/ Travel & Leisure

Bank holiday travel chaos: what’s your worst rail journey?

Train station

Thousands suffered overcrowding and disruption on the trains as they tried to get away over the bank holiday weekend. What’s been your worst rail journey?

Rail passengers suffered “absolute chaos” on trains this weekend – planned engineering works disrupting services between London and Brighton as thousands flocked to the seaside town during the hot weather.

Overcrowding left thousands stuck at Gatwick Airport and Three Bridges on Saturday. Rail replacement buses were overwhelmed after Southern shut part of the line to carry out planned works.

People were left waiting for more than two hours to get on board a replacement bus, it was reported. Things were so bad that Southern Rail flat out advised people: “don’t travel to Brighton”.

Southern defended itself saying when the engineering works were planned 6 months ago, “it was not anticipated for the sunny weather and high volume of passengers.”

What we’re doing about it

We were quick to act on Saturday, reminding stranded train travellers how to claim compensation from Southern.

And we’ve been campaigning over delayed, overpriced and downright lousy train services for years, lobbying the government and train companies to do a better job.

We want to see train companies treat passengers more fairly and improve compensation arrangements when there are delays. While passengers continue to struggle with a high number of delays, there are still some real issues for them being able to access the money they are owed.

Over 110,000 have signed our petition demanding better services. You can sign it here, if you haven’t already.

With more engineering works planned for the late May bank holiday, use our guide to get up to speed with what compensation you’re entitled to, if you do intend to travel.

Travel Trouble

I travelled down to Brighton myself on Saturday, but didn’t have to take a bus – Thameslink trains were running between Three Bridges and Brighton. But even then, the train was delayed and was extremely crowded and many elderly people and families were left without a seat.

The worst part? Tickets (on both Thameslink and Southern) were still being charged at full whack. It would have cost nearly £30 to get to Brighton with Southern despite the inconvenience of the rail replacement bus, which seems grossly unfair.

What’s the worst train journey you’ve ever taken in the UK? Was it delayed, overcrowded or perhaps both? And how do we make train companies do a better job?


There was planned maintenance work – presumably notified well in advance. So I do not see how this can be described as “absolute chaos” if people ignored the warnings. Nor, I suspect, is compensation due when you should know your journey will be disrupted. And when maintenance work has to be planned and carried out, when is the best time to do it? It is never convenient for passengers but I assume the availability of 3 days is better than at a normal weekend or during the working week.

There was an 89 minute delay on the M25 at the weekend. It came up on my satnav so I used a different route. Had I not and become stuck, should I have been able to claim compensation?

Just expressing another point of view 🙂

Your last suggestion was the one I would have made. The option is to travel by coach when you know there will be disruption. Or, of course, do not travel at all. Bank Holidays were traditionally times for congestion and traffic jams and we cannot blame others when we can predict the outcome ourselves.

Matt says:
9 May 2018

You’re missing the point entirely. Yes it was planned works but GTR had no concept of how busy it would be (they never do). So they were woefully unprepared for the passengers who wanted to travel. They reduced the service before and after Gatwick with short trains and did not have enough buses to transport people between Gatwick where the trains stopped and three bridges where the trains started again. To have to cancel trains and be on the verge of closing Gatwick station is unacceptable.

My worst ever UK train journey was c.1983, when a Sunday pm service from Cambridge to Newcastle-upon-Tyne did not get me home until the following morning. I think this was caused by a major points failure, at York, or some such place. As far as I know, no-body was killed or injured in that event.

I’ve had worse delays on international flights, but again no-one was killed or injured.

On the roads I’ve been involved in or witnessed a number of road traffic accidents, some of which have involved the hospitalisation of casualties, but, so far as I know, only one fatality. Luckily, I was only a witness to that one – if things had gone slightly differently, I could easily have been a further casualty.

My worst rail journey was quite a while ago (6 years?) I was travelling from London to Cambridge when there was severe delays. I think it was due to signalling issues. We were stuck on the train for 3 hours. It was 30+ degrees and I didn’t have any drink- which did not help. Eventually, the train moved and dropped us off at Stansted Mountfitchet, where we remained for a further hour. Despite multiple trains going through, none stopped. Eventually. got home just over 4 hours late.

I head to the highlands of Scotland for Christmas and New Year and usually drive, but go by train on the odd occasion when he weather is poor. After abandoning plans to drive one year I managed to get a ticket for 23 December and the first train was packed with passengers and a huge amount of luggage. After 20 minutes I managed to find a seat, well away from my suitcase. The second and third train journeys were better but these trains were still packed. The next time that the weather was poor I did not even attempt to travel and made the trip by car between Christmas and New Year.