08 January 2010

The Curse of South-East London

I'm generally speaking happy to be a South-East Londoner. I'm foolishly proud that my Catford corner of the capital has been resisting gentrification for 100 years now. It means I have to order decent coffee and tea by post*, and I can't sell this tiny house and buy a flat in Brighton and a cottage in the Dordogne, but it has a grimy authenticity that gives me a nice warm glow.

But the problem is the trains. I don't mind not having the Tube. I hate travelling by tube**. But at least the tube normally manages to keep going. On the other hand, Southeastern Railway Company (SER), the current franchisee of the local overground operation is a disgrace.

In case you haven't heard, it snowed in London on Monday and Tuesday***. SER's response was to run a less-than-Sunday service for the rest of the week. While it's stayed cold, there has been no more significant snow, but the service has been reduced to a half-hourly frequency, with the last trains leaving London around 8 o'clock. This is so ludicrous you'd think surely our publicity-loving Mayor would have something to say about it. No. Instead, the buffoon has made comments pointing out that if schools don't open it can cause problems for parents, and schools ought to consider this. Open your window - just for a second - and you can hear the chorus of sarcasm from teachers: "D'oh, we never realised that ..."

(And of course, my two MPs' websites give no indication that they are still alive, far less that they are concerned about their constituents.)

SER have announced that tomorrow, Saturday, they'll run a normal service, accepting the terrible risk that trains will turn into pumpkins if they're out after 9pm. People who know more about these things than me have said that their action has been based on a calculation of how to avoid paying refunds.

They really are a shower of shysters, and I'm so glad I don't have to use their services any more.

*From the Algerian Coffee Stores. I've used them for the first time recently, and the service was quick. The goods came in a proper brown-paper-and-string package. And you can see that they're currently celebrating the second anniversary of updating their webpage. Marvellous.

**in London - once I get abroad I love to find out about a foreign city's underground railway. I love the way in Madrid the train indicators tell you how long it's been since the last train left, rather than make a ludicrous prediction about when the next one will arrive. I love the smell of the Paris metro. And I found myself rather surprised at the law-abidingness of the tube travellers of Barcelona.

***One of the happy discoveries I've made during this more than usually weather obsessed period is that a fairly near neighbour of mine has an online weather station. It's quite fascinating to see how the temperatures varies during the day.

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