Dale Haslam's train blog: Railways learning lessons to cope with weather

Dale Haslam

Dale Haslam

First published in News The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

ALERT! Alert! Things are looking pretty bad.

Or at least they were on Wednesday evening if you were going . . . well, anywhere.

High winds got so bad that Virgin Trains sent an apocalyptic-style tweet advising: “ALL CUSTOMERS TO ABANDON TRAVEL.”

So much debris fell at Crewe that the station was evacuated, and all trains were called back to base on the line between the Midlands and Manchester.

Meanwhile, in Bolton it was not quite as bad.

Trains between Manchester and Bolton had to observe speed limits and, at about 5.30pm, hundreds of passengers were stuck on three trains — one for more than 30 minutes — while queues of trains were sorted out.

Elsewhere, football matches were postponed, roads were closed and planes diverted.

Given the sudden arrival of the severe weather, rail staff did a great job in handling the fallout.

At Bolton, passengers waited in warm(ish) waiting rooms with the right information on the screens and staff helped passengers in need.

There seem to have been no horror stories of stranded passengers and, judging by an absence of criticism in The Bolton News mail and the Twittersphere, rail workers did very well.

It is not always the case. In early 2013, during heavy snow, I waited with about 10 others at Horwich Parkway for two hours while the information screens kept promising a train would come.

The National Rail helpline was useless, as were various train websites and there were no staff to help us get home (although, finally, the last train turned up after four had been cancelled).

Such circumstances are never easy when rail bosses are dealing with hundreds of trains and staff, thousands of passengers and a fast-moving situation out of their control.

But it is encouraging that they seem to be learning their lessons in reacting quickly in trying situations.

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