Upon my return to England from my recent holiday in France, I rejoined, albeit temporarily, the rat race. And by that I mean the daily commute to a place of employment. I secured a short term contract with a local government establishment. This short term contract requires me to travel to their offices, and the method of travel I chose was the train.
I could have chosen to drive, as there is a large public car park reasonably close to the office. Being a contractor, I am not allowed in the local government car park! However, I live fairly close to my town’s main station and the office is only a ten minute walk from the station at the other end. Also, there is a dreadful bottleneck on the roads midway between my home and the office; a bottleneck which, certainly throughout August, is just not worth attempting to pass. So, as the old railway advertising campaign used to say, I decided to let the train take the strain!
My first day of commuting was as uneventful as most train journeys. As were the next few days. In fact all days up to writing this post have been run of the mill journeys. I get on the train at one station; the train moves and I get off at a later station. Pretty dull really! So why am I blogging about it today?
Well, I noticed from the very first journey that my morning train journey was always accompanied by a ticket inspector. Previously, when I used to commute to London, tickets would be inspected by the conductor on board that particular train. However, on this journey, the conductor was never alone; there was always an inspector with them.
That got me wondering; was this route a particular favourite for fare dodgers? And would such fare dodgers really be travelling before eight o’clock in the morning? It soon became apparent that they obviously would. Each day the inspector would find people who didn’t have a valid ticket.
And why were these people always sitting near me?
There were two men sitting opposite me who seemed fairly innocuous initially. I hadn’t really noticed them, other than the fact that they were there, because I had my nose stuck in the morning paper, but when the inspector approached them to validate their tickets, it was obvious they had been drinking. They could barely string a sentence together. Their mutterings were, for the most part unintelligible.
It still wasn’t even eight o’clock in the morning!
As they began to fumble through their pockets for their tickets, the train started slowing down to stop at a station. When they eventually located their tickets, they were not actually valid for the part of the journey they were on. They had, allegedly, missed their stop! They took so long to produce their tickets, the train had stopped and the conductor had opened the doors. Before the inspector could charge them the extra fare, they jumped off the train claiming this stop would do.
The following day there was a young man who was travelling on an out of date season ticket; then it was the turn of a woman who was using a railcard which belonged to another person. These railcards require a photo ID card to accompany them. The other person’s railcard she was using wasn’t even a female; it was her husband. How did she expect to fool anyone with a photo of a man?
Mind you, I didn’t see the photo. Perhaps her husband looked more like a woman than she did! I’m not saying this woman wasn’t feminine – perhaps I’d better stop there! 😉
Everyday there was someone who was travelling without a valid ticket. I could see why this route had the inspector; it was clearly too much work for the conductor alone.
However, today, there was no inspector. The conductor was working alone. And this particular conductor must have taken a happy pill before he started work. I have never before seen such a happy train network employee! As he went along the carriage asking to see tickets, he would apologise to people for disturbing them and he thanked everyone individually when he had seen their tickets.
Each time we approached a station, he made a public announcement reminding everyone to take all their belongings with them and wishing them all, on behalf of both himself and the driver, a very successful day!
He even told some passengers they could occupy the first class seats as they were empty and in second class it was standing room only.
We, in this part of the world, are not used to such customer service on a train, so this conductor should be praised. Each and every passenger left the train smiling because of him.
So thank you, Mr Conductor, who ever you are!