Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tales from the train


The streets of Enniscorthy, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Another train ride home, a chance to have a little sleep as the train sprints from one station to the other. Time to look out of the window at the green countryside and then to turn one’s eye to one’s fellow passengers. The man with the panama hat and black ribbon sitting opposite me, reading Dagblad De Pers, the lady at to my left with her henna-coloured hair and matching leather bag with black leather jacket, black skirt and black shoes. She is having a nap as well. Opposite her is a black chap doing the crossword or the day’s soduku. The man behind reads his Bradt Travel Guide to Kenya. We are in Gouda now, where we lose a number of the people who had got on in Rotterdam, but collect others on their way to Amsterdam. It seems to be a dormitory town. Maybe tomorrow I will get out here and walk around the town. I have never done any more than stop here on the train and maybe somewhere there is an historical centre.

It is generally quite quiet, but an enthusiastic (loud) young student is chatting to her friends on her mobile behind me. Thankfully, no loud cd players with tinny music coming out of the ear phones.

I had a bit of stress in the train this morning when it turned out that my ticket had not been stamped by the machine. I knew I had put it in to be stamped, but obviously did not check that worked, so I had an empty ticket to show the conductress. She was ready to give me a fine, but accepted my story after I nshowed her all the other tickets which I HAD stamped.

All in all, it is much nicer to be commuting by train than by car. It is shorter, one can relax, one can type blogs and one doesn’t have to fill the tank with petrol or look for a parking place when one gets home. I have asked the company to give me money instead of a car, to which my position entitled me and they were happy to oblige, saving themselves the cost of the petrol they would have had to pay for any petrol I would use.

It is a curious thing that in Holland, company car drivers do not normally pay a single cent for any extra kilometer they drive. They pay an annual amount based on the value of the car, as it was when new and that’s it. Companies will pay for the lease, the road tax, petrol, service, tyres and so on. A company car driver has every incentive to drive as much as they can in order to get maximum use out of the fixed sum they pay a year (albeit within reason). It is no wonder then that there are so many cars on the roads in the morning. In fact, traffic jams are about the only disincentive for these people to drive. Yet every cabinet seems to spend an awful lot of time talking about how to reduce the number of traffic jams, to no effect as they have got steadily worse in every one of the twenty years I have been living here. And in all the discussions, I have never heard a politician talking seriously about the way company cars are taxed.

On the other hand, I have heard the new minister of Transport talking about how to improve the whole experience of using public transport, in terms of things like providing the public with better information about possible delays, training staff to have a more helpful disposition, improving the quality and the environment of the stations as well as putting on more trains and improving connections. The things I would like the most at the moment are bigger windows to let in more air (it is hot outside and inside the carriage) and a free wi-fi connection so I can type this straight into flickr/blog instead of copying and pasting etc when I get back home.

Here we are in Breukelen, just above Utrecht. Another 20 minutes to go before Amstel, time for a short snooze….

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