Railway Mania

Yesterday the transport systems in the south of the UK were badly disrupted by weather that was less than mild. It was the wrong sort of rain, and the wrong sort of wind. This was not good, as I had a lunch appointment in Oxford and an afternoon one in Didcot.

The only way we could get to Oxford on time, without spending a stupid amount of money on a peak period open return, was a service that took the odd Trowbridge-Westbury-Reading-Oxford route. This would have been fun train geekery for Kevin, especially as the Reading-Oxford route was on a Cross-Country service rather than FGW. But with all of the disruption our chances of making the trip did not look good.

When we left home, only one leg of the trip was doubtful. The Trowbridge-Westbury service was listed for an on-time departure from Bristol. The Westbury-Reading service was on its way from Penzance and not disastrously late. The Cross Country service was coming up from Southampton and was likely to be cancelled, but there was a later FGW service that would still get us into Oxford on time.

So off we went to the station. When we got there we discovered that the first train we needed had not yet left Bristol, and showed no sign of doing so. The ticket clerk said there was no way we could get to Oxford via Bath (a much more sensible route) before 13:30, which would be much too late. So we bought day returns to Didcot.

While we were buying the tickets, a southbound train pulled in. It would have got us to Westbury on time, but it wasn’t listed on any of the departure boards and the station staff were as surprised as we were. There was no way we could get the tickets issued and get over the footbridge in time to catch it, so we stuck with the Didcot plan.

So off we went to Bath, and thence to Didcot on a delayed London service we shouldn’t have been able to catch, had it been on time. At Didcot we caught a delayed train to Oxford that we also shouldn’t have been able to catch, and whose driver set a new speed record for the Didcot-Oxford journey. As a result, we arrived in Oxford about 10 minutes later than our original plan.

The best bit of the trip, however, was the price. The tickets we had originally planned to buy were off-peak returns, at £55 each. Had we bought tickets to Oxford via Bath they would have been super-off-peak returns at £43 each. The returns to Didcot cost only around £27 each. And returns from Didcot to Oxford were about £6 each. So we ended up with a substantial saving on the fare.

Naturally Kevin was delighted by this piece of railway geekery. He was also delighted to get to have lunch at Pembroke College, where Tolkien taught and various notable people such as Roz Kaveney, Colin Greenland and Charles Xavier have been students. It was a tiring day, especially as we both ended up doing several hours of day job stuff when we got home, but well worth the trip.

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