When will West Coast travel misery end?

Anyone who’s had any occasion to have to use the West Coast Main Line railway between London Euston and the North West and Scotland over the past decade or so will have as likely or not come across some difficulties at some point or other. Indeed any attempt at travelling on any weekend since as long as anyone can remember will have almost inevitably resulted in journey times hours longer than those of weekdays and may well have required excruitatingly slow bus substitution services for substantial stretches.

December saw what we all hoped would be the turning of a new leaf for the line. Years of engineering would be all but complete and a new timetable would come into effect offering a greatly enhanced number of services. Rejoice! If only it was so…

Engineering works continued over Christmas, leading to our trip to the family being less conveniently timed than we might otherwise have liked. On both legs, either side of New Year, there was slow going out of London as the line continue to be worked on, but this seemed to have been accounted for in the schedule. We returned on the 2nd January and things were looking okay, looking forward to these final works to be complete and still quicker trains to come into effect.

It seems in hindsight, however, that I was for once fortunate in my timing, as less than an hour after passing through Staffordshire a light aircraft tragically crashed into the line with the loss of 3 lives. Accidents like this are thankfully rare (although I can account for many delays due to bridge-strikes). The sequence of events which occured in the following days were less than excusable, however. As the line was being repaired after the plane crash lines came down at Watford for as yet unexplained technical reasons. Yesterday Rugby befell the same fate and today a power cable collapsed on the way out of London. All in all 6-days of delays and cancellations with 70% of Virgin’s services delayed this year.

It’s time like these I feel glad not to have to commute on the line, as anyone who does must be experiencing a hellish time of things so far this week. I’ll be intrigued to find out just why the line has proven so hopelessly unreliable after so much work, however moreover I do hope beyond hope that eventually I might – just might – be able to visit the North West on a weekend – and do so quickly and without delay each way.

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