Once more on Monday morning I left the house with two packed bags and headed a mile and a half down the hill to the train station in the valley on the first leg of my journey to spend the week working in Birmingham.
Two train journeys involved, two train journeys that could not be more different if they tried, especially if they tried, two journeys that cover different purposes, one was hell on rail, the other was most excellent.
It was dark as I left home with a light snow falling but within minutes it had turned into what anyone would call “heavy” snow and when still only halfway down the hill the flakes were like dinner plates and thick as a blizzard – I had a little conical pile of snow on my head when I reached the station, Nanuck of the North personified.
£1.60 bought me a ticket into Leeds, three stops up the line, its a busy route and as you’d expect the 7.32 service is popular, around 50 to 60 people were on the platform when the Northern Rail service arrived – three carriages with little seating left as it travels from York and Harrogate to get here – I’ve never yet found a seat on that service and with two bags to stow don’t even bother looking now, I boarded the train, took two steps and that was as far as you could go, the whole carriage was rammed with people standing.
Its only a ten minute journey so its no issue to stand, but it was very cosy, everyone at my station had managed to get on board but at the next stop there was no chance of anyone else getting on board, some tried by pushing and shoving at the doorway, one person shouted from the platform “Can you move down a bit” to which one of my already rammed-on sardine fellow passengers replied “Does it look like we can fucking move down a bit ?”, the doors closed with no new passengers.
Someone else commented that if they transported sheep in this way then the RSPCA would be involved and prosecuting every day, I’m lucky in that I only have to do it once a month, its a cheap journey and its quick, its everything that public transport should be but its one train every half hour and its only three carriages long – yes we all know the solution is more carriages or a more regular service but what do we know, we’re just the paying customer not the brain dead regulators who decide what level of service to offer.
Off at Platform 1, shooting out of the door like a champagne cork and a quick stroll across to Platform 11 for the 8.11am Edinburgh/Plymouth service by Cross Country Trains.
I held no great hopes that it would actually make it to Leeds after the heavy snow in the North East and Scotland, this service leaves Edinburgh at 5am, they had had a lot of snow overnight, I suspected that I’d be getting back on my local train and going home pretty soon, but no, it was a little late, 18 minutes late but it arrived and as usual my reserved seat was waiting for me in the quiet carriage, a comfortable seat, a table, no fuss, no hassle, room to stow your bags and people who actually observe the request to turn off phones or leave the carriage to answer them – it was all very civilised and the two hours to Birmingham always passes too quickly, sitting in a comfortable warm train reading a book while someone else worries about the snow or the hold-ups is my idea of travel and Cross Country Trains have cracked this one – I’ve been using the service all summer and this was the first time that it has been late but the journey time to Brum was still exactly two hours, far quicker than I have ever made it by car.
I’m a fan.