Saturday 25 July 2020

Exciting, but daunting

The next few trips by train

Well, over the last week or two I have bought train tickets for our August excursions. One of these trips I had almost decided would have to be done by road, and I really was not looking forward to that, and the other two have had to be cut short because of cancellations and other complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic. They are all long journeys and involve changes of train, and although I have been able to minimise the number of changes I am still concerned that if we miss a connection owing to late running we may not be able to board a subsequent train if it is deemed "full" by social-distancing regulations. I am also, I must admit, not overjoyed at the prospect of wearing a face-covering for a long journey, even though the journeys will be broken by mealtimes when we can temporarily remove them. It is also unclear at present what catering will be offered, if any, on the services we shall be using, so we shall take our own provisions.

Coastway train approaching Chichester
These will be our first train journeys since February and the first long ones since last autumn, so I am looking forward to them immensely even with the foregoing concerns! The first will be our usual trip to Chichester where we shall meet our friends holidaying on the south coast at Bracklesham Bay. We are omitting the originally-planned few days on the Isle of Wight which were going to precede it because of the uncertainty of how we might have been able to get there: these trips require advance planning and there was no way of working out what would be operating and what would not, and if we could not cross the Solent we could not get there - and that was one trip for which I definitely did not want to take the car, too. We can manage that with just two changes, using a Thameslink service right through from Peterborough to East Croydon - slow but simple, and the trains are spacious. We'll do that in Standard Class as there is little to be gained from First.

The next is a family gathering on the Purbeck peninsula in Dorset, and we'll be travelling via Birmingham New Street to Bournemouth by Cross Country Trains and then open-top bus to the hotel. This is the journey we had always planned to do, although I might have chosen to go one way via London and the other via Birmingham, but although much longer the Birmingham route is so much simpler and involves just the one change of train - the reduced frequencies do mean a long layover in New Street but it is at lunch time so we can eat there.

Finally there is Edinburgh. This was to have been a couple of nights before a Royal Scotsman tour of the Highlands, but that had to be cancelled by Belmond, the provider, because although they could manage financially with only half a load, all the rest of the booked passengers were American and would be unable to get to Scotland. So we are just going to spend the weekend in Edinburgh and come home: the Royal Scotsman will have to wait for another year, if, indeed, Belmond is still in business another year. It is all very difficult to plan anything at present.

In the autumn, all being well, we are due to go to Italy with Great Rail Journeys, but who knows? we could be in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus by then, with international travel curtailed. Next year? Well, that is anyone's guess. We'd like to pick up the Scottish rail tour and to return to Le Locle, Switzerland, in the late spring when the lakes and rivers are full, and to visit the Isle of Wight again. The putative trip to the USA is pushed back further and if Amtrak does not survive it may never happen.

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