Because I forget stuff. Part of

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Originally posted December 16 2008 at 22:12 under General. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.

Night Train

Tired, frustrated
Croydon, at last

I’m just about awake enough to write this post now. More or less. I was “up north” for a few days last week and over the weekend. Came back down Sunday night. This turned into Monday morning. My advice, if they ever say “indefinite delay” get off the train!

When I’m in Gateshead I tend to get a train back down around ten past six in the evening. This gets me home not stupidly late, even allowing for the possibility of a bit of a delay. So it was that I departed Newcastle on the 18:10 train. All was going fine as we headed south. I even continued to have a double seat to myself as whoever had the one next to me reserved from York failed to appear. Perhaps they had realised something I hadn’t. When we reached Doncaster however, things went decidedly downhill.

Stopping just outside Doncaster isn’t that unusual I suppose. Once we’d been sat there a while though, holding up some poor lorry driver at the level crossing for a while too, we had to begin to wonder. When we finally got a platform at the station I didn’t realise quite how bad things were going to get though. At some point the infamous words “indefinite delay”.

After that my chronology of events gets a little hazy. I think we sat on our train for about a couple of hours. Then they cancelled it—news which seemed to leave the driver as exasperated as us. A mad scramble ensued, to board a different train a platform away. It turned out that train was already carrying two train’s worth of passengers. We squeezed on as best we could. If you want some further advice don’t at this point choose to located yourself right next to the toilet if it has a sliding door, forcing you to shift whenever it opens.

They told us the overhead lines were somewhat out of action. Then they told us we were going to single line running (i.e. running both north and south going trains down the same bit of single track). The driver, sounding as lost as to exactly what was going on as we were mentioned a “massive” queue. Really, if you hear that, get off if you can. After some time we crawled out the station and onwards what felt about a signal or two. Where we sat around some more. The driver and guard kept apologising. Actually, I have to praise the them for remaining as apologetic and cheery as can be expected despite their own obvious frustration, particularly I suspect at the simple lack of information as to what was happening.

Eventually (time by now was completely meaningless), we reached Newark. There they tried to add yet more passengers. The train guard took the step of actually refusing, on the basis of us being unable to handle more load, and told some people who had just joined to get off. They locked the doors to prevent anyone else getting on. Or, as we joked, trap us. After what I’m going to laughingly describe as a while we got to move on. We sat around, in the dark. The driver told us we were three signals from the effected area, though he admitted that this was pretty meaningless. It was however the only scrap of information he had. As best anyone, including the driver, could tell they were letting the northbound trains go first. Every now and then there would be a thunderous roar as a flash of fleeting lights rushed by us. The dark does funny things to your senses. At one point I thought we were moving. We weren’t. I sat back down, in the cramped vestibule. At least my fellow inmates were still jovial.

When we finally had cleared the short affected part of track which had caused so much chaos at least the driver could speed up. I think it’s quite a while since a train felt so fast, as I suspect the driver pushed to see just how fast his train could go (it’s a sobering thought that it was probably still slower than Mallard’s record). We dropped people off, slowly decanting our tired souls. By now I was obviously tired so I apologise for not being entirely certain of the arrival time into Kings Cross. I think it was about 3:35 on Monday morning (certainly we were in Stevenage at quarter past three. There came another mad rush to the waiting taxis, and another queue. Like the information about what was actually going on this seemed disorganised, people running up and down the line of cold, tired passengers trying to pair groups together. Our eventual taxi driver told us normally they have four queues formed, for north, south, east, and west but they didn’t do that, instead adding to the confusion. I wonder if those going to Portsmouth found anyone to take them. I wonder if those going to Gatwick, including one of the girls in our little crowded group, caught their flights. I wonder how contingencies for a failure of a short piece of track in this country’s rail system resulted in me eventually arriving home at 05:30, around six and a half hours later than I might have expected.

One might wonder that the only compensation we apparently get is some rail vouchers for the value of the ticket (the rail firms did lay on all those taxis at their expense, but that is surely to be expected). One might wonder if there shouldn’t be some greater compense for such a large delay, beyond the control of the rail operator or not.

At some point I might get round to posting about the actual visit north…

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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