Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The 1750 Train - My, was that a Mistake

I am lucky in that my job is relatively flexible. This means that I usually catch a reasonably early train to work and a reasonably early train home.

Today I was a little later than usual leaving work, so I had to catch the 1750 Chiltern Railways train from London Marylebone. I also had a party to go to to wish a friend 'Bon-Voyage' on a trip to Australia. She leaves tomorrow.

Problems, problems, problems.
  • The train is supposed to be a six car train. Tonight it was three carriages long. That is a significant reduction in capacity on a busy train. The train was absolutely rammed more than five minutes before it was due to leave.
  • We did not leave on time. In fact we left eleven minutes late. Apparently the driver was delayed on an in-bound service and a replacement had to be found.
  • The slower 1753 train (bound for Aylesbury) left in front of us, two minutes late. The 1750 Sardine Special (which left Marylebone at 1801 and which terminates at Bicester North) caught up the slower train before Denham. A quick analysis showed that we would be a minimum of 19 minutes late from High Wycombe. It would not be possible to overtake the slow train.
  • In the event the train left High Wycombe 21 minutes late and arrived into Princes Risborough the same number of minutes late.
  • This is where it got annoying.
  • Someone took the decision to hold the late running train at Princes Risborough to allow the 1815 & 1818 Marylebone departures to overtake it.
  • The original 1750 then left Princes Risborough 32 minutes late. It then left Haddenham & Thame Parkway 35 minutes late and terminated at Bicester North 34 minutes late, according to the Working Timetable.

If the train had been allowed to leave Princes Risborough without being held, It would have arrived at Bicester at about 1906. It would not have delayed any Southbound trains, but would have delayed each of the following two trains by a few minutes. This is a potential problem approaching Banbury - a freight train and a Cross-Country train to York might have been delayed.

The reality is though that passengers for High Wycombe and Princes Risborough would have been better off if they had caught the 1753 from Marylebone.
Passengers for Haddenham & Thame Parkway and Bicester North could have caught the 1818 train and got home earlier.

All in all, catching the 1750 was a bad mistake tonight if punctuality was your aim. The train was badly overcrowded and deeply unpleasant for many. Passengers for Haddenham and Bicester would have been deeply dischuffed to see two trains overtake them.

To rub salt into the wound, the train, while 34 minutes late into Bicester according to the Working Timetable, was actually 'only' 29 minutes behind the Public Timetable, meaning that Charter Claims for late running might be declined, while claims for Haddenham & Thame Parkway will be valid and honoured without quibble.

I have said before that running the railway involves make many tricky decisions with often conflicting priorities. I do not claim to know how to run the railway better than those that do, but instead simply present a passenger's view. Many passengers will however have been deeply hacked off this evening.