Public Transport: Efficiently Getting You Most Of The Way Home

IMAG5562 I hate airport parking for its criminally high cost and the risk of terrible things happening to my pride and joy while it’s left alone. Also, If I have to drive after a flight it means I can’t relax on the plane with a couple of beers. To avoid this inconvenience afflicting our recent vacation my wife and I elected to use the train, taking us from the station on our doorstep, underneath London and on to Heathrow Terminal 2. Unfortunately, the photograph above is key to the topic of this discussion; illustrating as it does a station with a complete lack of train in it. This was the scene that met us just four miles from home, as public transport managed to successfully complete only most of the task we hired it for. And I can’t see it ever getting any better. 1 Our nearest station is only a three minute walk from our house, so we reckoned that England’s fabulous integrated public transport system would be just the ticket for whisking us swiftly and cleanly to the airport and back. It wouldn’t be cheap at £60 each, but by the time we factored in fuel and parking we would break even on what it would cost to go by car. The railway’s promise of a complete journey there followed by a complete journey home got the nod mainly on the basis that I wouldn’t have to bother with an evening drive home from the backside of London. To be fair to it, getting there was a cinch. There was a five minute delay near Forest Gate because another train in front had done something silly but we arrived at Heathrow with plenty of time for a cheese and bacon croissant before boarding the very lovely vintage Icelandair 757-200 (Rolls Royce RB211’s for the win). The return flight was only about ten minutes late to land but after the mechanical crawl through London’s sewers we only reached our London terminus, Liverpool Street, just after 22:00. The commuter train we had taken at 07:00 on Friday had been a train that served Harwich International, considered one of the most important sea ports in Britain. Ha, not at 22:00 on a Sunday it isn’t. That time of night trains have a total disinterest in Harwich, and with it the two closer stations, including ours in Mistley. Our train was willing to drop us at Manningtree station but gave the Harwich branch the finger and then fucked off to Norwich. It made itself perfectly clear that, from that point, we were on our own. At 23:00 there were no buses, and you’d be bloody hard pressed to drag a non-pre-booked taxi driver out of the pub at that time of night, so we were buggered. And even if a cab had been available, we were still ultimately replacing the final stage of our public transport journey with a car, just somebody else’s. And as it happens, a car came to our rescue. A silver VW Passat estate owned by the nicest couple in the world, who were themselves returning from a long weekend in Paris. They overheard us planning the four mile walk home, encumbered with suitcases and bags of duty-free beers and spirits, and told us quite succinctly that “you can’t do that”, whence they drove us to our street which was totally the opposite of the direction they were planning to go. And for this they declined payment (which was just as well as I had about thirty Icelandic Kroner on my person.) So that’s it. From this little skirmish we have confirmed that public transport can only truly work if there’s some kind of car waiting at the end of every journey. Are your experiences any different? (Top image Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016, Second image Google Maps screen cap, third image via Youtube with some high quality MS Paint editing)

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