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The life and times of james Hart: his family, his music, life in Luton and his occasional escapes onto the internet.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2004

this service will be delayed for...

It's not very often I catch a train. Today, though, I placed myself at the mercy of various train operators to journey from Luton (Airport Parkway) to Birmingham (New Street). I was most impressed with the swiffy train I first clambered upon, having huffed and puffed the twenty minutes of half-running stumble to the station. It was air-conditioned, with a pointy front (and back), electric doors, metallic windows, a mains socket for my laptop and inexplicable green lights along the floor. I should, on reflection, have sat in the seat automatically reserved for me by The Train Line, but the train was almost deserted, so I found a table.

Leicester in the drizzle - under normal circumstances a ten minute wait for a change of train would mean I'd not venture further than the platform or - at worst - the concourse which inevitably is up some mucky steps. My connection, however, had been delayed for the best part of forty minutes, so I escaped the early 20th century architecture of the station (which seemed to extend halfway through the high street, dismally covering the belching taxis) and followed signs for the city centre. I felt a bit like Bill Bryson, as I had nothing to do save open my eyes and take in the walls, windows, wandering folk of the place, but I couldn't help but be critical of the 'large town' feeling that I used to get on occasional childhood trips to Eastbourne. I wasn't very interested, noting the Wetherspoon, McDonalds and scattering of banks and building societies. There wasn't enough time to seek out the Tourist Information office in an attempt to find Gary Lineker (although there was a dark brown statue of Thomas Cook standing outside the station) before I trudged back through the subway to catch the (further delayed, two carriage, jam-packed, chuntering) train.

Birmingham seemed half-built and appeared to have a pedestrian precinct on a big plinth. What a great idea. The Mailbox was huge, too, and the internals were swanky and open plan. I rushed around for a few hours, and had to hurry back for the train at 6pm, having arrived so tardily. This was also delayed - only for twenty-five minutes this time - enough to cause a platform alteration and subsequent throng of weary passengers jockeying for position where they thought the doors might be.

Fortunately there was a pointy Midland Mainline train leaving Leicester quite soon after we arrived; it went to the main Luton station, which made for a longer walk home, but at least it left (pretty much) on time. As far as the travel goes, I remember experiencing much the same extremes of comfort (where Thameslink's stinky carriages met the exquisite whirr of the Brighton line) on my last trip. How some companies can be consistently late and rubbish, while others are punctual and swiffy is beyond me. I'd write a letter, but I really can't be bothered.

So I shall simply avoid doing it too often. That would do it.

Posted by james at October 12, 2004 10:45 PM

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