Commentary

Website by Andy Preece

This is an occasional commentary on cycling and unrelated issues - 'blog' if you must - and will be updated from time to time.


Posted 22 December 2010:
Another thing that has been annoying me about the snow disruption on the railways is the lack of information provided via the radio. For example, BBC Radio Scotland, after reading a detailed list of road delays and closures just said "On the trains, expect delays and cancellations". Now, really, what use is that? I heard on one occasion a listener had got in contact to ask for better information, but was told that there was a list of 150 alterations. On checking the Journey Check website, it transpired that there was a list of 150 individual train service alterations, but above it a more succinct list of 17 line alterations, which would have been perfectly suitable for reading on the radio.

When I'm going to work in the morning, I don't have time to switch on the computer and look at the website, so rely on radio and SMS alerts to tell me if I should walk to the station or go straight to the bus stop instead. If the BBC wants to lower its standards to those of commercial stations (where "Travel News" is usually sponsored by car dealers who have no interest in public transport news) then the BBC can expect public sympathy to run out.


Posted 12 December 2010:
The past couple of weeks have seen some snow in Central Scotland, but it's winter, so that shouldn't be either unexpected or something that causes mass disruption. But it has. I'll leave aside the mass traffic jams of motorists getting stuck overnight because that is their problem. The trains should have coped better. There were three days of particularly poor service on my line, and almost two weeks of total service withdrawal on some other lines! The problem in most cases is not the depth of the snow, but points failures (due to points heaters not being able to cope with much more than frost) and train failures (particularly air compressors getting iced up). These problems have been known about from previous winters, yet they've not been fixed.

Once upon a time we were told that trains provided a lifeline service to communities that got cut off by the snow in winter. Now I find myself taking a bus across the city because the local trains have stopped running when the rails are barely covered by snow. Indeed, even long-distance trains have been replaced by buses. Despite the police's "Do not travel" advice I have only missed one day's work (and that wasn't transport related) over this snowy period. When will rail operators make proper preparation for the annual event that is winter?

And then there's the information. Here we are in the 21st century and the rail operator has a system where you can sign up to receive SMS text messages to warn of disruptions to rail services. So in normal times I get messages when individual trains have been cancelled or are badly delayed. But during the past two weeks I have received messages saying that every train in the timetable "may be delayed or cancelled". How vague! There have been planned cancellations, and some trains have run completely on time, but this message does not give any clue as to what is running and what is not. Which is somewhat unhelpful. And then there is the so-called "Live Departure Boards" system, which as services were restored, failed to show what the departure boards in stations were actually showing and ignored services that were running again after being abandoned in the temporary timetable. Again, not helpful. And looking at Scotfail on Twitter it seems I'm not alone.

I'll leave aside the Airdrie-Bathgate cycle path which, until a few weeks ago, Network Rail's website said would open today, but isn't now opening until the spring. It isn't finished yet.


Posted 26 July 2010:
The season ticket is now working again!


Posted 15 July 2010:
My season ticket, for which I paid a non-trivial three figure sum, no longer works the ticket barriers in one station, but works fine in the others that I use.


Posted 27 June 2010:
The cars round here are getting fatter!


Posted 4 June 2010:
What a waste of space the Digital Amnesty is! I decided to trade in an analogue radio for a DAB at a well known electrical store, but not only had the assistant never heard of the promotion (or his two colleagues that he asked), but the range of radios is pathetic! The only radio with the full (and ever so generous) 15 trade-in discount is MONO, and none of the other radios available in the offer are anything more than basic FM/DAB radios. The radio I was trying to trade has an FM/MW radio, a cassette deck (OK, I can cope without a cassette deck), a CD player and a slot for a memory stick for MP3s. All of the DAB radios in the offer were being offered for more than the 25 I paid for the original radio. So I decided it wasn't worth it and left empty-handed. Except I wasn't empty-handed and had to lug the old radio around for the rest of the day. I then nearly got run down by a motorist who didn't stop at a zebra crossing in the retail park, even though other cars had stopped and I was already half way across.

On my way home I intended to renew my season ticket, but since there was only three minutes until my train, decided it was better to wait until I got to my destination. But the ticket office was shut! (I'd got the bus to the retail park on my way out, and done other business in the city centre so couldn't renew on the outward journey.)

Oh, look, there's a driver on his mobile phone. I'd only just finished typing that and a second has now pulled up. First a van driver, now a private hire car driver.


Posted 22 April 2010:
Why does the underground have people checking the tickets of people who've just walked through the ticket barriers? Are the automatic barriers not working and just letting anyone through, valid ticket or not?


Posted 16 April 2010:
Quick way to get your local candidates thinking about cycling - go to Vote Bike and click on take action which allows you to send a customisable message to all candidates standing in your constituency.


Posted 12 April 2010:
Why do people think that they can put their bags on the seats of rush-hour trains? There's a luggage rack right over your head for your bag, or put it on the floor. And the offender had boarded said rush-hour train at a station with a ticket office but never bought a ticket until challenged by the ticket examiner.


Posted 18 February 2010:
Is Justin Bieber old enough to making babies? One of the best pop cover versions in a while has to be from Menya.


Posted 17 February 2010:
Further to the comment posted at the start of this month, I've just heard a radio advert telling me to sweep up any sand I may have put down during snow, otherwise it may block the drains, and to beware of burst pipes! Well, apart from the snow being long gone (although that footbridge over the expressway was icy earlier this week) it wasn't me that put down the sand. It was the council. Now, why is my money being used on a radio advert when an email to the council would have done just as well? Plenty of blocked drains already!


Posted 10 February 2010:
Does Simon Cowell not write his own songs? Every time another one of his artistes crops up they are singing a cover version, and the same goes for his charity song, which even seems to include the original instrumentation. At least Band Aid was an entirely original composition. As for the X-Factor, would that more accurately be titled "Cowell's Karaoke Club"?

So hoorah for Igor Matvienko, whose fiftieth birthday it was at the weekend. Matvey is the producer of many fine acts including Fabrika, and has written dozens of songs. He put on a special concert to celebrate, lasting several hours and ending after midnight! A host of top Russian singers and groups, including his own, performed many of his songs, and much of the concert broadcast on television. There's a huge download of the concert on the internet if you look for it. Matvey can write in many styles, suiting his various artistes, and pleasing old and young alike.


Posted 1 February 2010:
Who has the most grit on their footway? It looks very much like it could be outside the newspaper offices! Although it isn't proper grit (rocksalt, which dissolves into the water), but coarse sand, which doesn't actually melt snow or ice, and just lies on the ground afterwards until someone comes to sweep it up. I rather suspect that this is put down to make it look as if the council is doing something when everyone starts complaining about the ice on the footways when there's none on the roads.


Posted 14 January 2010:
I had cause to change coaches at the Perth Park & Ride site recently, and no sooner had the coach I was alighting from pulled in than two motorists drove in behind it and parked on the bus stop, blocking it for the other two connecting coaches. There was a huge big empty car park there and they still parked on the bus stop!

Talking of car parks, why is it that car parking areas are higher up the priority list for gritting than footways? The parking areas near me got gritted long before the hard-packed ice on the footways got treated, and even today I had to cross an icy footbridge (over a totally free from ice expressway).


Website by Andy Preece