Saturday, 1 March 2008

The Rail Replacement Bus

I had to go to work today - ah, poor me (not, I love my job), and I had to be in Stratford (East London, not Warwickshire) by ten o'clock. Easy peasy... I checked the train times, and saw that my train to Victoria left at 0735 rather than its weekday habit of 0740, and accordingly left the house five minutes earlier.

This photo - which (or part thereof) will, when I discover how to do it, grace the top of this blog - wasn't taken this morning; it was taken the other week when it was still frosty and misty. But this was where I turned up this morning, as I do three or four mornings each week, to be greeted on this occasion with the announcement that 'this station is closed today...' because of engineering works. OK, I should have known; no weekend is complete without Network Rail wanting to dig the track up somewhere, and they appear to have been tinkering with the bit between Lewes and London for quite some time, and clearly have their fingers in the Lewes-Seaford bit too (unless that's a knock-on effect from the other bit as trains from Lewes to London have to be routed via Brighton meaning that our little train has to keep off the Seaford-Brighton line...)

Listy interlude... the branch line goes: Seaford, Bishopstone, Newhaven Harbour, Newhaven Town, Lewes, Falmer, Moulsecoomb, London Road (Brighton), Brighton. To get to London one generally changes at Lewes and picks up a train that has come from Hastings or Eastbourne, although there are a few through trains each day: up at 0710 and 0828 (too early and too late for me respectively), and down at 1717 - from platform 17 at Victoria - which I usually try to get.

Anyway, this morning... I wasn't so much cross that they were having their engineering works, which are no doubt vital to stop the whole caboodle grinding to a halt; no, I was cross because they hadn't seen fit to mention it during the week - just a little announcement (god knows they repeat the totally stupid and pointless ones often enough); a notice, saying DON'T BOTHER TURNING UP HERE ON SATURDAY, WE HAVEN'T GOT ANY TRAINS or something would have helped. Yes, I'm sure it was on the website, maybe there was even a little official notice up somewhere, but really, it would have been a kindness to draw my attention to it.

So I turned around and headed for home, using the miracle of mobile telephony to get the OH out of bed and on standby to drive me to Lewes, and thenceforth completed my journey to Stratford uneventfully. On the way back, though, no lift was available and I put myself at the mercy of the dreaded Rail Replacement Bus. One reads such tales about the rag tag collection of superannuated Routemasters and white vans pressed into service by unregulated contractors that I was delighted to board a new, modern single decker and even more delighted when it left Lewes station no more than ten minutes later. It was only when we were nearly out the other side of Newhaven and the driver asked 'So, does anyone know where the train station is then?' that my prejudices were reassuringly confirmed. Fortunately there was on board an employee of the Southern Railway who was able to give him directions, and also to instruct him 'Then you go on down there to Newhaven Harbour, there won't be anyone there but you have to go anyway, then try to find somewhere to turn round and come back past here, and there's the road to Seaford...'

I'm not moaning, you understand. I love all this stuff.

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