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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 16:00 GMT
Taking on the train challenge
By James Alexander
BBC News

Katie Neill and Jamielee Wilde
Katie Neill and Jamielee Wilde were travelling to see the Spice Girls

At the dawn of the 1900s, it took three and a half hours to get from Manchester to London by train. At the start of 2008, it's taking a lot longer.

My journey began on a bitterly cold snowy morning at Stockport station in Greater Manchester.

The platforms were nearly deserted. Clearly most of the regular commuters were still on their Christmas holidays, or else they'd seen the weather and decided to stay in bed.

Probably a good idea as the timetable made for grim reading. The train I was planning to catch - the 0855 from Stockport to London Euston - was cancelled.

Fortunately, there were plenty of station staff on hand to explain the alternatives - I could catch a train to Sheffield or Reading and get a connection to London there.

Or I could take the West Coast Main Line as planned but I'd need to take a replacement bus service to get round the ongoing work on the tracks.

For the West Coast Main Line, I was told I needed to take the 0923 to Birmingham International and change there.

Birthday treat

There were barely a dozen people in the carriage but two of them were studying a London guidebook, so they were obviously heading to the capital as well.

Val and Chris Firby, from Manchester, booked a short break to London three months ago to celebrate Chris's birthday.

Val said: "It's frustrating because we thought this would be a quiet time to travel - after the Christmas and New Year rush."

"We're not too upset though", added Chris.

"At least we're going to get there. We've got a show booked for tonight and tickets for the Terracotta Army exhibition. You can put up with a bit of hassle for something like that."

At Birmingham International station, we changed onto a bus to Northampton. There was a short queue but people seemed prepared for the wait.

Katie Neill, 21, was heading to London to see the Spice Girls with a couple of friends.

'No rush'

"We saw it on the news last night that there were problems on the trains. They should have e-mailed me to let me know because I booked online so they had my address.

"It's lucky because we're not in a huge rush. So long as we get to the concert tonight, I'm happy, but if I was a businessman and I had a meeting to get to it would probably be different."

The bus arrived in Northampton just in time to catch the 1222 to London. It was a busy train, but there was room for everyone to sit.

I finally arrived into Euston at quarter past one. A journey that should have taken two and a quarter hours had taken four and a quarter hours.

Network Rail say the engineering work should be completed by Friday morning.

But for now, a train journey is taking longer than it did 100 years ago. It's a relief to finally get to the journey's end - but our Edwardian ancestors might have wondered what took us so long.

SEE ALSO
Rail chaos may lead to huge fine
03 Jan 08 |  England
More rail delays for passengers
01 Jan 08 |  England
Passengers face New Year delays
31 Dec 07 |  England

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