Never travel on a Sunday.

13/4/14

Taxi – Lincoln – Newark Northgate – Kings Cross – Euston – Willesden Jct – Richmond – Est time 3.5 hours

Taxi – Lincoln – Newark Northgate – Kings Cross – Earls Court – Richmond – Est time 5 hours

My journey started okay, in that the taxi arrived on time but started to go awry once I got to the station. The Lincoln-Newark train is always comprised of one carriage, known as ‘The Dogbox’, don’t ask me why. The staff were eager to point out that there are no legal limits for packing trains with humans, unlike for animals. This was done out of sympathy I felt, rather than some twisted sadistic pleasure, but I’ve been wrong before.

It being Sunday this was the first train of the day, at 11.30am. This meant it was full of people and luggage as it always is, but this one had the very special addition of another wheelchair. The unfortunate occupant had a full cast on a broken leg, so it was clear I was spending this trip in the vestibule. But I’ve done it before, and 25 minutes of slight unpleasantness is hardly the end of the world. Maybe I should have seen this for the omen it was.

When we arrived at Northgate the crowds already on the platform signalled that all was not well. It turned out that the overnight engineering work on the East Coast Mainline had not gone well, in truth it had overrun, overrun a lot. By Noon there had not been one southbound train. It was immediately clear I wasn’t going to get onto the first train, whenever it arrived, and despite staff efforts so it proved. The second train wasn’t much better, but I did eventually get on after some delicate negotiation, into First Class. Usually an upgrade is a guilty pleasure when it happens, but not today. Even in First Class it was standing room only.

The thing that disappointed me were the Oil Workers fresh from a tour on some North Sea rig who were seated while the elderly couple were standing. Don’t ask me how I knew who they were or where they were from. The answer is not pleasant for a quality blog such as this. Just trust that I know of what I speak. Fortunately one of the Neanderthals, sorry, gentlemen, offered his seat to my pretty, female assistant, who immediately gave it to the old couple. Embarrassed, one of the other drill monkeys immediately gave his seat up as well. Justice and decency is restored.

On the train and moving gave me a chance to check twitter, a key tool for travelling, but I immediately regretted it. More engineering work between Willesden and Richmond. It’s time for a plan B. Normally this would involve taxis across London, but these are uncomfortable and expensive. I knew that in theory I could get back to Richmond on the Underground, but I’d never tried it for good reason.

I’ve lived in London, or more precisely in West London at the end of the District Line, for nearly 2 years. In that time I’ve learned lots about public transport, specifically accessible public transport in London. As a general rule trains are good, with a little investigation first to make sure your intended stations are accessible. Trains have guards. Train stations have platform staff. Trains are comfortable, and usually spacious. The Overground service recently withdrew guards, but are trying with their “turn-up-and-go” policy (although actual implementation can be a little patchy.) But during the last 2 years I’d not used the Underground.

When I was younger (much, much younger) and BC,  (“Before Chair” tm) I’d come on a visit to London and we’d used the Underground. It was exciting, descending into the belly of the city, exploring tunnels, being transported by shrunken trains before bursting back into the sunlight in some new, interesting part of the metropolis. But using the Underground as a wheelchair using Londoner lacked the excitement, but added a whole plethora of perceived problems, lack of actual stations I could use, overcrowding, rickety uncomfortable trains. I had done my research and I had asked around. My assessment was reached through rigorous scientific enquiry. The Underground isn’t worth the effort, nothing to see, move along now.

Now I had both a need and an opportunity. I wasn’t in a hurry, I  had time to recover the situation if it all went pear shaped. It was also Sunday so should be less crowded. I tossed a mental coin and decided to give it a go.

The rest is very boring. I had some fun navigating all the lifts, and the trains were just about as rickety as I expected, but the trip was quite simple.

I’ll definitely do that again.

 

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About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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