Nightmare journey! Courtesy of Virgin Trains

Got the to train from Glasgow to Coventry the other day. I got to the train station at 7:30 am, got on an early train…only for it to go nowhere for 2hrs! Finally, they came on the intercom on told the entire train (which now due to the delays consisted of the passengers from 2-3 trains) to decant and hurry over to Motherwell where the train would now be leaving from. We all had to rush off and squeeze on to a commuter train (at the back end of the rush hour!). After a bit of a wait on an overcrowded Motherwell platform, we were off again, on a train that looked suspiciously like the one we’d left behind in Glasgow Central….suggesting that the reason why it hadn’t left for two hours was due to some box ticking H & S malarkey…or because they couldn’t be bothered to fork out the extra cash to get maintenance done on a weekend!

Anyway, I then received conflicting instructions, one lot told me to stay on the train and get off at Wolverhampton, the other said, get off at Carlisle, which I got just as the train was pulling into the station. Ran off the train, and only realised as it was pulling away that I’d left behind my laptop bag on board!

Anyway, the train for next leg of my journey shows up, I was told to change trains at Warrington (another guy on the train in a similar predicament and been told the train would stop at Stafford, but it sailed on thro). Then I was supposed to get train from there which was supposed to stop at Coventry, but it didn’t go there and instead went straight into London Euston. As this was the likely spot to find my laptop, I decided to go visit Lost and Found, but “we’re lost ourselves” is the best way I can describe the staff there, they were no help!

But there were more useful than Virgin train staff, who won’t let me board the train, and then had the nerve to charge me an extra £26.50 to get to Coventry (even tho I was only there due to their incompetence!). They seem to have a fairly mercenary attitude the Virgin train staff in London, which boils down to “here comes a customer, lets see how much we can stiff him for”. Terrible people! While Deutsche Bahn‘s corporate motto is “travel better by train” I assume Virgin’s is “stand and deliver! You’re money or you’re life”

That night I was sick, likely due to a dodgy sandwich I bought on the train!

Anyway, last time I ever go by Virgin trains again, plan to avoid railways as much as I can now and next time I’m driving to Scotland. The UK train system is now so expensive, so badly run, that its little short of a waste of time. Environmentalist I might be, but I’m also not a mug, and if you use the trains regularly, then you’re a mug! Keen as I am on train travel, the UK’s train system is simply so decrepit and eyewateringly expensive that its become pointless to use it.

I avoid using my name sake airline (Ryanair, no I’m not related in any way to this guys, so don’t bother e-mailing me about the time they lost you’re bags) unless I absolutely have too, because while you can get a good deal from them, when things go wrong, you’re fucked! (I assume that the motto of Ryanair is “what the fuck do you want now”). The train companies, notably Virgin, are essentially offering Ryanair service for British Airways prices. If anything goes wrong with you’re journey, as with Ryanair, you’re well and truly stuffed and the Virgin staff are practically rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of what they can shaft you for. Hence, I see little to be gained from traveling with them. As I’ve previously pointed out, its actually cheaper in many cases in the UK to drive for less than the off peak (nevermind any time) ticket price.

Conditions of Carriage

To those down trodden commuters who feel they have no choice but to take a train (or a bus) I’ve one bit of advice – stand up for you’re rights as specified in the conditions of carriage. In essence when you buy a ticket on public transport you’re essentially entering into an agreement with the rail company to convey you to you’re destination within a reasonable time period. If they fail to complete this in a timely manner you’re entitled to compensation. And of course, if they fail to complete the journey at all (the bus/train breaks down or is somehow cancelled or delayed to the point of making the journey impossible) its basically their responsibility to get you to you’re destination, regardless of what that ultimately ends up costing them (if they have to get you and everyone else on the train to travel 40 miles by taxi, so be it!).

Of course for obvious reasons, staff at many train companies have a habit of developing “selective amnesia” as regards these rights, hence why its important that you apply them. If everyone whose journey was delayed by that cock up in Glasgow the other day claimed compo like I did, then after that happens a couple of times, trains would be delayed a lot less frequently, as the company simply could no longer afford to keep paying out compensation! Of course, the rail companies will try every trick they can to make things difficult. The claims process is bureaucratic (they’ll practically want you to show up with both parents to prove you’ve been born sort of stuff), they’ll loose the odd form (course Royal Mail being a similar bunch of incompetent wasters will often do this job for them), they’ll take months to process it, they’ll misspell you’re name on the compo cheque, every trick they can in the hope you’ll give up and go away. But like I said, stick with it. Enough people do, then things will start to change.

Of course, as I see, the quickest way to bring about change on Britain’s railways is to avoid them altogether and deprived of passengers, just let the whole sorry mess keel over. Then on the wreckage a “proper” railways service can be built in its place. I mean would people in any other part of Europe put up with this combination of overpriced, crowded and unreliable trains? No way! they’d skin ya alive! It would be a resigning issue in many other countries if trains were run this badly.

My laptop loss is playing havoc with me. Its like loosing a limb! Again, I reckon there’s little hope of recovering the laptop as Virgin seem pretty lousy at recovering lost property….although my suspicion is it was likely nicked by one of their staff! While I’ve backed up most of the stuff and now have a new machine up and running, I’ve been too busy the last few weeks to back up stuff, so I’ve lost the best part of two months worth of files. Either way, I suspect next time I go between Glasgow and the Midlands, I’ll be going by bus or driving.

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