Train trauma: UK rail fares on the rise, but don’t worry – the service is still terrible


Of all the farcical announcements that are made on a weekly basis about our country and how it’s run, last week’s news that train prices will be going up by 3.1% from 2nd January 2019 really takes the biscuit…

In a move that can only be described as outrageous (yes, I am outraged, not that it means much), it’s now been decided that we’re still not forking out quite enough dough for a service that this year has seen some of the ‘worst disruptions in a decade‘.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to have a couple of days free to catch up with my lovely London friend, Suzi.

I love visiting London as a tourist. Mainly because I usually spend a significant portion of my London visits trapped in meeting rooms, with little time to do much apart from take notes and discuss strategy, so it’s a welcome break when I actually get to see some of the city.

Regrettably though, a trip to London does mean I’m forced to board a train to get there…

In light of the fee increase news (and some recent experiences, which I’ll get to) I thought it would be fun to look at some of the things that make train journeys truly unbearable.

If you want to share some of your own horror stories, feel free to leave them in the comments below…


1. People (Adults)

Is there anything worse than other people on public transport?


Think about it. When was the last time you went on a train or a bus and everyone around you was civil, clean, and well behaved?

Don’t get me wrong, there are some people in the world who know how to behave when it comes to sharing confined spaces with other human beings (hats off to you!), but over the years I’ve discovered that these people are matched by the number of inconsiderate boobs also on board.

Examples of such boobery include:

  • bags on seats
  • ill-advised food choices that would be a poor show even if we had windows that opened
  • sitting in a seat you know damn well isn’t yours, to which I can only murmur ‘excuse me I think that’s my seat…’ in that terribly familiar British manner (whilst apologising)…
  • sitting with your legs in the aisle
  • continuous phone conversations that I have no business overhearing…
  • the tinny soundtrack provided by those 20-30 somethings in the carriage who’ve failed to grasp the concept of earphones as a means of keeping your terrible music choices to yourself


2. People (children)

I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m progressively being surrounded by infants, or people in the family way for whom infants are pending.

When you’re 31, it comes with the territory.

Children can be adorable, there’s no question about that; but put them in a situation where they’re enclosed, and you’ll quickly find they metamorphose into ticking time bombs of annoyance and disruption.


Case in point, here are the questions I often find myself asking when faced with children on trains:

  • When did it become acceptable to stand on seats in your outside shoes? Last time I did that I got some properly odd looks…
  • When did the aisles of the train become portable soft play areas?
  • How can I make this stranger understand that listening to little Jessica attempting to hit the high notes of ‘Let It Go’ is neither cute, nor endearing, whilst I frantically search for a means of escape via the emergency stop…


3. Quiet Coach concept, The

In a world filled with white noise, the concept of the quiet coach is one I can get on board with.

Who doesn’t want a space free from ringing phones, obnoxiously loud conversations, and screaming children when you’re trapped for two hours in a glorified tin can with crap WiFi?

It’s a novel idea, and one that would be guaranteed to bring bliss if it weren’t for point one on this list…

It’s a fact that the second human beings are told not to do something, we want to do it more than anything else. For some, it’s seen as an opportunity to challenge ‘the man’, to live outside of the rules.

Others are just naturally gifted arseholes.

Either way the stress of the quiet coach comes when you inevitably need to remind someone of the definition of the word quiet several times throughout your journey, somewhat defeating the point of a carriage explicitly designed to deliver peace and tranquility amidst the general chaos.

Here’s an example of one such situation I encountered a few months ago with a passenger on the way to Glasgow (in the quiet coach)…


I board the train to find a man sitting at a four-seater table with his belongings spread across every square inch of the space – where I also have a reservation…

Me: “Excuse me, I think that’s my seat.”

Surly Joe: *angrily starts clearing up his belongings*

I meekly take my seat, keen to avoid aggro of any description.

Surly Joe: “Can you not sit there, so we’ve both got space for our laptops?” *pointing at the window seat next to me*

Me: “It says that seat’s reserved so I’ll still have to move if they get on?”

I’m sensing this doesn’t bother him in the slightest. I oblige him and move….

10 minutes later…his phone rings.

He answers it…

An angry Scottish lady a few seats behind begins eyeballing me.

Where do we go from here?

Do I say something? Do I look down and continue along the British path of silence whilst rolling my eyes and tutting quietly?


He finishes his conversation.

Five minutes go by. It rings again…

This time, the Scottish lady is not having any of it. We’re heading for confrontation town, next stop, my table.

Super Lady: “Excuse me, you’re in the quiet coach!”

Surly Joe: “I’m talking to my wife!”

Super Lady: “That’s four calls now you’ve taken. You’re in the quiet coach! Go outside.”

Surly Joe: “Mind your own!”

This continues back and forth for a few minutes while the man berates the lady with such bewildering expressions as ‘dry your eyes’ and yet more repetition of ‘mind your own’, not realising the irony of having made his business our business the second he took calls in the ‘quiet coach’…

He eventually relents and leaves the carriage to take his call, leaving behind an eau de over-inflated ego that can only be described as ‘pungent’.


4. The toilets

Must be smelt to be believed, and often enough to make me contemplate bringing my own bottle of Toilet Duck on board.

jim carrey heave

I can hardly believe that Richard Branson approves of the stench that passengers are forced to suffer on Virgin Trains when seated near or forced to visit these glorified portaloos.


5. The luggage rack

Or what I like to refer to as ‘Jenga without the thrills.’

Who are these people who fail to grasp the simple concept of large cases below, and small cases on top? Is there a test we can give before allowing such people to board?


One lives in hope that some of the fare increase will be placed into a fund for this very purpose…


What are your least favourite things about train travel?





Author: Alyssa

PR professional. Comedy enthusiast and cat lady.

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