Already this year I’ve travelled more rail miles that in the preceeding ten years. Two Stafford/Preston return trips has reminded me why I avoid the railways like the plague: The Virgin Voyager.
Some people might say that they represent a giant leap forward in train technology. These people are probably short, have no sense of smell and enjoy rollercoasters. And are probably clinically insane.
Myself, I’m of above average height, can still smell despite a good few years chain-smoking and hate all fairground rides. I’ll neatly sidestep the sanity issue (I’m typing this on a Datawind Ubisurfer – I must have been bananas to buy it).
My first major moan about the Voyager concerns the piss-awful seats and lack of legroom. Now when I say that I am of above average height I mean that I am about six foot four. This doesn’t put me into the realm of basketball players or circus freaks, but it does stop me sitting in most of the seats on a Voyager. Table seats are fine, if you want to share a table with a drunken Scottish squaddie (are they all AWOL and hiding on the trains, or is it always the same one?), and the priority wheelchair users’ seating has sufficient room, but the majority of the seating would require me to undergo a leg-ectomy for me to use them. I suppose I could sit sideways across two seats, but that is uncouth, yobbish behaviour for the sort of folk who play their music loud in public.
When Charles Darwin designed the human olfactory organs he must have had quite a chuckle to himself when he put in the bits that enable you to smell the unique aroma of a Virgin Voyager. Is a whiff of flatulence combined with a hint of smoke? A solid leavening of used toilet with a dash of electrical burning? Or is it,as I suspect, a full blown massive turd secreted directly on to an electric heater full of cat hair? The reason for this is apparently that the toilet effluent tanks vent into the bodywork, and that the wiring is prone to going shonky. Not even the APT had these features!
But these are just minor nit-picking flaws, I can almost hear you say. Surely the superior ride quality makes up for them? Well, yes, of course, assuming your idea of a nice journey involves lurching from side to side, up and down, and occassionally backwards and forwards. During the course of typing this, my netbook as been dislodged from the little wanky tray-table no less than three times. I’d have a smoother ride in a Land Rover. Across a bomb site. Under shelling.
And let us not forget, the government spent millions between 1959 and 1974 to electrify the West Coast Main Line, and now Captain Beardy is pissing all over this by running diesel trains on it. Money well spent! Its like buying the entire run of Star Trek Voyager on DVD, and copying them on to ropey old VHS tapes, then scrubbing the tapes with magnets before watching them.