I’m at Huddersfield en-route to London on the first day of the biggest rail strike the country has seen for 30 years. This normally busy station’s pretty deserted. There’s two Trans-Pennine express trains an hour running. One to Manchester and one to York. The 09:07 all stations Eastbound service had lots of people waiting for at although when the 6 car train arrived it was pretty empty.
Meanwhile, outside, the RMT union’s maintaining a large presence on its picket line.
Whilst Eastbound services were busy, far fewer were using trains in the Manchester direction. I’m currently in the front car of the 09:32 Huddersfield- Manchester Piccadilly. It’s clear most folk have heeded the stay away message.
Manchester Piccadilly was a quiet as you’d expect with so few services running. The only new faces were a couple of camera crews who were filming reports on the strike. Arrive Cross-Country services were still running, along with Avanti West Coast. I’m currently aboard their 10:45 departure to London Euston with the first stop being Crewe. There’s plenty of room.
I’m in coach U along with four other people. The reduced service isn’t just the number of trains. The Train Manager’s announced there’s no food service in 1st Class and the shop is closed too – good job I decided to pack some sandwiches! I’ll have a walk-through later to see how full the train gets but right now it’s time to set up the mobile office and get some writing done.
We’ve crawled our way to Crewe at reduced speed (for whatever reason) where I counted a grand total of eight people waiting for this 11 car Pendolino. Just before we arrived a member of Avanti staff cam through the train dishing out free bottles of water, which was a nice gesture. From what I can see, Crewe station’s deserted – apart from the bay platforms which are full of trains going nowhere.
We’re well South of Crewe now and hitting line-speed as the Pendolino gets into its stride. I have to admit, it’s been a trouble-free journey so far. The rail staff who are on duty (and there’s lots of them) are unfailingly cheerful and helpful. The pickets I met at Huddersfield were hardly the frothing mouthed ‘Marxists’ trying to bring down the Government as some sections of the media seem to be trying to make out. They were ordinary rail workers concerned about their pay and conditions during a period when we have a Government that that has neither a plan nor a clue what to do about anything other than keep Johnson in power.
Despite stopping at Stafford and Milton Keynes we only picked up a few dozen more people. There’s four young lads in my coach who got on at Stafford, but those are the only extra punters in my car. It feels strange to pass so few trains on the West Coast Main Line but now we’re South of Watford at least we have the London Overground (which is running a near normal service) for company.
We arrived into Euston 20 minutes early which was hardly surprising considering the amount of slack in the emergency timetable. I held back to count my fellow passengers as they disembarked. 6 from 1st Class and approximately 80 from Standard. From a train that can hold what? 550?
Euston station wasn’t as quiet as I imagined it might be. TV crews were on station on the mezzanine floor but spart from that everything seemed normal, just subdued.
Once you wander outside you realise another reason the place is so quiet. The London Underground’s also on strike, so many people couldn’t get to/from Euston even if they wanted to!
After walking along to St Pancras and Kings Cross to bag a few more pictures – including some colourful RMT flagbearers outside St Pancras – I decided to walk across central London to Waterloo and explore some old haunts on the way. After all, it’s perfect weather for exploring and the city’s quiet. This city was my home for nearly 25 years and I have to admit I miss it – especially on days like this.
And relax! I’m now relaxing in Clapham after an interesting day. The journey from Waterloo was painless as the 8-car train I caught had lots of seats available. In fact, the concourse at Waterloo reminded me of how it looked during the pandemic.
My travels are over for today but tomorrow I leave London to head to ‘Rail Live’ and onwards back to Yorkshire. Let’s see how quickly the railways bounce back from the strike…
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