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{23/01/2013}   Train stations – a coffee and shops rant

Yesterday I caught a train from London Euston to Coventry and, as usual, arrived at the station far too early with a view to getting a coffee, looking in a few shops and not rushing for my pre-booked train.  Most days I am at major terminus train stations (St Pancras, London Bridge or Charing Cross) but there is something very different about catching an out of the ordinary train from an out of the ordinary station.

Journeys such as that which I made yesterday involve early arrival and browsing in shops and usually buying a magazine, for magazines are treats I associate with travel.  It is also one of the few occasions when I buy trashy snacks and don’t whince (as much as usual!) at the price; it’s all part of the journey experience, whether I like it or not.

As for coffee, every time I get within the station area I remember that the only coffee choices will be from chains and there are no chains that serve a really good coffee, in my coffee snob opinion.  I will always avoid Starbucks (don’t like their coffee and hate them on a variety of other levels) and Costa (coffees are too big and don’t taste good).  As for Cafe Nero, they would be my first choice but I would never go there unless I was in a chain hell area, such as a train station!  Yesterday I decided to give AMT a go, just on the off chance they would have baristas working there – where did that false optimism come from?  Yuck.  Burnt coffee, smallest size too big and the foam was not remotely creamy.  Very disappointing.

Admittedly I wasn’t going to Coventry on a happy mission but the whole chain-ness of Euston (all stations are the same) really got to me yesterday.  We pay lots of money to buy train tickets and often end up waiting around at train stations.  It’s horrible to then be surrounded by shops whose prices are pumped up, poor quality tea and coffee at unacceptable prices and just chain shops.  I have no doubt retail space must be very expensive so only chains can really afford to operate there but I wish it weren’t like that.  I like that there is usually a Boots and a WH Smith as they are useful chains selling things useful for journeys.  But for food and drink, the only offerings are places I would never otherwise go to.  The only (small scale) chain I am always pleased to see is Leon’s but I have only encountered them at the new look King’s Cross and there is one opposite City Thameslink.

Oh I just sound like a moaning minnie again but I wanted to air my views on train stations and how infuriating I find the guarantee of chain shops, cafes and restaurants and their “special” monopoly prices.  There, rant over.  And today I will not be getting a bitter/milky/burnt/foul coffee from the train station, I will be savouring a proper, good quality, well made coffee from an independent coffee stand.

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