This morning I embarked on a trip to London to see my colleague Keith and attend the WordPress London meet up event. Waking up in the morning was the news that #stormdoris was hitting most parts of the United Kingdom, but on checking the rail services for my journey – all “appeared” well.
After walking the kids to school in the pouring rain it was time to head to the station to catch the train to Preston. This part of the journey went according to plan. In fact it went better than according to plan as I was able to jump on an earlier train.
Arriving a Preston station alarm bells started ringing when the train to London Euston before the one I had booked on was cancelled. In fact it was terminated at Preston station. This meant a lot of passengers getting off the train and waiting on the platform for my train, which obviously was going to be very busy. I later, whilst on the train found out the service after mine was cancelled also.
However I got my reserved seat, opened up the laptop and as usual began some local development as the journey began. After speaking with the passengers around me, two of them should of actually been on the train after me, but had boarded this train as their train had been cancelled. Two trains cancelled either side of mine couldn’t be good news and it wasn’t.
Just before Wigan Northwestern station, the train manager announced that we had ground to a halt because of over-head power problems and that the delay at this stage was unknown. Fearing the worst passengers began to be resigned to the fact they were going to be very delayed.
However quickly we we off again and a (false) promise of getting there reasonably on time was on the horizon. Then we arrived in Warrington Bank Quay station we informed by the train manager that the overhead power lines between Warrington and Crewe where down and being worked on. We would have an indefinite delay.
An hour and 45 minutes later we had not moved and passengers were getting on and off the train with what seemed randomness. Some leaving for the toilet, others to buy lunch and some to have a smoke on the platform, which for now at least was allowed.
An hour and 50 in and with no trains running north or south I decided to call it a day and depart the train, having rang my parents to collect me (thank you!) from the station (which was only about 30 miles from home). Little did I know that with the Thellwall viaduct closed on the M6 their journey to get me was not easy either!
Having set off at 0850, travelling to as far as Warrington and then back again I arrived back home at 1548. A long time for a 60 mile round trip on a train!
As you can imagine it was frustrating as practically the whole day was wasted. However it is not the fact that the weather caused the problem that was frustrating – this is always going to happen. You could argue this was not a particularly bad storm and therefore it is worrying that this caused so much disruption but at the end of the day we cannot control the weather.
What was frustrating was the lack of information. As a passenger I wanted to know what my options where. Could I get off and turn around? What was the probability of arriving in London before mid afternoon? I understand that the answers staff could give are not certain but some idea would have been good.
There was also a 50mph speed limit on the west coast mainline all the way to Euston which meant that the train would have been going less than half the speed it should. But even with this knowledge the train manager would not give information as to the length of the journey. They could have indicated that if we set off in the next 10 minutes with no delays we would arrive at such a time. But nothing. The passengers just want information, not necessarily the answers.
If you read the news these days it is all doom and gloom. People are nasty and don’t get on with each other. Well today’s journey proved that is nonsense. Even though I was stuck for nearly 3 hours on that train carriage today I had a good time. The passengers were great and the banter on there was wonderful. Everybody was chatty and friendly and very very helpful to each other. At one point all the people on my table where planning the best options for a chap who was trying to get to Heathrow for a flight for his holiday. Everyone was trying to help and it felt really good.
So that is the story of my rather hectic and frustrating day. But above all that, I am not frustrated with the weather or the train company etc. just that I didn’t actually get to London to see friends that I had hoped I would!
Photo credit: Peter Broster