In the shop, people kept coming in and saying how warm it was out there and it was but I kept telling them that it was due to rain at 4 p.m. and continue until 7 p.m.
It started raining, glanced at the watch and it was almost dead on 4 p.m.
Finished up, went to the train and it was delayed. No matter.
Then it went past the time of the next one and the first I would have caught was now called cancelled.
Twenty minutes later, the next one was also cancelled.
Explanatory announcement came over the tannoy: “All our platforms are equipped with CCTV. If you smoke, you could be recorded and may be prosecuted. All of our platforms are non-smoking areas. Please do not smoke on any platform. Please wait until you are outside of the station area before smoking. This is a public service announcement.”
About three minutes later, the tannoy sprang to life again. For passengers on Platform 11A, we apologize for the delay but the line is flooded [out in the sticks somewhere] and there has been a power failure. Our engineers are on the way blah blah blah.”
Great. Yesterday, the shoes split, I bought a new pair, then didn’t know my PIN etc. Today I had blisters with the new shoes and just wanted home after work.
No matter. Pour a coffee and have a bit of choc.
People were now gathering in numbers to go to Preston and other places.
Two more trains were cancelled. Then the board said that trains were on time after that. Well, that’s a relief.
One by one, they became delayed and were then officially cancelled after they didn’t arrive.
A train arrived. The tannoy was going beserk: “Do not board this train, repeat, do not board this train, it is terminating here. etc.]
By now, about 150 people were looking at this train doing nothing and no other trains were arriving or looked likely to arrive.
After an hour and a quarter, the tannoy said that all trains were now cancelled and a replacement bus service would run between where we were and the place out in the sticks where my bike was. Had to think – forget the train, walk to the bus station and get a bus to our village, then walk home, getting a train tomorrow to go and get my bike?
Or else take a chance they’d fix the problem and so even a two hour wait would be so-so, OK?
Or join the bus queue? If I hadn’t had this experience before, I would have waited with the crowd for the bus. However, I had had this experience before in driving rain. It went like this last time:
There was a 45 minute delay before the first bus arrived. They sent a total of 3 buses for everyone. Every fifteen minutes or so, a fresh trainload of people arrived and joined the milling crowd. First bus would arrive and it was ugly. I saw people jostling and pulling people off the bus steps, diving at the entrance – near panic.
No thanks. I headed for the taxi rank and the taxi disappeared. I went to the one behind and he disappeared. I went to the one behind and asked the price. I asked a second one the price. Same.
Went back to the crowd, stood on the road and hollered: “If anyone is prepared to pay £8, we have a taxi waiting to get to [the station out in the sticks]. Is anyone going that way?”
One man was, an old codger who’d been around. The sound of that amount of money outraged many of the crowd who pointed out, quite rightly, that the rail company should pay for all of this.
Yes, they should but they won’t. Blood from a stone.
One lady said she’d join us. I raced up the rank to secure a taxi and another lady called out from one: “This one’s free.”
Excellent – four people and we were away, took the collection, paid the driver and a little extra to speed him on the way. Sat back and set to chatting about this and that.
Here I am about half seven, having lost about 90 minutes all up.
Just remembering when we got to the station in the sticks – there was a similar crowd to where we’d come from. Very, very angry. Police were there to keep control. Checked that my train was running. It was.
At my final destination, said to the driver that I was one of the ones from the city. He shook his head and said we were lucky to get out. Said reports were coming through that it was pretty nasty.
The saving grace for me, once I’d got to the station in the sticks, was that my bike was there. So if everything was cancelled, I’d still have been able to get home in an hour or so.
This was not fun this evening. The reasons the crowd remained at those two stations were various but one of them was the promise, the constant promise that things would be restored. Plus people refusing to shell out for someone else’s mistake.
But, as the taxi driver said, enjoying it all – he was actually right – not many people do their maths. The tannoy says buses are laid on. Good, say most people, I can wait. But successive trainloads arrive, plus everyone else going home and this swamps the 3 buses only they have running. And those buses are in transit.
As the taxi driver said – while many would make other arrangements by mobile phone, the total number increases every fifteen minutes. The tannoy keeps reassuring but they’re not going to fix that problem this evening. Line’s flooded.
So it’ll be midnight, after the last train, that the numbers start going down. And then they run taxis as the buses also stop. The drivers charge £130 for the round journey – the taxi driver admitted this. He then explained the costing to him, at 22mpg.
Yes, so I’m here with pizza and wine, writing to you but certainly not gloating in any way. Those poor sods at those stations, kept to the allure of a promise which will never be fulfilled. Cold, wet, feet aching, angry, despondent. Prayers with them this evening.
I did try. I called the attention of everyone whilst there were still only about 150 and they could have joined us.
Perhaps I should have explained the reality to them more. But then there’d have been a rush on the taxis.
Unless they were clever and walked to a different part of town but drivers would have heard on the grapevine anyway and would now be at the station.
Not good. Think one must be prepared to pay a little over the odds from the outset.