Billy Gibbons talks about the Tube Snake Boogie in London

It seems Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top’s guitarist, likes being a tourist, and took the tube to Wembley before the band’s big gig last week [BBC story]. In true London fashion, the line he wanted to take was down, and he had to detour. He still beat his bandmates to the stadium.

Thanks to the Aussie for the story tip.


Tuesday Tunes

My iPod shuffled up some excellent tunes for my morning commute. Check out this random playlist:

  • “Stockholm Syndrome” by Muse
  • “Ode to O-Ren Ishii” by RZA
  • “Somebody Have Mercy” by Colin James
  • “Cutting It Fine” by Asia
  • “Oh, Lonesome Me” by Neil Young
  • “Reckless Life” by Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • “18 Ghosts II” by Nine Inch Nails
  • “Hotel California” by The Eagles
  • “I Should Know” by Dirty Vegas
  • “The Complainer’s Boogie Woogie” by William Clarke
  • “True Fine Love” by Steve Miller Band
  • “Salt the Stings” by The Duke Spirit
  • “Calling Elvis” by Dire Straits
  • “Mother” by Pink Floyd
  • “We’ll Meet Again” by Johnny Cash
  • “Sometimes I Feel So Lonely” by Primal Scream


Two personal good-news stories around trains:

  • The renovations at Ealing Broadway station are progressing, and there are now seven shiny new ticket machines. There’s no queuing anymore. Gone are the days when two of the three old machines (which didn’t take cards) would be broken and my commute would be delayed. Thanks (finally) for the improved customer self-service,National Rail!
  • The Oyster Card I’ve had for some time tube travel cracked and became unusable on Wednesday. ‘But Tim,’ you’re saying, ‘how is that a good-news story?’ Clever child, I’ll tell you. Transport for Londonstaff gave me a form to have it replaced which I filled out and brought back the next day. I thought this would have to go off and I’d get a new Oyster Card in a week or two. But lo and behold the smiling lady at the ticket counter said she could generate a new card for me right there on the spot. Which she did. Thanks for the speedy and helpful customer service, TfL!

First Great Western promises to improve ‘poor performance’

Just words right now, but let’s hope; from the Guardian:

Long-suffering passengers using First Great Western rail services were offered some hope today as the company running the franchise pledged to…invest an extra £29m on improved customer service and increased capacity.

First Great Western will now offer more than 500,000 cheaper tickets to more popular destinations on FGW routes, and double its compensation rates to passengers this year.

Moooove farther down inside the train, please

I mentioned last week that First Great Western – the train company that I use to get to work – has the lowest customer satisfaction ratings in the UK.

Today, a bunch of FGW passengers staged a protest at the poor performance and what they say are the highest rail costs in Europe. Their protest took the form of fake train tickets and cattle masks.

I’d forgotten all about the protest, and left my cow mask at home, unfortunately. I didn’t see any protesters at Ealing Broadway, in any case.

First Great Western rail passengers are the least satisfied in the country

First Great Western, the train company I use to commute to work, has come last among UK train companies for passenger satisfaction. While most of the time it’s fine for me, I suspect that the fact that I travel against the main commuting tide (into the city each morning, out each evening) helps. When we pass trains going the other way they do look a lot more crowded. I think it also helps that I can check the London travel news each morning before I leave for work; if there are severe delays reported on FGW I can often choose to work from home that day.

It is true that while ticket prices have increased without fail each year, the only signs of infrastructure or service improvement I’ve ever seen are new ticket machines at Ealing Broadway. Not that they’ve always been a big step forward, either.

Step back

I don’t travel to work every day, so a monthly train pass wouldn’t be economical for me. Almost exactly a year ago, I therefore rejoiced when the National Rail train station at Ealing Broadway replaced their old ticket machines and put in shiny, new ones that took cards.

One day later I was already blogging about how those new machines were breaking down. All in all, though, my ticket-buying experiences in the last year have been much better than they were previously. The new machines worked pretty well, and I never had to worry about having the right change.

I was, however, very confused a week ago when even newer machines were put into the station. They seem to operate in the same way as the old ones did, and don’t offer any different functionality that I can see except that they print out the tickets a little quicker. Fine.

The problem is that they took out the four old machines and replaced them with three of the new ones. So, the queues are longer again. Especially on a day like yesterday, when one of them was – surprise, surprise – out of order.

First Great Western’s web site says that there will eventually be ten of the new machines. I hope that happens soon.