Robert Hampton

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6th December 2010

Brighton Belly Up

Well, it wasn’t as arduous as I expected. Stories of travel chaos across the south east left me wondering if I should have taken a sleeping bag with me, but the reality was somewhat more mundane.

In these cost-conscious times, I needed to make the journey as cheaply as possible, and I chose to use London Midland’s service, which is much slower and requires a change of train at Stafford. However, at £24.50 for a Super Off Peak Return from Liverpool South Parkway to London Terminals, it is much cheaper.

Despite a delay on the train from Liverpool, our connection at Stafford was held and I was delivered to Euston on time. One quick tube journey later and I was at Victoria for 2.15pm, where the emergency timetable was very much in force and the departure board was much barer than usual.

A train was due to leave at 1432, but it was shown as delayed until 1447 — the inbound working had yet to arrive. The announcer (a nasal-voiced gentleman of the sort favoured in 80s comedy sketches about British Rail) informed us that a train would leave shortly for East Croydon, from where a Thameslink train might be available.

The East Croydon train was a Gatwick Express unit, which worried me after seeing helicopter shots on BBC News, showing one hopelessly stalled on the points outside Gatwick Airport station. In the event, we successfully arrived at East Croydon, although the noises from the train didn’t sound entirely healthy.

Unfortunately there was then no onward train in sight. The promised Thameslink train was only shown as “Delayed”. I shivered on the platform with lots of other people as a number of trains came and went, but none heading in the direction I wanted. Eventually a Brighton train arrived, which was the delayed train from Victoria – I should have waited there, where it was at least slightly warmer.

The train was crowded and, although it emptied out a bit at Gatwick, I was forced to stand all the way. Progress was slow, with other delayed trains impeding us. As temperatures dropped, I became more aware of the sparks flying from the 3rd rail beneath us. I was grateful to roll into Brighton, about an hour later than expected.

It’s easy to be critical of the train companies, but the snow really was deep, covering the tracks completely in places. And it was absolutely freezing. I’m not sure exactly how cold it was, but when you see icicles hanging off trains, you know it’s a bit nippy outside (this train was in service, by the way, not stabled):

Icy Train

So, not the best journey ever, but as I had only paid £3.75 single (thanks to an offer on Southern’s web site for Advance fares) maybe I shouldn’t complain too much. Given the circumstances, I think arriving an hour late is a good result. At the very least, it meant I could spend some time in Brighton (one of my favourite places) with Mark (one of my favourite people). 🙂

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