Saturday, 1 April 2017

Size doesn't matter...

We have, in the United Kingdom, the most expensive rail service in the world - by a factor of six, no less. They are probably also amongst the worst. Last Tuesday, will trying to get to Gatwick airport, I experienced Southern Rail (famous for all the wrong reasons!) when my taxi took me to the back entrance to Clapham Junction station.
Inside I was at the end of a long tunnel giving access to about 20 platforms and of course, there was no staff on duty. But I had allowed for that and had arrived early because, along with two cabin bags I had a hold bag weighing in excess of 22 kg (about 50 pounds). 

Looking round for information on where to buy a ticket, etc. I saw that the only other person there was a small dark girl who must’ve been all of 5 feet tall. Walking over to her, I asked where I could get a ticket and she said we have to go all the way to the front of the station, a distance of about quarter of a mile through the grey gloomy tunnel. She added that she would help me with my bags. With that she grabbed the big heavy hold suitcase and began pulling it through the tunnel, while I hurried to keep up.
We arrived at the main booking area, remember this is one of the busiest stations in the planet, and there was nobody on duty there either. I had to get a ticket from a machine, which meant I had to pay about £10 more than I normally would as it didn’t recognise my bus pass.

Our train, she was going to Gatwick as well, was leaving from platform 15, so we trailed back half way along the tunnel again and then, faced with about 40 steep steps to up to the platform, she picked up my 22 kg suitcase and virtually trotted up the steps. I was amazed.
Then, with a minute to go before the train was due, they announced a change of platform. We had about 50 seconds to  change platforms - to go back down the steps, along the tunnel and backup again to the new platform. This little girl, she was Italian by the way, then picked up my suitcase again and ran down the steps, along the tunnel and up the steps again to the new platform. I with about 10 kg to carry, again could barely keep up.
We got the train to Gatwick with seconds to spare, which if we’d missed, as the next train was in an hour’s time, would have meant missing my flight. Once safely in the carriage I asked the other passengers about this change of platform, announced less than a minute before the train was due. They all shrugged, it was evidently standard practice with Southern Rail.
When I went over to thank the little Italian girl for her incredible intervention which enabled me to catch my flight, she just laughed and turned away.