Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh goody–a trip on the train to London–not!

Friday, 15th April: Despite it being Poet’s day I was not going to be finishing early, I had a lunchtime meeting in London and then had to get back to Cambridge for afternoon meetings.  I pretty much always cycle to the Railway station it is so much more pleasant. Mind you that pleasure is generally offset by the difficulty you can have in finding somewhere to lock up your bike.

In fact I think that it has got worse, every now and then they take away bikes that seem to have been abandoned, yet despite that it is always quite tricky and time-consuming finding a place to lock up my bike. 

The other complaint I have about the trains is how crowded they can get on this “popular” commuter route.  Still I was not having to travel during the rush hour and it was the School Easter holidays. Also as I was only popping down to London for a short time it meant I could leave my bike with Station cycles. They have bike and luggage storage facilities. Generally I find myself returning to Cambridge after they have closed and so can’t leave my bike with them – this time it was no problem.

As I cycled into the station the car park seemed surprisingly empty, or at least one bit of it. There were loads of car spaces. I think this is a sign of the School Holidays, so hopefully the train would not be too busy.  I have not had to commute to London for a while, at one stage I was commuting two days a week. Then, the over-crowding was awful, especially further down the line.  During the day there are direct non-stopping trains between London and Cambridge but during peak hours the trains slow down and stop a couple of times on the way. It seemed to me that those further down were very lucky if they got a seat, even in First Class.  Coming back it was even worse. In fact it used to get so bad I would work late into the evening and catch a less busy train.

Whilst I am moaning, the other issue is that the trains seem to have gotten slower. My mental picture is that during the day, between the peak hours the direct trains run at quarter to and quarter past the hour and take 45 minutes to make the journey.  Except that the trains down now leave at 10 minutes to the hour and take 50 minutes. Which throws all my timings out of the window. The trains coming back are a little faster and still stick to the quarter past timings fortunately.

One improvement I’ve seen is that the National Rail Time table now seems to publish platform numbers. It used to be that the passengers would gather and then at some late point not long before the train was due to leave, the platform number would appear and there would be an almighty rush – woe betide women and children.

One of the good things about using Station cycles is that I can wheel my bike in, hand it over, not bother about removing lights and stuff and then nip off to the Station. (It costs me £1.50 for a day’s cycle parking (or should that be part-day). The slightly larger building with the red door is Station Cycles – well the back of Station Cycles the entrance is around the front.

What a surprise there was actually a space in the cycle racks opposite Station cycles. You do see all sorts of bikes and you can see someone has also left his/her helmet – carrying it around London is too much faff.

Just next to the cycles locked up in the previous picture – a whole bunch that are locked but lying against the wall.  That is how desperate people get when cycling in to catch a train.

The cycle parking area in front of the station. There is a Taxi “rank” to the right. This was as usual jam-packed with bikes. Judging from the number of bikes versus the number of cars it would seem that far more Cambridge people who use the train cycle than drive. The flaw in that argument is that quite a lot of these bikes are not used on a daily basis during the working week.

One of the issues is that car drivers are probably wealthier and the coast of parking is an increment of their other driving costs. (petrol, car tax, insurance, maintenance). for a cyclists even a charge of say £1.50 a day is a significant percentage of their other cycling-related costs. This makes it much harder to get an economic system in place with decent provision for cycle parking – cycling sponges cannot be squeezed as much as motoring sponges.

I rather liked the way the new leaves on the trees looked – like dabs of green twinkling in the air.

Whilst waiting for the train I took a picture of the Tony Carter bridge – quite a decent construction for us humble cyclists and pedestrians. There are plans afoot to build some new platforms in the middle as well – then it will be a proper station.

Despite my hope that the train would not be too busy I was completely wrong. It was packed and I ended up standing for the entire journey down to London. Where I was the entire carriage was packed  with people standing in the aisles and entrance ways. I used the face recognition software on my camera to wait until no-one was looking at me before it took the picture. (NOT)

Ah well at least the train was running on time. Look here are all the happy customers enjoying their morning.

I did get a seat on the train back to Cambridge and it was so pleasant cycling through Cambridge in the pleasant weather to my next meeting that I didn’t begrudge the lack of Poet’s day. In fact the meeting turned out very well thanks to some excellent work (not mine).

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