Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Extended Engineering Works

Today it is time to talk about a subject that will particularly resonate with readers in the UK where the words "Extended Engineering Works" or a signpost that reads "Delays expected until August 2018" can instantly induce suicidal thoughts, mass hysteria or the kind of quiet British resignation which makes foreign espionage an attractive proposition.

You see, whether you travel by rail or by car, getting around the UK requires the sort of endurance and initiative that in other countries qualify you for the armed forces. However, in the UK the average Brit knows that to travel into London by train is a test of endurance like no other. In Germany they are proud to claim they their trains run on time: in the UK we are proud if we make it into work without having a seizure. Only in the UK do the words "leaves on the track," "overhead power cable failure" and "flooded tracks" induce such doom and gloom.

But, of course, worse than any leaves, snow or rain on the tracks are "Extended Engineering Works". This statement invariably means somewhere on the rail network there is a bit of track missing and nobody knows where so the management have sent a party of ten men clad in fluorescent jackets equipped with a forked stick out on a walking party in an attempt to locate it. In the meantime, while the workman try to detect the missing track passengers on their morning commute to London can expect to be:

A) Rerouted via Aberdeen

B) Held up at signals at Watford Junction for three hours on a train with no buffet and where a small stream of urine runs from the beneath the toilet door and pools just in the spot where you are forced to stand because the train has only four carriages, it is peak commuting hours and there are no seats.

C) Rerouted via Aberdeen and held up at Watford Junction for three hours and forced to overhear the conversation of German tourists bragging about German efficiency and how their trains always run on time for the entire *ucking journey.

Now remember you heard the following gossip here first - I have heard on the Turley grapevine that the next Bear Grylls TV show will be called Mission Survival: The Challenge of Network Rail. Apparently, the first episode will be where Bear attempts to make it into London from Lands End in less than 24 hours with no food or drink whilst wearing a pinstripe suit and equipped with only a laptop with a dead battery and a phone without a 4G connection. He will also be hampered by the fact that he will be accompanied by his mother-in-law.

Unfortunately, it is not just only our rail system that is flawed in the UK but also the roadwork. I do a lot of travelling and I know that a typical journey follows this pattern:

You are speeding down the motorway at 90 70mph on a glorious morning for driving under the false impression you will get to your appointment on time when all of a sudden the traffic begins to slow. Signs that were not there the previous day have appeared overnight: "Expect Delays until August 2018", "Average 40mph Speed Check" (*uck) and eventually signs directing all the motorway traffic into one lane. The traffic slowly grinds to an agonising 5mph and rows upon rows upon rows of orange cones are laid over the motorway like onlookers at a funeral procession. The traffic edges slowly forward for another thirty minutes and all the time there is not a single workman, digger or even a solitary shovel to be seen. The only break from monotony and frustration is observing the Sunday drivers having a picnic on the hard shoulder, the lorry driver taking a leak in an upturned cone and other commuters less patient than you screaming into their phones and tearing their hair out.

Then, suddenly, with no forewarning, the cones end, the speed restriction stops and the cars ahead of you race off into the distance. Then you too put your foot down and race off whilst uttering every obscenity under the sun because all the time you were queuing you have not seen any evidence of maintenance on the roads; not a single workman, not a single digger or even a solitary shovel....

Now, as usual, I have applied my analytical skills to the whereabouts of the missing motorway maintenance men and I've come to this conclusion:

They have been loaned to Network Rail and are out looking for the missing train track alongside the Network Rail workers. No doubt, the Transport minister thinks if they use double the quantity of forked sticks they will discover the missing track a lot quicker.

Personally, I don't believe a word the Transport minister says on any issue. I reckon he's actually a German agent.

"Not more bloody cones!"


14 comments:

  1. Ps any suggestion for topics welcomed. This one was at the suggestion of one of my friends who happens to commute a lot....

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  2. We have the joys of crossrail works at our station. Closures, temporary footbridge and road closures and bus diversions. Having removed the stress from working I'm able to apply British resignation to us all ;)

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    1. Life is definitely less stressful without the 9-5:)

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  3. Just when I was thinking I wish we had a rail system in my hometown....

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    1. Sorry about that Paula- just telling the truth!

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  4. I can confirm that this analysis if the rail situation is 100% accurate bar the fact you forgot to mention that while you are standing sardine-like in your unexpectedly short formation train, despite the warm weather they will have the traIn heating dialled up to max to the extent that people are fainting. But the conductor can't turn it down. This apparently can only be done at the depot...I'm moving to Germany. Or the Island of Sodor.

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    1. I am going to check that info about the heating only being done at the depot and see if it is blarney - (sis-in-law's partner is a train driver.)

      So do they have a procedure when some faints or is it a case of the other passengers dealing with it, Mrs A?

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    2. From a Southeastern trains FAQ :
      Q: Any chance you can turn the heating down or off?
      A: Once a train enters service, the heating can't be changed until it's next in the depot...

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    3. Bonkers. I find it hard to believe. More importantly I need to know "Why" it can't be done which would at least help to make sense of it. Thank God they don't apply the same theory to the brakes....

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  5. Oops... this state of transportation in the UK is a revelation to me! I guess things are mostly the same in all parts of the world :(
    @yenforblue from
    Spice of Life!

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    1. UK public transport is pretty archaic and fundamentally overstretched Archana. It needs lots of investment.

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  6. LOL!!! I snorted coffee at the "urine running/pooling from underneath the train." Here in the eastern US our trains are sloowww and dirty but I don't recall any raw sewage issues. Perhaps that's because I don't have to commute regularly and I'm missing a lot of the good times. As for driving we have two seasons: Winter and Road Repair. I loved this post because... misery loves company. (And you're hilarious.)

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    1. Welcome Li:) I am afraid if I had to choose between using a train loo and certain death I think certain death would be preferable:D

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    2. Unfortunately for me Jane I have the pleasure of using public toilets far too often. We also encountered a stream of urine on a Jubilee line train recently and unfortunately the likely suspect was still sleeping on the train. There were a lot of empty seats around him.

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