This is my first rail journey of 2021 and it’s certainly a step-up from the bus travel that I’ve been limited to for the last few months. It wasn’t busy at Norwich railway station with just a few people walking around the concourse, a couple peering into the M&S that has remained closed since March 2020. I still think that should have been a Greggs, but I don’t go on about it…..
This is one of the Greater Anglia fleet that has no tables, as passenger surveys have apparently told them that customers don’t like them. I make no comment….. Anyway, the train was clean, shiny and nearly completely empty. Everything on the train was working though, including the power and even all the toilets were functional. How lovely.
One of the slight problems with the rail journey into London is that it stopped at Witham, one of the few towns in Essex that I haven’t visited. I looked at TripAdvisor to see the top four rated attractions in the town and they are (i) a walk by the river, (ii) the library, (iii) the statue of Dorothy L Sayers and (iv) the town hall information centre. Given that, and with respect to the denizens of the town, I might wait just a little longer before making a proper visit.
Anyway, there were plenty of Greater Anglia staff to guide customers onto the buses which would take us to Newbury Park. I’m not sure where Greater Anglia had found these staff, but they were particularly friendly and engaging, all a really organised effort.
I try not to complain about things, but on my bus travels in recent years I’ve discovered that just about every vehicle has no more than four seats across. This is because there is only space for four seats and an aisle between them. But, no, this bus company has decided that more is better and have crammed in five seats across. I accept that if all the passengers were five years old, then this would be a perfectly sensible transportation move. But, the rail passengers were all above 18, which presented me with an interesting time watching them try to fit into the space provided, which was made more exciting as the bus company have given customers no real amount of leg room either. One man looked positively annoyed. I’d add that wasn’t me.
I moved to the back of the bus to get some space, and I’m pleased to say that unlike the Inbetweeners, I wasn’t moved off those seats by anyone. The fortunate thing is that social distancing means that customers are kept apart, so there were only about 12 of us on the vehicle. About 105 seats, but only 12 people sitting on them.
The rail replacement bus arrived into Newbury Park, where we were politely told to get on the Central Line into London. I asked the gateline staff if I was allowed to continue travelling down the Central Line to Oxford Circus, or whether I needed to get off at London Liverpool Street. To cut a long story short, he told me that I should really get off at London Liverpool Street, but that wasn’t what he recommended I should do. He suggested winging it with the gateline staff at Oxford Circus as that would be much quicker. He mentioned though that this was all at my own risk. Indeed, he mentioned that three times.
I worry if I don’t have the right ticket, so I decided not to spend an hour worrying and I got off at London Liverpool Street. That also meant I didn’t have to try and enter into protracted negotiations with the gateline staff at Oxford Circus, which didn’t sound an exciting game to play. I had to faff about finding a member of gateline staff to let me out of London Liverpool underground station, and he looked slightly annoyed to watch me then go back through from where I had come from around thirty seconds later. But, my journey was now fully compliant with railway rules and I didn’t have to fear any TFL ticket inspectors. And more excitingly, I was back in London after way too many months.