Monday, 20 December 2010

What a "little bit of snow" can do.

After being an hour late getting up, I got a taxi to the train station, since I was freezing and I couldn't be sure the X1 would turn up or leave on time etc etc, and I had to queue to buy a ticket for the train.

The train was about 5 minutes late, and ended up about 20 minutes late at Birmingham New Street. BNS was swamped with people. The queue to get information was quite large, and more and more people were swarming into the station, hoping to get somewhere. All the trains on the board were delayed - one was over an hour late.
I found a train I needed to get, but it was 3 carriages, and all the standing room had been taken. I couldn't get on, and nobody was going to shift to let me on with my little suitcases.
I decided to wait, and to get the next one, an hour later.

I made my way to the platform that had been announced, and waited. A train to Plymouth was supposed to be coming to that platform a minute after mine - it was a delayed train from about 45 minutes before - and I was a bit concerned about how that train and my train were going to be using that platform at the same time as a parked empty one.
It was announced that my train was now leaving from another platform. About 50 people all ran up the stairs as best as they could with luggage, and across the station. We got there, looked up and saw a nice fat CANCELLED sign above our train time.

After discussing things on the phone, I went to buy a ticket so that I could go via London - of course, in hindsight, I should have shoved the rules where the sun didn't shine and just bought an underground ticket once I got there, but you never know with this things.
I forked out a horrendous £58.60 for a one-way ticket to Cambridge, a whole £8 more than my OPEN return had cost me. I was considering breaking down in tears at that point, and getting someone to feel chivalrous for me, but I didn't have time - a train to London Euston had pulled up at platform 3.

It was an interesting journey to London. It went smoothly - there were some nice people in my carriage. I sat next to a girl trying to get to Covent Garden to see The Nutcracker, a sardonic OAP with a suede jacket, and these two girls from Brixton... erm. Let's just say that they didn't fail to amuse and talk absolute rubbish <3 They were great, really.
We got to Northampton to be told we had to continue our journey on another train which was waiting for us "on the platform over the bridge".
We got on the train and waited. And waited. And waited until the driver's voice came onto the intercom - the good news was that the train was going despite the weather, and it was going to Bletchley, Watford Junction and London Euston. And that the train was working. And that the train had a driver. And the driver was sober.
The bad news is that the conductor hadn't arrived yet, and apparently trains can't run without conductors - even if the carriages are too full for them to get through if they bothered to look at our tickets.
We left about 15 minutes later with a cheer.

As we approached Watford Junction, a woman's voice told us that the train was terminating there. No mention of connecting trains, or why, or how to get to London Euston. Just that we were terminating. There was much outrage from the passengers in my carriage, mixed with bitter amusement.
We all piled off the train and made our way to the end of the station with any semblance of an information board. Then we heard a station announcement telling us all to get back on the train, there had been some "wires crossed". When we were first told by the conductress that we had to get off the train, I thought she sounded French.
When we were back on the train and grumbling, she came on the intercom to apologise for the misunderstanding and "information error" - unfortunately, her being flustered did not help to soften her accent and it was quite clear she was Eastern European and probably hadn't been told what ''terminate'' meant. *sigh*
I hate to sound racist by saying that, but there was not just an "information error" but also a "communication" error.

When I got to Euston about half an hour later, it was crawling with police - there'd been a security scare, as well as the circle line being affected by delays and such.
I was ok though - I just had to go one stop on the Victoria line which was running smoothly, to Kings Cross + St. Pancras.
I am not familiar with that part of the station - I have not been to Kings Cross in over a year, and it was a different part that was not under construction. I asked for directions and was misdirected into St. Pancras for a while, and there was no real way for me to tell otherwise - I could tell you what time trains to Bedford were leaving, or which Eurostar train was due in, but there was no information about any trains otherwise, and nobody was around to ask. I followed VERY poor signs to the SouthEastern train platforms, to find the passengers had been kettled, effectively, until an announcement told them what was happening with their trains - Havasham was cancelled, by the way.
I decided to break past the barrier and go around just to ask a very rude and short-tempered woman whether I was even in the right part of the station for a train to Cambridge - she helpfully snapped at me that I should have been in king's cross, next door.

I made my back the way I'd come, and looked for signs towards King's Cross, and found it. It was cold, lots of scaffolding and people and only one or two signs were saying where trains were going, what time, whether it was delayed and occasionally which platform.
Nobody working for the station was in sight. I just stood there with a small crowd and waited - our train was never given a platform. Some trains that were due and never updated to ''delayed'' or ''cancelled'' or given platforms were just taken off the board if it was 10 minutes after they'd been due.
Eventually, a woman I spoke to and I noticed a small trickle of people heading to platform 9 and decided to investigate - we asked a random guy in a visibility vest which train it was, and he said he THOUGHT it was the one to King's Lynn via Cambridge. We asked people on the train where they hoped the train was going, and they all thought it was going to Cambridge. We decided it was probably better to stay on the train, until we heard otherwise. Eventually, a driver said that it was indeed the train to Cambridge, and he hoped to leave soon.

I got back to Cambridge about 10 hours after I left my flat, and got back to my house about 2 hours after that - since the roads were so terrible.

Normally only takes about 5 hours...

Seems that there are only so many delays those electric information boards can take before the system just crashes and burns. And there's only so many members of staff that can take being asked questions- it's better to take them off the floor and out of the public eye so that they aren't murdered or something by fraught passengers trying to get home.

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