One of the joys of the Pup All The Stations project is going out and about by train, and getting to see all the weird and wonderful things that go along with that. From beautiful scenery, to bustling cities, the railways help us see it all. Moving hundreds of thousands of people, and many million tonnes of freight, the Great British rail network carries it all. As such there are some things to pay attention to when on a train, or using the infrastructure. And whilst train is one of the safest and most environmentally friendly forms of land transport available, there are things that every pup can do to help keep the railways safe, clean, and fun for everyone. Most of these should go without saying, but it’s always worth remembering the following points for the benefit of everyone.
Please do not trespass on the railway!
- This one is probably the most important point of all. Not only is it very illegal, it’s also really, really stupid. Trains are big metal boxes of speed that cannot swerve to avoid you, or stop quickly. Modern trains move very quietly at speed – sometimes in excess of 100mph and chances are that your reaction times are not enough to get out of the way of a train coming up behind you. Not only that, but the effects of picking up your spattered remains is a traumatising experience for all involved, not to mention to distress you will cause the driver of the train that ends you.
- Let’s not forget that a lot of the railway is powered using high voltages, with third rails carrying over 750 volts of juice that will cook you as it kills you. Overhead power cables can reduce you to a crisp faster than your brain can acknowledge it happening, with 25,000 volts of alternating current flowing through them. That’s 104 times what you would find in a UK power socket. Most stations have footbridges or subways for you to cross the line when needed. At the few stations that do have a walkway across the tracks, make sure you stick to the path provided, and always take care to look and listen when crossing.
- This goes for railway infrastructure too. If a station is closed, don’t go inside. Stick to the publicly accessible areas when at the station. If a station is barrier controlled and you’re not intending on travelling, most stations will allow access to the platforms for photography if you ask; so don’t try jumping the gate or anything daft like that. Some stations even issue platform tickets still, which is quite the throwback to the past!
- Finally; the current social media trend of taking selfies on level crossings is foolish and dangerous. Don’t become a statistic!
Please respect the staff and other passengers.
- A little common courtesy goes a long way; but sadly in the age of instant gratification and self-entitlement this seems long forgotten. Just because your train has been massively delayed or cancelled and you feel like you are entitled to an explanation, this does not give you the right to take your frustrations out on the railway staff. This includes both on the station and on social media. Chances are the poor people you’re ranting at are already doing everything they can to assist, and your being cross at them will not help the situation for anyone. A typical railway carriage carries around 72 people, so on a 5-car train, that’s a whole lot of people. You wouldn’t like roughly 400 people all shouting at you, so please bear this in mind.
- Around 70% of customer-facing rail staff have experienced workplace abuse or violence in the past 12 months, according to the Rail Safety and Standards Board in October 2020. A wholly unacceptable figure. An encounter with the British Transport Police is going to ruin your day far more than a cancelled train ever will, so be kind to the staff. Social media teams can (and will) block or mute you if you’re repeatedly abusive towards them or @ them in abusive tweets, so don’t waste your energy. If you wish to complain, there are proper channels for it, and politely asking for assistance will get your much further than angry ranting will.
- This applies to other passengers as well. Treat them as you would wish to be treated. Wait for people to leave the train before you try boarding. If someone has sat in your reserved seat and is refusing to move (after you’ve politely asked them to vacate your seat), don’t hurl abuse at them, just inform the guard who will either deal with the seat thief for you, or find you alternate seating (potentially in First Class if you’re lucky (don’t be one of those entitled people who ask for an upgrade though, that never works)).
- Remember, the staff are there to help ensure your comfort and safety. Utilise them when needed, and if they ask you to do something – do it. Chances are it’s for your own safety, the safety of others, or because you have violated (or are in danger of violating) one of the railway bye-laws. The last thing anyone wants is to have a train delayed because of you, so don’t be that person – treat everyone with a bit of respect and enjoy a safe and pleasant journey.
Please do not vandalise railway property
- Following on from respecting other people, is respecting railway property. There’s nothing more disgusting than finding someone else’s chewed gum in places it shouldn’t be, or entering the toilets to find some repulsive individual has decided to use the room for target practise, missing the one target you’re meant to be aiming for! Not only are these practices revolting, but they are also in violation of Railway Byelaw 6.4 – “No person shall soil any part of the railway”. Moreover, they create even more work for overworked and (most likely) underpaid cleaning teams.
- Just as bad are those who feel the need to carve, graffiti or otherwise mark their name or some symbol on the seats, windows or tables. Such acts of vandalism are expensive to repair, which pushes the prices up for everyone.
- On the subject of graffiti, trains already have a livery, and they don’t need an extra coat of paint on top. The same applies to stations. Tagging other railway infrastructure such as bridges typically involves extremely dangerous acts of trespass, and there have been a great many artists who have lost their lives by making their mark on railway buildings or bridges. Other unpleasant behaviour includes putting your feet on the seats; no one wants to sit on whatever you’ve trodden in, so please show some respect for others and keep your paws off the seating. Taking your shoes off isn’t much better, as foot sweat is just as nasty!
Do pay your fare.
- In the modern era of ecommerce and app-based bookings, there is almost never a good excuse for travelling without a ticket. Fare evading is another illegal practice and the revenue protection staff can (and oftentimes will) bounce your butt to court if you’re caught travelling without a valid ticket. The Rail Delivery Group estimates that £240million is lost per year from people not paying their fare, and guess who pays for that? That’s right, the passengers who DO pay for their tickets.
- Many operators have a buy-before-you-board policy and can issue on-the-spot penalty fares if you are found to be without possession of a valid ticket. Running late for your train is never acceptable as an excuse. Leave yourself plenty of time and be aware that there may be queues at the ticket office or ticket vending machines at some busier stations. You can often avoid these by purchasing your ticket online or through an app in advance.
- If you do board a train without a ticket for any legitimate reason; it is your responsible to make yourself known to the guard and pay the fare at the earliest opportunity.
- If you are approached by revenue staff for travelling without a valid ticket, be aware that they will likely interview you under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), and that failure to answer their legitimate questions when given the opportunity may be used against you in court. In this situation, it is always best to own up to your mistake and treat the staff with respect. Doing otherwise is likely to be a further aggravating factor that counts against you. If you disagree with their decision, there is a well-established appeals process to consider your case.
- There are many ways to get a cheaper fare if you’re looking to travel on a budget. These include advance fares, travelling at less popular (off-peak) times, split ticketing, and taking advantage of railcards and offers. If 3 or more are travelling, you could also be eligible for Group Save, which grants 1/3rd off the overall price so long as everyone travels together.
- Also, don’t travel in First Class without a First Class ticket or upgrade. Speak to the guard or train manager if you wish to pay for an upgrade. Some railway companies offer discounted upgrade rates on weekends (usually obtainable on the train) so do your research before travelling.
- Finally, be aware that some websites such as TrainLine and other third-party websites may charge ‘stealth fees’ and surcharges on top of the actual ticket price. They’re useful for working out timings and costs, but then it’s usually best to go purchase the tickets directly from the railway company. Most will allow you to either receive them in the post, or to nominate a station to collect them from.
If you have taken the time to read this far – thank you! Keeping the railways safe, secure and pleasant is the responsibility of everyone who uses them, and we are grateful to you for doing your part.