Let the train take the strain!

 

Does anyone else remember that advert from 1988? It was launched to encourage us to take the train, instead of blocking our roads up with cars!

I was commuting by train back then. Whilst it was 30 years ago, from personal experience, public transport hasn’t improved!

I don’t know whether it’s the demand that has increased, or the fact that the rail companies haven’t kept up with the demand!

Back then, I used to do a 45 minute trip into Birmingham. I always got a seat, and in fact, there was a group of us that used to meet up along the journey, and still be able to sit together.

We had quite a little community going on. We would do crosswords, competitions and in cold days, the guard used to share his tea flask with us!

I may be seeing those days through rose tinted glasses, but I don’t remember it being late or cancelled that often at all! Certainly, not that busy either!

After a 19 year break, where I used to drive to work, I once again in 2012, joined the thousands of others commenting by train!

So why should we all ‘be letting the train take the strain’ still some 30 years later? Well the simple answer is, that the Climate Change Act of 2008, set a long term framework for us to reduce greenhouse gas within the UK.  The Government needs to reduce it by at least 34% by 2020, and 80% in 2050, based on the levels in 1990.

To achieve this, they need more and more of us to ditch our cars, and take public transport.  As a commuter, that is easier said than done!

I for one, cannot get to work without some form of car travel.  Where I live, I would first of all have to walk about 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop.  From there, I would have to catch 2 buses, which takes just under an hour to the train station.  I then would catch a train for a 45 minute journey.  In total, to get to work it would take me over 2 hours, including then the walk to the office from the station.

I currently drive to the station, which reduces my travel time to approximately 1.5 hours each way per day!  To add an extra hour each day on an already 3 hours daily commute, just isn’t practical, or good for a work, home life balance.

Cost is also a factor.  At the moment, we are paying each day to travel by train to work.  It is £7.30 each day.  This is with us driving 14 miles to the station.  Thankfully, the car park is free.  It is not so at other stations!

If we went from our closest station, we would face £1000 a year more in train costs, plus £8.90 per day to park the car!  We would still have to drive there, so there is a petrol and emission cost!

When you get the train, there is certainly no relaxing for us either!  It definately doesn’t take the strain for us!  Wherever we catch the train, the following factors come into play:

  • Is the train on time?
  • Is the train running
  • How busy is it going to be?
  • Will the journey be terminated part way?
  • Who will I have to sit next to, or stand next to?
  • Am I going to pick up any coughs, colds etc from fellow commuters

Sadly, all of the above will come into play more frequently than you would think.

Our morning commute is on a 4 carriage train.  It is packed everyday.  You don’t get a seat, unless you are very lucky to be standing next to someone who is getting off at another stop!

When you are standing, you are being pushed against the next person also standing.  You often don’t have anything to hold onto, so when it hits a point or goes round the corners, you are thrown into the person next to you.

If you have got a seat, you are also not always lucky, as the persons standing will be on top of you, falling on you occasionally, or treading on you!  Then there is the size of the seats.  On the 6 seat section, space is extremely tight for the average size person.  You struggle to move your arms in fear of knocking the person next to you!

Don’t think you can get on, and pull your laptop out and work, or read a book!  Oh no, that would take space and comfort.  The best you can hope for is to play Candy Crush or read the news on your phones!

And don’t get me started on some of the behaviours of some commuters!   My most annoying is the person who walks through the crowded train, looking for an empty seat!  Of course, there must be one free with hundreds of us standing. Not!

What about the person wearing the headphones, whose music is so loud, we can all hear it!

Then there is the person who can see we are all like sardines, but still shouts into the train ‘can you move down please’!  I feel like shouting back ‘would you like us to get into the storage shelf’ as that is usually the only place where you might find a gap!

Even on crowded trains, some people don’t have volume control when talking either on the phone or face to face!  I have over the years heard many conversations, from whether someone should have sex with their boyfriend, or more recently,  a school girls asking her friend how to get him to have sex with her, to someone telling their friend about the guy they were having an affair with them.  Unfortunately for them, the friend of the women he was married to was also on the train!  I’d love to know how that story ended!

Long distance travel is no better!

Last year, I decided to take the train to Darlington for work. It’s about a 4 hour drive for me and takes a tank of petrol, so about £60.  Everyone said to me, I should take the train and relax, rather than the stress of driving!  Never again!

I had a 1.5 hour trip to the station to get the connecting train to Darlington.  Then a 3 hour train trip.   Yes I had a reserved seat, but the table was too small to even contemplate getting my laptop out!  My suitcase was miles away, so anything of value had to be at my feet, as the overhead shelf was too small.

I did a vlog on the experience at the time.  You can see my experience here!

The cost of the fare was about £140.

I had a reserved seat on the way back too.  When I went to my seat, it was taken by a pushchair.  The whole trip home, I had a newborn child crying next to me!

Was I relaxed when I got home – NO!  The next trip there I drove!

If the government wants us to use public transport more, they really need to start working with the transport companies.  Everyone I know who commutes, wherever they live, all have the same issues.

We need more carriages, competitive pricing, more trains and please keep the parking free!  Or if they do need to charge, again at a reasonable price!  Oh and it they could be on time that would be even better!  Maybe then, we may be more likely to let the train take the strain!

 

Advertisements

The Salt Mine – Krakow

Today we headed off to the Salt Mine. Instead of booking a formal tour, we went solo!

We headed off to the main train station in Krakow, to catch the 8.51 am.

We initially tried to buy the tickets through one of the many machines, but not speaking the language and being a little unsure, we opted to go to the main ticket office!

As you walk through the station, it’s all very well signposted. It’s also very clean!

At the ticket office the cashier speaks English, so it’s very easy. You can’t get a return ticket so we buy just a single! I can’t believe how cheap public transport is here. 3.50 PLN each, which is about £0.85 each!

We head to platform 1. The train arrives on time. Again, it’s clean and modern. There is also a ticket machine on the carriage, so if you don’t have time to get one before boarding, you can still buy one!

I’m also impressed with the seats. They are comfy and have plug sockets underneath? Plus a bin for each set of seats!

Above is a screen which shows you the trains route, and where you are on that route. For foreign travellers, it’s perfect to make sure you get off at the right stop. Which we do!

The Salt Mine is only about 5 minutes walk away from the station, up a slight hill.

As we have arrived early, there isn’t really a queue! Entry, for a 2 hour tour is 89 PLN, approximately £22 each. If you want to take photos or videos, you have to pay an additional 10 PLN (£2.50), which of course we do!

The tours are in different languages, so we head for the queue for the English one. We are given headphones and receivers, so we can hear our guide better!

You then start the tour. Be warned, we will go down a lot of steps, so sensible shoes are a must.

The tourist books say to take a jacket as temperatures fall to between 13/16 degrees, although we were rather hot in ours!

To descend to the Danilowicz Shaft on level 1, you walk down 380 steps, taking you 64 m underground!

In total you will descend 800 steps, taking you down to 135 m underground to level 3! There are a total of 9 levels to the Mine, so the tour only covers about 1% of it !

In total, there are nearly 2400 chambers in the Mine, with 245 km of corridors! Reaching to 327 m underground! I’m amazed, just thinking of what lies beneath us! All this is supported by wooden beams! The Salt hardens the wood, so it’s perfectly safe!

Don’t worry about the way back, there is a lift back up!

As you walk through the Mine, you will be blown away at its natural beauty! If you touch the walls and lick your fingers, you taste the Salt!

As you pass through chambers upon chambers, you will see many sculptures carved out of the Salt! The chapel of St Kinga is said to be the largest underground temple in the world!

An emerald lake sparkles in the light.

Due to the darkness in places, it’s difficult to video, although, I have tried it on my GoPro, so I will see when I download it at home.

I’ve take many photos, so I’m hoping they too will show it’s beauty!

There are plenty of toilets on route, and a couple of places to buy gifts and have a drink or snack!

The highlight of the tour though has to be the chapel! You can get married there too! What a magical place to take your vows!

The tour takes a nice pace, but I was very thankful for the lift back up!

If you are scared of enclosed spaces, please tell your guide! The lift is very small, and they will fill it to capacity! It’s certainly not for anyone who needs space!

The trip back up only takes about 20 seconds.

Outside, there is a kiosk which sells food and drink! I highly recommend the sausage! You get the sausage, a roll and a coke for 15 PLN (£3.75). It was delicious!

After a feed and rest we head back to the station. There isn’t a ticket office here, but now as seasoned travellers, we buy our return ticket from the machine! You can’t pay cash through the machine only card though!

The train arrives on time and we do the 20 minute journey back to Krakow!

It’s been a great trip. Here are some more photos.

https://youtu.be/Zu4QsSfdx7A

As we head to the main square, it’s hard not to notice how much busier it is. Obviously the locals must come out on a Sunday. There is a lot going on! Musicians are playing, people are making bubbles or balloon animals! It’s absolutely lovely!

The sun is out, so it’s a perfect afternoon for a stroll!