To continue this tale and be fair to Grand Central, part of the ensuing farce was brought about by the way that King’s Cross station is organised. ( or should I say disorganised?) On all of our railway stations ((up North) you are allowed to wait for your train on the platform that your particular train has been allocated. Not so at King’s Cross, arguably one of the busiest railway stations in London. Now I can’t comment on any of the other London stations and whether or not they are exactly the same, but at King’s Cross you are not allowed to go on any of the platforms until boarding time. You are stopped from doing so by closed gates manned by staff. Instead all passengers are expected to all congregate in front of the huge departure board in the lobby.
To quote you some boring figures, King’s Cross is the London railway station that handled up to 28.286 MILLION passengers last year alone, and is the main station for any passenger travelling from York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Bradford etc. Making the decision that all outward bound passengers need to be kept waiting in the front lobby is in my view a very stupid and idiotic idea when it makes far more sense to filter them into their respective smaller amounts on their allocated platforms.
There are hardly any seats available in the lobby either meaning that the majority of waiting passengers are having to stand, complete with suitcases and baggage of course, in front of the departure board. But this would not be too bad if you were eventually allowed onto your respective platforms in a fairly reasonable time to board your train. Note my enclosed picture (not taken by me) of the departure board at King’s Cross. What do you all notice? What is missing? And remember that for many passengers, they have quite a trek to make if their train happens to be leaving from Platform 0 or platform 8 or 9.
This is when it all turns into a complete farce. You see, you are not told which platform your train is to depart from until a few minutes before it is due to depart, and you can just imagine the following mayhem as hundreds of passengers learn at the last minute which platform they need and set off at breakneck speed to board! It’s absolute chaos! All thoughts of courtesy and being kind to your fellow man go out the window on these occasions, and its every man, woman and child for themselves! Happen to be standing waiting for your train or innocently drinking a cup of coffee and you will be mown down in the ensuing rush! In the UK. southerners tend to think that we from ‘up North’ are a bunch of old fashioned and out of date imbeciles who are backward compared to them and years behind but honestly this idiocy would not be tolerated at any of our large railway stations!
It is with this backdrop that our particular saga was to play out. Remember we had plenty of time, we had enjoyed our hot drinks and now alongside every other train passenger in that building, we were stood patiently waiting for our trains platform to go up on the departure board. At 17. 55 pm precisely, roughly ten minutes before it was due to leave, it appeared. Platform 4. Ahh! Lucky! Straight opposite the departure board and just a short walk away! So we set off towards platform 4. We were stopped at the gate by one of the Grand Central staff.
“You can’t board yet. We need you all to stand over there (here he pointed to a rough area around B and C) There are two trains coupled together and all passengers for Bradford need to be in the first five carriages (furthest away from where we were stood and about a mile down the platform) and the passengers for Sunderland in the last five coaches.”
We all retreated to the vague area that he had indicated which incidentally was not opposite Platform 4. We waited. As we were all stood there, we could see that something was amiss. Some Grand Central staff had appeared in front of the train at the nearest end and after jumping down onto the track, were busily examining the couplings at the front of the train. Time passed. It passed our allotted departure time of 18.06pm. We spotted a passenger walking up the platform. We all surged (me in front as usual) passed the gate and began to go down the platform. Damn! We had been spotted by the Grand Central staff member who had told us all to wait at B and C.
He spoke directly to me alone despite the fact that there were others who had tried to access the platform.
“Then why can we see other passengers walking down this platform?” I asked getting angry about being spoken to as if I was a two year old.
“Its a member of staff!” he retorted. “What? With a carrier bag in his hands and no uniform?” I answered back. (now beginning to sound like a two year old.) Just like a load of sheep we were all ushered back to stand patiently at point B and C. We all began to rant and rave about the whole situation. (Me the loudest as usual.) What on earth was going on? In the meantime as we were all stood chuntering on about our predicament , a herd of passengers needed to get past us to catch their train and as they dashed past, there were some terrible extremities ushered from annoyed mouths at us because we were all stood in the way. (I won’t repeat them here dear readers, you may never read my blog posts again!)
I think we were all beginning at this stage to become really panicky as we all do in situations like this. What was happening? It was the not knowing what was going on that was the worse thing. At about 18.35pm and after several attempts by myself (with poor K and J in tow behind me of course) and some other dissident and furious passengers to access the platform thus incurring the wrath of the Grand Central staff, he finally came up to us all and this time in a polite manner explained the situation as it currently stood. We would all be boarding in about ten minutes. They had been unable to couple the first train (ours) to the Sunderland train and so we would all be travelling in the Bradford Interchange coaches and the Sunderland part would have to be left behind at King’s Cross. Then at Doncaster, we passengers destined for Bradford would alight and either another train would take us all onto our destination or alternatively we would all be provided with taxis to get us home.
Quite why the trains were being coupled together was not explained and one passenger who seemed to be in the know stated that they did this last Saturday for the first time and it was a complete shambles then. It was something to do with Doncaster (he lost me here to be honest) and at Doncaster the idea ( if it had all worked that is) was that both trains would be decoupled and ours would proceed to Bradford whilst the Sunderland one would continue on its journey. At last at 16.40pm we were all allowed to march down platform 4 to the far end to board the Bradford Interchange part.
I think that word had been passed around the Grand Central staff about a ginger haired woman on board who was a trouble maker and had to be handled with kid gloves because the train staff couldn’t have been nicer. I was told by the staff member who came to examine our tickets that I could have a free cup of tea from the buffet area, and they generally made quite a fuss of me. We raced towards Doncaster our next destination at break neck speed (trying to make up time I should imagine.) In the meantime a member of staff came down the train armed with a notepad and took all of our destinations down. He informed us that members of staff would alight with us at Doncaster, lead us to the waiting taxis which had all been booked, and they would take us all home to the door.
Many of you will no doubt be thinking as we were about the cost of all of this to the company. Cost of a taxi to Brighouse from Doncaster? Then there were the passengers destined for further afield. The gentleman who shared our taxi was going onto Huddersfield. J was also concerned about time. When would we arrive back in Brighouse? He needed to get home! True to their word, when we reached Doncaster four members of the Grand Central staff got off the train with us and escorted us out to waiting taxis. They then made sure that every taxi driver was aware of their subsequent destination and to drop everyone off at the door.
We set off and once on the motorway we were soon (at 21.30pm or thereabouts so no later than we would have been on the train) we arrived in town, dropped J off and then were taken all the way home. However, I was left with worries about this service to London from our little station . If they continue to experience incidents such as this, the whole service will end up being non viable. The cost of the taxis would be enormous and would mean that not much profit would be made, certainly from our little travelling crew of three.
As for King’s Cross station, all I can say is how on earth Harry Potter found the time to bump into the Weasley family AND be able to run into platform nine and a half is beyond me seeing as any platform ends up being just a blur as you sprint along it at breakneck speed in order to board your train!
Other reads on the subject.