It’s just not fare

A train going nowhere fast.

“Why you no book online?” asks an idiotically contrived poster on my morning train. I’m sadly familiar with it. It’s positioned above the door I’m always stood next to due to there never being an empty seat. The character on the poster is clearly inspired by Nacho Libre. Cape, spandex, dodgy facial hair, the lot.

Why anyone would like a Jack Black film enough to imitate it is beyond me. Along with why the train company in question feels the need to use ill-judged ‘humour’ with its eternally bewildered customers.

The character is called Loco. That’s right, Loco, ‘crazy’. Are they saying that’s what we are for travelling with them? I pay a couple of hundred quid every month for this dubious privilege and recently learned that my train fare is going to rise by 6.2% in January. So that’s good.

Every year the prices go up with no obvious sign of improvement to the service. People are forced to stand, trains are often late and the excuses for this tardiness vary from station to station. That said, the “tea, coffee, crisps” people now have mini television screens in the back of their trolleys to show what the overpriced snacks they’re selling should actually look like.

Maybe that’s where the extra money we’re paying out is going. Seeing as the new trains we’ve been promised for next year aren’t likely to materialise on the line I use, I’ve been thinking about how the money could be spent to benefit those on my train.

Staff training would be a good start. I’ll point out first that some of them are fantastic and can’t do enough to help you. Others, however, are sadly lacking in basic manners or diplomacy. I was on a train that hit someone a few months ago.

Within 20 minutes, a member of staff was wandering around in a matter-of-fact way telling already-upset people that “the body is under the bridge” and that we wouldn’t be on our way again until the people with the horrible job of investigating had ascertained that there weren’t “any moving bits on the front of the train.”

He prefaced the latter with “I’m not being funny, but…” That has to be the most crass understatement I’ve ever heard. He’s not likely to get a job at the United Nations any time soon.

Neither are certain staff at certain stations who think it’s their job to supply you with attitude rather than tickets. One actually had a go at me once for commenting to someone else in the queue that they could do with opening a second ticket window. How very dare I!

They may also want to consider spending the money on recruiting people without designs on becoming Formula 1 drivers for when the inevitable rail replacement bus season arrives. If you ever want to be scared, don’t bother watching a horror film or going on a rollercoaster.

Try making a ‘simple’ train journey in rural Sussex on a Sunday or a normal day in which there may be leaves/snow/bullshit on the line. You’ll be put on a bus with someone who drives it as if they stole it. A white-knuckle ride guaranteed.

Alternatively, they could just spend it all on a no-expense-spared Christmas party for the top brass whose splendid fare-based decision making clearly warrants such reward…


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