Archives for posts with tag: Public Transport

I’ve been travelling on Irish trains for 10 or 15 years. On the whole they’re reasonably comfortable and reasonably reliable, and quite expensive, perhaps because there’s a lot of fixed assets to maintain and a lot of staff mouths to feed. It being a state body, I imagine there’s a quite a lot of fat on the business that can’t be easily trimmed.

Irish Rail trains have these automated train announcements for their inter-city routes. The announcements come on at various points in the journey. I thought they were perhaps driven by GPS, so that when the train was a certain distance from a station, this triggered the ‘in a couple of minutes we’ll be in X’ announcement, and so on.

I don’t now think this is the case, because the announcements have been coming in at oddest the times, for quite a while. Recently I was on a Dublin-to-Galway service that was announcing we were coming to the various stops before we got to them – which is good – while we were at them – not so good – and after we had left them – not good at all.

Also, Irish Rail would do well to listen to the announcements of other operators like Gobus, whose messages are much more friendly and positive rather than negative. Irish Rail announcements have rather too much ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’ about them. What’s wrong with saying ‘please avoid sitting in pre-booked seats’ or ‘please keep your feet off seats for the next passenger’? It’s less negative and conveys the same request. Theirs comes across as a bit semi-state and antiquated to my mind.

Finally, before I fall off my soap box, there are ticker tape-style notices on each carriage which display what the audio announcements say. On one of them, there has been a typo – an extra space like this  ‘please do not put your  feet on seats – for years and years. It must appear on every train, on every route in the country. You can’t tell me no member of Irish Rail staff has never noticed it and thought to get it fixed? It’s the detail that counts in the service business.

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Work and public transport don’t really play nice, do they? At least in rural Ireland, as I discovered to my cost the other day.

I needed to go and see the company that was doing the accounts for my limited company and for me and her ladyship as individuals. We only keep one car between us, and as MGL (aka My Good Lady) needed it to go further than me, into Galway city, I decided that I would use my legs, combined with public transport to go from my town, to the neighbouring town for the meeting, a mere 15km away.

Now I say town, but by English standards these would be 2 villages, with about 3 and 5 thousand people respectively in them. Although I don’t think there’s a bus service between the 2 places, on paper it was easy: walk to the train station, take a 10 minute train journey, and walk to the company’s office for a 2pm meeting.

I ambled down to my local station with the insouciance of a man on a day’s holiday, and collected my pre-booked ticket from the machine. So far so good. My train was an inter-city train, and my destination was the one stop before the train’s final destination.

The train was half an hour late. Apparently a train had problems earlier in the day and all subsequent services were backed up. This had the effect of depositing me at my destination station at 2pm, the time I needed to be at my meeting. This train station used to be located right in the town, but 5 or 10 years ago had been rebuilt in a new location which was – literally – in the middle of nowhere. It was laughable. It was almost as if the location had been picked precisely for its maximum inconvenience. No-one except those with oodles of time on their hands could do anything but drive to the station to use it.

A half hour’s walk later I was at the office for my meeting, 2:30 instead of 2pm. Fortunately it was a nice day, and double fortunately I was able to put my meeting back. What struck me, however, was how difficult it would be to work or run a business where I live without a car. Public transportation here is too unreliable and too skeleton, not does it make financial sense for the powers that be to lay on more of a service.

I don’t have the answer. I do have an answer, which is that work and public transport don’t mix well. Not until we move to a society where you can pick up a driverless car or a Coke Car locally, rather like a Coke Bike, and leave it at a handy communal destination. For now though, 90 minutes from door to door to go 15 km does not go…

As a frequent visitor to England’s capital city, I’m a regular user of public transport. Planes, trains, tubes, buses; I hardly ever take a cab. A 1-day ‘travelcard’ allows me to use public transport all over Greater London.

I generally stay in the south-west or south of the city centre, so when I’m heading into central London I’m on the train to the giant termini of Waterloo or London Bridge station respectively, before venturing into the heart of the beast.

This is fortunate for me, because there is a rather splendid bus service called the 521. The 521 goes from Waterloo to London Bridge in a kind of upturned ashtray shape, passing Waterloo Bridge, Holborn, Cannon Street and London Bridge. Then it loops around and goes back from London Bridge to Waterloo, before repeating the process, all day.

What I find about big cities is that generally the bus is the mode of transport you get to know the last, but it’s often the most rewarding.

At rush hour there can be hundreds of people politely queuing for the service from Waterloo, yet the buses come back to back and hoover up 500 or so people every 10 minutes. From London Bridge, the queues are not as deep, and you also have the majestic splendour of the Shard to distract you as you wait around 3 minutes maximum for a bus. The views from the bus, as you can imagine, are spectacular, and you also get the buzz from being right in the teeth of the city and amongst the people, which you never truly experience on the train or in the soulless bowels of the underground. It’s a truly great way to see the city while getting from A to B, or from B to C.

If I was a bus driver I think I would like delivering the 521 service.