Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Light at the End of the Channel Tunnel

As the pessimist once said, “If you think you see light at the end of the tunnel, it's not. It's a train coming to run you over.” This would have been quite an accurate image, except that in South East England on Tuesday morning, the chances of a train travelling through a tunnel at a speed likely to run you over seemed minimal.

On my arrival in London, a mere 23 hours late, I dragged my suitcase from St Pancras to King's Cross only to discover that there were no trains whatsoever leaving for the North that day. I schlepped my luggage over to Euston, hoping to catch the cross country service only to discover that Virgin had decided that the thousands of passengers who were supposed to travel on the hourly East Coast service would not all fit on their trains and were telling people to go back to St Pancras, where a miracle would apparently happen and north-bound trains would appear.

(On the fifteen minute walk between the stations, my one consolation was looking at the Eurostar queue, which was several kilometres long and served by security guards to lead it across the roads and volunteers serving coffee (we Brits really do queue well), and being eternally grateful that I wasn't in it.)

At St Pancras, a member of staff told me that the proposed solution was to take a train to Sheffield and catch a connection to Scotland from there. This sounded like an idea more likely to have been suggested by an armchair railway enthusiast with too much time on his hands than an actual, practical solution, so, despite the temptation to run for the Sheffield train before the rest of the millions got there, I decided to try changing direction entirely and phoned my brother, who lives in the South West, instead. Luckily, he answered his phone and luckily I could stay with him that night, and luckily the only flaw in my journey from then on was an abandoned bagel which I had ordered but didn't have time to collect in Paddington before I dashed to grab a seat on a delayed and very crowded train.

Funnily enough, there is loads of snow in the South West but the trains, apart from being a little late, appeared to be running just fine. I'm off to build a snowman!

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