My journey back was more troublesome than the one out. Firstly I discovered that outside of Airports and the capital city the Dutch railways do not approve of credit. Attempts to pay for a ticket to Amsterdam with my mastercard were rejected by the machines and also by the ticket office. They would only accept cash or debit cards. I’m sure this is some sort of misplaced Lutheran/calvinistic morality but it was an inconvenience to say the least and I missed one train. Ok I could live with that but I had (and have) a lot of work to do so I paid the extra €10 to travel first class, a one and a half hour journey in first costing less than a thirty minute journey in second class in the UK. I settled down and started work. Then a gang of four skinheads arrived and occupied a section of first class with a ghetto blaster. That was bad enough but they also sang along with it which was really bad. Various Dutch passengers tried to reason with them and were subject to abuse. My use of English made me a target and it was all very tense.
The the train guard turned up. Good I thought, firstly I doubt they have got any ticket let alone one for first and now they will be dealt with. No way, the guard just walked through the carriage quickly and did not attempt to check any tickets. Net result an hour or more of noise and no work. Now i don;t blame the Guard for avoiding confrontation, however i confidentially expected the arrival of the police at the next station. If that had happened on Great Western the Guard would have phoned ahead and the train would have drawn into the platform and waiting for the police to get on before allowing exit. Not here. When I talked to Dutch friends, they said this is the norm. Now as readers will know I am an advocate of public transport. The Netherlands has got frequency and price right, but if its unsafe to travel then all the good is undone. I had a really good time with new friends and old, and a fascinating project on gardens (watch for details over the weekend as this will be an open project). So I don’t want to whinge! The Netherlands is one of the civilised countries of Europe, a bastion of liberal thinking coupled with pragmatism, but this sort of thing can get of of hand all to quickly and its not difficult to prevent.
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