Thursday 17 January 2008

Thoroughly modern travel

Today I had to go to Birmingham. I had to get up at 5:30am in order to get a train at 7:40am from Euston (ouch). Because I wanted to leave before 9:30 or 10:00 or whatever the cut-off time is the fare outwards was £61. Coming back was only £38. It worked out cheaper (as they often warn you) to buy two single tickets. Still totally horrified that it costs three figures to go to Birmingham and back which isn't even that far away! Anyway.

I hadn't travelled on a Virgin train before. Can't think why as they supply so much of the rest of my life (landline, cable TV, broadband... if I only had my mobile phone contract with them I'd be 4 for 4!). The trains were nice and modern looking... although I was a bit miffed that I had to race down the platform (quite a feat with a walking stick) to get to standard class as half the train was designated first class, and of course it was the half nearest the concourse. Found a carriage, found a seat that wasn't reserved (bit of a squeeze but that's life) and tried to work on the tip up table with piles of paper (and wished I had taken my laptop). I was impressed by the lighting with switches for each seat, as though you were on an airplane, and also some sort of digital control in the seat (air conditioning? I only noticed it as I stood up to get off!). As I was getting of I noticed a sticker next to the armrest of a a seat by the window "laptops and mobile phones only". I had no time to investigate further, so I just wondered what about laptops and mobile phones?!

Off I went to my meeting, where it was wet and windy... and very long (with no lunch!!!). Finally got back to Birmingham New Street in time to catch the 4:30 train back to London. I got on the train and sat down (with relief, I was tired after three lengthy trips around site). I had checked when I got on for those evil little white cards tucked in the back of the seat indicating a reservation and found none. Relief. Not so much. Virgin trains have a little digital display over every pair of seats. This is where it tells you if the seat is reserved or not (how could you know this if you have never travelled on these trains before - they are TINY!). I wouldn't have known but for the small boy who kept asking his mother "Can we sit here" and his mother kept responding that "No, these are reserved". I suddenly realised that my seat might not be my seat. Indeed. The whole carriage not taken was reserved. I ended up sitting on a flip up seat in the corridor. Better than nothing, I suppose. I think the seats were designed for children as they were tiny, and I spent the whole journey worrying that I might be about to fall off. It was also very drafty in the corridor. The only thing to recommend the whole experience was the state of the art toilet and the atmospheric blue lighting.

Not the ideal travel experience, you certainly can't work in your lap! Next time I'll take a flier on what time a meeting is going to finish and reserve myself a seat!