In the past week, I have almost been broken by London, emotionally, physically, mentally and maybe most importantly (due to current modern ideals) financially.
It may be my own fault; I was not born and bred in London, or a city for that matter, so I might rookie; however I like to think I’m not completely inept. Every time I go to London, I get to where I need to be without getting lost, run over or on the wrong means of transport – this proves my ability to get myself from A to B, from borough to borough.
BUT, my recent journeys can only be described as a series of unfortunate events and thus gave me the ammunition to write this posts. Below the ten reasons to hate London transport are the three, very angry, anecdotes of my recent horrific journeys.
- The extortionate prices.
Travelling off-peak is reasonable, not cheap or affordable by any means, but Transport for London you just about get away with it. Peak times are another story; the average Joe off the street needs to open a mortgage just to commute whether it’s driving (congestion charge and parking, yet to be mentioned) or your hitting up the national rail service. See anecdote 2 and 3.
- The power-hungry Transport for London employees.
This point doesn’t have to be bias to Transport for London employees, it is relevant to everyone who puts on a uniform and suddenly think they rule the world. There is taking your job seriously, with enthusiasm, and then there is just being a bit of a bastard. (Please excuse my taboo). This is a shout-out to the parking attendants who give you a ticket when you’re 2 minutes late to your car. This is a shout-out to the exam invigilator that threatens to disqualify you from all AQA exams because you left the label on your plastic water bottle. This is a shout-out to the cafeteria worker that won’t let you use their toilet unless you buy a cappuccino and a blueberry muffin. This is a shout-out to the barrier security at the train station that make you pay inflated prices for a ticket you don’t need when you’re 1 minute away from your off-peak ticket becoming valid (see anecdote 3).
- The delays.
Minutes and hours are being taken away from your life because you have to leave earlier than necessary ‘in case of delays.’ They are everywhere. (See anecdote 3) – Extra anecdote – on Friday 19th February my train was delayed 50 minutes (at 60 minutes I would have got a full refund on my ticket, at 50 minutes I wasn’t eligible to any compensation whatsoever) and the disruptions continued right up until my journey home where I arrived 40 minutes late and 10 carriages worth of commuters were squashed into a 5 carriage train.
- The invasion of personal space.
Getting on the tube in rush hour reminds me of stuffing sardines into a tin; it smells just as bad as well. The general public’s hygiene is questionable and therefore makes for an even more uncomfortable 8 minutes. (I am currently on a South West Train to London Waterloo and there is a man sat diagonally to me, respectably dressed in a navy suit, with a laptop screen filled with what appears to be important documents displayed in front of him, with his finger so far up his nostril that his hand looks like a stub).
- The traffic.
As previously stated, public transport is gross and expensive but the alternative of driving is just as bad. Speed cameras in London are redundant because you never reach more than 15mph at the best of times. (See anecdote 1)
- Congestion charge.
If you do, however, decide to drive into London, firstly – I wish you the best of luck and secondly – you are likely to have to pay the congestion charge which is eleven pound and fifty pence a day unless you set up CC AutoPay and then it’s ten pounds a day. A mini anecdote – Prior to my drive into London on Thursday 11th February I decided to sign my car up to CC AutoPay so I didn’t have to worry about paying my congestion charge. Transport for London make you pay ten pounds just to sign up your car and then it is ten pounds every time you drive into London during a congestion charge period. I cut my losses and signed up, at this point I was not aware that I would never drive into London again (see anecdote 1). However, they charge you ten pounds to sign up and decide if and when you CC AutoPay starts being active!! Thankfully, mine was active for my drive in and out of London, otherwise I would have found myself getting a big old fine, which brings me to point number seven.
- Penalties and fines.
As soon as you enter London you are eligible for numerous penalties and fines – as you are anywhere, however, they come in abundance in London. Parking fines (no where is free), accidentally driving in one of the many bus lanes, congestion charge fine, a penalty because you lost your train ticket, a penalty because you travelled at peak times when you were pretty sure it was off-peak when you got on the train (see anecdote 2 & 3) or if you miraculously are able to make use of your third gear or above whilst driving you are more than likely going to get a speeding ticket as there are speed cameras everywhere.
- People and tourists.
People are everywhere; London is overcrowded, over-populated and has a booming tourist industry, even the pavements are congested. A very valid excuse for being late to work is ‘there was a lot of traffic on the pavements today .’ Although, The jam-packed pavements isn’t the most aggravating part; tourists erratically stop to take photos or admire landmarks such as a street name sign or a building that looks nice but is actually just an office. A lot of people lack urgency in their route and stroll at snails pace whilst somehow managing to fill the whole pavements either with their accomplices, children or own body weight (obesity is also a growing issue).
- Technical difficulties and signal failures.
Signal failures are the main cause for delays on the underground services, i.e. a massive pain in the arse. On Tuesday, I spent the whole of a tube journey listening to a pre-recorded voice repeatedly saying ‘please move away from the closing doors.’ The doors were already closed and no one was near them.
- Rolling suitcases.
These handy little cases are EVERYWHERE. On pavements, on the tube, on the elevators, in the stations, all ready and waiting for you to trip over, get stuck behind or jump over if you’re in a rush (see anecdote 3).
Anecdote 1 – Thursday 11th February
Last week, I had a meeting in Shoreditch at 2:00pm and was then to return to Bournemouth afterwards. I decided to drive, the meeting wasn’t falling in rush hour and it saved me having to use buses, trains & tubes to and from Reading. The journey into London was fine, slow, but fine. It was a sunny day; I was seeing the sights (something I hadn’t really done before) and made my way across the whole of London to Shoreditch from Reading in just less than 2 hours (it was supposed to take me 1hr20 but there was an accident and the inevitable London congestion). It was quite leisurely really.
Then it all went wrong. I left Shoreditch at about 2:50pm; I had another meeting to get to in Bournemouth at 6:30pm; I had PLENTY of time. I forgot to go to the toilet prior to leaving – the advice your mum gives you to go before a long journey should stick with you for life – and I had also consumed two bottles of water, a coffee & a green tea, just bear that in mind.
I took a wrong turn leaving Shoreditch, which resulted in 40 minutes being added to my journey just to get back to where I was and I really needed to pee. To get onto the motorway home I just needed to follow one straight road out of London. This unfortunately is miles long, incredibly busy and excruciatingly slow. My desperation for the toilet was increasing by the elongated minute. Did I mention there aren’t really any places along this ‘direct’ route out of London to stop for a toilet break?
It was all getting a bit too much; I could feel tears filling my eyes and the pain of my full bladder was causing an uncontrollable full body shake. I must have looked crazy to the drivers in lanes either side of myself; I had resulted in verbally screeching my feelings, saying things along the lines of ‘I just need to get out of London’ and ‘I’ll be fine once I find a toilet’ and ‘why are there no f****** services in central London?’ Hopelessness and despondency lined my wails.
I believe I was almost on my way out of the callous city when I decided the risk of wetting myself and then having to drive straight to my meeting in Bournemouth in piss-sodden jeans was too high. I took a quick exit to God knows where (not the correct route) and pulled into a Premier Inn.
Unfortunately, if you are not staying at a Premier Inn then you are not privileged with the knowledge of their car park code. I parked on the pavement, right next to the three-lane junction, put my hazards on and made a run for reception.
Reception was conveniently placed through two sets of doors, up two flights of stairs and through another set of doors. Once I’d made the mammoth journey to reception I began my plea for the use of their public toilets. My soliloquy of why I should be allowed to make use of their amenities was cut short by the receptionist who said – ‘Uh, yeah sure it’s fine, just over there.’ He’s one of the good ones, not an employee that is mad with power (see barrier security at London Paddington, anecdote 3).
The relief and removal of bladder discomfort made me realise the shaking was probably due to the fact that I had not eaten since breakfast, whoops. This didn’t bother me so much as I was feeling too liberated. The rest of the journey wasn’t so bad, I still didn’t surpass second gear before I was well and truly out of the ‘average speed limit’ section of the M3, this was made endurable because of the contrast of my aforementioned state and my new, liberated self. I arrived at my meeting at 7:27pm.
Anecdote 2 – Monday 15th February
Hurrah, I had just completed my first day of my week placement at The Telegraph. Feeling pretty proud of myself (I had driven from Bournemouth to Reading, got the bus to Reading Station, then hopped on a train to London Paddington, rode two tubes to Victoria, found The Telegraph’s office, completed my day and got two tubes back to Paddington all with no dramas) I found the first and fastest train to Reading on my handy little iPhone app and made my way to the platform, only to be stopped by that bloody barrier.
I innocently wandered over to the barrier security guard to inform him on the broken barrier. He then informed me that my ticket could not be used after 4:30pm until 6:45pm. It was 4:31pm. The time of my placement (11am-4pm) had been chosen so I, a student, could afford to get to and from London for an unpaid internship, purely to further my studies and professional development. I was stood in Paddington station at 4:31pm, probably 4:32pm by this time actually, and I couldn’t get back to Reading until 6:45pm. “You will have to pay for another ticket, Miss.” TWENTY-TWO POUNDS!!! TWENTY-TWO POUNDS FOR A TWENTY-SEVEN MINUTE JOURNEY!!! So, I paid the twenty-two pounds, time is money after all. Thanks LDN, you’ve been lovely.
Anecdote 3 – Tuesday 16th February
I woke with determination; I will make the 4:18pm train back to Reading if it kills me. Off I went; I walked briskly to the bus stop, arrived just as bus 13 did, as if we planned it, and I thought to myself, today is a good day.
Once I had got to the station and collected my pre-paid tickets I noticed that my 9:35am train was delayed and the 9:35pm train was a slow one. I really didn’t want to be late and thus make a bad impression at The Telegraph. I wasn’t going to let this dampen my mood; being extremely organised I had arrived at the station at 9:22am and there was a 9:28am fast train to London Paddington. I jumped on that and was blessed to find carriages abundant in empty seats. I love a quiet train; I chose a double seat for myself, sat down and opened my kindle. Today is a good day, I thought to myself once again.
Unfortunately, I boast a very brisk walk, all the time – I always want to get to where I’m going as quickly as I can. Why do some people meander down the pavement or drive with no urgency, as if they do not want to reach their destination? It baffles me.
The barriers were not letting me through; I had no choice but to confess my problem to the barrier security. Apparently, my off-peak ticket is not valid until 10am. It was 9:57am. I tried to explain to the nice security guard that if I had happened to be on crutches or had leisurely strolled from where I exited my carriage to the barrier, it would have been 10am and everything would be fine and dandy. “You will have to take that up with my colleague, over there’ he said.
I contemplated just hanging around, scrolling through social media, waiting for 10am. This apparently is blasphemous behaviour as I kept being escorted to the desk to ‘take it up with his colleague.’ I explained my dilemma, and the fact that I am a student, on the last legs of my overdraft, just trying to get to my work placement. My heart felt plea very quickly turned into outrage. The London Transport security or whatever his job role is, charged me seventeen-pounds and fifty pence (price includes my 16-25 railcard discount) at 9:59am. I let this dampen my mood.
Later, I did in fact make the 4:18pm train. If I hadn’t and had to pay another twenty-two pounds I probably would have thrown myself in front of another, later, peak-time train. It was close though, I arrived at London Paddington at 4:16pm and had two minutes to sprint to Platform 4, weaving in and out of people and hurdling suitcases as I did so, I made it with only seconds to go.
From Wednesday morning I commuted from Bournemouth to London for the rest of the week, this was much less hassle.