It’s been a long time since I wrote anything about my commuting life, in fact it was my first ever post on the student blogs site. So how does commuting to Leicester every day feel now, nearly one year on? Mostly it’s fine and definitely my preferred option for travel into Leicester, for anyone about to start here who is going to need to commute in every day I would definitely recommend it over driving but there have been a few ups and downs over the last few months such as:
Planned engineering works: A few months back they did some improvement works on the Birmingham to Leicester line that I use. Great! I’m all for improvements to the rail network, however they neglected to advertise this very well. I would like to tell Network Rail right now that ONE POSTER, ONE! inside a ticket office that I use ONCE A MONTH is not sufficient advertising for significant changes to train times. The number of regular passengers looking mystified on the first day of these works let me know I wasn’t alone…
Admittedly this is probably a one off situation and only lasted a few weeks, however anyone planning to commute by train should be careful to check for unexpected changes, it’s really easy to fall into a habit of never checking and with poor communication from Network Rail and the train companies you could end up being late for something important. I’ll admit to never checking my platform or even the train until I’m on it, unless there’s been a major disruption my train always leaves (about 1 min late) from the same platform everyday. I can almost guarantee something will go wrong on my way home tonight now I’ve said that…
How about getting a seat? Generally for me this isn’t a problem, there are always seats available on my morning train. Evening “hometime” trains, 5-6pm, can be quite busy, but unless you have a huge fear of sitting next to a stranger (and if you do I recommend you give up on the idea of train travel now) you can normally sit down once you’ve elbowed someones bag out of the way in a passive agressive, I’m smiling on the outside but I hate you on the inside way. This is of course specific for my line (the passenger numbers not the bag elbowing – this is guaranteed to happen on every commuter train in the history of the world), but I can tell you that I had no problem getting a seat on the train to Nottingham yesterday after work to have dinner with a friend.
Train cancellations, the bane of all of us who travel daily on the rail network. Until recently, with the exception of the above planned works, my trains have been pretty reliable, however in the last month things have been a bit hairy. I’ll admit that the situations have mainly been out of the control of the train companies and Network Rail, but that doesn’t really make me feel better when I have to mark the last of my Brilliant Club assignments in Leicester train station because the train I planned to catch home was cancelled. Cancellations are frustating and irritating but so is being struck in traffic, some commuting situations are lose lose I guess.
I do occassionally drive, mostly when I have Brilliant Club tutorials as the school for my summer placements was about an hour away. For the odd day pay and display parking is pretty reasonable (£3.20 for 12 hours i.e. all day) although in term time it’s a bit of a lottery as to whether you can find a spot unless you’re here early. If I do drive I won’t leave work before 6pm, leaving time for the traffic to clear a bit, this definitely helps (so factor it in if you do plan on driving).
It does cost a lot, there’s no way around it train tickets are expensive, and for season (monthly and yearly) tickets a railcard doesn’t get you a discount, but parking, petrol and car maintainence are expensive as well. Weigh it up and see what works best for you.
The most frustrating factor about commuting by train is that it can limit after work socialising. I’m tied to particular train times and if I miss that train I generally have to wait an hour for the next one … On special occassions (like the Christmas Party) I can convince my very lovely boyfriend to come pick me up 🙂 . The last train I can get is just before 11pm, so it’s generally not a problem, although I regularly fail to see the end of a pub quiz. As it starts getting darker and colder again (which is apparently this week!) the walks to and from my local train station (25mins each way) are going to get harder and put up a strong fight for the crown of most frustrating part of commuting by train.
I’m not 100% on this but for those lucky enough to afford to purchase a yearly ticket I think there is a scheme in place with the University that gets you a discount, the scheme is designed to encourage the use of public transport. If I’m wrong let me know, but if you can be sure you’ll be travelling from the same station for the next year it could be a worthwhile having a look into this.
So that’s kind of all the negatives in one neat and tidy list, reading this you probably wouldn’t believe that about 90% of the time I’m a very happy rail user (except for the price, that causes me pain every time I renew my ticket), however I am. The Cross Country and Leicester train station staff are really friendly and helpful which does make a difference. If you do commute everyone in Leicester will tell you it’s much better to live in Leicester, but for me living outside the city means I have a clear distinction between work and home, it lets me keep balance in my life.
Feel free to post specific commuting questions and I’ll do my best to give you an answer, enjoy the Bank holiday weekend,