A blip in the recession

In the rising levels of unemployment, and general problems associated with the ‘economic downturn’ it might be worth contacting Arriva Trains Wales if you need a job.  It appears they’re rather under staffed.

Yesterday the Mrs and I went to see Ramblin’ Folkie and her Mr.  A really lovely day was had by all, particularly as it was a joint birthday celebration. We went for a lovely meal, went and looked at the Castle Ground (all 3 feet of it or similarly small area) and headed back to RF’s for some good catch-up and some truly excellent brownies.  As she and I were both preaching this morning we had planned to leave with plenty of time to get home.

We arrived at the station to discover the alleged train had unexpectedly become a rail replacement bus.  RF lives all of 50 minutes away as the train goes, but the journey becomes significantly longer by road.  However reluctant we were to embrace this unexpected, and previously undocumented, carrier to Home we had little choice.  It turned out that the bus driver was as enthusiastic about the journey as we were.

The other point of relevance is that the route is a local service so should stop at many stations.  The driver took us to the first station town and it appeared he’d not been there before.  Relying on his GPS system for guidance, and the directions of one of the passengers, he turned down the road to the station.  A road which had at the top of it a sign declaring the road unsuitable for HGVs.  You’d think that a bus driver would deem the road unsuitable for his vehicle but he bravely soldiered on down the road.  The access road to the station was not wide enough for his bus, and the turning ahead to get out of the labyrinth of single-track roads was too sharp for him to make.  The only other road was a one-way street which we were facing the wrong way.  It looked as narrow and twisty as the rest of the routes around us.  The driver decided, however, that this very well-used road offered the only possible way out.  Forcing his bus through the streets never designed for cars, let alone buses, he struggled on to the anxiety and frustration of all around.  To give the guy some credit, he managed to manouver the bus through the streets without hitting anything but if he had only obeyed the road signs in the first place it wouldn’t have been necessary.

Having had this traumatic experience he then proceeded to omit the next station, and on our arrival at the second of our journey (and third of the route) he decided two things.  Firstly, he became determined not to visit any station which wasn’t deminded by the passengers, and secondly he was going to try and get us to the nearest major connecting station in time for the last train.  His desire to get home was evident long before the nasty incident with the narrow streets.  In his desire to get to the connecting station rather than the destination, he wasted time as we did, inevitably, miss the train.

The driver spent the journey listening to really terrible music and expressing his frustration via the phone calls which formed much of our accompaniment.  Just to make the journey all the more desirable, the toilet on the bus had been smashed on the previous days rail replacement travel.

The reason the driver gave us for the necessity of his service was due to staff shortages – a reason little likely to engender support and understanding in the extremely frustrated passengers.  We eventually arrived nearly an hour after we should have done.  Suffice to say, my service this morning was all the more coherant due to one hour less sleep.

Unfortunately both the Mrs and I have been unduely affected by problems on the trains, and our ongoing series of letters to the relevant companies attests to this.  Mr RF has even got as far as suggesting not going on a train with the Mrs!

On our return from Grandad’s funeral, our direct train (chosen so we could sleep) led to us having to change trains in Bristol, wait 40 minutes in the freezing cold before getting on rolling-stock with such excellent suspension we were affected by motion sickness.  Arriving at the Mrs’ home station about an hour after we should have done, following such an emotionally challenging day.  While that experience was by far the most difficult of our recent train traumas, it is by no means the only one.

As people caught up in the realities of a long distance relationship, train travel is the frequent consequence.  It is the only way we can get to one another but it increasingly seems to come as the most unreliable form of transport.  It will be a great joy when we are no longer required to travel between cities but for the meantime the weekly or fortnightly train travel is now approached with trepidation and anxiety.  How to ruin a beautiful relationship – me and the train that is, not me and the Mrs.