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2009-12-24 - 00:46:00 - by AlisonW - Topic: Personal: People watching |

All the recent media coverage about weather-related transport service problems has brought to mind that on this night exactly thirty years ago I caught a train home from Euston Station to Watford, where I then lived. I'd spent the evening out with friends and was so catching a BR 'staff' train at 01:50 on the Watford DC line.

In those days the last 'public' service left Euston a few minutes after midnight, but regularly not arriving there until much later – and having to wait for the first train of the day – I'd very helpfully been invited by BR staff to use their services, which ran at 01:50 and 02:40. Odd services, really, as they only called at a few of the actual stations on the line, but additionally stopped in the seemingly middle of nowhere. One would then hear a door slam and a shouted "g'night Bert" and see a shadowy figure walk across the tracks and over some back fence into a road or house. And most nights I'd caught one of these services it had smoothly taken me up to Watford Junction where I'd then walk home in about ten minutes or so.

That night though the service had made its way past Queen's Park and was heading north just after 2am when the power went off. And stayed off. Eventually news came down that the power was off on the whole line due to a tunnel fire, so we'd have to wait for an all-clear from the fire brigade and the track engineers.

Around 5:30am the power returned and, annoyingly for me, it was decided that because trains were now 'out of place' my train would go straight back to Euston. I eventually arrived home around 7'ish, changed, and went straight back into work again!

That wasn't the only time I've been on a train which has had 'issues' and held for ages or taken out of service – both of which have happened to me in Germany – but it came to mind now because I seem to keep hearing of people 'angry' with the problems the weather has caused, as though they are some modern King Canute's who can demand that the severe conditions in France, the UK and Europe generally must not affect their travel plans. They seem to believe they have a 'right' that everything is done to suit their personal needs, ignoring that there is the matter of the safety of those who drive vehicles, maintain the permanent way, steer ships and fly aeroplanes to also be considered.

That there will be bad winter weather every year is – obviously – a 'given' for many countries. A winter without snow in Finland, Denmark, or even Scotland, would be an extreme example of global warming. But for countries and regions further south it isn't always so clear-cut. In my home town of London we get occasional snow, though not every year. When it does come it usually melts within hours, or at most a day or so.

Timing is everything though, and if a large amount hits during peak times on the roads then the gritting lorries can't get around properly. And gritting at the wrong time is just wasteful as it can be washed away without doing anything beneficial if spread too early.

So while the lack of train services, or flights, or clear roads is – clearly – an inconvenience, I do wish some people would stop bleating on about how they are taking it so personally. We don't control the weather. We probably can't ever control the weather. Snow happens, floods happen, even heatwaves happen: we just have to survive them the best we can. Complaining that the weather is stopping you from going somewhere isn't the fault of the airline or the train company.

It is an " Act of God", not a personal attack on your travel plans. So – maybe – just try accepting that there are going to be delays which will end when they are able to end, and let the staff of those carriers have some rest from the ear-bashing. They don't want you hanging around stations and airports either.

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