BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘unreliable’

#365daysofbiking Waiting for a train

October 31st – Some seasonal traditions are always more welcome than others.

One I hate to see but recurs every autumn is the half term failure of the rail system in Birngham and the Black Country.

No matter who seems to ‘run’ the local franchise – after all, we’ve had three operators now Central Trains, London Midland and West Midlands Railway – a combination of staff shortages and mechanical failures always makes for a miserable week on local rail with delayed trains and cancelled services. This week has been no exception and rail travel has been awful.

This evening I was coming from a meeting in Birmingham and needed to be in Shenstone before six. I was so suspicious of the services leaving New Street that I caught the earlier train that terminates at Four Oaks, resolving to catch the onward train if it was still on time behind.

This gave me a few minutes to appreciate the really lovely late night feelings vibe of this surprisingly large suburban station.

I love this places at night.

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October 1st – Spotted this bike on the train today. It’s a Cannondale, a brand I’m not keen on, mainly for their curious approach to design and resolute defiance of industry standards.

I snatched these images on the phone, as the owner was clearly happy with his new steed. The bike has an interesting feature – ‘Headshok’ suspension. Rather than conventional front systems, where both fork legs travel together and work in tandem,  this system is at the fork crown, and much of the mechanism – dampers etc. – is in the head-tube and between crown and fork.

Initially appealing, it means all the load in work is on one member, rather than two; the system is utterly proprietary, and requires frequent, expensive, short milage interval services. Finally, you only have to look at them funny and they stop working.

There are avid Cannondale fans out there, and many love Headshok. My experience was that it was a whole bag of hurt.

I wish my fellow cyclist all the best of luck with his new bike. I think he’ll need it.

November 13th – As I waited for yet another late train at Blake Street this morning, I gazed at the rails. The train service has been lousy of late – continual staff shortages and equipment failures have made the system terribly unreliable. This particular service hasn’t been on time for a fortnight at least. Normally at this time of year, London Midland, the local train operator, would institute a ‘Leaf fall timetable’. This is a much derided, but little understood thing. Falling leaves lie on the rails and get pulped by the train wheels, creating a slippery, sappy lubricant the causes wheels to slip and brakes to become ineffective. The pulp also forms an insulator which prevents signal detection functioning.

A leaf-fall timetable allows drivers to go more slowly and allows rail cleaning trains to operate in-between passenger services. The cleaning trains spray gelatinous substance on the rails called Sandite, which as it’s name suggests, contains sand to counter the grease. The rails I was looking at had clearly just been treated, and the residue could be seen. This is a huge problem for trains worldwide and not unique to the UK.

I’m unclear why there’s no leaf fall timetable this year, and the services on the Cross City line are woeful. Combined with cancellations due to staff shortages, bad signals and train breakdowns, I bet they’re losing punters hand over fist.