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Author Topic: Via Didcot - as it was today  (Read 44867 times)
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« on: November 02, 2013, 09:16:35 pm »

I went up to Oxford today ... needed to be there for around 10 a.m. so drove up from Melksham to Chippenham, caught the 08:25 train, and was in Oxford around an hour later.

Coming back, arrived at Oxford station at around 17:15 for the 17:37 which was supposed to connect, and walked into the journey from hell - or so it would have been if I hadn't been chatting with David, Nigel and other friends along the way.

At 17:34, the stock for the 17:37 pulls in and we all pile on.

At 17:40, one of the dispatch team walk through the train and turf us off - "20 minute delay as we're waiting for the driver".  Odd that, as the train had just come into the platform, but it turned out the chap or chapess who brought it in was a "ferryman" and didn't know the way to Didcot.

Several other trains came in and left, with the 17:37 slipped back to 17:52, then saying 17:41 again (odd that at 17:50), then going to "delayed".  Turns out the original driver had had a bit of a prang in his car - he's OK, we understand. These things happen.

An 18:22 to Bristol appears on the board (yes, really!) but there aren't enough departure screens to say where it calls.   I enquire, but am told that it's nonstop and "running today only".   Judging by all the police around, it was something to do with a football match.   And I'm told that if I get it to Bristol, I'll miss the connection back.

At 18:07 - 52 minutes after I arrived at Oxford station, I leave on the train to Didcot.  Did it catch the connection to Chippenham?  Did it heck!   That had left late - we didn't quite see its tail lights there.  There were about 50 people off the Oxford train waiting on the westbound platform.  At 18:45, the London to Weston-super-mare train tore through.  Frustrating for the 50 people who could each have been saved at least 30 minutes (that's 1500 minutes - over a day of people's time) by an extra stop costing around 4 minutes, but having a train 4 minutes late is a bigger sin that further delaying passengers.

I got bored with Didcot - caught the 18:56 to Cheltenham train as far as Swindon, switched there onto the 19:30 (left at around 19:40) to Chippenham, arrived around 19:55.  20 minute run home in the car ... 3 hours from arriving in Oxford station to being home.

Oh dear ... a lot of trains were delayed.   An extra stop at Didcot on an Oxford to Paddington train, or on the intermediate London via Bristol train, or a stop at Swindon and / or Chippenham on the soccer special ... alas, only in my dreams. Timekeeping of trains is paramount ...

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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2013, 09:26:47 pm »

At 17:40, one of the dispatch team walk through the train and turf us off - "20 minute delay as we're waiting for the driver".  Odd that, as the train had just come into the platform, but it turned out the chap or chapess who brought it in was a "ferryman" and didn't know the way to Didcot.

Sounds like a right nightmare, although I suspect the reason the person who brought the stock in couldn't then take the train forward was more to do with shift patterns than route knowledge.  Are there really drivers at Oxford who don't sign to Didcot?

As for the soccer special - at least Bristol Rovers got a 1-0 win today - they had failed to do that in their last nine games!
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2013, 11:53:35 pm »

There are ferrymen at Oxford who are only allowed to drive between the station and the sidings. They are usually drivers on restricted duties, for various reasons.

Having them do the trip to the sidings and back saves wasted time for drivers with main line competency. Given that there will always be restricted drivers, its a good way of using their skills and improving the efficiency of other drivers.

Altogether a bad trip though, and not untypical of events when things go wrong between Oxford and Didcot. The problem is that there is no one on the ground at Didcot (or Oxford at that time) to manage such situations and the Oxford to the West flow just doesn't register on Control's radar.
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