Snow falls: rail commuter nightmare

Snow on a rail line

Photo: roberthunt1987 via Flickr

In case you hadn’t noticed, the UK has experienced mild snowfall over the past few days.

Today, the first proper snow flurries hit the South East of England – I use the word flurries advisedly, as there was nothing more than a few inches from what I could see.

Having made it into London from Brighton with no particular problems this morning, I didn’t envisage major hassles getting home. However, I kept an eye on the National Rail website to ensure that the trains were running. At 5.15pm, I figured I’d make a break for it with the trains apparently on time, aiming for the 5.45pm.

Emerging from the tube at Victoria, however, my heart sank. Where there should have been rows of train information, was black. No trains were going anywhere. In fact, according to the Southern staff I found, not a single train had left Victoria southbound since 3.30pm! [Thanks, National Rail!]

Fortunately, at 6pm, the train I was standing next to, flashed up that it was leaving soon – calling at East Croydon and Brighton. I jumped on, expecting it to leave in a few minutes.

Thirty minutes later and with the train resembling a sardine can, we were on our way.

However, progress was painfully slow. Thirty-five minutes to East Croydon, where we sat for another 15 minutes to allow other trains “in front of us in a queue” to leave first.

The problems were never fully explained, but I can only assume that the few inches of snow that had fallen, had made some of the tracks more difficult to pass.

Anyway, the journey down the line continued painfully and finally concluded at 8.15pm as the train pulled into Brighton.

I had intended to get the 5.45pm which would have arrived in Preston Park an hour later. Instead, an 85 minute door-to-door journey ended up taking 210 minutes.

It’s difficult to know why Southern (and, in fact, all the train companies operating out of London Victoria) ended up with so many problems. The snow has been coming (and correctly forecast) for weeks, so why are we always so caught out?

Every year, bad weather comes along. Every year travel companies are shocked when their services fail and every year they claim they’ll learn their lessons. They don’t!

When will we, as a country, wake up to the fact that we need to be prepared for adverse weather conditions? Why can’t we get it right? It makes life as a commuter utterly miserable.

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