Pendalino Progress

Early this morning I had to catch a Virgin Pendalino the short distance from Preston to Warrington Bank Quay. I was sat at the end of a carriage, adjacent to the toilet, and was reminded of the Pendalino toilet problem that used to blight many a traveller’s journey.

Over ten years ago, when the Pendalinos were first introduced, I used to regularly travel from London to Birmingham as part of my ‘commute’ to Tywyn. The Pendalinos had replaced the ageing HSTs and were, to many passengers, quite new and shiny. A feature of the Pendalinos were the (comparatively) large toilets with the automatic sliding door. This seemed a world away from the cramped, usually semi-functioning toilets that had been on the old trains and should have been a blessing. Unfortunately, there was a problem.
People were so taken aback when they entered the toilet that they’d usually stand there awe-struck for a brief period of time. Their attention would then be drawn to trying to find a way to close the door but – wait – it was closing itself! How modern, they thought, how futuristic. What they didn’t know was that the door was on a timer, and would close after a set period of time so that, after people had used it, it wouldn’t remain open indefinitely.

This meant that, when the door closed automatically, it hadn’t locked.

I remember sitting there many a time on that train to Birmingham watching the same routine:

1. Person goes into toilet.
2. While they’re figuring out how to use it, door closes automatically.
3. Some time passes.
4. A second person arrives, looking to use the toilet.
5. The second person presses the door open button.
6. Chaos ensues.

This happened like clockwork and resulted in a whole generation of people who became too scared to use the toilet on a train.
So I was sitting there this morning and…guess what happened? A person came to use the toilet. They opened the door. They walked in. They looked around, trying to figure out how to close the door and then – wait – the door started closing itself! As the door slid to I waited for the inevitable but then, suddenly, an automated voice from inside the toilet blared out:

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! TOILET DOOR IS NOT LOCKED!
ATTENTION! ATTENTION! TOILET DOOR IS NOT LOCKED!

I kid you not.

How’s that for progress?

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