The rhythmic rattling and jolting draws nearer as the train lurches steadily towards the station. A surge of people, already pushing and shoving, rush for the doors of the not yet stationary transportation. A groan echoes up and down the platform as the doors open revealing a crush of people in the doorway, grimy windows revealing the absence of seats in a visibly overfull carriage. Never mind, people will be getting off here and making way for those waiting to board and the waiting passengers shift restlessly looking for the chance to break for the slightest sign of a space. One or two alight but not enough to make a difference and the milling crowd jostle to find room.
Standing occupants from previous stops frown in irritation as yet more travellers squeeze into the already claustrophobic space and reluctantly we go with them hoping to find there may be seating after all. Alas it seems the grubby vision was no mirage. Barely even standing room and we are forced to shuffle along the corridor in an uncomfortable crush with other passengers. Sandwiched between a less than pleasantly odoured male and two hysterically giggling teenagers, my personal space was undeniably invaded. The unappealing smell of the nearby toilet mingled with a pervading stink of wet dog from a nearby unidentifiable person making me resort to shallow breathing and covering my mouth with my perfume scented sweater.
You have to expect these conditions in a third world country of course, only this is not a third world country this is Great Britain. In conditions many would regard as only fit for animals we travelled with First Great Western having actually paid to travel this way. As usual only three carriages on a route that frequently leaves passengers standing, yet the train operators themselves refuse to provide adequate seating despite a recent hefty hike in ticket pricing. Perhaps the uncertainty of recent franchise developments have left those thrifty penny pinchers considering their own benefits rather than those of their customers. On this occasion it would defintely seem to be so.
The train pulls in to yet another station and an argument ensues between a current passenger and someone forcibly attempting to join the already overfull doorway. There is nowhere to go and we are almost nose to nose yet the guy on the ground is as determined to board as the other gentleman is not to let him. The new passenger wins and heaves his bulk through the doorway, stepping on a nearby female passengers toes before wedging himself in next to the not very pleasant smelling gentleman.The journey was an interminable torture and the sight of our destination could not have been more welcome. To say it was a relief to disembark was somewhat of an understatement and the rush of fresh air was definitely a pleasant change. I could not help thinking that all it had needed was the presence of a few chickens and a goat and we could truly have been experiencing third world railway travel.
Expecting the return journey to be less busy i was in for a rude awakening as yet another heaving train drew into the station and not wishing to repeat the experience we chose to wait the half an hour for the next. When the next proved to be equally as overladen we quite angrily decided to pass and wait for yet another. Watching in disbelief a short time later as the departures screen announced that this next train was also full and standing we quickly realised that another porcine style journey was upon the cards. Then a saviour rolled into the station heading our way. A lovely shiny clean South West Trains service with adequate seating and a pleasant atmosphere and the relief was palpable all round. Travelling home in comfort with coffee and bottoms perched upon comfortable seats where they had paid to be was luxury indeed. In future i for one shall be a lot more particular when selecting the operator i travel with.
From this passenger and, i imagine, a good many more i give a huge thumbs down to those out of touch personages at First Great Western. To their fellow operator South West Trains, after yet another pleasant journey with them, i give a huge thumbs up and my custom wherever possible. After all if i wanted to travel in third world country style i would buy a goat and travel on a third world country train wouldn’t i? Or maybe i’d just jump on one belonging to First Great Western …..