OPINION: Stand Clear of the Flaws, Please
By Glen Keogh on September 13, 2012 in Society
For a while now I’ve wanted to launch a diatribe on a big yellow cock which shuttles around the north east shafting poor defenceless men and women for £3.30 a pop. Not Big Bird on a horny vendetta, but what is quickly becoming the bane of my quite obviously uneventful life – the Metro.
Unfortunately, my angst has long gone unvented. “Not newsworthy,” my suffering editor may proclaim, or “deal with it, you tight, miserable bastard,” others might say. But now, fortunately for you all, I have what journalists may call an angle. Or what I would call an excuse.
For the past five weeks or so I’ve been travelling around the continent (yes, I missed you too) and aside from having a fantastic, glorious, mind-opening, mind-bending, big- fat -Free Willy-sized whale of a time, I noticed something else: our 32-year-old, 48-mile-long light railway is the worst form of public transport I came across in nine different countries.
A harsh indictment, you may say, on something which has become iconic to the north east. A metal-clad vein of our bouncy, bubbly community alongside The Tyne and Millennium Bridges, The Sage, Grey’s Monument and Gazza.
But let’s start with some facts. Due to my recent excursion I can now officially class myself as a Man Of The World. I’m barely sporting a tan, I haven’t followed a Sherpa up the Himalayas and I’m sorry, I haven’t done charity work in Kenya; but as far as I’m concerned I’m now a traveller. I have a leather wristband from Budapest and a mosquito bite to prove it. Beat that Attenborough, you fraud.
So being a Man Of The World I have some comparisons to make between our Metro system and similar others I had the pleasure of using whilst away. First of all, a subject dear to me, being what’s known as a ‘tight bastard’: price.
I currently live in Wallsend. I know, I know. I’ve hit the big time. Wallsend is five stations away from Monument which is where I often need to be to conduct business of varying importance. These five stations are in two zones (A&B) meaning I must pay £3.30 for a ‘daysaver’. A return ticket is not an option (something I often wish would hinder certain other passengers). This means for over half an hour’s worth of my hard-earned wages I can get to and from work. A journey which is a thirty minute cycle.
Compare this to the tram system in Zagreb, for instance. For three days we travelled on their delightful blue carriages, soaking in graffiti-covered buildings, occasional statues and the stench of racism from inside our little box. For the sum total of… 0. That’s right; zero pence, zilch, nothing.
Ok, so we didn’t pay for it, ever. Something we were told to do by other travellers and something which paid off tenfold. Why can’t our Metro inspectors just take a few weeks off and stop doing their jobs!?
Perhaps that was a bad example.
On the Berlin U-Bahn we bought day tickets for around €6 which let us travel everywhere in the network’s 91 mile radius which serves 173 stations. Everywhere. That’s 91 miles for about £4.70. What’s more, the stations in Berlin are fantastic because they’re actually NEAR STUFF.
WHAT IS IN PELAW, METRO? WHAT. IS. IN. PELAW?
The Prague Metro system is fantastically cheap. One con – for a group of young English boys its stations are harder to navigate out of than Caroline Flack’s bedroom. Unlike her bedroom, there are numerous exits, but they can be spaced so far away from each other that it takes ten minutes to walk between each, so you actually end up somewhere completely different to where you wanted.
But it doesn’t matter because you can get as many journeys as you like within 90 minutes for about a quid.
Next up, let’s compare transport efficiency from around Europe as well as a little closer to home.
How many times a week, a day, an hour do you not leave yourself enough time to conduct an important task at hand? How many times does this involve leaving the house to catch public transport meaning you run; run like no human being should have to run to arrive at your station or bus stop after a good twenty seconds of hard exercise panting and gasping like a frisky Dachshund…to realise the train has just left?
Oh Law of Sod, how you smite us.
Fear not, if in Budapest, as your trams come at 60-90 second intervals in peak time and every 3-4 minutes at off-peak times; trams in Zagreb and trains on the U-Bahn come every 4 or 5 minutes and even the Tube in London comes every three minutes or so. But not the Metro. Oh no. North easterners are cracking down on those with a problem in their punctuality. If you miss the Metro, you miss it. Because you’re not getting another one for fifteen minutes.
Whilst we’re on the subject of efficiency I’m going to have to spit out three dreaded numbers. Three burning flame-grilled numbers of hell; three numbers which were scrawled into the brick cells of Guantanamo Bay so prisoners could remind themselves ‘it could be worse’; three numbers which, when placed alongside three other words, create the kind of apocalyptic vision Michelangelo didn’t even envisage when he painted the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.
900 BUS REPLACEMENT SERVICE.
If Micky Angelo had painted that bus instead of the Last Judgement, maybe we would have ‘got’ the whole religion thing by now.
“But they’re trying their best,” I can hear you cry. “The service between Wallsend and Tynemouth has been suspended until… so vital engineering work can take place…”
Yes, I’m taking heed. Oh, I can certainly hear you loud and clear my hi-viz-clad brothers and sisters of the relentless Metro regime. I may have slightly dismissed the Metro in this article, I may have slightly disparaged its reputation and tarnished something dear to the heart of many a north easterner, but let me ask you this: would you settle for a cannon and a parachute if your flight to Ibiza was cancelled?
I urge you to visit as many places as you can in our wonderful continent. Indulge in the beauty, the architecture and the history of Rome; take in Prague’s cosmopolitan café culture and treat yourself to as many £1 pints as you can; visit Budapest, a humming, buzzing monster of a city alive at all hours or find tranquillity and peace in its many hot idyllic baths; visit Berlin, a sprawling mass of old and new, industry and nature, culture and business, churning out the world’s next artistic pioneers. Visit as many places as possible, and soak up as much information as you can. I learned many things from these cities. It’s true: travel does broaden the mind.
One thing I learnt on my travels, ladies and gentlemen: the Metro is crap.
- OPINION: Stop Whinging, The Metro’s Mint