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Tales from the rails: my life as a commuter

PUBLISHED: 14:34 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:57 12 April 2019

The Secret Commuter

The Secret Commuter

Archant

I'm sorry to announce… An occasional column from the diary of a twice weekly off-peak First-Class commuter from (very) rural Suffolk to the throbbing Metropolis.

As usual for a Monday morning, the front-end of the platform at Ipswich station has a clutch of glum travellers who, not wanting or needing to do rush-hour, prefer the Bourgeios luxury of a free cuppa as off-peak First-Class travellers.

Riding First Class, of course, does not get anyone there faster, nor shelter us from the same experiences. We simply pay more for it – for reasons even we cannot fathom.

With more and more casualties from the peak hours services being carted off, gibbering and ranting, to the (illusionary) Beeching Memorial Home for Incurable Commuters – of course the conversation among the veterans is largely about the collective insanity that is known as the Greater Anglian railway.

Incidents of delays, cancellations and malfunctions are so common we all board the train equipped with a 1000-yard stare and a big measure of Dunkirk Spirit – no mixer.

Late arrivals in offices are no longer even mentioned. Vital business meetings are never planned without at least a two-hour safety margin and endless excuses from the operator now form an unofficial bookies’ list of odds.

Aha, says one regular – a semi-retired solicitor - second-guessing the cause of this morning’s minor delay. Slow-Moving Freight Train is 11/10. Apparently, the previous favourite Over-running Engineering Works, has been displaced as favourite and the odds have widened to 7/4.

Regrettably no explanation is audible since the train’s PA system is turned down to a mumble. The book thus remains open.

Are we proud of our masochistic Odyssey each week or day, depressed at our lack of wit or simply so punch-drunk we shuffle along like forgotten fighters who went on too long?

Please feel free to chip in and discuss.

The diary of contemporaneous notes is as follows:

Thursday, 7 February 1430h from Liverpool St to Ipswich – train on time, connection to Lowestoft on time. No coffee machine. Happily at this time of day one can salve one’s anxiety with the application of Adnams and mini-Cheddars.

Monday 11 Feb 0909h. Ipswich to Liverpool Street. Two cancellations (broken down train at Chelmsford (6/4)). Very crowded, it leaves at 0921. The exterior of the train is as filthy as the 1970s. Obviously, with no seat reservations, the mood is fractious, well above the normal atmosphere First Class level of ‘a bit miffed’.

Thursday 14 Feb – 1430h. Officious ticket inspector notices hapless but obviously very busy passenger has missed the 1400h and requires her to buy a new ticket for £105. There are six people in the First Class compartment. Consolingly, however, the train is on time.

Monday 18 Feb – 0909h. Arrives Ipswich 0913 and Liverpool Street eight minutes late. No quiet coach. No explanation given.

Friday February 22 – 1200h from Liverpool Street. Leaves on time, arrives at Ipswich on-time. Marvellous. 1317h connection to Lowestoft refuses to start and is cancelled at the start line at 1335. Elderly passengers decline to bump start the two-carriage train. Pick-up missed. Cab home £40.

Monday February 25. 0909h arrives on time. No issues. However, all is not lost, it stops at Forest Gate and creeps into Liverpool Street 10 minutes late. No explanation given.

Friday March 1. Liverpool Street to Ipswich. The 0900 has been cancelled due to a broken down train at Manningtree. The 0930, says the Scoreboard of Doom, is delayed. But then it pulls in, we all pile in huffing and puffing and we leave at 0933. Connection to Lowestoft at 1117 is on time.

Monday March 4. Ipswich to Liverpool Street. 0909 leaves on time. But there’s no coffee because the machine’s broken. Still, it arrives only 4 minutes late, pulling it 1023.

Tune in again soon for more exciting Tails from the Rails

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