Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Cross Country - an open letter

Dear Cross Country,

These are my knees.

As you can see, my left knee, which is on your right, is not a happy bunny. This is why I always book seats on trains.

I booked a seat on the 15:13 Oxford to Newcastle train scheduled to run on 25th June 2018. I was allocated seat D54A (booking reference 7GRCHKTF).

Bear with me now, because this is a long story.

The train came in over 50 minutes late, which couldn’t be helped, owing to a tragic incident near Winchester. A lot of trains were running behind schedule because of the incident and, understandably, they were becoming very crowded as people swapped one service for another in an attempt to reach their destinations in reasonable time. However, I found my seat had been allocated to someone else travelling from Oxford to Banbury. Moreover, it had also been allocated later to another person travelling from Birmingham New Street to Doncaster. Thankfully, a person travelling to Derby chose not to use their allocated seat, so I didn’t have to stand.

Why was my booking not honoured?

Are booking references and allocations made over the phone never to be trusted?

I would be grateful if someone could answer both these questions.

Bear with me, please. This story has some way to go.

My return journey from Newcastle to Oxford was due to be the 17:32 on 26th June (seat booking D48A - booking reference 7GRCHKTF).  This train was cancelled owing to an incident that was never explained to me – though someone said there was a rumour of pigeons on the overhead line, which I thought was a rather interesting variation of ‘leaves on the line’ and ‘wrong kind of snow’, but that’s neither here nor there. I was instructed to take the next available train to Birmingham New Street which was the 17:41.

Still with me? Good.

Now, several other trains had been cancelled running between several cities and the trains that were running were beginning to fill up. I was warned that the 17:41 would be packed and I should be prepared to stand.

Here are my knees again. I know. Not a pretty sight. 

Well, the 17:41 duly arrived and it was mercifully on time, but it rather resembled the London Underground in rush hour. 

Standing for a few stops is quite manageable on the Underground, especially as you’re usually being propped up by all the other squeezed in passengers. But three and a half hours and my knee would have been in agony. I therefore decided to wait for the next Birmingham train. The 18:35 was the next one. 

Here’s another picture for you: 

Goodness, only three out of eight trains running on time!

Still with me? Good, because this next bit is quite complicated.

So, the 18:40 to Dundee pulled in and – I assure you, I am not making this up – all the passengers for Dundee were told to get off and find seats in the very back of the train and those of us waiting to go to Birmingham were told to get on the front of the Dundee train.

It never ceases to amaze me how trusting the British public is and I expect that probably accounts for the dire political mess we’re in at the moment but, get off they did and get on we did and lo, the hand of some unseen god spilt the train asunder and the back end went off to Scotland and the front departed at 18:57 precisely for Birmingham New Street.

There was a glorious sunset on the way and lots of splendid bucolic scenery as I finally ate my sandwiches and drank a small can of pale ale. What joy to live in England! There was just the small matter of a train connection to Oxford now. The 18:40 which had somehow mysteriously become the 18:35, except that it left at 18:57 was due to get in with about two or three minutes to spare for the 22:04 which was, I’d been told, my Very Last Train to Oxford. The next one would be the 05:02 the following morning.

Here are my knees again. I'm sorry if you're getting tired of looking at them, but really, you want to try living with them. I’m afraid I haven’t got a selfie of me running from platform 2 to platform 5a…but you can probably imagine what I must have looked like lolloping along with my rucksack and a bottle of water slopping everywhere.

I got on the 22:04 and found myself sitting next to someone who’d boarded the 17:41 (remember the London Underground train?). It was she who told me about the pigeon on the overhead cable. It turned out that she was a scientist, so we had quite an interesting conversation about the composition of rails used in hot countries like India and why the rails at Waterloo were beginning to buckle and it hadn’t even got to 30°. I tell you, there was quite a lot to laugh about, especially as she’d got the earlier train and was no quicker getting to Oxford than I was. 

I must apologise here, because I didn’t take a picture of the man who had to change out of his hot and sweaty clothes into some fresh clean ones in between two carriages because the toilet wasn’t working. To be frank, I was rather taken with his crisp white shirt and charming manners. Aren’t the English good at apologising? He was concerned that he might upset passengers. I can’t say that anybody minded. There was, however, a bit of a mad dash to the toilets at Oxford station.

Yes, I did get to Oxford, but of course I missed the final train of my journey which was the 22:56 to Charlbury, so I had to fork out £4.20 for an all-night bus (on time and enough seats for everyone) and then a further £11 for a taxi to take me home and to my bed. I got in at ten past twelve in the morning, which wasn’t bad considering I had to be up for work first thing the next morning.

Here’s a picture of my tickets and the bus and taxi receipts:

And a pigeon:

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Pat Winslow

1 comment:

  1. Those are my aunt pats lovely knackered knees.... ur nephew...