You may have noticed the slightly "adverse" weather conditions recently, and their rather excessive effect on our public transport network. For this reason, I built a certain amount of slack into my travel arrangements, arriving at Oxford station at about 7.20am. It was cold, but not snowing, nor had it done so for a few days. However, there was a signal failure at Didcot Parkway.
For those of you not intimately acquainted with the intricacies of the railway network, Didcot Parkway lies on the only direct route between Oxford and London. On the Oxford end. Oh bother.
But, wait! The staff come up with an alternative! Rather than go to London Paddington, we could go to London Marylebone. But there's not a train to London Marylebone... Ah, but if you get the 0736 to Manchester Piccadilly, you can change at Banbury. There are trains to London Marylebone from Banbury.
Have any of you spotted the slight flaw in this plan yet?
The mention of Manchester may have given it away.
You see, London is pretty much directly South-East of Oxford. Banbury is almost directly North. Quite a long way North too really, when you compare it to, oh, I don't know, the distance to London, maybe? So here we were, being told to go in the wrong direction in order to reach our destination. But hey, this is public transport, you do that all the time, right? So about 60 of us traipsed over to Platform 2 (again, something horribly wrong here!) and got on the mystery train to Banbury. Just as we got on, we were nearly told over the tannoy to change at Manchester, which did cause some minor amusement...
About half an hour later, we arrive at Banbury, where the nice train driver man tells us that the next train to Marylebone is the 0812 and we all think "gosh, what a nice helpful train driver man". So we get off the train, walk up the stairs, look at the board, and read "0812 London Marylebone - Train Fault - Cancelled". Oh. Bother. Well, at least it's just the train. There'll be another one soon, right? Right? Oh, apparently that would be at 0920 or something because it's running late. Um...
Surprisingly at this point, everybody did not turn into a ravaging horde and tear the station staff limb from limb. There was some slightly desperate laughter, some phone calls to rearrange meetings, some "er, could you please check to see if there is any other way we can get to London?", and some sharing of 3G internet, but little to no actual anger. Which was lovely. If it had been Christmas, I can safely say that there would have been screaming and ranting and raving. Maybe people are just more laid back when they're being paid to hang about in the middle of nowhere.
Anyhoo, after a while, it was announced that apparently, (embarrassed cough), the signals at Didcot had been fixed and the fastest way for us to get to London was to go back to Oxford. Except that the next train wasn't for another half hour, and we might then miss the next London train, which they'd try to hold but no guarantees and....
So anyway, we did get back to Oxford at 9am exactly, just in time to catch the 0901 to Paddington, which was a teensy bit late and got in at 1020.
So I was about half an hour late for my meeting.
Which is not half bad for someone who spent 1.5 hours on a well-meant but ultimately pointless jaunt around the Oxfordshire countryside.