Saturday, 28 November 2009

I Take Back Those Words

w/e 29/11/09

A five out of five! 100% Sweet.

No journeys delayed by more than five minutes. I am a happy commuter this week. Interestingly, I picked up a copy of the quarterly 'rail news' only to
find that apparently the Larne Line is something like 95% on time (i.e. within five minutes). More on that through the week when I have time to read the leaflet on the train (yes, I'm that boring/bored).

Cher's Verdict - "They found a Way"

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Week That Was

w/e 22/11/09

I took the bus and train in and out of work four times this week (Monday - Thursday), and on Friday I did a one-way journey inward bound (got a lift home).

Monday was more than 5 minutes late, even as judged by 'Translink Own Time'. I'm also having difficulty classing Tuesday's train as a success, since it went on to Epic Fail shortly after Central Station.

I'm giving this week a 55.5% (recurring).

Two not-up-to-scratch days out of four and a half day's travelling.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Fun Rail for a Friend


Tuesday went as planned, for me, on the 08:34 train. But a reliable source tells me that once I got off at Central, things went rather downhill (well, I suppose that's only to be expected).

The train successfully made it to Botanic without a hitch (very impressive), but once stopped at the student station, the train was unable to get started again. My friend was thoroughly absorbed in a book and didn't notice the lack of locomotion. She only started to realise that something was wrong when the doors continued that really annoying beeping sound. For
15 minutes. Open, close, beepedy beepedy. Open. Close. Beepedy beepedy. That get's old fast.

Eventually, all the passengers were requested to get off the train and stand on the platform. At that point, the train then took off without them! Hilarious. Maybe the conductor was just fed up with them all. I can appreciate that. Commuting to work can be a very noisy, unpleasant affair. I'd love to be able to get everyone else of the train sometimes, too.

After 5 minutes on the platform, another train pulled in at Botanic. A lot of people got off. Most of them, even. All the previously discarded passengers, though, couldn't wait to get on. Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen, eh Translink. The train then pulled out of the station, with this announcement:

"This train will not be stopping at Great Victoria Street, all passengers for Great Victoria Street please change at City Hospital"!

You would be too.

So at the very next stop, all our little lost friends had to get off (again), and wait for a(nother) train to finally take them to Great Victoria Street. With 25 minutes of delay. Delicious.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Mussolini Says: "Room for Improvement"


I got the super-early 07:06 train in the morning. I suspect that when you are travelling that early there are less problems, since delays are probably passed on from one train to the next, all adding up to a real watch-melter later in the day.

That's just a pet theory of mine. I have lots, when it comes to trains...

On the way home, the 17:43 was delayed until 17:49 (that's the time it actually started pulling away from the platform - as stated on Central Station's own clock. I call this 'Translink Time' because it has a tendency to contract and expand in a different way to time as you and I experience it).

Not exactly a crime against humanity. But not on time.

Mussolini's verdict - "Could do better."

Personal time wasted on this journey: 6 mins
Cumulative personal time wasted by Translink: 94 mins
Total cost of my delayed journeys to the economy: £20.21
Frustration factor: Barely even raised an eyebrow

Summing It Up

w/e 15/11/09

I commuted in to work and back four times this week. Monday and Tuesday were atrocious disasters of public transport. Wednesday and Friday were fine.

That's a 50% acceptable standard for the week ending 15/11/09.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Saga Continues

Tu 10/11/09

Just when I thought it was safe to go home - i.e. at six o'clock, in plenty of time to make the 18:10 number 23 bus from Stormont Estate to Belfast Central - Translink struck for the second time in one working day.

I have to admit I was taken by surprise.

I thought I'd worked up some good public transport karma in the morning. I figured the world owed me an easy ride (home). I expected the bus to be there, to show up any second, to show up eventually... So, finding it difficult to believe the bus would just fail to arrive without some kind of an explanation (I know, I'm a slow learner, or an optimist) I hung about.

Well, at 23 minutes past six the bus was officially a no show. I should have remembered Monday morning. All the intelligent people had already made the right call and walked to the nearest bus stop on the Newtownards Road.

I soon followed. Stormont Estate closes it's gate at 18:30 - would you risk an overnight in work based on the chances of a Translink bus finally showing up? Me neither. But I kept looking back over my shoulder to make sure it didn't sneak by when I wasn't watching.

I got a 4A bus from Rosepark, shortly after 18:30, arriving in Central Station with plenty of time to spare before the 19:30 to Larne Town. You know the sort of time I mean. The sort where you have nothing to do but sit around in the station, with all the shops closed, and plot the sort of Blog you're going to start as soon as you get home. If you get home.

Well, this time I did it.

Personal time wasted on this journey: 40 mins
Cumulative personal time wasted by Translink: 88 mins
Total cost of my delayed journeys to the economy: £18.92
Frustration factor: Annoyed enough to start a Blog

Oops They Did it Again

Tu 10/11/09

Ever feel like this?

Tuesday. The 07:34 was announced as 13 minutes delayed. This began to feel a lot like Monday, only with announcements. Minutes later the announcement lady (should that be 'announcetress'?) told us that it would be 20 minutes.

Again, the mysterious 'signal fault' appears to be to blame. I just know a lot of my posts here are going to involve that nebulous, impossible-to-pin-down phrase. I have a good story about the lethal combo of 'wheel slip' and 'signal fault' that happened within the past few months, but I'll save that for a no-news week. If one ever happens.

So on the morning of the 10/11/09 (yes that is a clue - I'll be back with more on the second half of this eventless journey) the scene was:

Personal time wasted on this journey: 20 mins
Cumulative personal time wasted by Translink: 48 mins
Total cost of my delayed journeys to the economy: £10.32
Frustration factor: Peeved [I ended up slightly late to work]

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Show me the money

Just a note to explain how I model the cost of Translink’s delays. Rather than use the NI Civil Service costing model for my grade, which involves a lot of other factors as well as staff salary multiplied by time, I decided to use the average wage x time wasted. I am using median UK wage (currently £20,801), rather than the mean:

This will allow me, at some later stage, by counting passengers, to estimate the value of a whole train-full of us being delayed. I’ll save that for a journey where I’m actually stuck on a train long enough to count all the passengers. I’m sure the chance will present itself if I wait patiently enough!

So here’s how I calculated Monday’s estimate:

1. The average salary is £20,801 for the year (or 52 weeks), but I’m interested in the ‘minutes at my desk’ value of my time.

2. The salary is only based on an average attendance at work of about 43 weeks:


– 25 days annual leave (i.e 5 working weeks)

– 10 days public holiday (i.e 2 working weeks)

– around 10 days sick (i.e 2 working weeks)

= 43 ‘commuting into work on public transport’ working weeks

3. So, 43 weeks at 37.5 hours per week = 1612.5 working hours. Therefore, average pay per hour worked, as seen from the employer’s perspective, is around £12.90. This represents how much your time at your desk costs your employer, per hour, on average.

4. Per minute this is about 21.5p

5. On Monday, when I was delayed by 28 minutes, somebody lost £6.02. Either me or my employer. Who loses depends on whether you have to stay late to make up for the lost time (e.g. under a Flexible Working Hours system) or not. All I’m measuring is potentially productive time lost as a result of Translink delays, not who lost it, that’s too tricky for a non-economist like me!

[Note: this is a crude average calculation; some of us take less sick leave, but have more annual leave, or higher salaries. This is just an indicative measure of the value of our time when at work, not taking into account harder to define benefits like staff being more productive.]

Strike One

Mon 09/11/09

So it begins, with a cancelled train.

Actually, more of an invisible one, as Translink made no announcement to let us know it wasn't coming, it must have been on time - we must all just not have seen it. Probably our own fault, really. We should be more observant. After all, those new trains are harder to see, especially on the Larne line:

More at:

To give context to this Blog I’ll post some background: I got so angry with public transport this week, for reasons I will go on to give vent to, that I had to find a way to release my anger without harming myself or others! Hence this Blog.

I commute daily from Greenisland (a stop on the Larne line*) to Belfast Central on the train, when it comes. From there I take a number 23 bus to the Stormont Estate. I attempt this perilous journey on a daily basis, and my success is rather mixed. I chose the name of this Blog because, sometimes, this seemingly straightforward journey can become a veritable epic.

I welcome comments from others with a similar tale to tell – it might not change the world, but it’s certainly made me feel better to get it off my chest!

To get back to Monday. On Monday the 07:34 train simply never arrived. On the opposing platform an announcement was made that their train was being cancelled. On the Belfast platform we all counted ourselves fortunate as families packed their children back into cars and people generally dispersed from Platform 2. How wrong we were. Platform 2 were the lucky ones, they got an announcement. We stood like plonkers until an express train whizzed past.

Oh yes, Translink still run express trains on the line, even if they have cancelled a previous train. Even if the train is half-empty, it still doesn’t stop. It’s a very effective way of adding insult to injury. Both platform 1 and 2 were treated to an expressive exhibition as we watched other commuters overtake us, cold, stranded, abandoned.

The 07:54 train was then delayed. Experienced observers like myself were expecting this, as the express had also been late. In total my journey was delayed by around 28 minutes. Perfect. If it wasn’t difficult to believe them capable of such brilliant timing, I’d suspect Translink of doing it on purpose to deprive passengers of any compensation. I arrived just in time for my meeting.

Personal time wasted on this journey: 28 mins

Cumulative personal time wasted by Translink: 28 mins

Total cost of my delayed journeys to the economy: £6.02

Frustration factor: Disgusted [by the Express train]