Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Leaf Slime" Promising Start To Rail Roulette Season

Scotrail are “Hotrail” if you believe the hype. This hilarious play on words was one of the headlines I saw when the train company unveiled its plans to cope with another bad winter.

I cut them some slack last winter as it was the coldest period for 100 years. But I’m not sure I take much comfort from their strategy which seems to be to keep people informed rather than maintain services.

The Aberdeen-Inverness line is a joke at the slightest hint of nippy conditions. If I had a quid for every time I turned up at Nairn station to be told about ’frozen points at Inverurie’ or similar I could buy a year’s season ticket to the damn place.

Hence my recent enthusiasm for signing up for train email alerts. You tell the Scotrail website which services you regularly use and whenever there’s a delay they ping you a wee note, which pops up on your BlackBerry if like me you have one and assuming the mobile networks are working!

So far it’s been useless. Same goes for checking the website and calling their call centre.

On one occasion a train I was hoping to catch was said to be running a few minutes late and then five minutes before it was due to depart it was cancelled. On another occasion the website said a particular train was running but that’s not what the travel bulletin on the radio was saying so I called the call centre to be told of earlier problems on the line but the later train I was aiming for was OK. I duly made my way to the station loaded with newspapers and a hot coffee only to be directed towards a coach. “Leaf slime” on the line was the cause.

So, I have little faith in the trains coping and little faith in the accuracy of the information to enable me to amend my activities accordingly. As a result my strategy has been to cram in as many Central Belt meetings now before the temperatures drop and prepare to pull up the drawbridge in the coming couple of weeks.

And when the snow arrives even Inverness will be an adventure too far. As I speak wi-fi is being installed on my work laptop in readiness for my retreat. The Ice Age cometh!

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