Yesterday I was travelling back from London on the 15:30 train from St Pancras. A ticket barrier is now in operation at St Pancras and so I begrudgingly got my ticket out of my wallet, holding my coat, bag and a file in the other. Successfully through the barrier I found a seat, got out my laptop and settle down to prepare some notes from the meeting I had attended.
Seconds after we departed we were advised that a fully ticket inspection would now take place. Hang on a minute, I had just passed the challenge of getting my ticket in the machine whilst juggling the rest of my gear, now my ticket was to be inspected again. What is going on!
I decided to ask.
The Train Manager/Ticket Inspector came to our carriage and I raised my concern that my ticket had been checked by the barrier and now she was checking it again.
She explained that the machines are a bit useless for the following reasons:
They cannot check the validity of a Railcard,
They cannot check the validity of a Railcard,
They are a bit crap at letting the correct advance purchase tickets on to the correct train,
They cannot deal with self print tickets,
And the staff don’t have a lot of faith in them.
The introduction of the barriers at St Pancras has meant that staff have stopped checking all tickets at the end of the platform and now check them on board, actually occupying a member of staff that was previously free to look after customers rather than inconvenience them further. It was clear she was not very impressed with the installation of the barriers.
I have stated in a previous blog that I hate ticket barriers they are an expensive, and if this is to be believed, an ineffective way of protecting revenue for the TOC. They offer virtually no benefit to the customer and are a hindrance to anyone carrying more than an umbrella.
I do not however have the same hatred of the Oyster Card system on the underground. Perhaps this is because it seems to be simpler to operate with hands full of baggage and I don’t have to queue to by a ticket before hand. Or maybe it is just that checking tickets on a metro system is very difficult and so the barriers make more sense.
Either way my dislike of ticket barriers grows.
I wish the industry would look at the whole journey experience and stop putting barriers (literally) in the way to people using trains.
The joys of contracting take me to Peterborough for a project at Luton.
I am now doing some work for Jarvis, planning an S&C renewal at Luton North Junction and the permanent way works necessary to remodel the platforms.
This is quite a complicated project, with our p-way works comprising a part of it.
These photos are from a fenced green zone set up by the civils guys to build the new foundations for the new OLE masts.
The track is to be realigned over the bridge to allow the platforms to be lengthened to the north.
Luton North Junction is to the north of here, but access is not good due to the curves through the bridges and into the station.
The areas shown in these photos are due to be relaid in Week 1 with the works on the Junction spread over Week 4 and Week 6.
Back in November of last year Nadine and I visited her parents who were working in Addis Ababa.
We spent just over a week with them travelling around parts of the country. On one of the mad journeys around Addis we decided to have a look at the train station.
(The images files are large so if you have a slow connection they may take a while to load, sorry, but feel free to print or use as you like.)
There is only one station in Addis, there is only really one line in Ethiopia, and that is the line to Djibouti.
The station has not seen a train service in many years and looks abandoned, however as we approached the building a man comes out to say hello and ask us what we are doing. We ask if we can have a look around and to our surprise he seems only too keen to give us a tour.
So we go through the main building and out on to the platform.
It is clean and tidy and it is this chaps job to make sure the place is kept looking respectable. After standing on the platform for a few minutes thinking ‘well that was interesting’ he beckons us to follow him down the track towards some buildings.
I am a very untrusting sort and thought this looked a little dodgy, but the wife and in laws, who are a bit more used to this sort of thing, set off after him.
As we are walking he says he wants to show us the imperial carriages, which are in a museum at the end of the sidings.
Sure enough, there is a little museum, all locked up, with four carriages in it. They do look quite grand compared to their surroundings but I don’t think they have turned a wheel for a very long time.
He then shows us some other rather old vehicles that are slowly rotting away in the yard before heading back to the station building.
He tells us that there are plans afoot to get the line back into use to reconnect Addis with Djibouti, but that may take a while to sort out, in the mean time he just looks after the abandoned station and gets a few Birr or Dollars of any tourists who are interested.
This little visit was one of those completely unexpected delights of our trip to Ethiopia, yes I am a fan of railways, but the history of why the station was built, why it is no longer in use and the fact it connects two countries who are effectively now at war made this quite a special afternoon in Addis Ababa.