North, South, East & West, England’s Trains Are A Mess

After months of misery for me courtesy of Southern Rail, the whole country has felt the pain caused by Storm Doris. 

My journey this afternoon started in Peterborough at 1pm as I headed to my home in Surrey. I boarded a train that was shown to be about to leave, totally unaware that many passengers had sat stationary on it for over an hour. 

The inevitable announcement came as soon as I shut the door. THIS TRAIN WILL NOW TERMINATE HERE. 

We all got on another albeit slower Great Northern train that still stated it would leave on time. 

That was a blatant lie. The train would now be heading back north to Doncaster. The driver had been promised crumpets for tea and he wasn’t about to miss them to get stuck taking us to London. 

Everybody off……..overhead line problems…….buses to take you to High Barnet outside the station……we apologise, blah blah blah. 

Standing in blustery conditions outside, we waited and waited in orderly British fashion. 

Several hats were parted from their owners by Doris. Banter and spirits were still good as buses arrived. 

The mathematicians amongst us soon realised that with each bus having a capacity of 53 and with a crowd of around a thousand waiting patiently, the omens for a quick getaway were poor to non-existent. 

Some gave up, reluctantly entering into £80 a throw cabs to Stevenage. Lord knows where they expected to go from there. 

Stories were shared, several people had been travelling since six, their matinée theatre tickets wasted, their kids getting fractious and tearful. 

A few lucky (or so it seemed) people boarded the coaches. There were huge bags to load, pushchairs  to fold, elderly people to guide up steps. Progress would be mighty slow. And then the buses ran out. 

I had moved 12 metres in an hour. 

As the Great Northern Hotel’s hanging baskets swung wildly and remembering the unfortunate Gordon Kaye (Renee from Allo Allo) story, I checked for possible projectiles that might be parted from their moorings. 

We were safe for now, but having taken a wind battering and with no sign of any more buses arriving, patience was wearing a little thin ninety-minutes in. 

Then a cheery Virgin East Coast employee pursed his chapped lips, caused by four hours standing in a wind tunnel, against a megaphone and uttered the magic words “the line has now re-opened, there is a train departing shortly from platform one to Stevenage & Kings Cross!”

I and several others in the queue could have kissed him if it weren’t for the state of his lips, instead choosing to march, canter or charge towards the promised land of Peterborough Station platform one. 

Feet were trampled, umbrellas used as jousting weapons, bags as ‘thou shalt not pass’ barriers. 

The queue disappeared quicker than free food samples outside a tube station, leaving megaphone man to go in search of lip salve. 

After fifteen minutes we set off, only to promptly stop again. We all groaned. After eight minutes we set off again, albeit at a maximum 50mph. 

After an hour we chugged into Stevenage and welcomed aboard the deflated taxi passengers who we had looked down upon with disdain mixed with envy two hours or so before. 

Finally we arrived at Kings Cross just before five, four hours after I had boarded my first aborted train of the afternoon. 

The place was chaos. A heaving throng stared at boards stating ‘delayed’ or ‘cancelled’. 

There was nowhere to go. Just sit tight and wait. The cafes and bars were doing a roaring trade. 

My route was the Thameslink from St Pancras south in the direction of Brighton. Or so I thought. Nothing was moving in either direction on my line or the Midland Mainline. Some trains did still proclaim to be on time. Either hugely over optimistic or a blatant lie again. 

There seemed to be no overland way out. No problem if you wanted to go to Paris or Brussels, no chance if you wanted Hendon or Kentish Town. 

It would need to be the tube to Victoria for me. On entering the train I learned that not only was Euston Station shut meaning no trains north westwards, but also there were no Northern Line trains south of High Barnet. 

Those poor sods who had boarded those buses in Peterborough some four hours before would be stuck again!

Upon arrival at Victoria, the heaving concourse told me the worst. Chaos there too. Every train delayed!

After 45 minutes my train at last arrived. I finally pulled into my home station five and a half hours after the moment I had walked through the barriers in Peterborough without a care in the world!

Do you have any similar tales to tell from today or another such occasion?


  1. Kim foolishly (in my opinion) travelled to Preston from Grimsby for a meeting. It took her six and a half hours to get home and she was lucky because the Transpennine line from Manchester isn’t electrified so there were no power failures. Quite an eventful (Doris) Day!

    1. Very good. Has me singing ‘there’s a coach coming in’

  2. Amtrak stopped running in the SE twice this hurricane season due to storms, for a couple days each time. Glad you got home, hope they get the trains figured out before the summer

  3. At least there are usually a LOT of trains. Be thankful you aren’t stuck with Amtrak.

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