Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Rail Fare Madness

I was looking at fares today for trains between Southampton and Carmarthen.  I know that fares in this country are complicated, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything this bad before.

Looking at travel from the suburb of Swaythling, if I travel at 12.43 it will cost me £31.60, on a ‘turn up and go’ ticket.  If I travel an hour later, it will cost me £51.90, simply because the train takes a different route (even though the journey time is similar).  Waiting for the next train another hour later will save me money because the standard fare is back to £31.60 – but I can get an Advance fare for just £12.55.

Airport Parkway has more trains and so I thought I might get more choice of Advance fares.  Apparently not, however.  Despite being further up the line (with a bus fare of £2), the cheapest ticket *on the same train* to Carmarthen is not £12.55 but £61.70.

That’s an expensive walk or bus ride…

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I’m in love with my car

So goes the Queen song, penned by drummer Roger Taylor.  Don’t ever say that he lacks lyrical genius.

Anyway, I’m doing a bit of research in to transport in the US, and as I ponder America’s love affair with the car, I have come across some classic quotes.


“the automobile is the handiest tool ever devised for the pursuit of that unholy, unwholesome, all-American trinity of sex, speed and status.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian recently reported that there are signs that the love affair is coming to an end.  This has not proven popular with one commentator, who advises

“you must NOT publish articles like this!!

Don't you realize that this could trigger the current US regime to mandate that people must buy more cars! The current (disastrous) draft healthcare legislation should give you a hint of what could come:-

"US non-car owners to face stiff fines"

"Mandatory car replacement legislation, US car owners must purchase new vehicles every 3 years or face jail!!" “

Of course, the US Government have a clear record of being influenced by The Guardian.  Maybe the way to achieve world domination is to become a left-wing British newspaper columnist…

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cost of Travel (2)

Yesterday evening I went to visit a friend in Poole – and I had a lovely time doing so.

However, the return journey has given me an excuse to indulge in a railway related rant.  Maybe that’s music to your ears (I haven’t had one in a little while, after all) but I hope you’ll otherwise bear with me.

The (hourly) trains in the evening seem to stop at every house, farmyard and stable in the New Forest, so I had plenty of time to watch the world go by.  I must have somehow missed the throng of people alighting and embarking at Pokesdown (“for Boscombe”) but I was able to familiarise myself thoroughly with the list of scheduled calling points.  The bustling metropolis of Hinton Admiral was, of course, on the list, as was the large Hampshire town of Micheldever.  In fact, the train was due to stop at every station on the line…except St Denys and Swaythling.

You might be thinking that this makes no sense, but compared with the busy streets of Shawford, the Southampton suburbs pale in to insignificance.  I’m glad that SouthWest Trains considered the needs of the majority onboard the empty train and have cut unnecessary stops from the timetable.  After all, the number of stops meant that the train was due in Waterloo two hours after leaving Southampton Airport, so it’s good that they saved a minute or two.  I was more than happy to speed past my house and have a long walk back* in aid of the Greater Good.

Despite my overflowing joy, however, if you come across someone from SouthWest Trains I’d be grateful if you would force them to sit on a train which stops everywhere except at the most convenient station for them.  Such torture might be more effective than water-boarding, and if nothing else may encourage them to get as far as looking up “Customer Service” in the dictionary.

Two days ago I reported that the Transport Research Group have discovered that “taking the train might be cheaper than driving.”  Like lopping off you big toe, or buying a Daewoo Matiz, however, cheap does not necessarily mean cheerful.


*to be fair, I could have waited 40 minutes for a connecting train.  Or pushed the boat out and reduced my wait to 30 minutes by buying a bus ticket.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Cost of Travel

Although rail travel is generally seen as being quite expensive, some research just published by the TRG (Transport Research Group) in Southampton seems to suggest that it may be cheaper than driving.

Interesting…though I shall wait until I have seen a proper copy of the published work, and understood the methodology and limitations of the study before I pass comment.

Friday, August 06, 2010

It’s an upside down world

Normally if your car was clambered on and smashed by thugs, you might consider calling the police.  What the heck does one do in this situation?


Rent-A-Thug.  Freephone 999 now!

Monday, August 02, 2010

I had the best laid plans this side of America

So, last weekend was ‘the weekend I actually went to Cambridge.’  As opposed to ‘the weekend I didn’t go to Cambridge,’ which was unfortunate but is now water under the bridge.

Whilst I was there, I had the pleasure of seeing various friends and on Saturday evening I was on a bus in to town to meet someone for a drink.  As the bus passed the end of his road I thought I would give him a call to see if I should get off the bus early and walk the remainder of the way.

“Hello?” said the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hi!" I said, in a manner which suggested that my friend would have seen my name on his mobile and know it was me.  “I was just wondering…”

“Hello?” came the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hi!” I said again, assuming that the noise of the people on the bus had drowned me out first time.

“Who is this?”

At this point I started to become a little confused. It didn’t sound like my friend, come to think of it – I’d blamed the background noise, but now I wasn’t so sure.  My mind raced, wondering if he was with someone else and had passed the phone to them, for some reason.

It’s…er…James,”  I stammered.

Maybe my friend was putting on a funny voice, I thought.  It certainly sounded as though the person on the other end of the phone was deliberately over-pronouncing things.

Anyway, in the heat of the moment I went for the ‘someone else has answered the phone’ theory and said “can I speak to Tom, please?

I think you’ve got the wrong number,” came the response, and I heard someone else in the background. Yes, this was definitely a wind-up and that was his girlfriend giggling away.

Meanwhile I paused, slightly panicked.  If I hung up and then had to call Tom back I would have found it very embarrassing.  But it was all very convincing, and I couldn’t bring myself to say something like “very funny, Tom.”  It was like a game of chicken.  Who was going to cave first?

I did.  I broke the silence.

Maybe I have got the wrong number,” I said, slowly, carefully, uncertainly.  This was Tom’s moment to laugh, to give the game away, and to answer my question before the bus passed his stop.  But there was nothing, so I followed it up with “I’ll go then, bye.”

I hung up, and considered ringing him back. 

And then I realised that my phonebook had gone awry and I’d not called his mobile, but his landline.  The one at his old house.

Embarrassment set in, even though the person I spoke to has no idea who I am, and I swiftly took steps to delete the landline number….


6pm. Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge.  I have alighted from the bus and am waiting for my friend Tom.  I don’t know if I am in the right place or not, and I have just deleted all his contact details from my phone.