You would think that a journey of 41 miles by road in Scotland’s densely populated central belt, which should take no more than 55 minutes in a car, would be just as easy by public transport. On a recent, beautiful July evening this was not the case.
I left the house just after 7pm, aiming to catch the 7.33pm to Stirling. Lothian Buses put in their finest performance and no bus was forthcoming at my local stop until 7.20pm.
Not to worry! Lothian Buses tend to be fairly swift outside of peak hours. Not on this occasion, unfortunately. Despite having arrived ‘late’ by my estimation, we dawdled all the way to North Bridge – presumably the driver’s ticker declaring that we were ‘early’ meant that we needed to waste time.
A quick trot down the Scotman’s steps brought me to the station at 7.35pm. The 7.33pm was long gone – never mind. I knew that the 7.25pm Virgin East Coast service was delayed – that would do. In the meantime, I waited on a sunny platform 8.
It was clearly one of those evenings. The 7.25pm service was getting later and later. I fielded multiple questions from confused passengers on the platform. ‘Yes, it is okay to wait here – it will be a long train.’ ‘Yes, you can you use a GroupSave ticket on this service. No, we are not in peak hours – it’s almost 8 o’clock. Am I sure? Well I don’t work on the railway…’ Yet further delay. Eventually, it rolled into the station – almost sheepishly – at 8.10pm.
Despite some reservations about the end destination being non-existent, I boarded and settled down in a deserted carriage. Excellent – a full table – forward travel by the window – to myself. Unfortunately it was not to be. At 8.20pm the service was cancelled on technical grounds, having gone nowhere. So much for that – at least I got to play with the slam doors. This gave me just enough time to trot through the station to catch the 8.33pm, where the silver lining was that the rolling stock featured a first class compartment – mine to use as Dunblane services do not feature first class meaning the compartment is derestricted.
It wasn’t all bad. Being a full hour later than expected, Scotland’s central belt was looking rather splendid.
It was a smooth run through to Stirling, with some idling at each stop indicating we were making good time. After arriving a full minute early, a brisk walk through the quiet streets of Stirling – still beautifully light – had me at my destination by 9.45pm. Just 2 hours and 40 minutes after leaving home.
It’s fortunate I was in no hurry to get anywhere! It was clearly not Virgin’s week, given that the next morning I had planned to catch the 10.30am King’s Cross service but noted hours beforehand that it had been cancelled between Inverness and Edinburgh – leaving me to make haste to catch the preceding Scotrail service. Still, it’s the middle of July – who needs to be anywhere?