Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Off-duty pilots and train drivers save the day!

A while ago, some time in the summer, there was a news story about a budget airline plane whose departure was being delayed, possibly about to be cancelled, because they did not have a pilot available to fly it. At the last moment a solution was found. Among the passengers was a family, looking forward to have a week or two in the sun, Tenerife I think. The father of the family discovered what was causing the delay and informed them that he actually worked for the airline. He was actually a pilot. He was on holiday but, more importantly, he had not flown his allocated number of hours in the last few days. And so he offered to fly the plane himself.


Everyone won! They all went off on holiday.

This evening a similar thing happened on my journey home from Manchester. My Italian class finishes at 6.30 pm. As a rule, I walk briskly to Piccadilly station. If I catch a tram from there to Manchester Victoria and change onto a tram which will drop me off at Oldham Mumps I am almost certain to arrive there just too late to catch the 7.28pm bus to Delph. And there is no other bus until 8.28pm. Consequently such a journey often involves a taxi for the last stage of my journey. This is what I used to do on a regular basis.

However, there is an alternative: a train from Piccadilly to Greenfield which coincides perfectly with the new local bus service, instituted last year with the specific aim of coordinating with trains to and from Manchester. As a rule this works very nicely and I have been doing this for  while now. I hang around for a while at Manchester Piccadilly, maybe picking up some essential food item from the little Sainsbury’s on the station. For once I am glad that modern stations are like mini shopping malls. Even with the waiting around, I still get home more quickly than on the tram route.

This evening I did my mini-shop at Sainsbury’s, went onto the platform to wait for my train, reassuring another rather worried passenger that, despite there already being a train that seemed to be going to another destination at that platform, our train would pull in shortly behind that train and thus would be ready to depart before it. It was the firstbtime she had caught this train and she did not know the sytem.

The train duly arrived. We all got on. I sat for a while, phoned Phil, had a nutty snack, read a few pages of my book and then realised that the train was going nowhere. A notice came up on a computer screen about delayed departure. How annoying! Then came a notice over the PA system: our driver was absent but another was on his way from Manchester Victoria and would be with us shortly. He was coming by taxi and was stuck in traffic! You could not make it up! Why has he not caught a tram between the two stations? We would be departing as soon as possible, we were told. I swore quietly to myself!

And then, lo and behold, I saw someone running the length of the train and suddenly a new announcement was made. On our train was one of the company’s train drivers on his way home to Huddersfield, our trains’s final destination. Realising that there was a problem and, as with the plane pilot, off duty but not having exceeded his set hours for working today, he had volunteered to drive the train. And we were off!

Goodness! It could have been an episode of Thomas the Tank engine!

But now I had another little problem. Would my late-departing train arrive in Greenfield in time for me to catch the bus to Delph? Would I have to walk from Greenfield to Delph, not i possible but not pleasant on a dark evening. We pulled into Greenfield station two minutes before the bus was due to leave. I has to cross a bridge to get from the platform to the road. From the top of the footbridge I could see that the bus was already at the bus stop. I scuttled down the last lot of steps and hurried onto the little bus. Which proceeded to wait until it was clear that no more potential passengers were coming out of the station!

I was impressed. For once a bit of joined-up thinking had made two elements of public transport work efficiently together!

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