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Off the rails? Our reporter experiences big problems on Great Yarmouth to Norwich train line

PUBLISHED: 11:41 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:28 16 March 2018

One of numerous replacement buses from Great Yarmouth train station last week. Picture: Jacob Massey

One of numerous replacement buses from Great Yarmouth train station last week. Picture: Jacob Massey

Archant

Reporter JACOB MASSEY has been commuting to work by train and has found it a struggle due to cancellations. Here is his story of train journey woe.

Platform 1 at Great Yarmouth station will be removed as part of a remodelling of the station. Photo: George RyanPlatform 1 at Great Yarmouth station will be removed as part of a remodelling of the station. Photo: George Ryan

Last week I began working as a reporter for the Great Yarmouth Mercury.

I live in Norwich and do not have a car and so I had to choose which form of public transport to take to my new office.

There is a bus service that runs every quarter of an hour from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and is £6.50 for a return ticket, whereas a return ticket on the train is £10.60, however I opted for the train for two reasons.

Firstly, the train would allow me to bring my bike, which is handy for going to and from the stations and for going from job to job while in the town.

Great Yarmouth's train lines are to undergo a £68m revamp.  Picture: Adam ScoreyGreat Yarmouth's train lines are to undergo a £68m revamp. Picture: Adam Scorey

Secondly, I am currently learning shorthand and having a table on my commute would allow me to practice and have my breakfast on the way to work.

However, I had not anticipated how severely affected the service would be a week on from The Beast from the East, which ground the majority of the county to a halt.

Rail networks in the region are undergoing £68m worth of improvements, with work scheduled to continue until 2019, and it seems the revamp cannot be completed soon enough.

My week began with a prophetic train cancellation.

Turning up late on your first day in a new office is far from ideal and getting home late is not my favourite either - which is exactly what happened on Tuesday following the second cancellation of the week.

Wednesday I was based in Norwich but come Thursday morning I was greeted once again by the now familiar sight of bright orange letters shouting ‘Great Yarmouth – Cancelled’.

According to the Network Rail website, around 90pc of Greater Anglia services run on time, yet there is a growing band of almost 2,000 frustrated customers expressing their discontent in a Facebook group called Greater Anglia Couldn’t Run a Bath.

A Greater Anglia spokesperson said: “Last week we were still suffering from knock-on effects on our service from the extreme Beast from the East weather which led to some cancellations. We called in extra engineers and worked as quickly as possible to fix trains that developed faults during the severe weather as well as carry out day-to-day maintenance.

“We made sure that customers were able to complete their journeys by rail replacement bus but we apologise for any inconvenience caused to customers. Anyone who has been affected by delays and cancellations can claim delay repay compensation at www.greateranglia.co.uk/delayrepay”

Indeed I was provided with a replacement bus service, however, I was advised to ask the replacement bus driver nicely if I could take my bike on-board. This surprised me, as I had already paid for a train ticket on the proviso that I could take my bike to Great Yarmouth.

What is more, I had to eat my breakfast on the jolty bus, which meant the majority of my box of milky cereal ended up on my lap.

The Greater Anglia website states that compensation is not usually offered when a replacement bus service is offered, but this hardly seems fair considering that I could have chosen to travel by bus for almost £4 less.

With regards to the bike issue, a spokesperson for Greater Anglia informed me that bikes are not to be taken aboard replacement buses, unless they are folding bikes, in which case they may be allowed on at the driver’s discretion. As such, cyclists are left with the option of either waiting for the next available train or leaving their bikes at the station; this again, does not seem fair.

On Friday afternoon three trains in a row from Great Yarmouth to Norwich were cancelled, which left cyclists like myself in a difficult predicament; either wait for hours at the station or leave your bike at the station.

The consequences for me were not so dire, as Great Yarmouth is now my place of work, so leaving my bike at the station would just mean a weekend without it and having to walk to the station in Norwich on Monday morning. That said, I ordinarily store my bike in my flat for security reasons and leaving it unattended for a whole weekend is not my preference.

But what about those who live further afield? No doubt people will have visited Great Yarmouth on their bike as a one off and been left in a hopeless situation following cancelled trains - with no compensation offered at the end of it all.

Passenger Group reaction

Steve Hewitt, of the East Norfolk Transport Users Association, said: “It always seems to be the Yarmouth line. I do sympathise with them, there is just no capacity or spare rolling stock around.

“I’m sure a lot of snow was blown on the track but they did have two locomotives in Norwich with snow ploughs on the front so why they weren’t using those I don’t know.

“We can only hope that when these new trains in 2019 that things will change and there will be enough rolling stock to cover cancellations.

“Replacement buses don’t really cut it in terms of visitors as well because they come with a lot of luggage – you see people coming off with three or four cases each.

“It’s all well and good adding extra services in the summer but if your train is cancelled and replaced with a bus it is very off putting for visitors.”

“I suppose the condition of the track and the fact it wasn’t kept open during the snow is the responsibility of network rail. Obviously the condition of the rolling stock and how that is operated is down to Greater Anglia.”

• Have you been affected by the train service to and from Great Yarmouth? Email jacob.massey@archant.co.uk or call 01493 847954

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