Thursday, 10 March 2016

Train travel turmoil! Sauve qui peut!

Euston Station in London is a weird place. Large groups of people stand around, staring up at a display, up close to the roof of the place, that tells you which platform trains will be leaving from. As it gets closer to the trains' departure times, each one's bit of the display moves a little further over to the left. The platform rarely seems to be decided, let alone displayed, until about ten minutes before departure time. Quite why it is that way, I have no idea. Yes, it's a busy station, with loads of trains, but surely they have a kind of master plan indicating which platform trains to certain destinations usually leave from. Maybe it's just to prevent people crowding onto platforms too far ahead of departure time. Anyway, that's how it is and we have often been among those staring up, like members of some odd cult, awaiting enlightenment. 

Yesterday we set off from our son's house in Chesham, arriving at Euston in time to join the hopeful throng of departures board watchers. Imagine our surprise to find that the 2.00 pm to Manchester Piccadilly was cancelled, as were a fair few other Virgin and Midlands trains. An announcement told us that this was due to flooding! Flooding? We had woken to a fine day. Morning television had included no reports of flooding. I had been out for a pleasant walk with my daughter-in-law and our smallest grandchild. All was well. So where was the flooding? Somewhere around Rugby and Northampton apparently. Who knew? Later in the day I heard reports about a storm front that had moved across the country causing flooding in some areas but we had had no notion of any such stormy weather where we were. 

After making some enquiries, we found that we could use our tickets on the next available Virgin train to Manchester: 2.20 pm, delayed! No platform at that point in time! Eventually we boarded the train, not long after 2.20 in fact. We got on and so did all the people with tickets for that train and for the 2.00 train and for the 1.40 train, also cancelled! That was fun! 

As we made our way down the train with our thankfully quite small bags, in search of an elusive couple of seats, the public address system of the train welcomed us on board and wished us a safe and comfortable journey. No mention how sorry they were for the overcrowding or the slightly late start. On my last trip by train to London there had been extra passengers because of a cancelled train and the crew bent over backwards to apologise for the inconvenience. On this journey, nothing until. quite some time into the journey, we were held up at signals because of the chaos on the line and when we slowed down to walking pace because of water on the line. 

We were able to find seats together eventually, and miraculously, given the number of people sitting on the floor in some parts of the train. And the journey was not uncomfortable after all, although we arrived in Manchester, not at just after 4.00 as planned but at about 6.00. After that the rest of the journey home was smooth and painless without long waits for tram or bus. Such waits might have been just too much for us. 

Much later in the evening, Phil read a report of total chaos at Euston station later in the later afternoon. The crowds waiting for train announcements had grown so large that the police were brought in to control what was going on and to prevent people from storming onto platforms. How little it takes for civilised behaviour to crumble into anarchy! 

We should consider ourselves lucky to have got away when we did. Such are the adventures of these intrepid travellers!

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