Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Alas poor Midlands Mainline mugged by East Midlands Trains.

Part I - outward bound

It's not often the delights of first class travel are dangled within the grasp of my greedy paws. But when they are, with both legs, I jump at the chance; especially after having an oil painted picture of linen clothed tables, table lights, serviced tables with complimentary refreshments (including the wine), wider seats with reclining chairs... you bet I jumped at it.

However, unbeknown to either of us. The franchise from London St. Pancras to Nottingham, had been lost by Midlands Mainline to East Midlands Train. And as soon as the journey from London towards the northern territories began, a series of events brought a coruscating tear of laughter gently cascading down my right cheek.

For the travelling occasion I turned out in a pair of chinos - with matching trainers, a nice snazzy but label free jumper, and a shaved head replete of any markings. Now, not been a veteran seasoned first class traveller, perhaps it was the way that I sat, or maybe my jib was incorrectly hoisted or even folded. Either way when other, obviously seasoned first class travellers embarked and started tuttling aloud whether, "is this first class?" whilst glaring at me before moving on, I began to wonder whether it's my attire or just my second head.

But if that wasn't bad enough, then had the train skivvy, I mean guard, sorry train manager; pop along hovering by the table clearing his throat and harrumphing. We both simultaneously deigned to hand over our tickets, forcing him to actually speak. Remarkably he brusquely finally manages to get out "tickets," without spitting. Yet when he sails further down the carriage, and comes across more customers, can clearly be heard asking them "tickets Sir" or "tickets Madam". However, the sickly smile he gave us after receiving our pristine first class tickets provided a scintilla of contended gratification.

Perhaps I have been watching too many black & white films, and those days of courtesy, service, and servitude have long disappeared. Either that or my non-Russian-billionaire status, is finally starting to work against me.

Part II - inward hell

Well the return trip on the inglorious East Midlands Trains train; complete with rude staff that suck, started off with the train been diverted without warning ten minutes after pulling out from the station. The buffet car with 1.5 hours remaining of the journey promptly closed, again without any warning. No skivvy, sorry guard, no, train manager popping along to clip, sorry inspect tickets - so first class was packed and riotous.

From boarding until half way into the journey, only one member of staff was seen.

Then the odd announcement, which held verbal longings for the last days of empire. A hankering for the old days of the blessed Midlands Mainline, quivered over tinny tannoy's. The whole sorry saga made me wonder whether the train manager was also the buffet bar manager, guard, and obviously in line with the new stakeholder's ideas of general cost cutting, also the driver.

I would recommend making the trip from London to Nottingham, if you eschew this particular train company, in a Trabant! It would be far more comfortable and you'd arrive refreshed, even if without style.

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