Monday, October 17, 2005

The Tunnel Rats

Spent the weekend in London which I found to be very enjoyable apart from the travelling. Travelling from Leicester to Kings Cross is a breeze, an hour and fifteen minutes on a fast train with free tea and coffee or reasonably priced cans of Stella if you wish. The fact that the ticket itself costs nearly forty quid can even be forgotten when the journey is as hassle free as this one. It is on arrival in London that things can, and normally do, go tits up.

I had been warned in advance that the first tube I would normally get on, a southbound Northern Line train from Kings Cross to Bank, would not be running. Apparently a few trains on the Northern Line had randomly driven through red signals earlier in the week and the drivers had walked out, refusing to drive them again until proper safety checks had been carried out. The London Transport explanation was of course "a problem with the signalling system" - just a small understatement there then!!

Always wanting to be on the safe side when travelling in London I then proceeded to check with a member of staff that it was possible to travel from Kings Cross to Bank via the Circle Line. The sensible answer to this question, I later discovered, would have been "No, but you can catch it to Monument and then it's a two minute walk through the station. Instead however I was told "No this isn't possible" and the trained monkey then proceeded to rattle off two alternative routes, the second of which I just managed to make out.

Being sent on a route that is going to take 10-15 minutes extra would not necessarily be a big deal if the tube was a nice way to travel but in fact it is a hot, stinking, filthy and ancient collection of crusty grey tunnels and even crustier, greyer rat like people who ride the thing on a daily basis in an attempt to get to and from work faster than walking. The smell of some people riding the tube can make you want to vomit immediately, especially if you are crammed in a corner with a fat guy exposing his sweaty armpit directly in front of your face as he holds on for dear life.

It took me as long to get from Kings Cross to the Isle of Dogs as it did to get from Leicester to Kings Cross and I had probably travelled less than 5% of the distance. At least the last part of the journey was on the DLR which is, at the moment, cleaner and therefore slightly less offensive. Journeys later in the weekend were just as bad. Over an hour and a half to get to the dog track in Walthamstow from the Isle of Dogs, and another hour and a half journey from the Isle of Dogs back to Kings Cross when I returned to Leicester.

It would be alright for the residents of London if there were a better way to travel but unfortunately the entire public transport system is pretty diabolical. I had to catch a bus on Sunday morning, which at the time of suggestion seemed like a great idea. "Get the bus not the tube" Dave said. "It's quicker and it goes from the end of the road". Within ten seconds of getting on I was regretting my decision as apart from there being no seats, it was extremely hot, and I couldn't see out of a window making it almost impossible to tell whether I was getting close to my destination. Finally escaped the bus at Liverpool Street and caught the tube, again, for half an hour back to the Isle of Dogs feeling hot and sweaty and with my nose full of some disgusting black crap that seems to accumulate the longer you spend on the tube.

So, you might have guessed that my overall opinion of London transport is not a particularly good one, it is just a relief to me that I don't have to use it very often!!

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