Public Transport is Slow, Unreliable, Dirty and Unpleasant
10th Oct 2007, 21:26:21
I sold my car and used only my bicycle and public transport between April and October 2007. This article documents my thoughts on the experience.
The bike was fun. I liked riding it. I did not like the train.
It takes 45 minutes for the train to travel from Stafford to Walsall. This is the same as the average travel time by car. The difference is there is a 10 minute bike ride to the station, making the train a slower option. The train has an unobstructed route not impeded by traffic, so why does it take so long? For a start, the train is restricted to 75 MPH because it is old and crap. As if this wasn't bad enough, the train stops seven times and many sections of the track are restricted to 45 MPH.
Other times, the train was not slow as such because it never showed up. My train was cancelled several times with the only advice available being to wait an hour for the next one. Sometimes the second one was cancelled too. I only get 22 days of holiday per year and I used six of them on days where I couldn't get to work. I can't afford to lose 12 days holiday per year because of the stupid crappy train.
When the train is cancelled, there is an alternative route through Wolverhampton, except that sometimes they decide to cancel the connection from Wolverhampton to Walsall as well. This leads to taking The Bus. The Bus is capitalised to emphasise how horrid it is. The Bus has people on it who are off their tits on drugs. Winos actually piss on The Bus in view of other passengers. I found it preferable to cycle the 10 miles (and did so a few times).
People are unbelievably annoying. They have inane conversations, talk loudly into their mobiles and eat foods which smell horrible. Many people seem to think it is OK to not wash, so the smell of fetid armpit, rancid crotch sweat and bum crack pervades the carriage.
Frequently, other passengers will be drunk. I didn't think anyone drank Tennents Super, but people who ride on the train seem to love it. Peoples' conversations will irritate or depress you, for example the young man who sat near me talking into his mobile boasting to his mate about his court appearance. He was also drinking Tennents tramp juice. I tended to just use my iPod all the time. Podcasts are out though, the train is so loud I could barely hear Quentin Cooper.
Did I mention that the train is old and crap? The 23 year old Class 150 "Sprinters" operated by Central Trains lack any kind of Air Conditioning or ventilation systems. On hot or humid days the air gets pretty thick, making for an uncomfortable experience when combined with the questionable personal hygiene of other passengers.
The seating is uncomfortable, apparently having been borrowed from a British Leyland bus. The aisle is far too narrow, so carrying on any luggage is out of the question if you wish to sit down.
The train is equipped with toilets that simply deposit sewage straight onto the track. People use the toilets and flush them while the train is standing at the platform. It's 7:30 in the morning and I've just had my breakfast, I don't want to look down onto the track and see someone's poo. It's 2007 and I live in one of the most prosperous nations in the world, why am I required to stand mere metres away from untreated human excrement!?
I have returned my season ticket for a refund and bought a new car. I have the same problems I had before; expensive parking and petrol, but I don't care. The car is quiet, clean, it smells nice and it's air conditioned. The car is faster, more convenient and I can listen to the radio in peace.
I was taken in by "trains are great, let's all use public transport" line pushed by environmental groups, but it's all a load of hooey. Until there is proper investment in public transport I will not be forced out of my car, not even by £1 per litre petrol.