Train Journeys: Passenge-to-rule

As I frequently travel by train and am armed with a camera, I tend to take pictures of things. Sometimes the scenery outside the window, sometimes things inside the train carriage, sometimes things at railway stations.

Smile - you're on CCTV (flickr)

Firstly, the ’smile, you’re on CCTV sticker’. This is to represent the constant announcements that we see and hear everywhere we go these days — in ’surveillance society Britain’ — that we are being filmed constantly for our ’security and safety’.

Bollocks. It might put someone off assaulting a random stranger on the train, if they know they are being filmed, but it is more likely that the CCTV footage will be used in the aftermath of any incident in order to try to catch the culprits.

The version of this that really boils my piss however is being told that I am being filmed on CCTV for my ‘comfort and convenience’. After much experience journeying about today, and also before the CCTV era, I can assure all travel companies that what tends to affect my comfort are things like whether or not I can get a seat, and whether said seat is comfortable. As far as I can tell, being filmed or otherwise has had no impact — either positive or negative — on my comfort.

And as for convenience, well while it isn’t particularly inconvenient — I don’t have to sit in a fixed position with the camera trained on me, for example — it isn’t particularly convenient either. It would be equally convenient for me to be filmed or not to be filmed.

Not that I particularly object to being filmed (I do have vague objections on principle) because I can understand that companies want to be able to successfully prosecute people who assault their staff, damage their property or otherwise misbehave. But I just wish that they wouldn’t try to pretend that it is for my direct benefit, when I would be happpier if they didn’t use CCTV but maybe had a guard instead.

Next, in the interests of security, there are frequent announcements on the train to report unattended luggage. I saw some unattended luggage, so I reported it, and I have to say the attitude of the staff member in question was appalling. I can only describe it as somewhat insulting.

“Sir, that’s the luggage compartment”, quoth he.

Yes, but there’s no-one actually attending their bits of luggage in it, are they? And if people regularly dump their luggage in the luggage rack and then wander off somewhere else to sit down, it’s going to be hard to keep an eye on whether or not they have got off the train without it, isn’t it (particularly if the train is crowded and you can’t see along it)?

Aside from this, as far as I can see, the terrorists that get covered by the media these days are more like bees than the traditional terrorist wasps. The wasp terrorist is the ‘plants a bomb, wanders off’. The bee terrorist is the suicide bomber.

But back to the luggage compartment. Assuming that it’s considered perfectly okay to place your luggage in there and then wander off without your luggage being considered to be dangerously ‘unattended’, it isn’t going to be difficult for the potential terrorist to spot this, and depart from their previous plan of getting on train with large bag, putting down bag and next station just as train pulls in and then getting off without it.

And if you think the guard’s attitude to a public-spirited citizen insisting everyone should take their luggage out of the luggage compartment and stand with it at all times was bad, you should have heard the driver, when I talked to him.

Lever marked 'pull down lever to talk to driver' (flickr)

I saw this red handle with a message which said ‘pull this handle down to talk to the driver’. Well, as you can tell, I’m a perfect passenger and am quite happy to do what the train companies instruct me to — it seemed to be a specific command for me to pull down the lever, so I did. I presume it’s there so that the poor chap doesn’t get bored or something — to give him someone to talk to.

“Yes? What’s the problem.”

“Oh, there’s no problem, I just thought I’d talk to you for a bit, like it suggested.”

“Thats a-fine”

“That’s a-fine with me too. Now what did you want to talk about?”

“Are you some kind of comedian?”

“No, but I do know a few jokes if you want to hear them…”

At this point, the driver started getting quite unfriendly. I presume it was because of the way I had copied his cod-Italian, but then he started suggesting that I needed to pay money to talk to him. I can only hope that all train staff aren’t like the two I’d encountered on my journey so far.

That’s ridiculous: if the train companies want to make you pay to talk to the driver, then not only will it put people off wanting to chat to him, but they should clearly display the rates — “messages cost 25p plus your standard network rate” or whatever.

Having said that, I think they may have been annoyed by my prior behaviour — I had been quite happily looking out of the window at the scenery going by for some time before I noticed a sticker next to it, indicating that it was an ‘emergency window’, and therefore presumably I shouldn’t have been looking out of it unless there was an actual emergency. If this is what made them cross, I can understand, but if they didn’t want me to look out of the window, they should maybe have fitted a blind over it or something.

sign on train door reading 'do not place hands on door' (flickr)

And the next train wasn’t any better: I couldn’t even get in the carriage to sit down. I’d got on the train, feeling all knackered and worn out and somewhat in need of a seat, only to find a door blocking my access to the carriage with the message ‘do not place hands on door’ on it.

After several attempts to work the button and handle with my feet without losing my balance completely, I conceded defeat, and instead stood in the vestibule area for the remaining hour of my journey. What galled me more than anything else was that all the rule-breakers got to sit smugly and comfortably in the carriage, having the cheek to laugh at my endeavours, while I tried my best to obey all of the rules and I didn’t even get a seat.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that rule-following passengers such as myself should be treated with a little more courtesy — when obeying the specific instructions given — than I had received, nor do I think it’s unreasonable to expect that I, as a model passenger, should be more entitled to a seat than all those people who were breaking the rules and no doubt making life for the rail staff much more difficult.

Please note: all of the above text is genuine. Well, it’s certainly genuine text, anyway. Whether it relates to actual events may be more open to debate.

2 Responses to “Train Journeys: Passenge-to-rule”

  1. Gary Miller responds:


    Great post - certainly cheered me up this morning! Noticed the time of the post and was just wondering; had you been to your local hostelry or across the toon beforehand by any chance?

  2. JackP responds:

    Naah, I’m just a night owl. Plus frequently if I’m writing a post in the evening, and there’s already something for that day, I’ll schedule it for early the following morning. Although in this case, while the post was scheduled about 2 hours earlier, I was up and about when it was published anyway…

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