Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Long Way Home

Yesterday (22nd Nov 2017) I'd arranged to travel to Wolverhampton from Grange-over-Sands to meet my elderly mum for lunch.  I'd bought advance tickets and although it was raining when I left home the journey down was uneventful.  The journey back, however, was a catalogue of misinformation, a battle against the elements and really bad timing - but I did meet some lovely people.

  • My 15:37 from Wolverhampton was running late, we were further delayed getting into Lancaster meaning I missed the 17:20 to Grange, which apparently left on time.
  • As the Virgin train I'd just got off pulled away the station announcer informed us that the line between Preston and Lancaster was now closed due to flooding.  If I'd known that 2 minutes earlier I could have stayed on the Virgin train to Oxenholme and got Steve to pick me up from there.  Still...
  • As no trains were running I headed for Lancaster bus station where I got myself onto a very late and diverted, but still running, 555 to Kendal (the driver of which was an absolute STAR - cheerful and helpful in the middle of what must have been a dreadful shift, top marks to Stagecoach)
  • I was trying to keep up to date with things on Twitter and, as we passed through Carnforth I saw this Tweet from Northern Rail

  • Mindful of the advice that no one should be driving unless absolutely necessary I jumped off the bus and headed to Carnforth station to save Steve having to drive to Kendal (I can walk home from Grange station) - there was a train showing on the Network Rail app as running 32 minutes late so I figured I'd get that.
  • It turns out Northern Rail were somehow misinformed (lying is a strong word and I can't imagine they'd deliberately put out false information so let's stick with "misinformed").  Later on I did try to tell them:
  • I joined 3 other people waiting on Carnforth station - plus 5 teenagers at the far end of the platform having some sort of party, 
  • Fifteen minutes later we were joined by an elderly gentleman who'd just caught a taxi from Preston to Carnforth.
  • Between us we were trying to get to Silverdale (1), Grange (1), Ulverston (1) and Barrow (2)
  • Regular recorded announcements were coming through but the information was out of date - they were still telling us that the 17:48 for Barrow was delayed.
  • Around half an hour later a lady appeared on another platform telling us the underpass was flooded, we went to explore.  The two photos below were taken just 4 minutes apart.
Notice the dry area in the centre
Dry area now gone
  • Two of the teens paddled through, the other 3 refused to.  I was happy to paddle, as was 1 other guy in our group, but two others & the elderly gent weren't.  By now we were a team and needed to resolve this.
  • Station announcement tells us all trains are now cancelled but a bus replacement service will be running - fine, but we can't get off the station to get to the busses.
  • No answers to any calls to any organisation who can help or inform us - all of us bar the elderly gent (who didn't have a phone) were trying. We even tried the emergency contact button on the platform.  Nothing.  (I did notice that Northern Rail were now Tweeting about Manchester Christmas markets though, which I thought was nice...)
  • One of our group identified that we could walk to the end of the platform and cross the tracks the the next platform - I appreciate this is probably illegal but we were stranded, there was no information or support coming from anywhere, we'd been told the trains were all cancelled anyway and we had a clear view along the tracks.  Plus this counted as an emergency so we figured we'd be OK (for those who know Carnforth station can I just point out that we only crossed to the central platform with the refreshment rooms and the path out at the far end, we did NOT attempt to cross the West Coast mainline).  These folks, who arrived several hours later, got stuck in and good to see the water level had dropped a little.
From @Bloo_bel Twitter feed
  • Information on the replacement busses was sketchy at best. One source was insisting they were running, another was saying the bus company had refused to send their drivers out in the weather conditions (and who can blame them?)
  • The local cab companies said they weren't working but the elderly gent flagged one down and persuaded the driver to take him to Silverdale.  (The teenagers had vanished as soon as we'd left the station)
  • The remaining four of us, now a soggy but fairly merry little band, decided to abandon Northern Rail and head for the pub/ hotel over the road where I called Steve to come and collect us.  I offered the others a lift to Grange.
  • As the others, who by now had names: Emma, Laura and Torquil, tried to make contact with their families we realised that they couldn't get lifts from Grange as Newby Bridge was flooded.  They booked the final 3 rooms in the hotel while I nursed my G&T, confident that Steve in our 4x4 would make it through.  The coaster on the table made me laugh though...
  • Steve arrived to collect me, I bid farewell to my new found friends, and we finally headed home, getting in at 21:45 - 6 hours after I'd left Wolverhampton.
  • The roads were shocking but folks still whizzed past us on the M6 as if nothing was amiss.
It wasn't the worst journey in the world, and I made some new friends along the way, but surely these days we could have been kept better informed?  At that time of night Carnforth is an unmanned station and there was absolutely no consistent or reliable information available to us from anywhere.  We're told CCTV is constantly watching us and yet no-one can tell us what's happening.  

I know I regularly bang on about Northern Rail but their misinformation earlier in the evening triggered a series of events for me which could have been avoided - the upshot is that I now absolutely don't trust anything on their Twitter feed, which pretty much undermines the whole point of it. 

Of course the upside is I can now look out for my new found friends on my travels and we can bitch about the service together - so not a complete disaster after all.

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