I’m currently heading South once more as I have another commission on the South coast tomorrow. Sadly, this means I’m stuck in a train when the sun’s blazing and I’d rather be out and about with the camera. Hopefully I’ll have chance to grab a few shots later.
I’ll also have the chance to sample Southern and GTR train services again. To say it’s been a torrid time for the industry following the May timetable change would be an understatement. I’m not going to go over the reasons why as they’ve already explained in detail by my colleagues on RAIL magazine. My observations would be that as well as the managerial and political failures there’s also been a huge PR failure. The fact is that Northern did themselves no favours at all with a bunker mentality that meant they refused to put up any Directors for media interviews to explain the problems until it was too late and the narrative had been set.
Whilst I have sympathy for rail staff caught up in the problems, I also have huge sympathy for passengers. My nephew tells me that he lost his job due to the impact of delays. Clearly, the railways failed in their primary duty, to get people (reliably) from A to B so I hope the lessons are learned. I believe the railways will, but I’m not so sure about their masters in Parliament and the DfT…
One of the ironies of the situation is people complaining that what happened shows our railways are badly managed and run-run down when the truth is – the root of many of the problems was delays in commissioning new investment in both infrastructure and trains!
I hope when the dust finally settles, people will start to appreciate the major investment the railways are enjoying.
Due to the VTEC service in front of us being cancelled my Grand Central train had a fast clear run into London and arrived 15 minutes early. This allowed me to make a dash across London by tube to Victoria in time to catch an earlier service to the South coast in the shape of the 18:24 to Littlehampton. Needless to say, this 8 car trains rammed! It was wedged departing Victoria and positively sardine-like after leaving Clapham Junction! Our call at East Crodon eased matters slightly but I was interested to see that nearly as many suits got on as off, which says something about the way the towns changing nowadays.
As we head for Gatwick I cast an eye over my fellow passengers and – sure enough – of the 16 people in this section of the coach 12 are staring at screens on smartphones, laptops or ipads! One’s on the phone and another female passenger’s reading a book. One chap’s sleeping, but i’ve no idea about the last guy as all I can see is the back of his balding head!
Unfortunately, the stunning weather I’d enjoyed through Yorkshire and into Cambridgeshire has given way to unappealing heavy grey cloud by Gatwick Airport. There’s still no seats available, but the squash has eased to leave just six passengers standing in the adjacent vestibule.
Finally, after pulling away from Haywards Heath a handful of seats became available and the vestibule was bereft of standees. By the time we called at Burgess Hill the light was so bad that the station lights had come on automatically. At 19:18! In June!
We’re leaving Preston Park on the outskirts of Brighton and space has eased considerably. The train’s still busy (and still profitable) with a seat occupancy of around 60% – although this is about to reduce as we’re pulling ino Hove as I type! After swapping a few commuters for leisure travellers it’s down to 50%. As we’re coach 2 of 8 there’s a fair few folk moving forward as stations here have short platforms.
I’m now at Lancing. It’s hard to believe this place once had a railway carriage and wagon works that employed over 1,500 people! It closed in 1965 and i’m hard put to guess where it stood.
I’m now esconced in my room in the Burlington, a Victorian seafront hotel after arriving in Worthing, checking in and setting off to explore the town. Well, at least t3he beach was attractive!
To be fair, so’s the pier that you can see behind me, but after that it all goes downhill…
I headed back to the main comnercial street to look for a bite to eat and see what the place had to offer. The answer is – not much! OK, there’s a few restaurants and plenty of fast-food joints, but what the place is lacking in is any life. Here’s tbe main shopping area.
Not exactly buzzing, is it? Worthing suffers the same malaise that many small towns do, the main street is nothing but shops it’s not mixed-use. So once the shops close it’s deserted. The other thing I noticed was the lack of pubs and bars. I only saw one ‘proper’ pub (which didn’t look very inviting) and a shop converted into a bar. I’ve never known anything quite like it. Even the promenade is free of pubs or cafe’s. The only one is in my hotel – and half of that’s sheeted off because they’ve got the decorators in (in June?).
What I can’t figure out is why (when you see what the town has to offer) so many hotels were booked up. People can’t be coming here for the nightlife!
There’s an underlying air of poverty about the place too, with a fair few street-drinkers and rough sleepers, but then this part of the world has long had a reputation for DSS hotels. The South coast isn’t always as affluent as some people think. I must admit that what I’ve seen so far won’t have me rushing back. Still, at least I’m being paid to be here! So on that note I’ll bid you goodnight.