Travelling by train: The rules

Whilst I’m a big fan of the bicycle as the main means of everyday transport, for longer distances I prefer the train. The train makes a lot of sense, but it can be intimidating for newcomers. Therefore I decided to put together this handy guide to behaving on the train.

The golden rule: Think of the train as an extension of your home.

This is probably the core of almost all of the other rules. You’ve paid for this train journey, so you deserve to put your feet up and make yourself at home

Getting on and off the train:

1. The doors

When the train arrives and you wish to get on, it makes sense to position yourself square in front of the nearest set of train doors. Other passengers may wish to alight, but they’ll doubtless find your enthusiasm for the train they’re desperately trying to leave endearing.

2. Have a seat

Once you have managed to fight your way past the passengers getting off the train, make sure you sort out your bags and remove any extra layers of clothing you might wish to before you get settled into your seat. There’ll be no time for all that once you’re underway.

3. Luggage

Luggage is best kept within reach and thankfully each train seat comes with a seat-shaped table for storage of personal belongings. If you have a lot of luggage, it can be haphazardly tossed into the racks at the ends of the carriage as you get on the train.

During travel:

4. Sprawl

If the train becomes rather busy, make sure you have something to put on the seat-shaped table next to your seat, lest a newcomer to train travel come along and mistake the table for a spare seat.

5. Tables and four seater areas

The middle of some carriages have extra tables and seat-shaped tables for the lucky  lone traveller who gets there first.

6. Music and video

Some passengers may have forgotten to bring a personal music or video playing device along for the trip, or worse, be too poor to afford one of their own. They’ll doubtlessly be delighted should you choose to share your own music, or even better the sound from a video over a loudspeaker.

7. Going to the game

Travelling on the train to football matches is a popular way for many individuals who usually travel by car to spectate at sporting events and also indulge in alcohol. It is only natural that other passengers will be curious about your team allegiance. Loud, inappropriate bellowing will serve to enlighten your curious fellow travellers.

8. Progeny

Other train passengers may not have children of their own and will undoubtedly appreciate the opportunity to experience parenthood as you sit back and let your children climb over them and fight with each other in the aisles. Likewise, nothing helps drown out that nasty engine noise quite as well as four hours of a baby crying whilst being ignored by his or her parent.

9. Standing

Should your train run out of seating space, you may have to stand. To make the best of a bad situation, standing passengers squash into the ends of the carriages to form impromptu mosh pits. Standing in the aisles of the carriage is seen as a sign of weakness.

In the station:

10. Ticket barriers

Larger stations have automated ticket barriers, which have robbed many people of their jobs as station staff. naturally passengers are against this and in solidarity shun the many automated ticket barriers in favour of everyone entering and exiting the station through the same solitary staffed barrier which was intended for use by passengers with wheelchairs/crutches/prams/large luggage or bicycle. In addition to this, many passengers express their preference for human staff by asking this lone barrier attendant for timetabling information which is readily available on the many automated screens.

11. Smoking

Whilst smoking in stations is banned in the UK, but no-one minds really. Some of your fellow passengers may be too poor to afford smokes anymore and will doubtless appreciate your second hand smoke taking them back to a happier time.

I hope this guide can help those new to train travel to fit right in on Britain’s trains

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4 thoughts on “Travelling by train: The rules

  1. Would be greatly amusing if written in the style of the old New Statesman competitions “Advice to foreigners”.

    People without music players on trains are so poor that they will enjoy a rich visitor playing his music loudly for them.

    Railway companies provide empty seats for travellers to use as tables.

    And so on.

  2. You forgot the golden rule: Make sure you sprawl across the seat-shaped table next to your seat and fall asleep immediately, so no one else can sit next to you. Bonus points for headphones and hat tipped over eyes.

  3. As a middle-aged man I’m old enough to remember when taking a bike on a train was very easy and free. You just turned up, put your bike in the guard’s van ( usually half a carriage with no seats and a tiny guard’s office) and went to your seat.

    About the time we all started to hear about global warming, the need for integrated transport systems ,the need to discourage car use and encourage the use of cycles and public transport we also witnessed a new type of train without guards vans.

    At about the same time in Manchester we got the new Metrolink, which didn’t take bikes. It replaced trains which did – a situation which even today is being repeated on new Metrolink lines to Oldham and Rochdale.

    The current fragmented, bureaucratic and confusing system of taking bikes on trains has evolved since those late 1980s days.

    As someone who likes to take a bike everywhere I go but hates too much forward planning, I threw in the towel and bought a car at the grand old age of 33, 15 years after passing my driving test.

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