Wednesday 26 March 2014

Will I still get my breakfast?

A visit to my friend and spiritual director in Wakefield was long, long overdue and I finally got round to making an appointment to go and see him and booked the tickets for the journey: the usual route to the north via a change to the East Coast main line at Peterborough and Plusbus ticket to get to his house on the edge of the city when I got there. I booked First Class on a through train to Wakefield on the way there to experience the East Coast breakfast, and Standard Class for the return because there were not such good ticket prices to be had later in the day and in any case it would not be at a meal time!

The day came to leave and as usual I checked the train running online before leaving for the station and was disappointed to discover that my connection to Wakefield was cancelled because of a fault on the train. Aaarrgh! Now what? I had an advance ticket only valid on that train, but, of course, in these circumstances that restriction is waived provided one travels on a reasonable alternative. Anyway, I set off on the train from Stamford and enquired at Peterborough about what to do. It was very straightforward, actually: I was to board a York-bound stopping train which was due soon after the cancelled Wakefield and Leeds train, and then change later into the following Leeds train which will not have stopped at Peterborough: thus I would end up less than half an hour late, well within my schedule. It was where the later change would take place that was an interesting matter: the staff at Peterborough said Grantham, that was the official line because there was no change of platform at Grantham. Looking at the timetable I would prefer to stay on until Doncaster for the following reasons:
  • I wanted my breakfast soon (!) and would rather have it between Peterborough and Doncaster than between Grantham (after a wait) and Wakefield
  • The wait at Doncaster (for the same train) would be shorter as it would have caught up more with the stopping train I was boarding
  • The wait at Doncaster is under a platform canopy, but not at Grantham
  • In the event of further disruption, there are also local trains from Doncaster to Wakefield that I'd have been able to use

When I boarded the stopping train at Peterborough the announcement was made that we could change at either Grantham or Doncaster, and as breakfast was being served I stayed where I was, coffee on my table as I settled down. The breakfast menu is quite reasonable: you would not mistake it for a hotel buffet breakfast but it includes a choice of cereal (even porridge), fruit juice, various cooked items (I had bacon, egg, hash browns and mushroom), coffee, croissant and yogurt.

I had been concerned about whether there would be a seat for me on this train and whether there would be enough food and drink, with it taking the passengers of an entire second train, but that turned out to be no problem at all, in First Class, at least and there were many empty seats even so – no wonder there were so many cheap advance places available in this direction at this time of day.

So, that was the “excitement” almost over for the morning. An easy (cross-platform) change at Doncaster and after some work on my computer I was soon in Wakefield, there being no further disruption of any consequence. I said it had been a long time since I had last been, and the bus stop I'd normally used to visit my friend had moved, which was a minor panic for a second, but I knew the city centre well enough to find the new stop and, with my Plusbus ticket was on my way in no time, following the route on the city map on my iPhone so that I could be sure to get off at the right place.

Wakefield Westgate rail station, like so many others at present, was being rebuilt to serve better the number of people using it – the existing station having been provided in the 1970s when passenger numbers were very much less. The Bishop of Wakefield was due to attend the opening of the new building just a couple of days after my visit.

Returning to the city centre I caught my early afternoon train back to Peterborough and this time had an uneventful ride, working on my computer, changing smoothly for Stamford and home for tea. I always feel when I return after a trip like this that it almost seems like a dream – it has been so effortless, even though there was a problem in the morning, that it hardly seems possible that I really was in Wakefield today.

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