Sunday, December 28, 2014

Going East To Go South: The Journey Home

Well, if you haven’t heard – and if you haven’t, you must have been hiding under the Christmas Tree in a semi-comatose state – there were some pretty hefty delays and major fuck ups with train travel yesterday, up and down the UK.

It really does read like The Diary of a Wimpy Country. I mean come on, some places had about an inch, maybe two inches of snow. Did it really warrant this much disaster news broadcasting and road closures and delays? Come on Britain. It’s not the first time and it sure as hell won’t be the last time the white stuff falls, but every time it does you’d think we were stuck in the movie, The Day After Tomorrow.

It’s winter. Winter is cold. Sometimes it’s cold enough for snow. Winter comes once every year, therefore there is a possibility of snow each year. Granted it doesn’t always happen – except for maybe the highlands of Scotland – but there’s always a chance. And yet Britain have nothing in place. They are always ill prepared and act as though we’re really put out by it.

Just compare our snow plight to that of the US last month and there really is no contest.

Anyhoo, back to the trains. So we all knew about King’s Cross being shut due to over running engineering works, thanks to the BBC and ITV’s news bulletins, but was anyone actually surprised? Has there ever been a year when the works didn’t overrun? At least Virgin were up front and said services would be out until the 29th , giving them a more realistic 5 days to do works, rather than 2 days. Come on, realistic targets people.

We were actually quite lucky – or so I thought – as our train was going in to St Pancras and therefore wasn’t affected by the closure or the overrunning works, but unfortunately it meant we had to go from Manchester to Sheffield in order to go down to London, and guess where the snow hit worst? Oh, you’ve got it, between Manchester and Sheffield. Cue delays, signal failures, cancellations and screen information fuck ups. Merry Christmas.

We’d been checking all day to see how the trains were going and almost all the trains between Manchester and Sheffield were delayed, so we expected to be late and almost expected to miss our connection but there was still that ounce of hope, especially when it turned out our train actually was on time, and we managed to get our seats and our luggage stowed. Wow! Or so we thought………

We made it to Stockport and the next stop on time and then came the 30 minutes of going nowhere, with no announcements and no apologies and basically no information. We knew we’d majorly missed our connection at Sheffield and would have to wait around half an hour once we eventually arrived. So what was a ranter to do in this situation, when faced with half an hour of going nowhere......? She planned her next blog of course, and adapted the words of a couple of Christmas songs too:

(To the tune of Deck the Halls)
Delayed trains because of snow. Fa la la la la la la choo choo.
‘Tis the season to be pissed off. Fa la la la la la la choo choo.
That’s my seat, wait, no reservations. La la la la la la la choo choo.
Where the fuck can I fit my case? Fa la la la la la la choo choo.

I’m quite fond of that one, but I also came up with this gem to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland:

Gone away are the schedules
Here to stay are the delays
You’ll miss your next train
Ee, it’s a bloody pain
Riding on a Christmas delayed train.

Clearly this was a very productive use of my delay time.

I think the biggest slap in the face of the day, which actually wasn’t a slap in my face, thankfully, was the announcement at Manchester Piccadilly that the 16.16 to Edinburgh had left on time, but due to the wrong information on the screens, most people missed it. Say what? And this announcement only came about 20 minutes after the train had left leaving a lot of pissed off people awaiting a train that had already gone. Come on. There were already cancellations and delays left right and centre and then you go and fuck up the platform number on the screens, meaning that a train that actually was on time was missing half of its passengers. Well done. Well done.

So back to Sheffield......As we were exiting our first train, a lady who was travelling alone and was severely pissed off, began a rant of her own. She just needed to offload and I was the next available person. I agreed and nodded at the appropriate points and made comments like, ‘it’s ridiculous,’ and ‘they didn’t even apologise,’ as well as plenty of ‘I know. I know.’ Bless her. She then wished me a happy new year and a safe journey. I wouldn’t like to be the person on the end of the phone or email when she applies for her refund. Eeshk. Just give her anything she wants.

Anyhoo, when we eventually made it to Sheffield, the next train was coming in about 20 minutes and the platform was busying up. Then it was delayed by 17 minutes, then 20 minutes, then back down to 18 minutes. Then the train supposed to be after this train took over and was going to arrive first, then it changed to only 12 minutes late and the other train had to change platform. Fun and games at Sheffield station.

Once on the train we picked up a couple of minutes extra delay but it was fairly quiet and plain sailing into London. And we were only an hour later than our scheduled train, but it felt like longer. It had taken around five hours to get home, more than double the usual time, but you do come to expect these things around Christmas time. Still, I know a lot of people had it much worse than us and I have to say the lady train manager on our final train to London was very apologetic and kept us updated of arrival times and any further delays, and like she said it was more the knock on effect than anything else, as the trains had been delayed all day and it pushed almost every service off track.

I hope everyone managed to get where they intended to, eventually. 

One final end rant. How hard is it to write a blog on an aeroplane? Yes, this blog has been written in the air from London to Bologna, as we had only a mere 9 hours in Flat 19 before setting out for Stansted and out flight to Italy to see A’s family. I’ve been juggling note pads, the lap top, porridge and money and the inability to see the screen well enough. Not the best writing conditions, but it’s done now, blog number 198. Getting closer to the big 200.

If you are travelling today, I hope you have a more pleasant experience, though I highly doubt it. And I hope the train companies pull their fingers out and finish the damn works.

Until next time, enjoy the build up to 2015. I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna be a mega year!


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