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Mess Transit Authority

A guide to Britain’s emergency rail services

By Ian VincePublished 2 months ago 3 min read

The Emergency Rail Map

During officially designated Rail Emergencies — for instance, a total collapse of the system at the hands of an unexpectedly heavy dew — the agency responsible for failing to run the network — Notwork Rail — has authorized the use of a number of tourist railways, footpaths, pleasure boats, rollercoasters and leylines to form the Back-Up Railway Network.

In some cases, the use of this network may cause a slight delay, so passengers are recommended to allow an extra six days for their journey and to carry a change of clothing. Also, where a trip includes a section of leyline, customers are reminded to take a Celtic shield, a dead chicken and a Late Perpendicular cathedral. Railcards are not valid unless accompanied with a current Kirlian Photocard with an auspicious aura signed by a person of good standing, such as a serving police officer (or the legal equivalent, namely 28.5 Walmart store detectives) or village shaman.


* Please see blackboard on pier for voyage details.

C:/> Please check that you are DOS formatted before joining this service.

Om This service operates along a Geomantic Leyline.

† Not on Sundays. Ever. Oh, alright then. Maybe.

Quick Tip

For a non-Home Counties version of this guide, save time by simply assuming that there are no non-Home Counties versions of this guide.

What about cheaper fares?

Travelling by rail means you can choose from up to 27,000 permutations of tickets, depending on which seats you want and which otherwise harmless weather phenomenon or random route diversion you would like to ruin your journey.

What about advance discounts?

Certain rules apply to advance discount tickets, namely that they are quantum events that cannot be both observed and booked at the same time. They are also subject to the Rail Uncertainty Principle, in which physicists speculate whether or not theoretical trains travelling at the speed of light stretch time behind them in order to offset timetable alterations. Though seemingly academic, this has two important outcomes when calculating Rail Uncertainty for Britain:

  • Signalling on the West Coast mainline will have to be significantly upgraded to allow for trains travelling at light speed.
  • Trains are strictly theoretical.

Can I go to sleep?

Yes, of course you can. Sleeping bolt upright in your seat is the efficient way to travel, and ensures that you will arrive wired and antagonistic for your meeting and will therefore get what you want. We pride ourselves on the amount of inefficient bon homie that can be driven out of even the most apologetic executive during one of our rail journeys.


Settle into short, fruitless snoozes, broken by the insistent sound of tiny cymbals perforating ear drums half a carriage away.

If all else fails and you really do need to sleep, take a moment to read our soporific, corporate propagandazine featuring real stories of railway personnel holding chromium-plated Compliant Employee Awards aloft as if they were the FA Cup. Doze off and be woken again and again by hopelessly disorganised buffet staff announcements, amplified via a fuzzbox and delivered through an array of cracked glass speakers.

Rail privatisation works

Rail privatisation has been so successful in Britain that there are no longer enough rails or modern power units to service the demand.

Shown above is a new rural train service, based on the principle of an engine, powered by a paraffin stove, towing a small number of garden sheds around. Passengers receive regular safety announcements on what different types of scraping noise mean.

Anatomy of a British Railway Station

  1. Automated Sincere Apology System Computer-generated announcements about how fundamentally shagged the rail system is today. A public-address system is also integrated so that live announcements with unforeseen words and phrases such as “early” or “on schedule” can still be made.
  2. Ghost Train Passenger Every railway has a ghost train story, but British ghost train services are often dogged by strikes and the disruption affects passengers caught in the twin limbos of rail travel and expiry. They face a long and fruitless death floating towards any light that takes their fancy. Awayday tickets are not valid on this service.
  3. Architect’s Illustration Model As used for original artist’s impression of the station, and now retained because he makes everything look fantastically cool. He is 6ft tall, comes condensed for extra effect and is known as Jeff. Budget for Jeff comes from the Black Projects Division of Notwork Rail.
  4. Impenetrable Signalling System An ingenious semaphore-based messaging system principally used to send off-colour jokes and rude observations about Notwork Rail management up and down the country.
  5. The Tracks Due to complex franchising arrangements, the offside rail is owned by a Portsmouth man who bought it at a jumble sale. The nearside rail is owned by RightRail who leased it to LeftRail plc who, in order to promote dynamic, blue-sky environments of risk taking often use it as a stake in back-room poker games at international rail conferences.


About the Creator

Ian Vince

Erstwhile non-fiction author, ghost & freelance writer for others, finally submitting work that floats my own boat, does my own thing. I'll deal with it if you can.

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    Ian VinceWritten by Ian Vince

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