It’s been a while since I’ve had a really bad day on the trains so I guess it was only fair that I had one today.
First thing, on our way in, there was a track side fire at Raynes Park which meant all the trains slowed down as they approached Waterloo. The guard kept us informed and, each time he made an announcement, a guy sitting across the aisle from me would swear under his breath. I say, under his breath, but everyone could hear him. He was really stressed out by the delay and was getting worse as the train crawled along. I thought he was going to march down to the guard and punch him out. He really sounded quite aggressive, belying his suit and tie and brief case.
We finally reached Waterloo a whole five minutes late. In train timetable language, this isn’t even late. When they compile their figures on train times, Network Rail allow the train companies a five minute buffer. Still, none of that stopped this guy cursing away as he rushed for the gates on the platform at Waterloo.
That was it for this morning, so it wasn’t exactly a problem. It wasn’t until I reached Waterloo in the afternoon that it all started coming apart.
Right across the indicator boards was the dreaded ‘Delayed’ flashing against almost every train. The ones that weren’t delayed were cancelled. It was awful. People were doing their best to remain calm but it’s not easy when you start to worry you won’t get home. I mean, not everyone has a flat at Canary Wharf…
As it turned out, while it claimed to be delayed and messed up, my train was fine. It arrived a little later than usual so the rush for seats was a bit worse than usual, but we left on time. Everything was fine. I sat and plugged myself into my tablet, happily watching The Walking Dead. Happy that is until we reached Woking.
A sudden flustered announcement from the guard informed us that the train was no longer going to Alton but to Farnborough instead. Anyone going further than Brookwood must leave the train and get home some other way, the guard told us unhelpfully. I quickly pulled my earplugs out and packed up my tablet. Along with many others, I left the train, stepping onto a very crowded Woking platform.
I figured I could just hop onto the next train to Guildford and change to the Ascot line to Aldershot. I went over to platform five, where a Portsmouth train was due to take the place of the empty train at the platform.
Now, I know it’s necessary to have completely empty trains tantalisingly sitting with locked doors making commuters angry but I do wish they’d move them somewhere else where they can’t be seen. So, we stood and watched this train as undecipherable announcements flew through the irritated air. Eventually I heard that the Portsmouth train was now going to leave from platform four (where I’d come from) so I joined the hordes making the trip back.
The train arrived and I piled into the packed carriage to go the one stop to Guildford. There was plenty of annoyed discussion about how people were going to get home when the guard told us that the train to Ascot (via Aldershot) was leaving in ten minutes from platform six. This raised my suspicions because the Ascot trains leave from platform eight but I just figured there was a change because of the problems. Oh, how wrong we all were.
At Guildford I walked down the ramp and looked at the indicator board. The Ascot train was due to leave platform eight in two hours. The train on platform six was going to Gatwick. I shook my head to no-one in particular and decided to catch a bus.
As if the travel problems weren’t enough, I emerged from Guildford station into the rain. It’s times like this that I start to get a bit concerned that perhaps there is an all-powerful being and he’s (for it would only be a male) punishing me for my atheist non-beliefs. Then I look around and realise I’m not some latter day Job and it’s affecting everyone.
So, damp and irritated, I arrived at the bus terminal at the Friary to find that the next Farnham bus was due in forty minutes. I waited.
Eventually I walked into the house. I hadn’t really looked at my watch figuring it was, basically, a waste of time to worry about the time. As it turned out, I arrived home a mere half hour later than usual.
Throughout my journey, I’d kept Mirinda apprised of my progress. She hadn’t responded so I figured she’d misplaced her little friend. This was actually not the case. She reached for it when I told her the trip had been horrid. Then she read my thousands of texts, tutting and making other conciliatory noises.
And the reasons for all these hassles? In the morning, the go-slow was caused by a track side fire. In the evening it was a combination of another track side fire (I’m wondering how anything could burn given all the rain we’ve been having), two passengers being hit by trains (the nice way of saying someone committed suicide) and power problems in the Aldershot area.
I guess I can’t really complain because I did manage to get home…though it was because of my local transport knowledge rather than anything South West Trains did. In fact, had I followed their instructions, chances are I’d still be stuck at Guildford station.