Foresight and effort will prevent missed connections
Douglas Clark’s sorry tale of his journey from London to Elgin, missing two connections and so arriving at his destination 112 minutes late, struck a chord ( Open
Access, RAIL 866). But poor regulation happens all the time. Of many instances, I give this appalling example. Travelling on a late-running TransPennine Express train from Carlisle to Edinburgh, several passengers were worried about their 12-minute connection into the last (1945) train from Haymarket to Inverness.
The guard in his cab appeared to take no interest, thinking that only two or three passengers wanted the connection. In fact, there were 18 in my section of the train, seven going beyond Perth, as well as a second unit in the formation which presumably would have some more.
Rapid driving meant that there should be about a minute at Haymarket in which to change - only to the opposite face of the same platform. The refreshment trolley woman then took charge and after speaking with control, it was announced that the Inverness train would be held for up to five minutes. Sighs of relief all round.
But… the train was then held at Haymarket East Junction for ten minutes while various ScotRail trains were given priority across the junction, and the connection was missed after all.
There was a Perth-only train an hour later, from where those bound for the next 118 miles for Inverness were taken in several taxis at huge expense (to the operator) and entirely unnecessary cost, moreover in considerable discomfort.
This reminds me of a journey some years ago from Manchester to Falmouth. Leaving Piccadilly late, a stopper was allowed right in front at Stockport, and the same happened at both Birmingham and Bristol.
Finally, given a clear run after the Weston (Worle) junction, the determined driver made up 12 minutes to Plymouth, arriving just four minutes after the Cornwall train was scheduled to depart.
Yet it had been allowed away on time, notwithstanding that it had a scheduled seven-minute wait at Par. Truro passengers were told to wait for the 1903 (FO) from Paddington, but the eight passengers for Falmouth were conveyed in taxis.
A very recent example of dreadful regulation occurred on the 1225 Plymouth-Edinburgh. A stopper was allowed directly in front at Kings Norton, thus causing an eight-minute late arrival at Birmingham New Street. By Sheffield (reached via Toton owing to the Derby blockade), the train was on time but then held on the viaduct approaching Wakefield Westgate for ten minutes, while a single unit ambled up from Kirkgate and (carrying at most 20 passengers) overtook wrong line my train. Arrival at Leeds (where I detrained) was eight minutes late.
Train regulation needs urgently to be addressed by someone - indeed a group - who have the railway system, the timings, knowledge of connectional requirements and the likely inter-train flow, at their fingertips.
Robert Foster writes about passengers missing their connection at Haymarket when a train was held at Haymarket East Junction recently. In September 2018, ScotRail 365513 stands at the Edinburgh station.