Now as a trainist myself, I have always had a few gripes about my fellow train passengers, and if there is a “bingo card” of bad train user behaviour, then it’s certainly going to include things like yakking on the phone in a quiet coach, not waiting for passengers to get off before you try to board and I will also add any sort of general grumble that goes along the lines of “renationalisation will solve everything”, “I want a seat on a commuter train AND I want it at an off peak price”, or just generally bitching because you have a meeting to get to, but you’ve left no time to spare, and the train is a whopping 10 minutes late.
Yet there is one gripe which isn;’t just annoying because it’s selfish, but it’s also annoying because it’s ocmpletely pointless – sitting in the vestibule, ie sitting by the doors on a train that actually has plenty of perfectly good seats available. So why does this annoy me? Well yes, these passengers are blocking the doors, which are there, well, for passengers to get on and off, but also because it just gives people something to grumble about when often there’s no need.
Most long distance British trains have plenty of space available – yes, that’s right, loads of space. Shock horror, nobody wants to believe it, because we just assume that because commuter trains are full, long distance trains must be as well. Except that’s just not the case, and there are two very good reasons for this. Firstly, some peak services are so expensive that even business users just won’t pay to go on them. Evening peak services leaving Euston are typically just over half full. The morning peak is busier, but even then, 65-70% is normal, it’s very hard not to find a seat if you look for one. Now what about off peak trains? Yes, some of them are full, particularly on bank holiday weekends, and there is also often a period before and after the peak “rush hour” (sorry, rip off 4 hours), when trains are often busier than they should be, because of the artificial price spike of peak fares. But on the whole, long distance trains really aren’t full, nor should they be. Why? Because long distance trains run between multiple points, and unlike some of their European (especially Spanish) equivalents, they almost never run non stop between origin and destination. Every time a train stops, there is usually a reasonable number (let’s say a coach load as an example) getting off, and then others get on. Leaving London, the train will usually lose passengers the further it gets away from the capital, although there are points on the route where there can be a net uplift, esepcially at major junction stations such as Preston on the West Coast or York on the East Coast.
Yet whichever way you look at it, British long distance trains are almost never full from end to end, and even if they are, there is still a turnover of seats at each point. So you board at Kings Cross and want to get a seat, but there aren’t any free? Simples – just hang around the MIDDLE of the carriage, not the vestibule, and your chances of still having to stand north of Peterborough are all but eliminated. If you are in a group, then it becomes much harder, as you are dependent on a group of the same size, or two smaller groups sitting next to each other to get off at the same time. But as a single passenger – if you want a seat ut have no reservation, you really have to be trying very very hard NOT to find a seat once the train has passed its first, or at worst, second, calling point (not counting places like Stevenage, which are often pick up only).
This is why I was deeply cynical when the story of Jeremy Corbyn sitting for the “WHOLE” journey broke last week, and why I’m no at all surprise that these claims have been challenged. So there you have it, and back to the real scandal – Virgin Trains boasting about having loads of spare seats – SHOCK HORROR.
If only there was some other sort of transport industry that moved passengers over great distances, and that generally operated at 70-80% full that Mr Branson could learn from. Suggestions for this on a postcard please – by air mail of course!
My Facebook point last week:
“B,b,b,but there’s no room within”
“That’s a first class ticket for a standard cubby hole Mr O’Nazereth – plenty of seats in first and standard if you just move along there now Mr J Man”
“Bbbbut the train’s only just left Peterborough, where two coachloads got off, and only twelvety people have taken a photo of me”
Could you move along now please sir, people actually need that space for their luggage, there’s tons of seats.