The cover story in this week’s Economist talks about British transportation problems. While the angle is more towards fixing the roads, the article also mentions in gory detail the issues with rail networks. Incidentally, I am starting to believe myself that my earlier high marks to public transport were misbegotten.
Yes, public transport is much more extensive in these parts of the world. There are 8 major rail terminals in the center of London, with dozens more stations connecting with the tube all over the city. There are countless bus routes and the tube itself is pretty handy for getting around London. Unless you live near minor outlying station (such as we do), there are multiple different routes you can take to reach it.
But commuter trains are habitually late (I once reflected on the subject of trains being always late on weekends, while they seemed to be always on time during work week – now I realize that I lucked into an unusually prompt service period in those weeks). Posters at the stations boast of 98% on-time service, but I end up waiting for a delayed train at least 3 times a week (for those who like calculations, I travel by commuter train 4 days a week once each way – what is my on-time percentage?). During the rush hour, I always have to stand and be in a too close proximity to other bodies at that. The tube is notorious for daily service disruptions. And it is not air conditioned! Nor are older commuter trains, by the way, – I am not exactly looking forward to summer…
Once a week, I take a bus to a different office, and, surprisingly, regardless of traffic, the ride takes about 40 minutes. Which makes me want to say that buses are better than trains. Which, of course, is not true, as I am all too familiar with the local traffic potential.
Ironically, I drove Becky to school and back today in 21 minutes total, which is pretty much an absolute record for non-helicopter division. Was in a state of perpetuate amazement at my good fortune throughout the ride (of course, the end result is not so good, since my entire buffer-time allowance had to be spent loitering in the house waiting for the time to go to the station; maybe, in situations like this, I should purposefully drive slower and create traffic on my way back…) I am pretty sure that tomorrow I’ll have to pay by getting stuck in some enormous jam…
We did go to the city again on Sunday, as the weather was cooperating. Continuing with our kids-first plan, we went to the Aquarium and took a spin on the giant Ferris wheel called London Eye. The former is ok, nothing too impressive. The latter is rather cool, but every time I get on it – and this was the third – I am invariably annoyed by incessant picture-taking by the tourists, who do not pause to take in the views at all, but instead maneuver themselves into my line of sight and then have the gall to ask me to take their picture. In addition, this time, a boisterous toddler ran around the capsule screeching in delight, while his parents expectedly pretended to be oblivious.
My girls had tons of fun nonetheless.