The mystery of the 9:12 to Basingstoke (calling at Clapham Junction)

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IMG_1607Five days a week I travel from Waterloo to Surbiton. This middle class suburb of London, which likes to think it’s still a part of leafy Surrey, is home to Verve Search, my new employer, where I am Head of SEO.

But five days a week now I thunder down the line from Waterloo to Surbiton on the 9:12 to Basingstoke, calling at Surbiton, Walton-on-Thames, Weybridge, Woking, Brookwood, Farnborough, Fleet, Winchfield and Hook.

It’s a close run thing sometimes. The first part of my journey is via red shuttlebus — crammed with lazy school kids many of them travelling just one stop — and then by Southeastern Trains from Grove Park to Waterloo East. That offers much opportunity for something to go wrong and delay my progress by literally hours.

I could cheerfully rant on about Southeastern and do so regularly on my personal Twitter account, but that’s for another day.  I have much greater experience of their shortcomings but I have observed that it’s only when the trains don’t run to schedule that I have the time to pontificate.

So, if Southeastern actually did manage to run a proper service I’d have no time to complain.

Train times app shows no Clapham Junction stopBut five days a week now I board the 9:12 to Basingstoke, first stop Surbiton, Surrey.

Only it isn’t.

It is according to the boards at Waterloo and it is according to the train times app I use every day on my iPhone.

But equally, every day, as the 9:12 passes Vauxhall it begins to slow down as it pulls into Clapham Junction — “Britain’s busiest station” — where it stops to let on dozens more people.

Train times app shows no Clapham Junction stopAt this point, the iPhone app shows Clapham Junction as a station stop. This morning, it was apparently 2 minutes late!

This isn’t an occasional event, like when they stopped the train at Wimbledon for a few mornings because of the bad weather to ease the congestion caused by scrambled services, this happens every morning.

Now, I know this isn’t a mystery on the level of the Marie Celeste, or where do elephants go to die, or why does food smell better than it tastes, but it is a puzzle.

Why does South West Trains, or National Rail, want to conceal from people at Waterloo that there’s a perfectly serviceable train to Clapham Junction every day at 9:12?

Is it because they fear the resulting exodus of passengers at 9:12 could tip the balance at Clapham Junction into commuter meltdown, civil unrest, urban chaos, bloody revolution and civil war, and thereby end western civilization as we know it?

Or is it because somebody made a cock-up somewhere and the instituted a sticking plaster solution to get around the problem?

Either way, the 9:12 from Waterloo to Basingstoke arrives in Surbiton on (or around) schedule at 9:30 every morning — this morning it was actually a minute early!

And I’m ready for work and raring to go.