October 30th - So, they do clean them occasionally. Alighting at Tyseley on a sunny autumn morning, I happened to look up the track to the train wash. I’ve never seen it in use before. Seems to be doing a good job - this 153 ‘Dogbox’ positively gleams. Bet the inside still smells of mould, though…
January 19th - Fearing getting stuck and feeling a bit cold (not enough layers!), I took a train back from Rugeley Trent Valley Station to Walsall. The service was running well, and was fast, warm and comfortable. I wasn’t, however, overly enamoured with the station.
With four platforms and totally unmanned, the station could do with some attention. The footbridge and platforms were lethal as they hadn’t been de-iced. Must say, it’s quite lonely up there at night, too. Sill, the passenger information was good, and I didn’t have to wait long.
November 30th - When you have to be home for something important., that’s when fate trips you up. I was dashing home. I left work at 3:50pm, and the trains I would have caught from Tyseley or Acocks Green were all cancelled due to London Midland’s ongoing staff crisis. Catching a train at Spring Road, I managed to get to New Street in time to catch the Walsall train. When that turned up ten minutes late, it was only two carriages. With other service cancellations, there was no way I’d get on, and the crush I witnessed on the platform was nasty and dangerous. I opted to try for a Lichfield bound service, but they were all similarly stricken or curtailed. After 30 minutes of faff at New Street, I got a train to Four Oaks, and cycled home from there. After a freezing, tired ride, I arrived home at 6:40pm - nearly three hours after I left work.
The local train service operated by London Midland is crippled by bad man-management and operational difficulties. I could have cycled the distance in a third of the time, and wished I had. I’m seriously considering dumping the trains for Birmingham journeys. The farce that is the cancellation of services due to staff losses and mismanagement is harming the reputation of the service, and resulting in huge crowds of frustrated passengers at New Street. Quite how bad this will get with the Christmas crowds is causing me a great deal of concern. Awful.
November 13th - As I waited for yet another late train at Blake Street this morning, I gazed at the rails. The train service has been lousy of late - continual staff shortages and equipment failures have made the system terribly unreliable. This particular service hasn’t been on time for a fortnight at least. Normally at this time of year, London Midland, the local train operator, would institute a ‘Leaf fall timetable’. This is a much derided, but little understood thing. Falling leaves lie on the rails and get pulped by the train wheels, creating a slippery, sappy lubricant the causes wheels to slip and brakes to become ineffective. The pulp also forms an insulator which prevents signal detection functioning.
A leaf-fall timetable allows drivers to go more slowly and allows rail cleaning trains to operate in-between passenger services. The cleaning trains spray gelatinous substance on the rails called Sandite, which as it’s name suggests, contains sand to counter the grease. The rails I was looking at had clearly just been treated, and the residue could be seen. This is a huge problem for trains worldwide and not unique to the UK.
I’m unclear why there’s no leaf fall timetable this year, and the services on the Cross City line are woeful. Combined with cancellations due to staff shortages, bad signals and train breakdowns, I bet they’re losing punters hand over fist.
October 26th - Most of this week I’d be lucky, but on Friday it finally caught up with me. The rash of delays and cancellations to local train services ‘operated’ by London Midland - currently running at 411 lost services in three weeks - had caused me no end of grief the week before, but so far, I’d missed them. That was until I had to come back from Birmingham New Street to Walsall in a hurry at peak time. Great. Half an hour longer I had to wait, and even then the train barely limped in. Over the past few weeks I’l lost hours of time this way. It would be nice to think the train company actually gave a toss, but to be quite honest, I don’t think they do. A terrible situation for all who rely on local trains.
November 9th - The start and end of the rail journey to Leicester today. When I arrived for my train at Lichfield, the information sign showed that the preceding Virgin express was running very late and was due to call just before my train. For a while, the sign showed the later train as coming in first, even though the timings on the sign meant that was impossible. 6 minutes late, after the express had hurriedly called, my train limped up. In the mean time, it had disappeared off the sign completely, with the train I was to catch completely absent from the system. I think they do it just to frighten us…
At the other end, it appeared that an all night party had been occurring in the shelter at South Wigston, chip papers were scattered throughout the platform. Sometimes I think we get the rail service we deserve.
November 7th - a drizzly wet, frustrating day. I took lots of photos today, but only a couple of ones I took of Nuneaton Station came out anywhere near good enough to use. I was in Leicester for work, which necessitates two trains - one between Lichfield TV and Nuneaton, and one from Nuneaton to South Wigston. I don’t normally mind this journey at all - it’s relatively quick and Nuneaton isn’t a bad station to change at. The London Midland service down the Trent Valley line which is normally excellent has been lousy so far this week, and on my way home, wet, tired and irritable, my train was cancelled. Faced with waiting an hour for another train that may not turn up either, I thought hard and got a train into Birmingham instead, and from there another to Shenstone. Two hours late I arrived home.
Life can be trying sometimes.