The detractors of HS2 are a rowdy bunch. The government’s landmark high-speed rail scheme to link London and the north of England sparks controversy with every new development. Take any road trip through Buckinghamshire – with ‘No To HS2’ signs at every corner – and you’ll think the area is fighting off a foreign invasion.
The survey that said that First Capital Connect was the worst train company in the country was a hollow victory for this disgruntled commuter. A veteran of the Bedford to Brighton line, I’m here to reveal the inside reasons why passengers stumble off an FCC train with a glazed look in their eyes and mumbling “never again”.
1. 12-carriage trains
What do unicorns, Big Foot and 12-coach trains have in common? They are mythical beings that only crazy people have seen. First Capital Connect basically had a train-gasm in December when they announced that 12-coach trains would be running on the Bedford-Brighton line.
Guess how many 12-coachers run a day on the Thameslink line? Nope, you’re wrong. It’s eight. Four each way. On a service that has four trains an hour. Whenever I see a sign for ‘our new, longer trains’, I suddenly realize how a man with a tiny penis feels when he’s bombarded by ads for cock-lengthening pills.
2. The inhumane seating arrangements
FCC trains are unique in that the seats are laid out in fours and sixes, with the rows facing each other. An evil genius then measured the space between them so there isn’t quite enough room for two sets of legs. The result? You feel as if you should have had at least three dates with the person opposite you before you get that intimate. I was forced to interlink knees with a tall chap this morning – I wasn’t sure whether I should pretend it wasn’t happening or ask whether he preferred missionary or doggy-style.
3. The ancient rolling stock
Commuting on the Thameslink route is a bit like being a rent boy – every evening you’re inside something rickety and slow that was old even before you were born. Most of the rolling stock has been on this line for 25 years. This means a ride rougher than Paris Hilton after a night out and heating that leaves the carriage either hotter than the surface of the sun or as cold as Jeremy Kyle’s smile.
4. Fickle train planning
When there are delays, you are at the mercy of the train gods. My evening journey is from Farringdon to Leagrave, neither of which is considered to be an ‘important’ station. Consequently, it is often FCC policy when the trains are running late to just miss out these stations – as if they just stop there normally because they like the view. Similarly, they like to surprise us commuters by sending a 4-coach station instead of a normal 8-coach one in the middle of rush hour. I swear I have heard manic laughter while trying to avoid two Kindles and an Evening Standard from being shoved up my nose because of the crowd.
5. The colour scheme
Imagine, if you will, the inside of dead man’s oesophagus. That is the exact shade of pink used all over First Capital Connect trains. And I thought it was the jolting that made me feel ill on my morning journey.