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After one night at home I’m on the move again, this time heading for Cardiff via Manchester with a suitcase full of clean shirts and chinos, ready for the next couple of days events and travels.

Due to the vagaries of the Passenger Information Screens i’m not sure if my first train is late or not. One minute it’s shown as 3 minutes late, the next it’s on time! Looking at the Real Time Trains website I can see it left Leeds 5m late.

Let’s see what happens…

12:11.

My train has entered the twilight zone. It’s dropped off the PIS screens so it no longer exists as far as the system’s concerned.

Instead a Pacer speeds past in its path without stopping. Finally, at 12:12, four minutes late, a pair of Pacers arrive.

We finally leave 5 mins late with no announcements, no apologies and no explanations. Still, at least I didn’t have to worry about getting a seat!

We’re now merrily bouncing our way through to Lancashire. Autumn’s in full swing now and the depth and variety of colours in the leaves is joyous – even if the temperature isn’t. I’m looking forward to having a bit of time free to get some lineside shots in the woods that surround my home.

12:49.

We’ve just left Rochdale, running 7 minutes late. I could still make my connection at Manchester Victoria to Piccadilly but – as that’s also running a couple of minutes late it doesn’t give me enough time to collect my tickets before catching the 13:31 to Cardiff. The option now is to get a tram or leg it to Piccadilly. As I’m dragging a suitcase it looks like the tram wins. This is why Network Rail & the TOCs need to seriously get a grip on late running now. It makes connecting journeys a real hassle as you always have to have a plan B.

13:11

By the time we arrived at Victoria we were 11 late. There hadn’t been a single announcement by the guard, never mind an apology or explanation. More time was lost as we arrived at platform 4 so I had to swim against the tide to ascend and descend the footbridge, which meant that I arrived at the tram stop just in time to see a Piccadilly bound tram leave! My next one is in 7 minutes. Hopes of making my train are looking very slim indeed – and the tram’s taking its time…

13:33.

I made the train with a minute to spare. Luckily, there were no queues at the ticket machines and my train was only a short sprint away. Now I’m sat on the first of Alstom’s Class 175s, number 001 which is a busy 2-car. It’s one of the unrefurbished sets, so it has no power sockets – but it does have Wi-Fi. I’ve been lucky enough to bag a table seat (reservations weren’t available on this train) which means I can catch up on some writing between now and Cardiff…

14:03

This journey gets more surreal. As I had so little time at Manchester I couldn’t pick up any cash or buy food for the trip. No worries I thought, there’s a trolley service and I can use my credit card. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything!

When the trolley came round the young lady explained that she couldn’t take cards, but the conductor could and he’d sell me a £5 voucher. I could then use it to buy food and get the difference back in cash. So, what would I like? “What sandwiches do you have”? I asked. “Ah” came the reply. “They’ve been on the trolley for 5 hours and at this temperature I’m only allowed to sell them for 4” Then (bizarrely) “but even if I could they’d have all gone by now anyway”

Righto – I now have a 3 hour journey sponsored by Weight watchers…

15:54.

We’ve just left Hereford, the train’s now full and standing and my laptop’s battery is exhausted after a couple of hours scribbling so I’m a window gazer now! I’m also rather hungry and extremely tempted to break my journey at Newport just so that I can get something to eat! I ventured through the sea of bodies around the vestibule to use the loo and wish I hadn’t bothered…

The more I think of it, the more changing at Newport seems like a good idea – and I never expected to write the word’s Newport and ‘good idea’ in the same sentence!

17:06.

Burp! Hunger pangs have been sated thanks to a WH Smiths chicken butty from the kiosk at Newport. Now I’m Cardiff bound again, this time on one of Arrive Trains Wales refurbished class 158s. They have power sockets, so the laptop’s been plugged in to recharge for a bit, leaving me free to admire the series 1 electrification masts which have sprouted all over the place like mushrooms (just not overnight)!

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