Posted in Railways on Monday 23rd July 2007 at 4:28pm
Getting home was never going to be easy after the dramatic events of this weekend. Woke to fairly decent weather in York, but it was still raining down south. Amazingly, noted that departures to the south west appeared to be back on the National Rail website. Allowed myself the luxury of an excellent Romley House breakfast and a good talk with one of the other residents who was off to the North York Moors Railway today. After checking out and a leisurely walk to the station, noted that sure enough my booked service, the 0927 Newcastle-Paignton was running according to screens - but rather worryingly advertised as 'standing room only' - likely because of all the people who had not travelled over the last couple of days. Noted all the advice not to travel today had also disappeared from the station. Had coffee and waited. Then in a period of probably less than a minute, lots happenned...
First, the screen flicked from advertising the 0927 to Paignton to stating it was going to Birmingham New Street. It then briefly appeared as cancelled, then Paignton once more. Finally it stabilised on New Street. With the train a few minutes late, but due any second I headed to the Information Desk clutching my ticket. I figured I'd be heading to Kings Cross again provided GNER would honour another operator's ticket again today. A small but angry queue had developed, and whilst I watched the boards and waited I realised with some horror that there were no Kings Cross trains. Everything southbound on the East Coast Mainline was terminating at Peterborough. As a passenger a few feet in front of me was advised once again "not to travel today" I made the decision to head for Birmingham anyway - there were connections to London at Derby and Birmingham, and I had relatives there if I got stuck. Made the train with seconds to spare, and found myself standing in the First Class wheelchair space. It turned out that the 'standing room only' situation was caused by people trying to get to London who'd already had all kinds of wrong information, and were now heading for St Pancras via Derby. Settled in for a long, hot journey. The Train Manager was Kim, a familiar face who was getting a very rough deal from passengers. She turfed out a couple of Standard Class passengers and got some of the less mobile standees seated. On seeing my ticket she looked really downcast and said 'hold on two minutes and I'll sort this out'. I realised she planned to evict another passenger and I replied 'not on my account, not today'. I don't think I've ever been rewarded with such a look of heartfelt gratefulness!
In any case, arrived at Sheffield a little early, and much of the coach bailed to get the Midland Mainline HST on the adjacent platform. Settled into a seat and chatted with the staff who had done an excellent job on a tough morning. Turned out trains were getting through to Bristol, but only one each hour due to a failed tamper at Bristol Parkway. The very kit used to get the line open after the floods had partially closed it again! From here on, things were simpler if still a little crowded. Got the next Plymouth-bound service from New Street, which was naturally packed and the TM sensibly filled the remaining First Class seats with exasperated and dejected looking passengers. Aside from some standing water, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire looked eerily untouched by the weather - despite knowing that just a few miles from the line people were suffering terrible problems.
Grateful to get back to Bristol, and following a traditional will-they-or-won't-they style cancellation on First Great Western's part, home pretty much as expected. Despite a lot of people having a difficult few days in terms of travelling, the railways have impressed me this weekend. I was perhaps foolhardy to make this trip despite all that was going on, and it would really have been my own fault if things hadn't worked out. Whilst it's probably true that companies could have worked better together, stopped trains at additional places or whatever, the staff on the ground have handled a huge amount of very concerned people in a mainly very sensitive way. Our network is a long way from perfect, but in some respects I wouldn't have it any other way.
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.