“26 minutes late”: The diary of a Thameslink passenger

This is not my train platform. But it really does look like it. Image: Getty.

Earlier this month, as people in relationships (read: millennials looking to halve their rent) are wont to do, I moved into my boyfriend’s house. This was a big step for two reasons: I have never lived with a partner before, and, bigger still, he lives in Croydon.

So I live in Croydon now, I guess. No it’s okay; don’t feel too bad for me. It’s up and coming, haven’t you heard? My rent is much cheaper and my house much bigger, I have a garden for the first time in the past three flats, and somebody cooks me tea. Plus, obviously nobody will ever want to come over because I live in Croydon! Win, win, win, WIN.

There is a downside, though. Croydon is London’s southernmost borough. It is not on a tube line. Getting to work using Transport for London services only would involve leaving 50 minutes earlier to spend 1hr40 on two buses; probably more, allowing for rush hour.

I am fortunate that I can afford not to have to do this, but alas: I now exist fully at the mercy of Thameslink. This not a position anybody should ever have to be in, with the possible exception of Chris Grayling. 

So to pass the time, and in the hope of getting some content out of my morning misery, I’ve been keeping a Thameslink diary. I travel each morning between Norwood Junction and Blackfriars. All train times reported below are accurate, and can be found here.

Monday 14 January

Arrive at Blackfriars one minute late this morning. This Croydon lark isn’t so bad.

Tuesday 15 January

One minute late again. Not a big deal, I even have time to go to Tesco on the way to the office.


Wednesday 16 January

You guessed it: one minute late. What is up with all you Thameslink haters? I mean chill out, guys, it’s fine. Somebody should consider changing the timetable though, it’s clearly a 9.08am train, not a 9.07am one.

Thursday 17 January

I have been tricked. Thameslink is not fine. My train is 11 minutes late. This means I am stood on the platform for 13 minutes. It’s -1C outside, and I can’t feel my hands. Must remember to find gloves tomorrow.

Send editor apologetic message.

Friday 18 January

My boyfriend, who leaves an hour before me, texts me to say the trains are fucked and his has been cancelled. I avoid my usual train altogether and get the later one, which is running just five minutes late. This is better than yesterday, so I can’t complain. Am I being indoctrinated by Thameslink?

Send editor apologetic message.

Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 January

Thameslink doesn’t even run on a weekend! Doesn’t even bother trying! Pathetic. I am trapped in Croydon.

(This is a lie, there are slow trains available. I remain in Croydon.)

Monday 21 January

My train is 26 minutes late! Twenty six minutes! I really, really must start checking the Trainline live departures app before I leave – it’s -2C outside, and I could have had an extra 26 minutes in bed.

There is seemingly no reason for the delay either; the man on the tannoy pipes up every few minutes with a very precise, updated count of how many minutes late the train’s running now, but never offers an explanation. I feel like he’s enjoying it.

Send editor apologetic message.

Tuesday 22 January

After yesterday’s complete disregard of the timetable, a three-minute delay doesn’t feel so bad. This really is how they trick you into thinking small delays are the norm, isn’t it?

Still bitterly cold though, and the platform wait is painful. Must remember to find either my gloves or a cure for Raynaud’s disease by tomorrow.

Wednesday 23 January

Assume the trains will be delayed because it snowed last night, and despite the fact that it didn’t really settle, this seems like the type of thing that would render Thameslink totally incapacitated.

I allow myself a few minutes lie in, then realise I am wrong: the train is only two minutes delayed. Have to run to station.

Lesson learnt: don’t try to apply logic to Thameslink.

Thursday 24 January

Ding, ding, ding – we have a winner. Train is a record-breaking 32 minutes late.

To be honest, this has all worked out very well for me though: I remember to check the app before I leave, which says the train is 20 minutes late, so I leave the house late anyway.

Of course, the actual delay is much longer, but I still reduce my wait on the platform. Plus, lots of people don’t bother waiting (understandable), instead opting for slow trains, which means I get a seat. A treat!

Send editor apologetic message.

Friday 25 January

Train is on time today, is Thameslink feeling ok?

Side note: in my two weeks of commuting I have become smart. I have realised that by walking down to first class, I increase my chances of getting a seat ten-fold. I employ this new tactic today, and am confused why everybody else in first class quickly flees the carriage as I get on.

Then a man approaches asking to see my ticket. This has never happened before; I didn’t think these trains had ticket inspectors. He must have got on when I did. I hand him my ticket. He asks why I thought it was okay to sit in first class, when I don’t have a first class ticket. I shrug helplessly and gesture towards second class, which now resembles a tin of sardines.

The man says he’ll let me off with a warning this time, and tells me to go stand with the masses in second class. First class is now empty, bar one quite embarrassed-looking man and the ticket inspector, who is sat in my old seat.

Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January

See last weekend re: Thameslink.

Go home to my parents in Norfolk, and am cheered to see the Abellio Greater Anglia service is just as terrible as Thameslink. The two-hour direct train that I booked has become a three-hour service, with a change at Cambridge.

The suffering is nationwide; we can take solace in knowing that it is as least fair.  

Monday 28 January

I have a dentist appointment this morning and go to work much later, so am not at liberty to comment on the state of the rush-hour trains. The ones at 11.30am are fine though. Perhaps Thameslink aren’t morning people.

Tuesday 29 January

A terrible tragedy has befallen Thameslink. The exact details are not yet clear, but all evidence suggests one of their trains has gone missing. Abducted, perhaps. This morning, it is forced, and I have no reason to believe it would do this were it not a crisis situation, to not just delay but cancel the 9.07 train to Blackfriars.

We must all embark on a nationwide search immediately, and respect their privacy at this difficult time.

I wait for 13 minutes before deciding to just get the next London Bridge train – Southern Rail not Thameslink, but also delayed (They’re the same people – Ed.) and a tube to work, because it’s fucking freezing and the next Blackfriars train isn’t for another 20 minutes.

Don’t bother sending editor apologetic message, they’re getting a bit repetitive.

Indra Warnes is, eventually, the online sub-editor at the New Statesman. 

 
 
 
 

There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.