Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

Saturday travel…

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Cambridge Railway Station


Cambridge Railway Station is one of my serious stresses when it comes to living in Cambridge. Actually, it was my first impression of Cambridge years ago when I arrived here for a job interview. Coming from a proper city, I was amazed at how small it was. In all fairness, over the past few years it has gotten better- an ATM machine, Marks and Spencer have made a difference. However, there are still many things that are a complete joke:
  • The station actually isn’t in Cambridge. Of course there are various historical anecdotes about why this is the case. To be honest, I don’t really care – it should be in the city centre (not a good 10 mins walk away from it).
  • The area around the station looks like something out of a deprived city – lots of old manufacturing sites and random land.
  • Marks and Spencer – doesn’t open until later in the morning. Clearly there isn’t a market for their goods first thing in the morning.
  • WH Smith – the only railway station I have ever been in the UK where the newsagent is closed at 7PM (but there are still trains running at that time).
  • Upper Crust – from history at the weekend it can still be closed at 8AM. Well I guess the staff who work there have to have a long lay in bed from time to time right ?
  • Car Park (aka Taxi Rank) – how often do I have to do a tour of the ticket machines to find one that actually works ? Well at least nowadays the machines take all valid coinage – notes would be far too difficult. The car park also doubles as a taxi holding area – to trying to exit is a major pain. 
  • Exiting from the station – that gate that leads to the car park is never open – why do I have to walk 5 minutes extra (even if a member of staff is there to check my ticket) ?
Buying a ticket is also a major pain. There are several automated ticket machines. However, the user interface has clearly been constructed by a 19 year old who never actually has used a ticket machine and hasn’t a clue about user interface design. Of course maybe he doesn’t need to use a ticket machine since his mother buys his clothes for him. Mensa take note – anyone who can buy a same day return to London Kings Cross in under 3 minutes deserves membership.
In short, if you need to buy a ticket allow at least 10 mins to do so.
Of course train passenger traffic is highly predictable and the problem could be mitigated by having extra staff (taken from the pool of the token British Rail staff who hang around with blue jackets talking to each other) sell tickets.
Lastly the biggest problem is the layout of the station. In the past year they’ve added automatic gates that compound the problem of foot traffic in and out of the station. You end up having people bumping into each other and obstructed by the queue to the ticket machines. At peak times it’s like that 80’s TV show “It’s a knockout” !

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