There are many ways to cope with a rail journey from hell. Some raid the onboard shop for mini bottles of wine; others forge new friendships amid the misery. The really unlucky ones end up urinating in empty Pringles pots, or climbing over 2-metre high fences (complete with spikes) when they arrive so late that the station has been closed.
But when the comedian James Nokise found himself on an 11-hour odyssey between London and Edinburgh on Monday night, he live-tweeted the misery.
Twitter may have gone out of fashion since Musk’s meddling, but it remains the perfect medium for a short story full of intrigue that takes in 11th-hour cancellations, hundreds of passengers competing for taxis, and a directionally challenged cab driver jacked up on Red Bull apparently driving from Preston to Edinburgh for the first time.
Nokise took the 4.40pm Avanti West Coast service from London Euston to Edinburgh, expecting to arrive at 22.21. All was well until the Pendolino was approaching Preston and Nokise received an email telling him his train – the one he was sitting in – had been cancelled. And so began his masterclass in social media storytelling.
The human contents of the train were disgorged on to the platform at Preston and told to wait for a train to Glasgow, which would at least get Nokise to the right country, if not the right city.
Alas. “It turned out that train was full, so as we arrived, it left. It was around 8pm, and we were told to wait for the next train … at 9:42,” Nokise wrote.
He went in search of refreshments.
More bad news awaited.
He then invited his readers to estimate the cost to Avanti West Coast of this carnival of taxis. The railway company has not yet received the bill so we can only guess at the final cost. But with a journey from Preston to Glasgow or Edinburgh costing at least £277, according to online quotes, the bill for even 75 cabs would top £20,000.
Nokise ended up sharing a taxi with three other men, who tried and failed to persuade the driver to “drop us at our locations, since he was getting a flat rate and he was not in fact a train, bound by rail lines”.
The driver refused, but soon stopped to buy two cans of Red Bull “to be safe”. One of the passengers treated himself to a late-night ice-cream.
They were halfway there when each passenger received an email notifying them that they were entitled to a full refund.
It was 3.20am when he finally arrived at Edinburgh Waverley.
A class of 50 schoolchildren plus teachers from Greenfaulds high school in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, also found themselves stranded at Preston station on Monday because of the same fault with the track.
Their teachers used Twitter, or X as it is now known, to appeal for help, saying they couldn’t put groups of 12-year-olds on their own in taxis. “A staff member has said we are effectively stuck here,” they tweeted Avanti.
They ultimately managed to get back to Cumbernauld at 2.30am after sourcing their own coach and buying 60 portions of chips in Preston to keep the children going while they waited.
An Avanti West Coast spokesperson said: “We apologise to our customers who were caught up in last night’s disruption. The closure of the west coast mainline for over three hours due to a track defect had a significant impact on our services, with trains and train crew unable to work our planned timetable, resulting in cancellations of services north of Preston.
“Whilst alternative transport and overnight accommodation was sourced for most of those impacted, we fully understand the frustrations of those customers whose journeys were affected, and we are extremely sorry for this.
“Anyone who was affected by last night’s disruption will be entitled to compensation and are urged to get in contact through our normal channels to process their claim.”
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/sep/26/no-one-knew-anything-rail-passengers-11-hour-london-to-edinburgh-odyssey ‘No one knew anything’: rail passenger’s 11-hour London to Edinburgh odyssey | Rail transport