By the time my train arrived two hours hours later than advertised, I didn’t know whether to hop on board or throw myself in front of it. I had my entire journey planned thanks to Traveline Scotland. I always plan my journeys. As an author, I make my money not from the writing but from live performances, readings and gigs. Basically, I need to travel a lot. Travelling a lot means using public transport. “Why don’t you learn to drive, Kirkland? Then you can buy a car.” Sadly, I don’t have a car because I know I’d accidentally recreate the plot of I Know What You Did Last Summer if ever I sat behind the wheel. No, it has to be public transport. And I’m fine with that. Mostly. However, my trip into Edinburgh yesterday was so awful that I might need to reconsider my stance. Why was it so ghastly? What could possibly make my experience to miserable?
ScotRail, obviously. They are the most incompetent organisation in the world. They can’t run trains. They can’t do anything except smile while you scream. If a baker can’t bake, then they shouldn’t be next to the oven. And if a company can’t get their trains working and moving on schedule, they shouldn’t have the license. I waited for hours in the cold, train after train being cancelled, wondering if I’d ever get home. It felt like ScotRail had kidnapped me, but forgot to demand a ransom.
My event at Fettes College went really well. I sold books. People laughed. I enjoyed it. We had tea. Everything was great. Edinburgh at Christmas is particularly beautiful – unless, of course, you find yourself staring Platform 2 in Haymarket for hours and hours.
When the train finally arrived, it was crammed to bursting. I had to stand for the entire journey home after paying quite a lot for a ticket. I’m able to claim my expenses back thanks to my job. Not everyone is quite so lucky. Oh, I staggered off that train like Bambi’s mother after the bullet hit her, all wavy and wonky; the natural conclusion to standing for hours and hours on end with no respite.
Abellio, the Dutch company in charge of the ScotRail franchise, have their logo and branding proudly displayed on the side of each train. They have something to be proud of, at least. No-one really gets a chance to see this logo, however, because no-one gets a chance to see a train. Roughly translated, Abellio is Dutch for ‘we cannot run a reliable railway service’. When a train arrives on time, people can’t believe it. In Scotland, you’re more likely to see The Loch Ness Monster than a ScotRail train appearing at the platform on schedule: you literally need to see it to believe it.
So what caused the massive delay and the spate of cancellations? Apparently a train had broken down in Croy, which meant the entire network was gummed up. Horribly, this happens quite often. Passengers were very vocal about it last night. They were so loud I heard them over my headphones. How can we stand this inefficiency on a daily basis?
And endure it we do, because we need public transport. We’re encouraged to use it. Something needs to be done. Let’s march together! I’ll make signs. I’ll chant slogans. We can meet in Edinburgh and be an almighty force!
But let’s not get the train.
Is the bus service any good?