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Author Topic: Long distance rail journey, Passau to Melksham - theory and practice, 23.11.2022  (Read 706 times)
grahame
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« on: November 24, 2022, 06:08:22 »

Why - whilst I will make a long distance journey by rail - I am careful who else I recommend the same thing to. The rail industry is incapable of sticking to timetables.  The issues are / were NOT unique to the UK (United Kingdom), though it seems worse here (in the UK, where I am now home)

Plan:

07:17 Passau to Frankfurt, arrive 11:36
12:28 Frankfurt to Brussels Midi, arrive 15:36
17:56 Brussels Midi to London St Pancras, arrive 18:57 ( 1 hour time zone change)
Cross London via Hammersmith and City
19:48 London Paddington to Swindon, arrive 20:37 (prior trains available)
20:45 Swindon to Melksham, arrive 21:06

* Note generous times allowed for most changes.
* Fallback plan to carry on to Bath Spa on the train for the late bus to Melksham, arrive 23:50.
* Tickets - Interail to Brussels, pre-bought extra to London, Superoffpeak single buy at Pad
* Nourishment - breakfast taken onto train at Passau, Lunch Frankfurt, evening meal Brussels

Reallity:

07:17 Well - we left Passau on time ;-) and, yes, I had food.
11:42 And we were more or less on time into Frankfurt (due 11:36)
11:45 ... to discover that the Brussels train due at 12:28 was cancelled
DB» (Deutsche Bahn - German State Railway - about) Advise next train in 2 hours (14:48)
However ... a series of trains to Koln (Messe), Koln (Hbf) get me to Aachen.
Shucks - 25 minutes late and I have missed the ongoing local into Belgium (17:00 / Brussels)
16:30 - leave Aacchen 2 and a bit hours late (from 14:16 or 16:16)
18:00 - arrive Brussels Midi (due 17:36, or 15:36 on the right train)
No chance for 17:56 Eurostar on which I have a "change only at fee" ticket and the online site when I tried to change it a couple of houres earlier quoted me 155 Euros.
Fortunatlely Eurostar staff understanding and give me a seat on the 18:52.
19:12 18:52 Eurostar starts
("congestion at security" - yeah, only 2 machines working, others unstaffed!)

20:25 into St Pancras (should have been 19:58)
20:30 Leave on Hammersmith and City
20:41 Arrive Paddington
20:42 Find that two of the three ticket machines at HC platform have been decommission and third one is on what looks like a long transaction for some gent
20:45 At machines on lawn.  3 appear out of order ...
20:47 Manage to get a machine and request my ticket EXCEPT whenever I ask for senio card it switched to a list of departures. Management decision to skip senior discount to get a ticket for the 20:50, which the GWR (Great Western Railway) planner has told me to catch to Reading because the 21:02 (Bristol) starts from there
20:48.5 "Please board the train for Great Malvern as it is ready to leave" - dash across to platform 9 and jump on the rear of a crowded 5 car set
20:50 ... comes ... and passes
20:55 Train manager announces that the driver in on the phone to Hitachi because he can't get the brakes to release
21:04 and we get moving
21:06 Train manager says we may loose more time as we have to run slow in the Slough area, apologises for the delay and "any inconvenience this may cause" and tells us about Delay Repay ... He came through the train - rushed and hard to catch, pleasant but not able provide onward data.
Yeah, of course the connection offered to be by GWR site had gone by the time we reached Reading. Next recommended train from the web site was the 21:04 off Paddington, change at Wesbury
* 21:09 - note that time - I should have been getting off the train in Melksham *
21:54 and we leave Reading (25 late) - it may JUST connect at Westbury but I also need it to be on time as I have 5 minutes from arriving in Bath to leaving on the bus and I am NOT going to risk it - giving up and calling for a lift.
TM(resolve) doing an an excellent job of helping passengers - calling for a hold at Westbury, and also looking to help people with connections at Taunton towards Weston.
22:48 we arrive at Westbury - not at platform 1 which we had been told, but platform 2 where the Bristol train WAS waiting just across and a flood of passengers - perhaps 20 - crossed over with staff present to help direct.
22:55 - My lift arrives at Westbury
23:15 - Melksham and Home.  Not eaten since Frankfurt, Cheese and Marmite sarnie and can of Guiness

Would I do it again?  Yes.  Would I recommend it to others? No, not in this way; my knowledge to replan, to know who and where to ask and what to do certainly helped and many friends don't have that knowledge.  The unknowns during the day and worries and tension spoiled the experience, over and above the 2 hours late arrival home and the need to call in a private car to help out that last leg.

Full credit to the TM on the Reading to Westbury train, to the station staff at Westbury and the hidden people who arranged for the local to be held.  And some credit to the driver and TM on the 20:50 Paddington to Great Malvern who kept us informed, even if they did not have the time / tools / information to sort out people who had been directed to the train and then lost recommended connections.  And a word of thanks to Eurostar for coming good in the end an transferring bookings "this train only" onto the next train; it was natural customer service maybe, but it was still pleasant to see and receive.
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