The train that’s always late

According to this article on BBC News, the railways are actually in pretty good shape. Round here the trains seem to get posher all the time. I used to think those Turbostar Class 170 ones were quite luxurious as trains go (certainly compared to the crummy Class 156s).

Then last week I went into a train that looks like a normal Class 170, apart from the fact that it has red seats instead of the normal First ScotRail blue. I’ve been on one of them a few times before, but I’ve never walked through the First Class section. I thought I was on a different planet. The seats were so big, like thrones. You could only fit three in a row. And there’s some kind of funny reception area (it’s always closed whenever I see it though). I guess it must be some kind of Virgin-style shop.

Well there are the impressive bits. Now here’s something that doesn’t anger so much as confuse me. Whenever I catch the 0844 (unfortunately not fancy Class 170s, but the Class 158s with the grey plastic seats and the carpets that always smell of curry-vomit) it ends up being extremely late — without fail. I am not talking about a train occasionally being three or four minutes late here. I cannot remember the last time this train wasn’t about fifteen minutes late (though I should note that I only catch these trains on Tuesdays and Fridays). And this is supposed to be the fast train. For a journey that’s only supposed to last about thirty-five minutes, that’s pretty ridiculous.

The thing is, it never seems to be running late, as far as I can tell, until we head towards the big old bottleneck at Haymarket. Then the train just sort of stops. “Awaiting a platform,” as the conductor always says. One time we even ended up on the other platform at Haymarket, the one that Fife trains just don’t go to. After sitting for ages at Haymarket station we get going again. Then we stop again outside Edinburgh. “Awaiting a platform” again. Eventually we trundle on in to platform 21, which I always saw as the “shit, all the other platforms are full, so I guess we have to use this” platform.

As I say, the whole process usually takes about 15 minutes. Every time. Now I don’t really mind this too much, because the train arrives about twenty-five minutes before I need it to anyway, but other passengers are clearly irritated by it. I just don’t understand why it happens though. I mean, they have timetables, right? So where does it all go wrong? Did they just mess up the timetable and have about five trains trying to go through Haymarket at once or what?

* I cannot believe I am now referring to trains as ‘Class xxx’. I need to get out of this.

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