Monday, 28 July 2014

I Spoke too Soon

On the very day after writing about how buses are such a reliable form of transport that they are too boring to write about (read again here) I was forced to eat my words!
Stagecoach's service "B", despite the mundane branding, runs from Cambridge all the way to Peterborough using high-spec double deckers with leather seats, wi-fi, power points, "next stop" displays and other modern comforts that come at no charge to the Bus Pass holder. It leaves Cambridge via the guided busway that provides a fast and direct route all the way to St. Ives, although unfortunately it then wanders through the suburban sprawl between there and Huntingdon before joining the "old" A1 running parallel to the modern A1(M) motorway most of the way to Peterborough. Or at least it should do.
The bus I was on came to a sudden halt on an overbridge taking the old road over the new one near the village of Sawtry. At first I though it was stopping to let someone off at an "unofficial" stop, but something about the way it glided silently to a stop suggested this wasn't right. The driver tried several times to restart the engine without success before getting on the ship-to-shore radio to depot. A conversation with  the depot engineer then ensued as a result of which it was agreed that the fault was with the alternator. This was reached after much discussion on the basis that a red warning lamp marked "alternator" was lit up!

There was nothing for it but to wait for someone to come out, but at least from my front seat upstairs I had a grand view of the Cambridgeshire countryside, not to mention the eight lanes of traffic on the A1M below. After ten minutes a car drew up, but it was only a friend or relative of someone on the bus responding to a phone call to take them home to a nearby village - a facility they generously extended to anyone else going that way. Then, after about 20 minutes a similar bus, but "Sorry, Not in Service" could be seen speeding northwards on the motorway towards the next junction. It took it another ten or so minutes to get back to where we were, but once it arrived we all transferred to it and left its driver to sort out the problem,( with the incentive of getting home again if he could do it).  By now I was a little worried about my connection into a pre-booked train at Peterborough, especially when, despite being 35 minutes late, the driver followed the route to the letter, including a pointless diversion into a huge Tesco somewhere near Peterborough. The bus actually passed within sight of Peterborough railway station, although this being Britain it didn't call in, but the bus and rail stations aren't very far apart and the transfer is easy as long as you know the way, although the signposting is pathetic.
The train was 10 minutes late anyway and after a quick change at Leeds I was back in Lancaster after a scenic route over 't Pennines with views of the Leeds & Liverpool in several places including Bingley Three Rise.  Earlier in the day I had been debating with Hilary whether she should wait for me at Carnforth, where she had been working, or whether she'd go home and pick me up in Lancaster later. We opted for Lancaster but it was obviously one of those days because as we approached the station I got a text to say she was still stuck on the M6 which was closed further south due to an accident. When this happens, as it often does, traffic is diverted through the city and therefore the bus service collapses. I ended up walking home, but at least that was an option open to me that I wouldn't have had if my car had been stuck in the traffic.

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