "open" button to no avail and had rush cross-legged to the other tediously old-school cubicle in the next carriage; but fbb's later visit to his good lady wife's unscheduled entombment location went without a hitch.

But the fun (?) started at Clapham Junction. The official schedule was staightforward ...
... but a check first thing on the morning of departure revealed that there was a problem.

The problem was/is Southern Railway (a Go-not-very-Ahead company) and its guards.

Reduced service on some Southern routes

Southern services continue to be severely affected by train crew availability including a high level of conductor sickness. This is leading to a reduced service on a number of routes.

Although Southern would not be allowed to say it; much of this "sicknes" is utterly fake. There is an on-going long-tern dispute between Southern and its guards (aka conductors). Rather than call a strike they call in sick. It is a clever plan of dubious morality, but succeeds in being utterly disruptive.

It is not practical to replace every cancelled service with a bus replacement and in many cases it will be most appropriate to wait for the next train that is running. This may mean longer delays at stations awaiting the next service.

We strongly advise that before you leave for the station you visit the live departure boards page of our website to check your journey. Live departure boards and the journey planner at will be updated to reflect service amendments as soon as they are known.

Which, of course, could be five minutes before departure!

And indeed the fbb's 1353 to Shoreham-by-Sea ...
... was shown as cancelled before the happy couple left their mansion at Seaton. Not to worry, the ever helpful journey planner advised a 1356 to Brighton and a local along the coast to Shoreham arriving only 9 minutes later than the original schedule.


To help make things more predictable, a small number of train services will be pre-cancelled each day. We believe this will reduce the number of short-notice cancellations we have to make.  A list of the services which have been pre-cancelled is available here. 

Many of the pre-cancelled trains are culled from the frequent local services from Brighton to (guess where) Shoreham-by-Sea etc!

Challenging snippet. Why is the picture above, supposedly of fbb's wait at Clapham Junction palpably not a genuine photo from their journey? Answer later.

But everything from Platform 13 was running late. Ominous. Whilst the former Southern Region runs a remarkably tight ship, it only takes a minor hiccup to throw the whole lot into disarray. The fbb's original train (due 1353) pulled in at 1359.


But it was only going to Ore. 


Because of "staff shortages" (see above) the bit of the train that splits at Haywards Heath and continues to Shoreham and Littlehampton ...
... was goiug to Ore instead. Ore be where there are sidings, just beyond Hastings.

But the 1356 to Brighton was next in to Platform 13.
Southern's timetables make a valiant attempt to show the deep and unfathomable mysteries of their activity and the table above is headed "Haywards Heath to Brighton and London". Which is why it shows fbb's 1356 from Clapham Junction which doesn't stop at Haywards Heath. (Pause to gibber quietly in the corner). But it also shows fbb's cancelled 1353 as two separate trains, going to Lewes (and on to Ore) or Hove (and on to Shoreham and Littlehampton); but you have to look elsewhere for the full details. (Time for another gibber).

Anyway the 1356 was six minutes late at the Junction and eight minutes late at East Croydon but trundling onwards quite happily.

Until it came to a shuddering stop. fbb should have guessed the rest. Instead of telling all and sundry where the nest stop was, the little scrolling dots in the carriage went something like this:-

      Due to a track fault at Horley      
      passengers may use their tickets    
       on Metrobus Fastrack route 100     
   between Redhill and Gatwick Airport    
 between 1000 and 1500 (updated at 1256). 

It is possible that regular users of the line might understand what that message meant and why, but to fbb it was a complete mystery - although he did know the Fastrack 100 having Fas Tracked (or even Fast Racked) on it in the past.

The train crawled to Horley (it would have been even nicer to travel crawly to Crawley!) and continued to crawl to Gatport Airwick while Thameslink and Gatwick Express trains zoomed by at high speed on the other tracks. Thus we were 30 minutes late at Horley.

No 3 son rang. "I will pick you up at Burgess Hill," was his joyous offer, "you don't want to try the locals from Brighton, they are just crazy."

Which they were, with approximately half of the ten minute frequency cancelled.

So at about the time we should have arrived at Shoreham-by-Sea our limo pulled into the car park at Burgess Hill and, thankfully, our journey was completed in comparative sanity.

Hey-ho. The joys of rail travel in 2016.
And how would you know the platform 13 scene above was an old photo, and not snapped as fbb passed through.

Direction signs, hitherto in white on dark blue ...
... have been replaced by much clearer black on yellow. fbb thought he had photographed one or two, but apparently his phone had not "clicked" and the best he can manage is this bit of one.
See the sign for "lift", upper left. The "which platform" signs ...
... have also gone black on yellow.

These new signs are a vast improvement. All you need to do now, folks, is sort out your guards/conductors.
The planned "model" part of this blog is postponed.

 Next commercial vehicle (?) blog : Monday 13th June 


  1. The Southern schenanigans should enable a claim on the company's Delay Repay scheme - 50% back of the leg concerend for journeys 30-59 minutes late.

  2. There are also accusations that some of the sickness is faked by Southern to pass the buck for normal staff shortages.

  3. Thanks anon. According to No 3 son, the whole of Southern is in an appalling mess. There are moves (now at MP level) to remove the franchise from GoAhead.

    That would be tricky as it is now part of the mega Thameslink block.