There are a number of additional benefits to being a traindriver. Things not really covered in the contract but they are a definite perk of the job.
The first of these is certainty. Where there is a regular, reasonably fast and reasonably consistent commuter service you often find that people just turn up at stations without aiming for a specific train. Why not? If they don’t get this train there’ll be another in a few minutes. The problem for commuters is that when the dreaded severe delays kicks in it can be a rather anxious process trying to get to their final destination. If, suddenly there isn’t another train for ten minutes and their connecting service is also patchy then it can really impact on journey times. And in the morning rush hour most people won’t be able to factor in huge amounts of extra ‘just in case’ time. Actually, it’s natural not to as the black swans theory so elegantly points out.
It took me quite a few months to realise it but commute anxiety is a thing of the past for me. Partly because I’ve developed a ‘why worry’ attitude anyway but mostly because I have greater knowledge of what is going on. I have a timetable for one thing and if I need to be anywhere at a specific time then I aim for a specific train which will get me there in a timely fashion. I also have the advantage that I can phone a depot or control room and find out exactly when the next train will be arriving. Being able to read what points and signals are saying about the service is another great advantage.
Early this morning I happened to stumble across the old SDs. After loitering on the platform for a while and wondering where the train was I heard an announcement saying that a possession had overrun and that all trains were now 10-15 minutes late. My initial thoughts were “Bollocks”, because I’d just seen my train heading in the other direction and it would take a heck of a lot longer to get to the end of the line and back. So I was looking at around a 25 minute delay minimum. Fantastic.
This is where the second unrecognised traindriver benefit kicks in. You have a built-in excuse for being late to work. If the trains aren’t running and this has happened at short notice then you are hardly to blame if you don’t get to work on time. And once you know you are running late then you just phone in to let TPTB know and kick back and relax, happy in the knowledge that your first trip will likely have to be started by someone else and you’ll get to chill out and watch TV until the spare brings your train back. Bliss. So long as it’s not too-regular an occurrence and so long as you can reasonably show that you couldn’t work around the problem you pretty much get away with it. I honestly can’t think of another industry where being late due to transport failures is consistently thought of as ‘one of those things’. No other industry could prove what happened to the trains for one thing!
Unfortunately I wasn’t late for work this morning. After reading a couple of chapters and inspecting the pigeons for a bit (I happen to like them) a train turned up and zoomed me off to the depot. Oh well, maybe I’ll have better luck next time. 😉