My journey from N.E. Switzerland to sunny Leeds didn’t start well. I arrived at Zürich Airport well on time, only to see DELAYED in large letters beside my flight. Ah, well. I’d allowed two and a half hours between landing at Luton and catching the first of three trains – where I had reserved seats, because I didn’t want to stand all the way to Leeds.
But we waited. And waited. And it was only due to the fact that I’d forgotten the time difference, turning my two and a half hours into three and a half hours, that I was able to be standing on the platform at Luton, waiting for the first train.
My seat was coach A, seat 20. The train arrived, and I found coach A almost deserted, apart from a few Spanish tourists, and a lady sitting on – you’ve guessed it – seat 20. She was busy on her laptop, so I sat down beside her, mentioning that I was happy to sit here but technically, she was on my seat. After a while she finished her work and we had a nice chat, which turned out to be the highlight of my entire train journey. So train 1 was fine, except I didn’t sit on my reserved seat.
I got off at Leicester and went to to the departures board to look for train 2, to Sheffield. Oh. Train 2 was cancelled. Brilliant. I scooted into the travel centre for advice, and was given a new train 2 – without a reserved seat – which should still allow me to hook up with train 3 at Sheffield. I had exactly three minutes to catch it… Off I sprinted, my suitcase bumping along behind me.
The new train 2 was jam-packed, but I bagged a fold-down seat in the corridor at the first stop along the line, and we jolted north. At Derby, I was able to move into the main carriage and was quite happy until an announcement crackled through the loudspeaker. Owing to a fire in a train up front, we were talking an ‘alternative route’ to Sheffield, adding half an hour to the journey. Bye bye train 3.
After meandering round unidentifiable bits of England, we arrived at Sheffield, where I found myself a new train 3. It was busy, but I found a seat, and arrived at Leeds just an hour late but feeling as if I’d been chasing myself all day.
Planning my journey, I’d been surprised that train seat reservations in England are free. Now I know why.
But the punctual trains I’ve been on since I arrived have made up for that journey… almost.