Not So Great British Rail

Some fine flawed logic from the train station staff on this drizzly Monday morning that really helped start the week on a high…

Arrive at the station. Shooting for 07.15 train from platform 2.

Confidence level in it being there on time: 95%. Probability of getting a seat: 90%

*Announcement* “The 07.15 train to Clapham Junction has been cancelled due to signal failure. The next train will be the 07.24 service from platform 1”.

Around half the people waiting simultaneously groan, shake their head, and trudge up the stairs like penguins. Penguins destined for platform 1.

Confidence level of it being on time: 60%. Probability of getting a seat: 30%.

We wait at platform 1. Shifting our eyes to check which fellow commuters possess the speed and athleticism required to win the battle for any spare seat. You look for weak points; people carrying an extra bag, people balancing a cup of coffee, or anyone with a limp – these are your prey. Play yourself against these weaklings and your chance of buttock comfort increases ten-fold.

*Announcement* “The 07.24 service to Clapham Junction has also been cancelled due to signal failure. The next train will be the 07.44 service from platform 2.”

What?! Is that the same signal failure which meant the train 9 minutes beforehand was cancelled? Did they assume they’d have sorted it out in record breaking speed?

This time, everyone groans. One guy even lost control of his inner monologue and let out a loud and drawn-out, “fuck my life”. He was clearly hurting the most.

So, it’s 07.40 and we’re huddled on platform 2. It is absolute game-time at the station. I’ve positioned myself between a middle aged woman with a probable affinity for confectionary and baked goods – and a man with an unreasonably large briefcase and a new looking pair of leather shoes which I’m sure have given him blisters with all this toing-and-froing. I didn’t have time to work out their BMI, but I felt confident I had this.

As we poise, another train is cancelled. This time it’s the one to Waterloo. The reason? Signal failure of course. Jeez, if only someone had seen this coming – some kind of sign – like, you know, every other train being cancelled.

Still, we remain confident in the train staff sending us back and forth between platforms, and we stand together at platform 2. United-yet-unsociable.

Confidence level of train being on time: 20%. Probability of getting a seat: 10%.

I looked to my right and saw commuters with their eyes narrowed. Yikes. They’d finished their coffees so they were now enjoying heightened focus and a burn-risk free run for a seat. With renewed energy levels thanks to the fresh intake of caffeine, these were Ladbrokes favourites to land their buttocks on stray seats.

I looked to my left and I saw the “fuck my life” guy. He was beaten. He’d loosened his tie and was already looking disheveled. It was 07.43 and he’d already lost. He knew he had. You could tell from the despair in his eye he was about to have the worst day of his life. He was showing weakness. The pack of hungry commuters were going to focus on him, anyone who has ever seen a David Attenborough ‘African wildlife’ documentary knows what I mean by this.

As we all begin to flair our elbows to protect our territory, the train arrives. At this point, no one is respecting the authority of the yellow line. People are actually letting the train graze their face – contemplating clinging onto a door handle as it moves past them in order to secure priority entry.

I knew my spot. Just outside the coffee stand, one yard to the left of the of the advertising board. I was confident. The train stopped. I was 3 yards out. But I made it. I was one of the lucky few.

As I sat down, the train began to move off once more. I let out a relieved sigh and looked out of the window at those who didn’t make it. I saw “fuck my life” guy just standing there, staring into abyss and puffing out his cheeks. He was thinking what we all were – if this is a Great British Rail service, then I’m loathed to see what their regular service is like.

On the plus side to all this I’ve had plenty of time to ponder on this and pretty much bagged a half day off work. Every cloud.

Sophie x