So, just how cramped are you?

Issued under a Creative Commons licence

Issued under a Creative Commons licence

Finding out about the amount of legroom on trains is like trying finding out the Queen’s inside leg measurement: it’s risky, fraught with difficulty, and tantamount to treason.

Legroom (or lack of it) is a pet hate of mine, having endured many journeys where I have had to sit perfectly still, lest my thigh come into contact with the stranger’s opposite. I mean, thigh rubbing is more a third date thing.

Having contacted all the major rail companies and been ignored/refused by all of them, the best figures available were courtesy of Justin Smith on railforums.co.uk. He measured the distance from the rear of the seat to where one’s knees normally would be. I converted them from inches to centimetres, and put them into a table, and a graph. The list is not exhaustive.

As you can see, Northern Rail is the worst train company, with all of their rolling stock offering just 66cm in legroom – that’s the same as a 26 inch telly. However, the worst single train is the East Midlands class 158, with 63.5cm of legroom. This train is a long-distance train that runs from Norwich to Liverpool – a journey that takes over four hours. Ouch.

At a third more room than Northern Rail, Hull Trains offers the most generous legroom for standard class passengers, at a capacious 86.4cm – the same as in first class. Finally, a reason to go to Hull! Out of the trains to offer ‘priority’ seating (generally for those who are disabled, with pushchairs or small children), only on Hull Trains is the priority seating more generous than in first class – but only by two centimetres.

The average length of seating in the eight trains with First Class is 90.8cm, whereas standard class in the same eight trains measures at an average of just 73.7cm. The biggest class divide is on the electric East Coast train (which runs on the West Coast Main Line), with 25.3cm difference between first class and standard class.

Part of the reason why it is so difficult to work out on which journeys you will be luxuriating in space or wedged in like a Lego brick at an orgy is because the seating layout is not dependent on the train company itself, but the rolling stock each company runs (i.e. looking at different carriages – trainspotting territory).

However, even if two train companies own the same type of rolling stock, they often refurbish the interiors to their own specifications. Therefore, it is highly likely that legroom on a train is almost as idiosyncratic as the train itself. Perhaps the best advice is to invest in a straitjacket, so you will be sure you can use the seat next to you to put your feet up.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The most pointless Instagrams of St Pancras

The most pointless Instagrams of St Pancras

As you know, St Pancras holds a special place in my heart because it is my commuter station. Which also happens to house the Eurostar, a champagne bar, designer shops, a piano and art installations. What does this mean? Photos Instagrammed to within an inch of their lives. Enjoy.

  1. Nothing like a bit of #hashtag #overload…
  2. Omg! St Pancras has a roof! Who would have thought it?
  3. Oh, look. People who have time to hang about. With suitcases. Bastards.

Six reasons why St Pancras sucks if you’re a commuter

I know, I know. St Pancras International Station is a marvel. It combines beauty with functionality and upmarket chain stores. John Betjeman loved it. It makes the Daily Mail proud to be British. It manages to be cool and establishment all at the same time.

As I hail from the sunny climes of Luton town, it also happens to be my commuter station. And, just sometimes, I wish it was a bit more, you know, normal. Restful shades of mud brown; just one escalator to get to the surface. They’re simple desires, but not ones that are likely to be fulfilled. And that’s why if you commute, St Pancras is less ‘breathtaking’ and more something to be endured…

  1. It’s a Eurostar terminal, so there are endless gaggles of tourists, suitcases to trip over and romantic couples swooning on their way to Paris. When all you’ve got to look forward to is 40 minutes jammed under a predatory male’s sweaty armpit and a lasagna for one.

    Via stpancras.com

    Photo: stpancras.com

  2. Similarly, St Pancras has posh shops and a champagne bar that you have to walk past to get from the tube station to the National Rail platforms, meaning you have to dash past shiny glass shop fronts full of beautiful things you will never be able to afford. And, let’s face it, you never get to St Pancras early enough to shop there.
  3. The main concourse is ginormous, with people heading in all different directions like sheep on LSD. The result? Clashes worthy of Formula 1.

    Photo: guardian.co.uk

    Photo: guardian.co.uk

  4. Endless Instagramming of ‘gorgeous’, ‘stunning’, etc., etc., St Pancras. As if three million people hadn’t noticed it before that – gasp – the station has a roof.St Pancras roof
  5. Epic strolls to the Tube worthy of the London Marathon. It’s so long you suspect that St Pancras is colluding in secret government plans to make all commuters walk halfway to their destinations before allowing them on public transport.

    Photo: geograph.org.uk

    Photo: geograph.org.uk

  6. The pianos on the main concourse. Well, the last thing you need after a stressful day at the office is a tourist tipsy on overpriced champagne attempting to bash out Chopsticks for the twelfth time. If one of those pianos could speak, it would surely moan, “Did any of you get past grade 2 piano?” 

The ten best station pubs (non-London)

The Sheffield Tap. Image: sheffieldtap.com

The Sheffield Tap. Image: sheffieldtap.com

Confession time: I think the north is awesome. The people are friendlier, the views are better and the trains are amazingly cheap (I have no idea how Northern Rail stays in business). And now it seems they have the best array of pubs within spitting distance of your train.

As this is meant to be a list of pubs that you can pop in while waiting on the platform, I have included pubs at major stations; mainly because I haven’t yet reached that stage of life where I feel the need to travel to a railway station for a booze-up. Enjoy.

Click on a placemark to see descriptions and details.

Live in London? Check out our best station pubs in London.

Five reasons why First Capital Connect is crap

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.

Photo: firstcapitalconnect.co.uk

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.

At least he gets the arse end.
Photo: guardian.co.uk

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.

crowded-train-big

Photo: thelondondailynews.com

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.

Photo: therailwaycentre.com

The 10 best station pubs in London

The Betjeman Arms, St Pancras Image: timeout.com

The Betjeman Arms, St Pancras
Image: timeout.com

All too often, when you’ve mis-timed that crucial station dash (who knew King’s Cross had three levels?), or a friend lives in a godforsaken corner of the earth with three trains a week, what you need is alcohol. Forget sticky-tabled chain coffee shops; these are the ten best places in London to sip a G&T whilst watching the departures board.

Click on the placemarks below for descriptions and links.

Don’t live in the metropolis? Check out my ten best pubs outside of London.

Passengers satisfied with rail service, unsatisfied in life

happy trainTrains. They’re great, aren’t they? Lovely and comfy and punctual. Settling into your seat every morning is like slipping into a warm bath, isn’t it?

What’s that? You don’t like commuting? Well you’re in the minority. According to the results of the National Rail Passenger Survey, 85% of those questioned were satisfied with their rail journey. This is the highest level recorded since the survey began in 1999, and is the closest to true happiness many passengers will ever get.

Look around you on the train. See everyone’s dopey, medicated smiles? You’re just a Debbie Downer ruining it for everyone. You probably wear black nail varnish and have Fake Plastic Trees as your ringtone.  Continue reading