After an incident on the line near Morpeth, I was facing a delay of 50 mins or more and the prospect of having to get a taxi from Peterborough to Ipswich as the delay meant we would miss the last connection. First problem, after a long day I was completely knackered and just wanting to get home. Secondly, after a minor taxi issue in first year of uni, I really struggle to be in taxi’s on my own especially at night. Finally, I get travel sick, thankfully I rarely throw up these days but it makes for a very unpleasant journey. I was dreading the prospect of it all but knew it was the only way I was going to be able to get home and into bed with Stitch curled up beside me. These things happen, sometimes the transport system degrades into chaos due to unforeseen circumstances, it’s life. So I made myself comfy and tried to get into my book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed which I really recommend. I was settling in for the long haul, the train wasn’t too busy and I was ready for my extended journey back home. I was aware that the man sat beside me was fairly intoxicated but he seemed to be quite zonked out and not causing trouble. Perhaps I should have moved to a different seat on the train but it didn’t occur to me as he wasn’t causing any problem. About half an hour into my journey, another man stopped to talk to the guy sat behind me. He was visibly more drunk and after their brief conversation, I hoped he would just move on into another carriage. I kept reading my book, didn’t look up or make eye contact, and tried to be as inconspicuous as a lone female on a train at quarter past nine in the evening can look. Of course, I was spotted and over he came, a hand on the seat in front and one on the seat beside me, blocking my escape route to the aisle. He asked if he could sit down, I replied that I didn’t want him to, but of course he sat beside me practically on my bag. It was fairly standard drunken rambling; ‘you’re so beautiful’, ‘you’ve got amazing blue eyes’, ‘has your Mum or Dad got blue eyes’. I continued to try and encourage him to leave without engaging in any conversation, eye contact e.t.c. It then escalated to him trying to touch my hair and face whilst asking if I had done my hair myself. He was getting closer and I was getting more panicky but also feeling quite frozen because I was so anxious. The train conductor walked past and made no attempt to aid me to get rid of the horrible man who was hassling me, I was disappointed with the East Coast staff member who could have done something to help. He then proceeded to get within about two inches of my face to tell me… ‘you’re as sexy as fuck’. Thankfully it was his parting comment and he then left to presumably go drink more or cause someone else discomfort. I was a little shaken and spent the rest of the journey very jumpy whenever someone came past me, worried it would be him coming back. I also felt too anxious to go to the loo on my own, again in case I bumped into the horrible drunk man again. It frustrated me that about half an hour later, the train steward (unsure of technical term!) sold the first drunk man who was still behind me another carlsberg to add to his collection. It angers me that so much alcohol is sold on trains in such a unregulated way. I’ve been on plenty of journeys with other passengers who have been very drunk and subsequently partaking in anti social behaviour. In Scotland alcohol is banned on trains between 9pm and 10pm, perhaps only an hour of a drinking ban isn’t particularly beneficial, but it’s better than nothing. I think the rest of the UK should think about stopping selling alcohol on trainsleast, it seems unlikely that any kind of ban will come into place. But I feel there would be a lot greater safety and potentially less incidents like the one I had to put up with if there wasn’t alcohol on trains.
I had a lot of feedback from friends regarding this post, and was soon followed by Virgin East Coast on twitter who asked me to give them more details about the incident. I think there is also a lot to be said about the huge majority of people who drink alcohol on trains and don’t act in an anti-social manner. My problem was with the sexist and intimidating way in which the man on the train behaved and I guess he could well have acted in that manner if he wasn’t drunk. Perhaps a ban isn’t necessary but I do believe some more regulation would be beneficial and make train travel in the evenings a better experience.