‘What a Way to Run a Railroad!’

We went to London last weekend.

I was intending to write a joyous post, telling of Swan Lake, baby granddaughters and other real delights. But our journey (“It’s Your Journey. Love it!”) home almost blotted out all our happy memories, so please forgive me this miserable National Rail rant while I get it off my chest…

We often go to London, and nearly always by train. Until now it has almost been a pleasure, quick and reliable and if one books online and well in advance, very reasonably priced. Having an Old Person’s card helps too.

We take the quite charming Matlock to Derby branch line which chugs (although not literally these days) along the beautiful Derwent River valley, stopping at six towns/villages en route. This takes half an hour. Then after a short wait one picks up the East Midland train to St Pancras (1hr 29mins) without even having to change platforms. It is all ridiculously easy.

No longer…

I bought our train tickets for our London trip last weekend on 12th April. Our ‘Outward’ tickets cost us £17.15 each, our Return an eye-watering £43.25 each, well over twice as much. I thought it odd that we could only buy an open ticket, ‘travel allowed via any permitted route’,  but we know Sunday travel is always a bit fraught so it could allow us some flexibility, perhaps, if we wanted to catch a later train…

There was no indication that the superior cost of this open ticket would guarantee a seriously inferior journey with plenty of enforced flexibility..

At no stage – in spite of official assurances  that all their customers were kept fully informed – were we informed of the chaos that awaited us yesterday. Even now when i go onto the East Midland Railways site and ask for Timetable disruptions I get ‘No results found’.

The first indication of a problem was when we arrived at St Pancras. There were no Derby trains listed on the East Midland Trains Departures board. Puzzlingly, every single train seemed destined for Bedford. When we asked a somewhat harassed official why he simply stated the obvious –  that that was where all trains were going. There was no apology or explanation.

So we had to go to Bedford. At Bedford all the by now increasingly hot and frustrated passengers were directed to queue outside the station for coaches to Leicester. John and I got onto about the fourth bus and eventually we were dropped at Leicester station a hour or so later. Here we had to wait some time for a train to Derby. 

We did reach Derby, eventually. The final stage of our journey – the little Matlock train – was itself the only thing that went well and according to plan, although we were directed by loudspeaker from one platform to another while we waited for it…

We reached home two and a half hours later than we should have. The whole experience was so awful it was almost funny. ‘Timetable alterations’? Hopeless confusion, rather. What a way to run a railroad indeed. How could anything be so absolutely chaotic?

And we can’t even blame Trump.

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Marion Fuller-Sessions

Retired and downsized, and sadly now widowed, but keeping in touch with family and friends and friends far and wide via my blog

4 thoughts on “‘What a Way to Run a Railroad!’”

  1. Oh dear, Marion, what a shame that something as straightforward as your train journey degenerated into an exhausting and infuriating experience with no warning or information. As you say, neither Trump nor Brexit (unless all the EU rail staff have returned home) can be blamed. Here the summer of ‘grèves’ is making car-sharing a national pastime, so French rail aren’t doing much better. Time to get a pony and trap?

  2. Marilyn, I suppose nothing should surprise us these days. But, as you know, it had all been working so well, as far as our experience with East Midland trains goes.
    Future horrors must await, though – we are already being warned of platform closures etc come August. If things are deemed bad enough to warn the public in advance, heaven help us! Pony and trap it will have to be, or perhaps simple hitch hiking…?

  3. Oh the disappointment of buying a train ticket and ending up on a bus…it would have been quicker to fetch you at Leicester!

    1. Debs, I wish we’d thought of ringing you! We reckon the bus companies must be loving all this extra work. Perhaps the train drivers are all signing on as relief coach drivers? But, seriously, you are right. If you buy a train ticket (especially a super-expensive one) you assume there’ll actually be a train to travel on.

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