Buses are usually a very reliable form of transport - I've said it before. and, no doubt, I'll say it again. But just sometimes things can go wrong. I wrote recently about a trip in East Anglia where the bus I was on embarrassingly broke down just the day after I'd posted an article about how reliable my trip up to then had been. (read again here). Breakdowns, however, are just one of the things can can go wrong - there are others, they don't happen often and usually it's only one problem at a time that you have to deal with. But one day last week I experienced just about every problem a bus journey can throw at you all at once - and on a very short trip at that.
I was headed for Carnforth to meet Hilary and some friends for an evening out. It's a simple journey from here - one bus into the city centre and then a choice of buses out to Carnforth by two different routes. The buses into town are just frequent enough not to have to bother looking up the timetable although this sometimes mean you can watch one hurtle past the end of road as you walk up to the stop. I missed the number 3 by no more than 30 seconds.
The next bus should have been a 41 that would have taken me directly to the Bus Station, but it had been overtaken by a 3A, which arrived first. The 3A diverts via the Railway Station which is a longer route but has the advantage not only of passing the railway station but also running along Lancaster's historic quay side and usually takes no more than five minutes longer. It's not usually a problem and certainly not worth waiting for another bus. This 3A, however, stopped to wait for time at the station and then had to follow a diversionary route into the bus station due to some road works that were blocking the usual route. The journey into town had taken twice as long as I'd expected.
There were two buses heading for Carnforth in the bus station - the 55 and the 555. The 555 is more direct but the 55 was on the next stand and was loading its last few passengers prior to departing. I didn't have time to check how much later the 555 would be leaving and just jumped aboard the 55 thus obeying the First Rule of Public Transport - "Never Wait for the Other Bus (or train) - If it's here and it's going your way - just get on!"
A few more passengers arrived delaying us slightly and then just as he was ready to set off our driver discovered a fault with the bus! Consultations with an inspector followed and then we were directed onto an empty bus nearby. At this stage I could still have caught the 555, but it would have meant swiping my free pass again, resulting in the Council paying twice for my journey so I stuck to the 55 and as we pulled off the stand the 555 was leaving right behind us. It would have been a better bet.
The 55 duly followed its route via Hest Bank and on to Bolton-le-Sands (navigators of the Lancaster Canal will know these places) allowing the 555 to get in front, but approaching the latter we hit a queue of traffic. Cars in front of us were turning round or turning off into side streets and blue flashing lights and signs up ahead made it clear that the road was closed due to an earlier collision and the recovery of the affected vehicles. There was no sign of the 555 which had presumably got through before the recovery work began.
Our driver consulted the office on his 'phone and eventually informed us that there was no suitable way round for the bus and he could go no further. By now I should have been in Carnforth but we were meeting in the Canal Tavern, on the canal side and opposite the basin, so the obvious thing to do was to leave the bus, join the Lancaster Canal towpath and walk the mile-and-a-half to the pub (and with a free pass you can't even claim a refund!). Fortunately I was able to get in touch with Hilary and my steak-and-ale pie and pint of Black Sheep Bitter were waiting for me on arrival.
So - a missed bus, buses running out of sequence, a wait for time, a diversion due to road works, choosing the wrong bus, a breakdown and a road closure all in one short journey. Surely that's my lot for the time being and I can enjoy trouble-free travel for a while?
And why was I going to Carnforth? - I'll tell you in my next post.