I spend a lot of time on trains. Too much, at times. I’m at the stage where I recognise train conductors, can recite stations along routes my most regular routes, and have often found myself at the whim of the vagaries and foibles of ScotRail. Mostly, to be fair, ScotRail does a good job, though its staff do let it (and passengers) down terribly at times, for instance by not having a clue how to get places or not checking whether passengers have all fully boarded.
One regular consequence of being on trains is the delays. Sometimes the weather, technical problems, staffing shortages or whatever else mean that trains can’t run, and I’ve had more than my fair share of replacement buses, freezing cold station platforms, late night replacement taxis and soul-sapping experiences at the life-void that is Perth railway station, which incidentally is home to The Worst Cafe In The World.
I’ve come to be philosophical about delays. There’s nothing you can do about them, except sit back, try enjoy your journey, and politely complain in writing later. And if you’re delayed by a certain length of time – as I all too often am – you can get part or all of your ticket reimbursed. I’ve obviously been unlucky in the past few months because I’ve found myself amassing about a hundred pounds of compensatory rail vouchers.
Much as compensation in the form of rail vouchers is like giving the victim of a botched tooth extraction the chance to have the rest of their healthy teeth extracted for free, I’m too much of a lover of travel to turn down the chance for free trips. And the vouchers will certainly come in useful.
In a couple of weeks, I’m going to Glasgow overnight to see Explosions in the Sky play – the third time I’ll have seen them live – and I’m very much looking forward to it. In April, I’ll be attending the joint Scottish and British Esperanto Congress in Edinburgh. Both will be all the more enjoyable for them costing me nothing in terms of train tickets.
Those trips will still leave plenty vouchers left, which will come in handy for another rail adventure I am planning. I am not sure when precisely it will be, but it will be this year, certainly. I want to get under the skin of my very regular Inverness-Edinburgh journey, by finding out more about the places I pass through with often the barest of glances, towns and villages I have mostly never been to. The plan, therefore, is to travel from home in Inverness to Edinburgh by rail, stopping for a minimum of two hours at every station. It will take me the best part of a week: though of course that doesn’t account for any delays…