When we got there the overhead board was showing delays and cancellations for trains in all directions but the one Sylvia and I were meant to catch still said 'On Time'. I was not convinced so went to the ticket desk to ask if this was just because it was too far in the future to be cancelled yet. I was advised that there was a points failure at Birmingham International and his advice was to phone the railway information office to find out whether any trains were actually going to Berwick from Birmingham and to find alternative methods of getting to Birmingham New Street.
I gave up trying to phone the help line - the world and its dog were in a mega queue, and knowing what chaos there was was not inclined to listen to the automated message.
Sylvia and Martin departed on a free bus from the station heading towards Nuneaton and I got on a bus to take me to Coventry bus station, and from there a bus to Birmingham. I let out a wry chuckle when an hour after setting off from the hotel this bus made a stop directly opposite the hotel...
I already knew that I was not going to make it in time for my original train from Birmingham as the bus was scheduled to take an hour. In reality it took an hour and a quarter. I asked a few people on the bus to let me know when to get off for the station and a very nice woman sitting in front of me said she was getting off at the required stop and would show me the way to the station. She then proceeded with her daughter and baby in a buggy to walk with me there which was very kind of her.
We got there at about 1.40 p.m. to find more chaos. The boards were showing trains from an hour plus earlier marked as delayed. There were a few Cross Country employees with clipboards so I enquired about getting to Berwick. I was told that a train was coming but they had no idea when it would arrive.
I got a coffee and something to eat.
I could see the 13.03 Aberdeen train still showing on the board as delayed and then it disappeared. I re-enquired. I was told to wait in the concourse as announcements would be made.
A while later the board showed a train to Dundee and gave a platform number. I enquired if this was real and got told to go to the platform. No sign of a train. Fifteen minutes later we were told it was cancelled.
A while later an announcement was made for people wanting to go to the north east to get on a train to Derby and get onward connections from there. We all packed on to a train to Derby. Then they made an announcement that a train was on the adjacent platform going to Aberdeen and would people on the Derby train wanting stations on that route relocate. Half the passengers then tried to get out and run to the other train. I went to the far end avoiding the worst of the crush to get on and even got a seat. And then they announced that the train was no longer going to Aberdeen but was now returning to Plymouth!
I went back up to the concourse. We were told they were laying on buses to take people to Derby. A lady then came back inside to say that she had been told this was not happening and had been told to come back inside. I went for a ciggie and then decided to go to the loo. Not impressed that I had to pay 30 pence! I had just got in to a cubicle when I heard an announcement that a train was at platform 12 going to Glasgow central via Edinburgh. I grabbed my bags and made a run for it.
They were trying to stop people charging down the steps but I slipped past them. Again I went to the far end of the train and managed to get a seat. This time I did not take my jacket off until the train actually pulled away from the station.
The train was not stopping at Berwick so I was planning to disembark at Newcastle. We had two longish delays at Derby and Leeds waiting for a new driver to arrive. While we were stopped at Leeds I made my way up the train to the fixed buffet station to get a coffee. There were a couple of non-catering train staff there so I chanced my luck - would it be possible to stop at Berwick. They didn't think so. I made the point that they had made an unscheduled stop at Burton-Upon-Trent, and if not did they know if trains were running normally at Newcastle to guarantee that if I got off there I could get another train. As I was leaving the lady I had asked was speaking to the train manager who was actually standing on the platform, and he said he would radio ahead to try. It would depend on the schedule (joke) and what other trains there were (joke).
Shortly after I got back to my seat they announced they would make an unscheduled stop at Morpeth and were still waiting to hear back about Berwick. And a couple of minutes later that they also had received permission to stop at Berwick. I let out a whoop of joy.
By the time we left Newcastle the train was pretty empty so I moved to a table and could spread out. The train pulled in to Berwick at 10.30 p.m. and about half a dozen of us got off. I had to wait for about 10 minutes for Paul to arrive to get me home. There was about 8 inches of snow covering the roof of his car.
So eleven and three quarters of an hour after I set out I finally got home.