Yes, I am about to set off on one of my rail safaris round Britain – as usual, it is slightly more complicated than seems necessary.
Whereas I should be preparing for the journey by charging up my electronic equipment and finding my railcard, in fact I have been stalking Virgin Trains on Twitter, a pastime that is quite a bit more fascinating than it sounds. Everything that has previously happened to us in our various attempts to travel with Virgin Trains has evidently happened to many other people just over this past weekend – cancelled trains, no seat reservations, changes to departure platforms at the last minute, failure to provide functioning wi-fi, shortfall in food supplies in First Class…On top of that they have suffered from some sort of computer failure which meant people couldn’t even get their pre-ordered tickets printed out at the station but had to talk their way on board brandishing emails that proved they had actually booked.
Despite previous rants on this blog about Virgin Trains, I felt quite sorry for the people manning the Twitter account. It’s clear that passengers are far more likely to complain now that there is an easy way of doing so publicly via social media, and it’s also clear that, like Jeremy Corbyn, some of the complainants have no idea how to travel successfully by train in modern times.However, on reflection I realised that we are quite fortunate to live in Scotland in that respect, because we are accustomed to having to travel to London and other places further south for all sorts of reasons, whereas Londoners in particular tend to have everything on their doorstep and not to have to go very far to attend meetings, visit certain historic sites, attend national event or travel on Eurostar. We also tend to be very conscious of the cost of travel, so we book well in advance to get hold of the cheapest tickets possible and to make sure we have seat reservations. I don’t suppose every other traveller from Scotland does this, but I also usually be found at Edinburgh Waverley an hour or so before the train leaves, reading the small print nervously and hoping I’m waiting for the right train.
Anyway, this latest trip takes us first from Haymarket to Milton Keynes (watch out, Virgin West Coast, here we come!), then on a day out to Watford Junction, then from MK to Derby, changing trains at (I think) Tamworth, and then from Derby to Edinburgh via York. This last part of the journey seems to be going to take a lot longer than usual. I am guessing the East Coast main line is closed between Newcastle and Edinburgh that day, because all the Virgin Trains on that route are due to go round by Carlisle and the others are being replaced by buses.
I will be reporting back later on whether it all goes horribly wrong or is plain sailing. Keep your fingers crossed!