Users of the North lines will be accustomed to travelling in taxis or buses due to late or cancelled trains or other problems. Over recent years the Inverness-Aberdeen line in particular has often resulted in clocking up many bus miles for long suffering regular users, often with a bus between the relevant gap in the service but usually without a train waiting for you once the bus journey part of the amended service is completed. This is a tale of the line south however. It is often wise to get yourself to Inverness by other means than the connecting 07.17 from Nairn if you wish to catch the 07.55 Kings Cross train. I've been caught out twice, once the train from Nairn arrived in Inverness just late enough to see the London train pulling out of the station - the result? Several hundred pounds of taxi fares for Scotrail in getting the affected passengers further south. Another time I was lucky enough to make it to Inverness by car when enough advance warning was given that the Nairn service was late but it was a close thing.
Bearing in mind the difficulties that can arise sometimes if one relies on that connection I took the offer of a lift to Invernes. Arriving at the road at the side of Eastgate 2 that leads to the station drop-off point at around half-seven the London train could clearly be seen leaving the station. I thought perhaps they were changing the platform for some reason. Imagine my disbelief at the surreal message on the platform screen : 'London Kings Cross 07.26'. I checked my ticket to see if I was still in the same dimension and yes it definately had the normal time of 07.55 printed on the ticket and reservation card.
I asked a station employee what the situation was and why the train had left early. 'That's East Coast, they're a law unto themselves, they decided last night, didn't even tell us,' she said. She went on to tell me that there would be a bus at 07.55 however.
The bus driver explained that this had in fact been happening for a few days and was either something to do with the aftermath of the Carrbridge derailment or, perhaps a more regular reason, signal failure. It appeared that East Coast had got a message out on Moray Firth Radio about the change of time but that of course assumes that everyone listens to MFR.
The story had a happy ending however, the bus made one stop at Perth after negotiating a couple of inches of slush and snow over the passes and actually made it into Waverley Station fifteen minutes before the train that left half an hour early arrived in the capital. Now that London service can perform quite well once unleashed on the 'proper' railway south of Edinburgh and will move very fast indeed but it just goes to show that the line north to Inverness is only fit for Trains à Petite Vitesse.