A change of job over the summer has brought me more in the way of business train travel with two trips south so far, one to Hitchin and the other to Oxford. The first of these involved journeys on trains full enough to feel cosy on the outbound and return legs. The outbound journey to Oxford was in a similar vein but the return trip was one of extremes.
The cause was a power failure that interrupted signalling on the line between Reading, Swindon and Oxford. The result was that I was travelling on a very busy CrossCountry service that itself was around an hour late. That passengers wanting to travel from Oxford to London were told to board the service to get to Banbury only ensured that many (including me, as it happened) were cheek by jowl with one another. The last time that happened was when Operation Princess was in progress and overloaded the then freshly introduced Voyagers with folk attracted by overenthusiastic and overoptimistic advertising by Virgin. It looked as if many weren’t regular train users so I do wonder what the experience did for their impressions of rail travel.
Things changed markedly after those London passengers were disgorged at Banbury to pack a Chiltern service instead, not the most pleasant of thoughts really. After Banbury, seats were to be found and I made use of one for the rest of the journey while expecting a busy service all the way back to Macclesfield. However, there was a continuing trend of an emptying train as we continued further north and even Birmingham New Street didn’t affect that greatly. In fact, the seat beside me became vacant when someone got off at Stafford. From then on, I was reminded of how it is to travel on early morning services on Saturdays, not at all unpleasant.
All in all, it was a journey of remarkable contrasts and the weather was another of them. What were rain showers in Oxfordshire were snow flurries further north so a definite temperature drop could be noticed on going north with the train conductor warning us about slippery platform surfaces. Was that the cause of there being a less packed service?