You would think a simple train journey to Sheffield would be pretty uneventful. A mere one hundred and fifty miles should be no problem for a modern rail network. At least that’s what I thought but my problems began from the outset.
I had one change to make on the outward journey. A quick hop on the London bound train to Newcastle (all trains stop at Newcastle) and then I had nine minutes to get from platform three to platform ten for the Manchester train.
When I arrived at Morpeth I discovered that the London train was running five minutes late due to a problem at Dunbar. My nine minutes had reduced to four and experience told me that the situation would only get worse. Once a train is late it is very difficult, if not impossible to catch up.
On the train I spoke to the guard and decided that if I had time I would get off to catch the connecting train and if not, I would stay on, get off at Durham and hopefully catch it there. Of course, by the time we had arrived at Newcastle my connection had already left and all my plans went out of the window.
By now all of the trains on the East Coast Main Line were delayed. Once a train has lost its path it gets stuck behind all the rest and delay gets added to delay.
I checked online, did a few calculations, got off at Durham and got the next train that came into the station, which by luck happened to be going my way and had been delayed by the train I was on. Anyway, I eventually arrived at my destination about twenty five minutes late and not so bad after all.
The point of my story is not about trains, though I did manage to spot some interesting locomotives, but rather about capacity. The problem we have with the rail network today is a lack of capacity. There is no room for manoeuvre. As soon as something goes wrong, it all goes wrong as there is no alternative, no other way around. For economic reasons (see PSN: The next Beeching?) much of the spare has been taken out as unnecessary and costly yet in the end this decision is proving costly and unnecessary.
No business can run at 100%. A hospital cannot run when all the beds are full, a football team cannot run with only eleven fit players and a railway cannot run when all of the paths are full.
It is always very tempting in business to remove spare capacity, stuff that you may not need, but be careful, it will end up costing you more in the long run. In this case more is more.
By the way, my trip back was spot on.