Coventry seems to have more than it's fair share of crap drivers. There was heavy rain this morning. An awful lot of cars were driving around without headlights. When I looked in my wing mirrors, all I could see was a wall of grey. A car without headlights would be effectively invisible.
Another thing I saw this morning was in a slow moving queue of traffic approaching a pedestrian crossing. The traffic was also queued up beyond the crossing. The lights turned red and Mr Genius accelerated to get over the crossing and join the queue at the other side. He risked the lives of anyone trying to cross and saved himself a grand total of zero seconds on his journey.
A few weeks ago I saw a car parked on a zebra crossing. It was also parked on the wrong side of the road, facing the wrong way. The moron driver had parked there so she could go to the nearby cash machine.
When I first moved to Coventry, I decided that when I started work, I would try to get a job where I could commute by public transport. I saw how bad the traffic was at peak times, and didn't want to be stuck in a car in the middle of it. When I was working in Birmingham, I used the train because driving would have been a nightmare. On the two occasions when I did drive in, it was no quicker than the train, and was certainly more stressful. At least on the train I can sit back and close my eyes for half an hour.
Unfortunately, where we're living now, we're not on a direct bus route to Uni, so what should be a 15 minute drive can be an hour on the bus. At peak times, it becomes a 20-30 minute drive, thanks to a few bottlenecks near the ring road or at certain roundabouts.
I might as well get used to it - I've got another 4 years of it to look forward to.
Due to a Security Alert, this train will not be stopping at Birmingham International
No explanation was given. Our train had stopped just short of the station before the announcement was made. When we got to New Street, I noticed that the next train to International had been cancelled. There was also an announcement saying that the next train to London Euston (which normally stops at International) would not be stopping there.
I don't know what happened there - I hope it was nothing serious, just something like accidentally unattended luggage.
The National Rail Enquiries web site has the following announcement: Train services on all routes via Birmingham International are being disrupted due to a security alert. Birmingham International is currently evacuated and train services are currently unable to call at this station
BIRMINGHAM International train station has been evacuated this morning following reports of a suspect package.
British Transport Police ordered the station's operator Virgin Trains to close the building at 8.48am.
No trains are stopping at the station, although they are still able to pass through.
A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: "We can confirm that Birmingham International railway station is currently evacuated.
"Officers are at the scene following reports of a suspicious item and a person is helping us with our enquiries.
"Trains are continuing to operate through the station."
There was also news about this on the BBC website.
It was my company Summer Do in Birmingham tonight. Emma was supposed to be meeting me at the office but she was running late. It had been raining all day and the railway lines were flooded. No trains were leaving Coventry station but the ticket offices were still happily selling tickets to people. They weren't going to put on a rail replacement bus because they claimed the flooding wasn't their fault.
Emma eventually turned up 2½ hours later, having taken the bus instead. She said she wouldn't have bothered but I'd already paid in advance. We stayed for a few drinks and the buffet, to make sure we got our moneys worth.
We didn't know whether the trains would be running properly by the time we were ready to go home, so we thought it would be safer to leave early. We were in luck and there was a train ready to leave when we got to New St.
We got back to Coventry before midnight. Emma had pre-ordered the Harry Potter book from Waterstones and we had to wait for the shop to open. She decided not to read the book there an then, but to wait until morning.
I was reading the Metro newspaper on my way to work this morning when I noticed a voucher for a 99p Mocha 'Today at your station'. The voucher expiry date was 10th June 2007, so it looks like the offer is open to Time Lords only, which is discrimination and should be illegal.
There was a list of stations where the voucher was valid. ALL IN LONDON! Since when have any of those been 'my station', especially because I was reading the Midlands edition of the paper on the Coventry to Birmingham train. So get your Tardis over to London and get your cheap cup of coffee.
I was on the platform at New Street station, standing next to my train waiting for the doors to open. Some people walked past with bin bags tied around their legs as makeshift waterproof leggings. All I can assume is that they were on their way home from the mudbath which was this years Glastonbury Festival.
On the train to work this morning, it seemed to be braking quite hard between Birmingham International and Marston Green. The train came to a shuddering halt just at the end of the platform at Matston Green. It sat there for about a minute then an announcement came on the tannoy: we apologise for the delay while we try to open the doors.
Still nothing happened then the train started to reverse back into the station. It looks like the driver wasn't paying attention and either forgot we were stopping there or forgot to brake in time.
I was about 10 minutes early getting to work this morning, ironically because the trains were running late. I managed to get onto the train which normally runs about 15 minutes before mine, which turned up at the station just as I was crossing the bridge to the platform.
I like a good mystery, such as the perennial favourite 'What train am I on?' and the related 'What platform is my train on?'
Tonight they had moved my train to platform 1, which you can't get from the side entrance of New Street Station, so I had to walk along the platform, up the stairs to the central concourse, then down the steps to the platform itself. The screen there still announced the imminent departure of a different train, and the platform was full of people waiting for that train til the tannoy announced that it had been moved to yet another platform.
The 'free milk' people were outside Coventry railway station again this morning, giving away samples of a new semi-skimmed milk with less than 1% fat. I got a small bottle yesterday which I drank on the train because I was thirsty. The bottle they gave me this morning is sitting in the fridge in work. If nobody steals it*, I'll have it with cereal (we're not allowed to use the milk provided, that's for tea and coffee only. People have complained about the milk running out when the cereal-eaters start plundering the fridge).
- There has been a spate of thefts from the fridge in work - mainly just a few scrapes of butter but on occasion an entire tub has vanished, along with a jar of marmite!
The MOT, annual service, road tax and insurance are all up for renewal on my car at the end of the month. I took it in for it's MOT yesterday and thankfully it passed, although the 'check engine' light keeps coming on. According to the manual that means the engine management has detected unusual emissions so I'll need to look into that. The annual service was the only non-compulsory thing so I thought I could wait a couple of months before doing that, but that might need doing sooner rather than later now.
I went to the post office at lunchtime to pay the road tax. Thank you very much Gordon Brown for putting the price up in the budget, meaning I had to fork out £15 more than I was expecting.
I need to shop around for insurance now - I've seen quotes saving me up to £100, which would be very welcome. I just need to decide which one to accept.
It has been very windy today. Whenever it's windy, a strange sound can be heard from the back of our house. It's a low moaning note, sounding like a lower version of when you blow over a bottle top. We hope it is just air blowing past a pipe and not some sort of wind monster outside.
On my way to work this morning, the pavements were blocked by wheelie bins lying on their sides, victims of the wind overnight. The trains were running but were reduced to 50mph for safety. At least they were running. Things weren't so good tonight.
I had heard that the Virgin Trains to London had been cancelled but I got to New Street at my usual time in the hope that I wouldn't have to wait long for a train. I couldn't check the 'Live Departures' website because it was down. The screens at New Street were all displaying a notice apologising for the disruption caused by the weather.
The station was surprisingly quiet. There weren't many trains at the platforms and surprisingly few people standing around. I overheard someone saying that the main entrance to the station had been closed. With no train times being displayed, everyone was milling around on the bridge waiting for an announcement over the tannoy.
Thankfully a train to Coventry was announced. I managed to get a seat. The train was surprisingly empty given that it was one of the few actually leaving. The exercise in crowd control at the main entrance seemed to be a bit over zealous meaning a lot of people couldn't get to the platforms.
I couldn't find my wallet this morning - I realised I must have left it in my desk in work. I didn't want it there all weekend so I thought it would be best for me to nip back in to retrieve it. It was a 3 hour 'nip'. There were no trains running from Coventry station (thanks to engineering works) so I had to get onto a rail replacement bus. This decided to stop at every station between Coventry and Birmingham International and took ages. The only consolation was seeing a goat standing on a picnic table, somewhere halfway between Canley and Tile Hill.
I arrived at work in a bad mood this morning, thanks to an overcrowded and late-running train. I think it's time for a bit of a moan about Coventry Station.
The new signs are working and no longer have the notices covering them. Unfortunately the old screens between platforms 2 and 3 have been removed but not replaced. This means that if you are crossing the bridge you can't see what trains are running late or what platform they are arriving at. They used to have screens on the stairs by platforms 2,3 & 4 displaying the next arrival at that platform. On the platforms themselves there were screens showing all the departures. These have all been removed so the only places where you can see this information are the main concourse and the ticket barrier.
The ticket barrier itself is a huge bottleneck at peak times. On most days the only way through is to insert your ticket into the slot and wait for the barrier to open. This is much slower than the set-up at Birmingham New Street where there are ticket inspectors who look at the tickets as you pass. It may be more thorough but it is much slower and leads to huge queues forming.
Outside of the station, the entrance to the long stay car park has been made incredibly pedestrian unfriendly. A new fence has been erected, forcing pedestrians to either walk the long way around or to squeeze through the gap between fence and hedge, over a muddy patch of ground. There is no pavement alongside the car park entrance so the third option is to walk in the roadway and try to dodge the traffic entering and leaving. The layout seems to have been designed with complete disregard for pedestrial welfare.
Ok, moan over. Hopefully my next blog entry will be a bit more positive.
They are having new signs installed at Coventry Station to replace the existing screens and clocks. The old clocks didn't always show the same time as each other and the screens didn't always work.
I arrived at the station this morning and the old monitor screen between the concourse and platform 1 had been removed and there was a new flat screen monitor in it's place. It had a sticker on it claiming 'These signs are under test. Please disregard the information on them'. The signs on the platforms are of the type which show the time and the next train to arrive at that platform. These replace the old 'digital' ones where the segments flick over to make the numbers, only some of the segments had stuck so bits of number kept going missing. They also had the please disregard notices stuck to them. I had to hope that my train wasn't going to be too late and I didn't need to be on a different platform.