Yes you (might have) guessed it, I’m in Cork. The place which to every loyal daughter of Cork is the bright shining centre of all civilisation in this or any universe. (I may, or may not be joking about that.) Of course there is a problem for me in getting to Cork, Irish rail. Due to certain minor health concerns such as needing very quick access to an easy to use bathroom I basically have to use them.
So I did. On a Sunday afternoon. I must have been out of my mind.
Now in the past I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I feel Irish Rail is a moderately well run lesser evil. Kind of like if Cthulhu decided to play with a scale train set, built scale for him I mean. And that contact with a Greater Evil has rubbed off somewhat.
Well is there’s one thing about Irish Rail that is a true expression that nature, it’s their prebooking system for seats. Not tickets mind you, but the actual seats.
I should say that I strongly agree with prebooking in airplanes, theatres, cinemas and of course restaurants. But on a train when it’s badly executed it just leads o huge amounts of stress, and many passengers being pissed with one another in what is, for much of the time, a sealed environment.
The problem is not so much that this system exists, but rather in the fact that it doesn’t seem to be managed in anyway beyond a “oh nice extra money.” thought process. This means that when someone who hasn’t booked a seat arrives they’re often faced with a sea of signs that this seat, or that seat is booked. But hardly any seats which are free for them, sometimes actually no seat in a carriage (though admittedly that is rare, something I’ve only seen twice).
That situation is made worse by those who have booked a seat deciding not to bother taking the seat they requested, and instead take one which is unbooked. That meaning that now for the whole journey their real seat will lie empty.
THEN you sometimes have people who have taken their booked seat filling the unbooked seat next to them with luggage, and if there’s no host, or ticket inspector on the train, refusing to move it. Their attitude being one of “I booked this, so this one’s mine too by right of luggage based conquest, stand and suffer plebian.”
I don’t know what the solution is to this situation, but I do strongly feel part of it has to be to make sure there is enough unbooked seating to at least allow those who simply physically can not stand for three hours to sit. And to do so as a matter of course. But apart from that, I’m at a loss as to how to fix a system which has made rail travel even more of a misery if you’re unable to afford, or unable to book ahead for a seat. And let’s face it, public transport is something of a misery at the best of times.
But solution aside I don’t think it’s a good idea to engineer a situation where random strangers in a confined space are pissed off with one another. For some reason all I can see down that path at some stage is hair being pulled and teeth flying. I just hope they won’t be mine.