This has been a week of train trouble for me. And it all started on Monday.
I had an interview at Meltsham which is on the way to Gatwick Airport. The trip would mean that I had to change trains at Clapham Junction and board a Southern Trains local to East Croydon, and then catch another local to Meltsham. The train times I had selected had enough time built into them for me to find out where to go, and to get there without a last minute dash. Theoretically.
Clapham Junction was the easy part, however, I did not have my camera with me, so some images were taken in January.
I managed to grab an earlier local for East Croydon and was soon on my way. Unfortunately Southern Trains is having a lot of bad press lately regarding delayed trains.
I had not travelled with them much before so I could not really comment on their punctuality. However, once we reached East Croydon chaos reigned. There was a signalling fault somewhere on the system and trains were delayed, cancelled, missing and all permutations in between. To exacerbate matters renovations were being done at the station so information signs were not legible or hard to see. I was directed to platform 5 and when I got there was told that the train would arrive on platform 6! That was difficult because platform 6 was occupied by a train going to Gatwick. The poor platform attendant was having a hard time doing his job and trying to assist with enquiries. It also did not help listening to announcements as they were either too soft, or happened as the train was leaving. By some miracle I caught a train, and it turned out to be the right one, although it was running 45 minutes late and some stops were cancelled. I just hoped that things would be less chaotic on my way home.
Later that day, on arrival at Mertsham to catch my train back to East Croydon, I found that it too had been delayed.
In fact 3 trains went past while I was waiting, although had I dashed into the loo you could have bet that the train would have arrived at the most inopportune time.
The trip back to East Croydon was punctuated by long pauses and the ever diminishing time left to catch my connection. By the time we arrived it was time that my connection would have arrived too, although that was unlikely as we were occupying the space it was supposed to be occupying. The ever unhelpful information boards were not being informative at all, and the poor platform attendant was being harassed by all and sundry.
In the image on the left you can see two trains, in fact there were actually 4, two already occupying the platform on both sides. I could not make any sense out of this, but by chance heard an announcement that the train to Clapham Junction would now be arriving on Platform 1 and not the one where I was or where it was supposed to be. Thanks for the advance notice! I arrived at Platform 1 as said train left. In fact the “Welcome to East Croydon” sign on the information board did not help me, or any of the other people who came running down hoping to catch the train we had all missed. I decided to hang around there because it did seem as if this was where trains to Clapham would leave from, and 10 minutes later one arrived (probably 45 minutes late). Clapham Junction was like paradise after that mess, and it is unlikely I will go through East Croydon ever again, which is maybe a good thing.
After the chaos of Monday, I was very tempted to stay in bed on Tuesday, but I still had some graves to find in Reading so I headed there instead. There is a First Great Western local that goes between Basingstoke and Reading, and I had had a bad experience with it early in February when the train had failed and we were stranded for almost 90 minutes at Mortimer. Surely something like that can’t happen again? or could it?
The trains currently being used on that line was 150001 and 150002, a pair of 1984 BREL built prototype 3-car Class 150/0 units. 150002 proved to be the worse of the two for reliability. Both sets were in service with London Midland until 2011. 150001 entered service with First Great Western in January 2012, with 150002 to follow after refurbishment and relivery.
I had travelled with 150001 and 150002 the previous week when I had been to Bramley, and thought that they were very noisy and uncomfortable compared to the usual 165 or 166 class I had used before. Their interiors were an odd purple colour and reminded me of a kitchen.
Once I had completed my graves in Reading I headed back to the station, and as I arrived I kept an eye open for any new trains in the station. When we had arrived that morning I had caught a brief glimpse of something other than the usual FGW intercity HST, and I was hoping to see another. I was lucky because there was one at the platform and I quickly grabbed some pics.
It turns out that this was a British Rail Class 180, and reading between the lines these were troublesome beasties. This particular one was 180 102, and it pulled out just as I headed back up the escalators.
When I got to my platform I saw my train was in so I could get on board and head off home. How wrong I was! A train had broken down at Bramley and we were not going to Basingstoke unless we went via Guildford and Woking. The train just after 14H00 was cancelled, as was the one at 14H30 and the next one may have been leaving at 15H00, although that was unlikely. 150001 joined its sister and neither was going anywhere.
I knew that there was a Cross Country train that used to leave Reading for Basingstoke and then onwards to Weymouth, and it left at 14H45ish, so I decided that it was a preferable option to going to Guildford so headed down the platform to see if there was anything else interesting in the station. I soon discovered another train that I had not seen before, and it was wearing a Southwest Trains livery.
It turns out that these are Class 458’s, and they too were not very successful. I must admit they were not good lookers either, and during my wait I saw 8026 and 8016 in the station.
Heading back to my platform I was unable to get an answer as to whether I would be able to catch the Cross Country train as the platform it normally used was currently occupied by 150002. In fact the customer service person did not know either and she dashed off to find out, just as the Cross Country pulled into Platform 8.
I had never caught one of the Cross Country trains before, although had seen them quite a lot in Southampton. They tended to come and go and generally lead separate lives from the other Southwest Trains all around them. It could be that I now had an opportunity to catch one, assuming I could get to Platform 8 before it left.
We all dashed across to the platform and hurriedly boarded the train, although whether it was going anywhere was another story altogether. Just then another Class 180 pulled in and I was tempted to bail out and go photograph it, but they announced that we were holding for awhile and would leave as soon as the line was clear. Bailing now would mean I would have to hang around till 15H30 for one of the 150’s to leave. Then we started to move, and I was finally on my way home, and with Cross Country too. They aren’t too bad interior wise, and they definitely were quick, but I was really just glad to finally be on my way home. Two days of train troubles in a row was asking too much.
Hopefully I was done with train troubles, or had I?
This morning I had to go to Southampton to see the maiden arrival of the Britannia. Would my train timings be correct? Lo and behold when I got to Basingstoke Station I discovered that the trains coming from London via Clapham Junction were delayed. The Salisbury train was running 19 minutes late, and my Southampton train was running equally late. However there was a Cross Country leaving at 10H10, and it came via Reading and not Clapham Junction so theoretically it would not be delayed so I crossed to platform 1 to catch it (followed by half the people from the platform I had just left).
I arrived at Southampton in time, and by co-incidence I caught another Cross Country back home. It was kind of odd because in the two years I had been in the UK I had never been on one of these before, and suddenly in a week I had traveled on three! Maybe it is my reward for all the other train trouble I had been having this past week?
So that was my week of train trouble. The moral of the story? the rail system in the UK is not perfect, it is subject to delays, and things do go wrong (and there are leaves on the line, the wrong snow and even trampolines to muck it up further). The delay at Clapham Junction was as a result of a woman threatening to jump onto the tracks, thousands of people ended up being delayed as a result. The difference is in how passengers are notified of a problem. The East Croydon mess could have been handled so much better, and I think the Reading delays could have also been dealt with a bit better, but it is really a lot to do with customer service and service levels as a rule. Lets put it like this, in South Africa they would have set fire to the train.
© DRW. 2015-2018. Created 06/03/2015, images migrated 27/04/2016