Saturday, 23 May 2009

Where the Romans Succeed, Network Rail fails

Carlisle is the last English city before the Scottish border, in truth it’s one of the last settlements before the border. It’s been a key site on the road north for millennia. Even today it’s a major stop on the West Coast Main-Line.

So you would have thought that on the first proper summer bank holiday of the year that everything would be smooth and settled.

That’s what I thought when I booked to go to Carlisle back in the depths of December.

Then, twelve weeks ago, when the cheap tickets should have been release, I got a surprise. I couldn’t find any tickets for trains to Carlisle that didn’t involve changing. Even more surprising was that the change was in Newcastle and the journey involved travelling up the East, rather than West coast of the UK.

At the time I had an inkling as to what the issue might be, but thought that even Network Rail wouldn’t be stupid enough to close a chunk of the West Coast Main-Line during a major bank holiday weekend.

But, I wanted a cheap ticket, so I booked to go via Newcastle, and didn’t think much of it.

Then a couple of weeks ago the engineering works for the Bank Holiday Weekend were announced, and despite all logic and sense dictating that people would probably want to travel more on this weekend than any other around it, the line was partly closed.

Instead of a speedy journey of just over three hours from Euston to Carlisle direct (or other locations on the Western side of the UK), there was a not so speedy journey from Euston to Milton Keynes, then a very slow bus journey from Milton Keynes to Birmingham, before rejoining the slightly faster train journey to the North.

I was quite glad that I was going the scenic route. Though possibly not the people who booked late and didn’t have a seat reservation from Kings Cross and were still standing when the train pulled into Newcastle three hours later!

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