I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Or not. We don’t need to dream about it anymore, we’ve had enough snow to last a lifetime. There’s a bigger issue on all our minds now – how are we going to get home for Christmas?
When I set out to write this Conversation, I aimed to lament over the troubles of taking public transport during the Christmas holiday season due to maintenance work.
And despite my penchant to complain, I was actually going to be a tad nice this time – as South West Trains’ (which I’ll be using to get home) service looks to be unaffected.
But then the weather turned for the worse. Snow and ice already affected many of us at the start of the month, but now it’s back. And forecasters are predicting that the freezing conditions will continue until Boxing Day.
Stranded at Christmas time
Over the past week thousands of rail and air passengers have been stranded around the country, whether they’re trying to escape our shores or simply returning home for festive fun. And, quite frankly, it’s brought the humbug out in all of us.
Britain’s airports have all suffered huge disruptions due to snow and ice, and our trains haven’t fared much better. Eurostar turned hundreds away, and thousands of East Coast passengers were stranded on the network due to a train taking down overhead power cables. Earlier in the week over a hundred passengers were stuck on a Southeastern train for six hours due to frozen rail lines. The list goes on.
This has all left me worried as to whether I’ll be able to get out of London later today as I attempt to travel home. Ominously, South West Trains states on its website that if there’s no service on a particular route, ‘rail replacement buses won’t be provided’.
And that’s because they’ll be skidding around on our icy roads. Even drivers could have a tough time getting home in this weather due to compacted ice on roads. And why is it there? Because this country’s councils have apparently ordered less salt than last year. Some councils, like Sunderland, didn’t order any salt at all. Why can’t they get their act together?
Communication lacking from rail companies
It’s easy to sound like a grumpy sod when talking about this, but there’s one area that we especially have cause to complain about – the limited communication companies use to tell us what’s going on. Commenter Fat Sam sums up the problem well on our previous Conversation:
‘It’s amazing isn’t it? Here we are in the so-called Information Age and what is the biggest complaint when it comes to travel delays – no information! You’d have thought companies would’ve learnt by now.’
Rail companies are happy to tell us to watch our luggage with endless announcements, but when something goes wrong, they can’t seem to cope with telling us what’s happening. Commenter Simon has first-hand experience:
‘It never ceases to amaze me that just when passengers need accurate information, it is never available. I foolishly check the Live Departure boards online and foolishly believe when it says all the trains are on time. I skip gleefully to the station and am surprised when I get there to see that everything has changed and all trains are now 25 minutes late. What a trusting fool!’
Get GPS on trains and link it directly to information boards and rail companies’ websites – then we’ll know exactly how late they’ll be. Otherwise, not only might we have trouble getting home for Christmas, we won’t even be told if we’ll ever get there. Sigh. Did you get home safe?