On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

Resilience? What Resilience?

Posted on January 4, 2024

Reading time: 4 minutes.

For a change, I spent the Christmas and New Year period in Scotland. Having been in Macclesfield for the same since a New Year getaway to Tenerife in 2018/9, I felt that it was not before time that I went somewhere else. There was a time when I spent Christmas in Ireland every year until family bereavements stopped that, and the novelty of being in Macclesfield had well and truly left me.

Many Ways Obstructed

Christmas was spent in Edinburgh while New Year was spent in Aviemore. The weather may have been mixed, but some better days came too, especially when I was further north. However, Storm Gerrit really obstructed travel when I wanted to travel north. Because of flooding and other damage, getting north of Perth towards Inverness or doing the same towards Dundee or Aberdeen virtually became an impossibility.

Fallen Trees by Martin Martz, From Unsplash

All of this arrived on the first day of train services after the Christmas stoppage. That may explain the poor quality of information provided by the National Rail app on my phone, which was far too optimistic. Getting things updated can appear to more laboured than is optimal, and this was one case of that. If correct information had been available, I would have not gone as far as Perth only to return to Edinburgh again for another night.

Others had their plans disrupted as well, so you have to ask how everyone got accommodated. Staff in Perth were not impressed to hear that many had been advised to go that far, and it seemed that everything was running in an ad hoc manner. The weather warning only came through the night before in any case.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall had blocked roads as well. The A9 was impassable near Dunkeld, which meant that road transport was no help since it could not operate, and the railway was flooded between Stirling and Perth as well; a fallen tree blocked rail services to Aberdeen and also damaged a train. Only for needing to get to a hotel, I might not have bothered at all. Thankfully, the hotel in Aviemore took the first night off my stay and kept the rest of my booking in place.

With most Scottish Citylink services calling at Broxden Park & Ride instead of Perth city centre, it was enough to make one pause for thought before risking a trip out of town. In the event, getting a seat on any coach service would have been challenging anyway. However, knowing that Stagecoach service X7 linked Perth with Aberdeen might have made for an overnight stay there instead of Edinburgh, cutting down on travel time the next day. These are times when the likes of Booking.com can help with getting things sorted while on the move, though working through options takes some time and is not so easy on the move even with the power of mobile telephony these days.

A Long Way Around

Things were clearer the next morning, albeit in a more pessimistic manner. No train was running between Edinburgh and either Inverness or Aberdeen. Trying Edinburgh’s bus station was the only way to be sure that coach services were operating. Everything going up to Inverness was fully booked while I waited to see what if any trains were running. That still left Aberdeen as a possibility and a last minute booking got me on a laden coach going there. The next to four-hour journey allowed for plenty of time to see the countryside going by the coach windows. Busy traffic made for a sizeable delay serving Broxden Park & Ride when the service was running late anyway.

On arriving in Aberdeen, it was time to see if there was any way of getting to Inverness when no trains were going between the two cities because of flooding. Though very busy, there was a departure on service 10 that did what was needed. Having a seat was a bonus and a wheelchair user failed to get on board at a later stop because of how full the bus was. What lay ahead was a four and a half hour journey with fewer people on board after Inverurie and Huntly. That made things more comfortable, though the calls to Ardersier, Inverness Airport and Inverness Shopping Park were frustrating. That was because I spied the restoration of train services going south from Inverness. Thankfully, I got to that in time and avoided making an Uber booking.

The hotel in Aviemore was reached at least so no other bookings or booking changes were needed. Then, I could make the best of what came and there were few if any disappointments in the offing. All came together in the end.