Yesterday I decided to go to the start of the Maritime Festival in Belfast, as it was the first time in 18 years (1991) that the Tall Ships had been in Belfast.
It all began yesterday morning, when I was waiting on the platform in Coleraine to get the 1015BST train from Londonderry/Derry to Great Victoria Street. It seemed that everyone had heeded Translink’s call to leave the car behind and use public transport to get to Belfast. The 1015 departure time came and went – people were still piling on to the train. Eventually someone decided that they were going to sacrifice the other 3000 Class DMU that was due to operate the Portrush Branch Line service, so we were all ordered off the train to allow them to couple the two together. Then the platform staff decided they weren’t going to do that so we were all ordered back onto the train, which lead to frustration as some were physically unable to board as it was already crush laden.
1030 came and eventually after much shouting and running up and down the platform by the Conductor we were on our way, having found a space in the vestibule area, along with about 13 other people who couldn’t get a space in the aisles –it was the same in the other carriages. Severely annoyed I decided to phone NI Railways Customer Services and gave them stink; about half an hour later they phoned back to say that “all available trains were in service” (which, when in Belfast transpired to be a bit of a lie, as two class 3000 DMUs were sitting at their Fortwilliam Servicing Depot and at least another one or two were at Yorkgate Yard). At the subsequent stops of Ballymoney, Cullybackey, Ballymena, Antrim, and Mossley West there were crowds waiting. They were all told to wait for the bus substitution which would be with them sometime.
Eventually we arrived at Central, and I got off, and went through Central and made my way along Oxford Street and over the Lagan Weir to Queen’s Quay. An hour and a half, some photos and a whole lot of walking, I decided to return to Central, where I waited for the 1425 train back to Coleraine. Honestly, I was glad to sit down! The train home was much a much more pleasant experience.
Lessons to be learnt:
1. After years of Planning, there should have been a 2nd train coupled on the Londonderry-Gt Victoria Street 1015 Service – what did they expect?! The usual half-full Belfast bound train? I do acknowledge, however, that rolling stock is limited in number, but surely it would have been better to get every train on the lines, rather than having them sitting at Fortwilliam, Yorkgate and probably Adelaide?
2. There should have been a greater appearance of a co-ordinated approach by all Translink (NI Railways) staff as this lead in part to customer frustration – I heard 3 different stories being circulated by 3 different Translink employees in Coleraine.
3. The people left stranded, while veritably annoyed, should have been more understanding and less hostile to the Conductor – policies for crush laden trains are there for everyone’s safety.
You can view my photos of the day here.