The Joys of Commuting

Last week’s commute was just horrific.  It took me three hours to get home on two days out of the five, with one of those days seeing the bus between the railway station and my village break down 10 minutes into the journey.  I had to get an Uber to get home.

But there is one thing that makes my commute a little better.  I managed to source Apple’s Airpods a couple of weeks ago from a store in Wimbledon.  And they’re just terrific.  I’ve spent a happy week listening to the audio book version of Terry Pratchett’s Thud! via Audible, and these things made carrying a pair of earphones a breeze.  They live in my trouser pocket, and I just have to whip them out whenever I need them.  No cables.  No fuss.

They look flippin’ odd, but their portability more than makes up for it.

The only problem with the AirPods is that they don’t block out the sounds of trains whizzing past, nor do they block the sound of the train guard announcing things at every station stop.  Otherwise, they’re brilliant for listening to audio books, and they’re not bad at listening to music.

If only they’d get rid of :

  • Signalling problems across the South Western Railway network
  • Disruptive passengers
  • Broken down trains

and improve:

  • More direct trains from Woking to Wimbledon and vice versa
  • Lazy people not putting their discarded coffee cups and rubbish in bins mere meters away
  • My memory – I left my umbrella on a train a couple of weeks ago – the day it absolutely hammered down with rain

South West Pains: Oh, Doctor Beeching!

Well.  We’ve just returned to the stone age with South Worst Trains South West Trains.

A Smart card rendered completely dumb by SWT HQ.
A Smart card rendered completely dumb by SWT HQ.

I’ve been using my South West Trains Smart Card just fine for the past month.  I had bought the contactless portion at Woking station’s ticket machines using the season ticket renewal option.

ALAS!

Today when I tried to do the same thing, the machine told me – several times, and most insistently, that it couldn’t find any season tickets.  I could buy regular train tickets for the card, and a 7 day pass between Woking and Guildford – but not a monthly.  So I walked up to the ticket office who told me that they don’t support these contactless cards and could only offer me paper tickets.  Talk about a step backwards!

Grudgingly I had to go for the paper route as I had to catch the next train to Guildford.  But before I went for my daily coffee fix at Costa, I went to one of the ticket office kiosks and asked if they were able to handle contactless cards.  Nope.  They couldn’t even read them.  All HQ’s fault, apparently.

What I don’t understand is why this worked before and now it doesn’t.  The system was working beautifully for the month I had the contactless card.  In/out at the barriers with not one single hassle.  Now I’ve got to go back to using paper tickets which wear out easily (often necessitating me to go and get it replaced), and thumble to pull the ticket out each time.

This is 2016, FFS, not the time of Doctor Beeching.

And when I tried to log into the South West Trains web site, not only am I not able to determine what my credentials are (I have them saved in my password management utility, but they’re not being accepted), but I’m getting this old chestnut:

Classic Windows 2008 Server (now a decrepit 8 year old OS) error - it can't negotiate a stronger set of TLS ciphers, PLUS they're not loading all their assets behind SSL (which they should).
Classic Windows 2008 Server error  (now a decrepit 8 year old OS) – it can’t negotiate a stronger set of TLS ciphers because it’s too old – they need to be using TLS 1.2 which is supported on Windows 2012) PLUS they’re not loading all their assets behind SSL (which they should be doing).  This is all too common a problem with a lot of commercial sites running on the Windows platform, and it’s driving me mad.

I wanted to check if I could buy the ticket in advance (although I’d still have to get the Plusbus component at the ticket office as SWT has never supported Plusbus on tickets longer than a week at the ticket machines).

In short: what a flippin’ mess.

Finally, South West Trains join the Smart Card generation!

I may be learning to drive with the intention of replacing buses and trains with a car so I can drive door-to-door from home to work (and vice versa), but it may be a few more months yet.  In the meantime, the good news is that South West Trains has finally brought out a smart card which is used like an Oyster card to get through the ticket barriers without the wear and tear on paper tickets.

I’ve just registered to get one, and hopefully I’ll never have to spend time getting my monthly ticket replaced because the ticket machines have chewed/destroyed them.  Apparently the Plus Bus aspect will still work, but obviously that bit will remain paper (which is fair enough because you only have to show that to the driver – it goes nowhere near a machine).

You can get more information and register for a South West Trains smart card here.