Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sinister Forces at Kings Cross

I have reached the conclusion that there are sinister forces at work at the heart of the nation’s railways. Not a particularly profound or original conclusion, to be sure, but as an avowed sceptic when it comes to conspiracy theories, one that goes against the grain of my own personal worldview. Now, my journey into work is certainly not one of the harder ones you will find amongst the thousands that travel daily into the heart of our capital city: a direct, fast service on First Capital Connect (formerly WAGN, but they changed the name without warning when I was on holiday) into (and here’s the rub) Kings Cross.

Has anyone noticed that Kings Cross is turning into a rather larger version of the Big Brother House? Allow me to elaborate. When I started working in London 5 years ago, travelling daily from the East Midlands to the metropolitan sprawl of Kings Cross St Pancras, there were six different entrances and exits from St. Pancras alone, several from the combined Underground station, and possibly another seven from Kings Cross itself.

By the time I moved South for an easier commute (ha!), five of the St. Pancras portals had been closed, off, so that everyone was funnelled down a single tunnel which seemed to come out in the middle of a busy Euston Road. Bear in mind the state of mind of the average London commuter when they reach the mid-point of their journey to work and you will appreciate that this was not exactly the formula for a happy bunch.

For the last three years, I’ve been coming into Kings Cross everyday (usually the outlying regions of platforms 9, 10 and 11 that I have come to know as The Sticks). And you know what? The same sinister, claustrophobia-inducing phenomenon has been in evidence, as first one then another exit has been closed off, so that the whole place is coming to resemble the M25. Now, they (whoever “they” are – I am told it’s Network Rail, but I’m not sure) have moved the entrance to the Underground, which doubles as an underpass offering safe passage across the aforementioned Euston Road. And how far have they moved it? A few feet – Wayne Rooney could kick a ball further with his broken metatarsal. And, of course, no signage or explanation.

This all came to a head, for me, on Friday, when I emerged from Judd Street, opposite St. Pancras, with 5 minutes to spare before my train departed. Plenty of time, you might reasonably think, to get across the road and to the platform. I nipped across Euston Road to St. Pancras in no time, but then had to head into the main station, up platform 8 through the usual bad-tempered scrum, knocking over wheelchairs and children as I went, and around the bend past the distinctly underwhelming tourist attraction that is Platform 9 ¾, reaching the train just as the doors slid shut in front of me and the guard, smiling, flicked a V-sign at me (actually I made that last bit up, but he did smile). So I had to wait half an hour with sweaty trousers and slightly raised blood pressure for the next fast service. And did you know “they” have put the charge for the toilets up?

So I hope you understand why I’ve decided that there is something funny going on. I reckon it’s something to do with reality TV, as most things seem to be these days. I look forward to the day when the only way out of the place is being voted out: I have been practising my noisy gum-chewing and downloaded the Crazy Frog ringtone to my mobile, to ensure my nomination.

Like every commuter, of course, I’m not going to so a single thing about it, except set up this blog, because the rail companies' procedures make it all but impossible to register a complaint, at least with a human being. Anyone else with similar experiences is welcome to post them in the same place. I’d be thrilled (and I really mean this) to read about them.


At 12:25 PM GMT+1 , Blogger DM said...

get a cab. and stop whinging.

my personal commuting bugbear is the fact that every single in SW London who uses the northern or Victoria lines is currently pregnant, which in itself is not a bad thing, but they insist in seeking me out and standing right in front of me with a withering, slightly pathetic look just as i settle down for forty winks. Ontop of this, they make sure that everyone else in the carriage is either over 85 or on crutches leaving absolutely no option but for me to vacate my seat.
oh and there are still too many people reading Jodi Picoult, Dan Brown or doing sudoku. Surely lobotomies aren't that cheap?

At 11:00 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

I'm not whinging about the journey - it's just the current confusion at Kings Cross (does that count as alliteration?) that bugs me. But thanks for posting - 2 tube lines, that's harsh. My sympathies.

I tend to avoid the Tube in the mornings - have discovered that the Number 73 bus deposits me right by Soho Square where I work which is just dandy. Never get a seat on the bus, but it's more exciting to stand anyway - I like to see how far I can get without grabbing hold of something to stay on my feet.

When I do get the Tube, though, I make straight for therglass partition right by the door and just lounge against that - never bother with the seats because they're too cramped anyway. Being a shortarse is actually quite a help in this case.

At 12:14 PM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

On glorious sunny days like this, I just feel grateful that I don't live in London anymore (and when I did, I was able to take the bus to avoid the "sweaty armpit in face" problem that JD is so familiar with on the tube).


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