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I’ve been doing quite a lot of work with Birmingham University over the last few years, and yesterday I was invited to a conference & workshop held at a hotel that’s part of the university, to launch the next phase of the big project they’re working on. The meeting was very interesting, with several excellent presentations and some good opportunities to network. Even the lunch was very tasty, though I turned down the opportunity to stay on for the conference dinner as I wanted to get home at a reasonable time.

The first time I visited the university, I went by car but found the drive and the car parking so stressful, that subsequently I’ve always gone by train. It’s normally quite a straightforward trip – just one hour from Malvern, with no change of train. But yesterday was not a good day.

I left the conference just before the final talk to make sure I got to the station in time for the 17:26 to Malvern, only to find that it was first showing as delayed and then cancelled. The same thing happened to the 17:56. The excuse they gave was that there were signalling problems between Longbridge and Bromsgrove. They did manage to run the 18:26, but it was only three carriages long. As it was already carrying three full train loads of commuters from Birmingham New Street, it was packed worse than a can of sardines, and there was literally no space to get on. I was left standing on the station platform, seething along with a number of other would-be passengers.

I checked the online timetable on my phone, and saw that the next two trains were also marked as cancelled. In fact, the only one that was scheduled to run for the rest of the evening was the 21:06, and you could bet that too would be only three carriages long and totally overcrowded, and there would be no guarantee I’d be able to physically get on board it.

I was concerned that if I waited to try to catch that last remaining train I would be running out of options if it was cancelled or I couldn’t get on board. So I decided to cut my losses, and try the hotel which had been hosting the conference. Reservations were closed as it was after-hours, but the chap I got put through to was very helpful and assured me they’d be able to find me a room. He couldn’t put me through to Reception for some reason, but took my number and promised faithfully that he would get them to phone me back to sort me out a room. Which they did within just a few minutes, albeit at a price that is probably above what work is happy to accept. Nevertheless, I decided that was my best remaining option – at least I would be safe, warm and dry, and I’ll argue with the expenses system in the New Year.

So I had an unexpected and unwanted overnight stay in Birmingham, though I must say that the Edgbaston Park Hotel made me very comfortable in the circumstances. I ordered a sandwich and badly-needed glass of wine in my room, and the room service waitress was so horrified at my tale of woe that she spoke to Housekeeping and got them to provide me with a complementary toothbrush and toothpaste. That was very helpful. Thankfully, I had a comb and an emergency clean pair of underpants in my work bag, along with my usual medication, so I was adequately sorted for the night. I’m going to think seriously about putting a folding toothbrush in my work bag too. It’s not often I get stranded unexpectedly overnight – I think this is only the third time in the last fifteen years. But I’m doing a lot of train travel at the moment, and it is getting more and more unreliable., so I think I’d rather be better prepared should it happen again!

{ 1 } Comments

  1. pauld | 18 December 2019 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    trains probably cancelled due to flooding caused by tears of the Corbyn supporters who wanted to drag us back into the 1970’s where the train service already is 🙂