A Tale of Ice and Snow, and Heroic Getting-to-Work Against Huge Odds. But Mostly Ice

OK, I’m sorry…but I think I’ve reall been punished adequately for downplaying Basingstoke’s snow problems t’other day.

The bus got me to Southampton station this morning in plenty of time for the 6:30 – so far so normal, apart from the number 17 being on time, and the information displays showed the train being delayed by nine minutes. That quickly changed to six minutes – the train was obviously well on its way across the Forest, and making up time.

Six thirty nine came and went, but the train did neither, and we were soon informed that our train – and the one behind it – hadn’t left Bournemouth yet. There was a train halfway in between literally frozen to the rails, which was blocking the line in both directions. With the news that we were going to be on the platform for a while, several seasoned commuters swelled the profits of Upper Crust catering (bacon roll and coffee division) while we waited for further updates. Eventually a Weymouth-bound train staggered in to the station and threw its passengers off – it wasn’t even going to try going any further. After a suitable pause for head scratching and decision making, we were told that this train was going to head back to London, so we all scrummed down and scrambled across the footbridge to platform four.

The train pulled out of the station…and stopped. Then moved a few more inches…and stopped. Repeat ad nauseum, but the net effect was that half an hour after leaving the platform, we’d travelled less than a hundred yards. The driver gave up and nursed the train back to the platform. Apparently there ws so much ice on the electrified rail that the train couldn’t get enough power to move. By now, there was another train – another electric (a 444, to be exact) was on platform three, and we were advised to cross over to that one.

The new train did even less well – it hadn’t even moved before it lost power and all the lights – even the emergency ones – went out. A number of announcements by the guard kept us informed of the fact that there was still no news, but eventually he was able to tell us that our best bet was to go back to platform one and get on the CrossCountry train to Manchester, and change at Basingstoke. CrossCountry run diesel trains, which while being less environment friendly, don’t rely on power from the rail so they could actually run. On the CrossCountry train I sat next to someone who’d travelled down from Birmingham this morning, intending to go to a meeting in Bournemouth. The train had gone no further than Southampton, and he was heading back to Brum without even getting off the train.

Basingstoke had one further treat for us – we got off our train and crossed to platform three for the connecting service…only to get a platform alteration sending us back where we came from, moments before the train arrived.

I got to London just after eleven, three hours later than normal. This evening’s return trip was dead easy – I’m clenching my bowels at the thought of what tomorrow might hold…

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