Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Entertaining (?) Expedition to Eastbourne

One of fbb's favourite Bible stories concerns the Old Testament "judge", Deborah by name. The narrative is too lengthy and involved to reproduce here, but a "baddie" (Sisera) was attacking God's people and young Debs (a fearsome l;ass, as it turned out) was seeking some defence against an unstoppable onslaught of (possibly exaggerated? but certainly "a lot!") 10000 iron chariots. The Israelites only had hand weapons - and God!

The defeat of Sisera was surprisingly swift.

It rained.
The chariots sank in the mud, the soldiers fled and Sisera was pursued and disposed of in a particularly gruesome manner; taken down, not by a peg or two, but by one rammed home with a mallet. (Feel free to read it yourself: Judges Chapters 4 and 5).

Rain, even back then, was the enemy of technology!

fbb and his Mrs were off to visit No 3 son who had bought two day's worth of "access all areas" tickets for Eastbourne tennis. Getting from Seaton to Eastbourne was simple; by car to Axminster Station then ...
All was going well and on time until a few blips after Woking. Then the train slowed down and remained crawling all the way to Clapham Junction. The guard apologised for the delay, caused by a passenger being taken ill at Clapham. 1153 came and went meaning that fbb emailed No 3 son warning him that a 30 minute delayed arrival was inevitable.

Just to be sure, your careful author checked on line and discovered a problem.

It rained.
Because of the wonderful Thameslink, disruption would be widespread. Whilst local press pictures did not seem too bad ...
... there were reports that the track was flooded. Apparently that is not good news when you are trying to pick up 750 volts from a conductor rail. Tweeters were far from 'appy.
Southern got the pumps out ...
... but by them the rain had done its damage. Trains were in the wrong place, staff were in the wrong place and, generally, chaos ensued.

So it was that the fbbs arrived a good six minutes after their connection was scheduled to lave Clapham Junction. But it was "delayed". Trains were running out of order from busy platform 13 ...
... with nothing on time, although a few were close. Eventually the 1153 was announced as 24 minutes late. Obviously the fbb's hopped aboard.
You can gauge some of the ensuing disruption by looking at the service pattern of Eastbourne trains.
Note E (for the 1153 from Clapham Junction, 1146 from Waterloo) explains that the train splits at Haywards Heath with the rear four coach unit trundling off the Hove and Littlehampton, trains which appear on a separate timetable.

Notice that the 1223 (1216 from Waterloo) terminates at Eastbourne but offers a natty change at Hampden Park (arrive 1341; cross the line and depart 1348) into the preceding Brighton train for through passengers to Hastings and Ore.

But the fbb's train was 30 minutes late by the time the split was made.
You might have expected it to adopt the stops of the 1223 but Wivelsfield was passed at speed and at Plumpton it was announced that the train would terminate at Eastbourne. It took another 15 minutes for "instant" technology to catch up!
Quite why an extra stop was added at Glynde was neither explained nor, more importantly, announced. Nobody boarded or alighted! Neither, for that matter, was any clue given as to how the "cancelled" passengers might continue to Hastings and Ore.

In fact something was held back and was waiting for them at Eastbourne.

The fbbs were 31 minutes late arriving which, considering the level of disruption earlier in the day, was not all all bad.

But all because of a bit of rain? They kept going in the good old days ...
... but perhaps not always!
But it does seem strange that, despite advances in civil engineering, track laying and drainage standards, a few inches of heavy rain should spread disruption so far and so completely.

Could Southern have done better?

Was there too much misplaced "health and safety" and not enough concern for passengers?

Many frustrated passengers thought so.

Meanwhile in Sheffield
Readers may wonder how deep the flood had to be to close the top deck of the Tinsley Viaduct!
Alas the Fourth Estate was over-egging the crisis just a tad.
Poor or badly maintained drainage? Of simply too much rain?

Big Board Bust-up Beaten
Yesterday afternoon was the Extraordinary General Meeting of First Group - called by major shareholder Coast Capital aiming to "take over" the board. The attempt was roundly defeated but the chairman will stand down.
The Guardian article (quoted above) went on to suggest that First are "rumoured" to be about to win the West Coast rail franchise.
Please Note : The "Park and Ride" blog, planned for today, is postponed until tomorrow.

While many are reading this blog, fbb himself is on safari from Eastbourne (via Brighton and Hove buses) to Brighton and on by train to Ford. Such fun! Mrs fbb was hoping to be watching Andy Murray live for real, but he and his doubles partner were soundly defeated yesterday afternoon.

 Postponed Park and Ride blog : Wednesday 27th June 


  1. Andrew Kleissner26 June 2019 at 07:38

    Quite apart from 750v third rails, I suspect that lineside cabling and cabinets, underfloor electrical equipment and traction motors, and above all continuous track circuiting don't take well to immersion! (And there's probably a motorway equivalent). The problem, as ever, is in keeping the public informed.

  2. Eastbourne trains from Victoria rather than Waterloo! From an Eastbournian.

  3. It was heck of a lot more than "a bit" of rain, believe me. Much of the disruption will have been down to the infamous East Croydon bottleneck, which exacerbates any problems along the Brighton Mainline as trains queue to get through and serve the station. There are now so many trains on that stretch of track that widespread disruption is unavoidable every time there's a problem anywhere on the BML. That's why Network Rail is desperate to put in extra lines, extra platforms and flyovers to resolve the problem once and for all. Google "East Croydon Bottleneck" for more...

  4. Andrew Kleissner26 June 2019 at 22:48

    Nothing to do with above, but here's a nice story (featured on BBC Wales news this evening):