Train strikes: ‘I cycled 33 miles to get to a gig’

By Beth Timmins
Business reporter, BBC News

Image source, Mike Simpson
Image caption,

Mike Simpson was determined to get to his gig in Nottingham

Ongoing disruption to rail services has meant many people around the country have seen their travel plans upended.

While lots have been forced to cancel plans, some have been determined to make their journey come what may.

‘I cycled 33 miles to see a gig’

Mike Simpson had been looking forward to seeing blues and rock band George Thorogood and the Destroyers at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday night.

On discovering that his train from his hometown Leicester to Nottingham was cancelled, the 54-year-old refused to be defeated.

He decided to cycle the 33-mile journey instead.

“I got the exercise and fun of a big electric bike ride and managed to see the gig so it was a win-win,” says Mike.

By train, the journey would have taken him around half an hour. Instead the journey, door to door, took five hours each way.

The cycling took three hours, and he stopped for a break to have lunch at his mother’s house en route.

“It was a fantastic gig, absolutely rocking, so I was lucky I could turn a mild inconvenience into a benefit,” he says.

“I don’t have any strong feelings on the strikes but more cars on the road is not great for the environment so I was glad I could make the journey by cycling.”

‘I’m spending eight hours on a bus on my birthday’

Huub van de Pol and his wife MariëlleImage source, Huub van de Pol and Mariëlle
Image caption,

Huub and his wife Mariëlle had been looking forward to a scenic train journey

Train enthusiasts Huub van de Pol and his wife Mariëlle from Haarlem in the Netherlands had planned a holiday around Huub’s birthday on 20 August.

They were looking forward to a beautiful five-hour train journey from London to Cornwall that they had booked in June.

But because there is a strike planned for the day, now they are getting an eight-hour National Express bus ride to arrive at their destination in Falmouth.

“I thought I’ve got to make the best of it,” says Huub.

“It’s quite a disappointment but I support the strike and believe they deserve better pay and working conditions. But I do think the privatisation of train firms in the UK was a bad idea and this is the result.”

‘I brought everything forward by 24 hours, lost a day’s leave and spent £145’

Jordan and his friend
Image caption,

Jordan (left) and his friend Nathan managed to sell their original Coldplay tickets but the new ones cost £85 more

Twenty-six-year-old Jordan had tickets booked to see Coldplay at Wembley Stadium on 13 August. When he learned this week that a strike had been called for that day, he decided to take action.

He and his friend Nathan sold their Saturday tickets, bought new tickets for the Friday night, and rebooked their hotel. Although Jordan was able to sell his early bird ticket for £77, the new one cost £162.

What would have been a one-hour train journey from Ipswich has now turned into a three-hour drive each way, £60 in petrol, and having to take a day’s leave from work.

“It’s been a bit of a nightmare from start to finish,” says Jordan. “There’s still drama getting the money back from Trainline and it’s not a lot of time and notice to give work.

“It’s a real inconvenience. I can understand why they’ve done it but how long is this going to go on for before we can go back to normal?

“People’s plans are in all sorts of bother so action needs to take place.”

‘Seven rail tickets, two taxis, eight hours’

Simon RobinsonImage source, Simon Robinson
Image caption,

Simon ended up buying seven separate rail tickets

Some have been doubly affected by the ongoing industrial action.

Husband and wife Simon Robinson and Alison Whalley are in the process of moving from London to Derbyshire and had planned to spend a few days setting up their new home in Buxton.

The train journey from Euston to Buxton last month should have taken around three and a half hours but ended up taking eight hours, two taxi rides and a total of seven rail tickets.

The pair were held up by problems at Euston on the West Coast Line, so decided to continue their journey from St Pancras using the East Midlands Line.

Again, there were delays and cancellations, so the next course of action was to get a cab to Marylebone and from there, the couple took a Chiltern train to Birmingham Moor Street.

Then they walked to Birmingham New Street, took the Cross Country Line to Derby, then the East Midlands train to Matlock. Another cab ride completed their journey to their new home.

“It’s really irritating and just becomes much more of a puzzle,” says Simon. “It’s more expensive but frankly it’s the time lost that annoys me. It’s like travelling in the 19th Century.”

Alison was then also affected by the strikes on Wednesday this week.

“I’ve got huge sympathy for the unions and think they should be getting paid the proper rate for the job,” says Simon.

“I think the government needs to allow the railway companies to negotiate and I think the railway firms need to think about how to make their services resilient.”

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