Train Rage

August 9, 2010 at 6:30 am Leave a comment

Virgin Trains

Image via Wikipedia

Virgin Train’s regularly unreliable reservation system, if you will excuse the oxymoron, will be the death of someone soon. It led to my first ever case of “train rage” last Friday.

My company had meanly insisted that I travel down to London on Friday. The trip down was fine. As I was catching an early train, allied with the school holidays and the fact that nobody travels to London on a Friday if they can at all help it, meant that I had a whole carriage to myself.

It was not so on the return leg. Being the efficient little worker bee that I am, I was able to finish the task, leave the office, and make it to London Euston in time to catch the 15.10 to Chester, which also stops at Crewe, my destination. Now the 15.10 to Chester is never a busy business commuter at the best of times, and especially on a Friday afternoon in the middle of the school holidays. So, Mr Branson had, in his wisdom, decided that he could make do with a single first class carriage. When I saw this I wondered if I would be able to get a seat. I was in luck. There were still one or two seats remaining, and, as ever, the Virgin Train reservation system was down, meaning, as far as I was concerned, there was open season on those seats and they available to anyone, including yours truly.

I had the choice of sitting opposite a fat middle-aged businessman who was sweating profusely, smelled of cigarettes and was already talking loudly and self-importantly to someone on his mobile phone. Or, I could sit opposite the pretty, blonde, blue-eyed student who smelled of innocence, and was lost in her internal reverie, dancing in her chair and mouthing the lyrics to whatever was playing on her iPod. No brainer.

So I sat opposite her, smiled, (she smiled back – this was going to be a pleasant trip), and arranged my laptop, phone and Killer Su Doku around me.

Just as we were pulling out, this guy loomed over me and grunted, “You’re in my seat!” No please or excuse me or sorry to bother you. I didn’t warm to the bloke immediately. I pointed out that the reservation system was down and that nobody, therefore, had a reservation. He replied, gruffly, “I have a reservation and you’re in my seat”. Blue eyes was staring anxiously at her iPod at this stage.

The carriage was full, I was comfortable where I was. The student and I had clearly already got a connection. I had paid over £350 for the privilege of travelling first class. So, there was no way I was budging for this ignorant oaf. So, I put on my best gangsta face, reiterated that the reservation system was down, and suggested he take it up with the two members of staff who were at the head of the carriage busily pretending not to notice that our little altercation was taking place.

He did so. The staff, clearly flustered, explained to the rude fellow that the reservation system was not working but explained that there was a seat in the next, second class carriage, but that they would be happy to extend first class privileges to him there. So, Mr Surly stomped past me down the carriage, making sure he swiped me with his laptop case en passant and shouting “tosser” at me as he went. Blondie tutted, smiled at me and rolled her eyes heavenward as a sign of solidarity with me.

Now I do have some sympathy for the guy. But, there was no need for the bad manners, and, I am certainly not singlehandedly responsible for the failings of the Virgin Trains reservation system.

Me and the pretty young thing? Our relationship ended after I had gallantly carried her heavy rucksack up the stairs at Crewe station…..

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