Excuse the poor quality of the photos in this post, I hadn’t expected to use any of them….. They are blurry, but they’re all that I’ve got at the moment. And this post might be slightly grumpy at I’m still at Ipswich railway station at 02:30.
This was the happy scene in London Liverpool Street earlier this evening whilst waiting for the train to arrive onto the platform before it became the 20:00 service to Norwich.
And here the train arrives in, ready for a quick turnaround so that it can return to Norwich. They were warning that they expected 15 minute delays during the journey due to localised flooding in Stowmarket.
I wasn’t thrilled that it was the bloody Stansted Express service once again, the train that keeps appearing on the mainline to Norwich which has no tables. I’ve asked the Greater Anglia press office and the train crew before why they keep using this train on the mainline and the former didn’t know, but one train guard told me last year “because they couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery”. I appreciated his candour, although it wasn’t quite the answer that I expected. Anyway, I digress.
Back to tonight, it was a train and that’s positive given the weather conditions today, so it’s not really a complaint for today (although I’ve moaned about it anyway). Off we went and the train arrived into Colchester more or less on time. Only then did Greater Anglia’s control room think to tell the driver that there were a series of trains stuck in front of it, meaning a long wait at Colchester. It did occur to me that this would have been useful information to tell passengers at London Liverpool Street, but there we go, we live in an imperfect world. The train behind us arrived into Colchester and then decanted onto the train that we were on.
The train arrived into Ipswich and there was some confusion as to what was happening. After a while they transferred us to the Norwich train on the adjacent platform, which transpired to be the train that had left London Liverpool Street one hour earlier that we did. This was at 22:31 and I’m writing this at 02:15 and the control room have still yet to come up with any information about what is happening. The driver has been endlessly apologetic that the control room have abandoned the train, but he and the rest of the crew are sticking with it. Not once has anyone at Greater Anglia explained what the problem is at Stowmarket or whether it can be resolved.
This is the train (the train in the rear of the photo, which I accept is terrible quality) that I arrived into Ipswich on. I wondered whether this would return to London and I decided that if it did, I’d get on it. The driver on our train then announced the train would be returning to London if passengers wanted it, so some decided that was the first organised communication that we’d had. At this moment, the train pulls off nearly empty and leaves the passengers wanting to return to London stuck in Ipswich, including myself. I remain annoyed (I expect I’ll get over it in a few months) that I could have been back in London in a hotel room ready to return when the railway line was back to normal.
I don’t think it’s a secret or I’ll get anyone into trouble by saying that the train crew have made a series of announcements about the behaviour of Greater Anglia’s control room tonight. To be precise, “Greater Anglia’s control room have failed to respond”. That’s their own train crew, just abandoned along with the passengers.
After three hours on the train, they asked us to move to another one. The train crew then said that they had finally got permission for passengers to book hotels in Ipswich, but there are of course none available. The cynic in me suspects they knew that when giving the permission, but that might be unfair of me.
And here we are, seemingly all night. It’s evident that this is the reality, but Greater Anglia still haven’t communicated this to anyone. The control room has apparently given up and it’s unclear what this train with around 150 to 200 people on is supposed to do. I don’t usually verge into the political and I have been deeply sceptical about the RMT, but it’s entirely unclear what the Greater Anglia management are doing to resolve this situation and I can see why their staff feel internal communications are a real issue from senior mangers. Between 17:00 and 23:00 they had the chance to communicate to passengers that they could stay in London, or return to London when it was realised how bad the situation was in Stowmarket, to get a hotel. I would have returned to London and then not been stuck on this train all night. Instead they just abandoned their train crew to deal with matters and have some social media team trying to respond without being given any information from their own control room.
The weather is evidently not in Greater Anglia’s control, but it’s clear that a better managed operation would have communicated far better. They had the opportunity to tell passengers to either stay in London, or indeed return them to London or elsewhere along the route, instead of leaving them on a train parked up overnight. And not once have they said what is happening at Stowmarket and whether the line might clear to given passengers the information they needed to make a choice. In fairness it’s positive that they have a social media team still on-line, but I can see why the train crew are upset at how Greater Anglia have treated them and their passengers tonight.
But, I will say most importantly, the train crew and station staff have been doing all they can by all accounts.
Oh, and the outcome….