This Drake was certainly well cooked yesterday on what was Britain’s hottest day in history. Getting to work wasn’t a problem, but getting home was. It took me three hours from leaving the office in Wimbledon to travel approximately 27 miles.

I had intended to go to Ronnie Le Drew’s book launch party for Zippy and Me at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington, but given that we knew what the weather was going to be like – I didn’t fancy my chances of getting from Wimbledon to Islington in time – nor how long it would take to get back to Woking.

The first problem was that as I was about to leave, the heavens opened up. First a spectacular thunder and lightning show, then a heavy downpour. Thankfully it didn’t last long. When I made to Wimbledon station, it turned out that the train to Woking would be delayed. Luckily there was a train to Guildford (via Epsom) which I sometimes take if it’s likely the Woking train is likely to be very late (which it very much was), so I hopped on.

The suburban stopping service on South Western Railway routes uses old train stock. They have no air conditioning to speak of, just windows that can be opened and closed. But this is not enough – especially when trains have to run far slower over track due to heat-related stress – to get a decent airflow. I was sweating buckets. It was if somebody threw a bucket of my own sweat over me. And I forgot to bring water.

When I got to Guildford, the train to London Waterloo via Woking was delayed too – so there was another 20 minutes worth of extra waiting to be had. To make matters worse, when I got to Woking, the regular bus service was majorly delayed by an hour.

So I went to McDonald’s, had something to eat and drink there, then went back to wait for the bus which turned up 5 minutes later. Three hours to get home – door to door – in some of the most uncomfortable conditions I’ve ever encountered. It wasn’t even this bad when I’ve been travelling to hot countries such as Egypt where there is little access to AC.

While it’s going to be cooler today, I strongly suspect the train services aren’t going to be much better..

Thought I’d take a peek on my way into work today:

Shogun interests me, but given the fragile state of the book, I’d feel better if I were to buy the Kindle edition instead. But not a bad selection of books – usually the shelf is empty. But I wondered what happened to the VHS tapes?

Yes, South Western Railways and smartcards again. But before I start there, I popped into Woking station’s platform 1 waiting room to check up on the lending library there:

They’ve expanded to VHS and DVDs now?!

Quite surprised to see the entire series eight of Inspector Morse there, along with a VHS copy of Carry on Up the Khyber. Good luck to the person whoever manages to find a portable VHS player (a joke I shamefully nicked off a work colleague).

Smart card. Fart card. Whatever.

My replacement SWR smart card has faired as well as the card it was replacing. Bought another single day return ticket to Wimbledon from Woking and went to check that it was valid on the same machine that issued it at Woking station.

The ticket machine managed to do its job properly this time! Give it a biscuit!

ALAS!

The Computer Says No

Went up to the barriers at Woking and the dreaded “Seek Assistance” popped up. Several attempts. No joy. Went back to the ticket machine to verify – yep, it was readable and the ticket was found. So I showed the image above to the ticket inspector who advised that I tap in on a yellow contactless terminal on the platform. That should do it, he said. So I did. Green tick.

Merry-go-round broken down

Then the train I was to get down had developed a fault and I had to make my way to platform three and endure a delay of stopping at every single stop to Wimbledon – but at least I didn’t have to change at Surbiton.

Got to the barriers at Wimbledon:

SWR’s ticketing systems are a useless pile of toss

So more explaining to the guards at the barriers and I was let out. The same will happen again this evening. I am so utterly fed up with the hassle South Western Railway’s smart card system has brought. It should not go wrong this often. I fully blame their IT department for this. It’s as if the ticketing system cannot communicate with the barriers properly to validate tickets.

Hard to believe it’s the 21st century

I’ll probably end up using paper tickets again. But I find these wasteful and a pain in the arse to have to take out of one’s wallet every time they need to go through a barrier or inspected by a train guard/inspector. Furthermore, by the time I’ve got home, the barriers at Woking are unmanned, leaving me with a useless paper ticket. They tend to build up in my wallet. If I remember, they’re discarded in the bin – but I’m sure that somebody will delve in there and try and find a way of reusing it.

I sincerely hope that with all these problems, the franchise owners, The First Group and MTR Corporation, lose the franchise at the earliest opportunity. Since they took over, the service (at least the suburban service) has been bloody dreadful. The ticket system is still stuck in the 20th century and is unreliable as hell.

Hand-written ticket!

On Monday I tried to buy a ticket on the smartcard at Woking station. Paid for it via contactless, and put my ticket on the reader to update it. Uh-oh, the machine had trouble updating my ticket. Tried again. Still problems. So I went to the counter and ask them what to do. They got a notebook which contains special tickets that are handwritten. So I traveled on that for the day – but encountered some resistance at Wimbledon as the guard was not familiar with the SWR smart card system and insisted that I had to get a return ticket from the ticket office. Nope, the ticket office said, the paper I had was sufficient as they couldn’t deal with SWR smart cards. And indeed, within the London zone, none of the ticket machines can handle smart cards. And none of ticket offices, regardless of location, can deal with smart cards either.

Learn. Improve. Maybe unite?

It’s about time that we started to go down the route of TFL and use contactless credit/debit cards. Whether they be physical cards, or virtual cards stored on our phones or smart watches. I’d much prefer to use my phone to act as my ticket than the current system. Travelling with TFL is almost effortless. It’s not without a few problems, but considerably less than that of SWR.

Something for everyone..

I’ve donated a few more books to fellow South Western Railway commuters at Woking station’s #Bookswap:

  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Milligan’s War by Spike Milligan
  • Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
  • Retromancer by Robert Rankin

I was pleased to see yesterday’s donation were taken, and are now hopefully being enjoyed by somebody.

It brings back the subject of physical media – you can share your DVD or Blu-Ray with other people. You can share your physical book or magazine with other people. But you can’t share a Kindle book or an iTunes movie or an Amazon Prime Video or Netflix TV series. It’s quite maddening.