Before I start, I have to say that I completely understand that South West Trains can in no way be accountable for the weather. This is an act of God and there is completely nothing they can do about it. But, what they can do is learn how to look after their customers properly and arrange things correctly!
Yesterday afternoon we were off to Exeter to Build a Bear for Grace’s birthday party then we were going on to Bella Italia for a meal afterwards. As there were the two adults and 6 children coming along for the ride we decided that the train would be the easiest and cheapest option. Build a Bear was a 10 minute walk from the station. So on the invitations we asked everyone to meet at Crewkerne Station – an extra treat for some of the children who had never been on a train before.
We met at the station at 1.30pm as planned. One of the children’s parents decided to come along for the ride and bring their 3 and a half year son too. I went to print the pre-booked tickets off at the machine but it wouldn’t work! I didn’t think it would matter as I had the booking reference on my phone. We then all went to wait for the train on the platform and noticed that not only was it delayed by about 10 minutes but also that the signals were out between Honiton and Exeter due to a lightning strike so there was a coach connection that we would have to take. We did ‘um and ah’ about taking the car but decided to stick to the plan.
We boarded the train and the children excitedly watched the countryside roll by. Arriving at Honiton, our troubles began.
There was a coach waiting but it wasn’t big enough for the amount of passengers who wanted to travel. We were informed by a member of staff at Honiton Station that there had been another coach but it had been called off elsewhere. They were trying to find the remaining passengers alternative transport – a taxi. They were having trouble. Ross tried. He got through to a taxi company first time and told the staff at the station they weren’t doing enough. I agreed!
John from Horseshoe Taxis was the man to take me and three of the children into Exeter. He was awesome. He radioed through to see who was bringing Ross and the three other children attending the party to ensure that they were dropped off at the same location and they got us as near to the store as they could. I had already rung Build a Bear to let them know we were on our way and running late – 40 minutes late in the end. The other two adults and small child showed up and all was fine….until the return journey – a far worse affair!
Sitting in Bella Italia, following a wonderful Build a Bear party, we decided to make sure we could get home again! I rang the 0845 number after searching for it on my phone. I was told by the woman on the end of the phone that the 18.30 train was cancelled but there was one at 19.30! Better late than never I guess but I was trying to establish whether the trains were now running or whether we would have to get a coach from Exeter Central to Honiton again. She couldn’t answer me. Ross then tried the other number I was given. Again no tangible answer. I texted the other Mother’s to let them all know the situation.
So, the 4 adults and 7 children in our party decided to take the short walk to Exeter Central and find out what the score was. As we arrived there was other travellers waiting. We asked the staff at the station what we should do and they told us to get a train to Exeter St Davids – one stop along – to catch a coach from there to Honiton. I also advised the staff that I had been unable to print the tickets off at Crewkerne. They said that I could get them at Exeter but as we approached the machine, my phone battery died. No tickets. I think the South West Trains employee could see how annoyed I was so he didn’t push it!
We waited 20 minutes for a train to arrive – 7.08pm – to take us the short distance from Exeter Central to Exeter St Davids and, with some now very tired children in tow, we climbed up and down the station steps to board the waiting coach. It waited for about 10 minutes and then departed. It stopped again 5 minutes later. At Exeter Central Station. To let people board!!!!
We arrived at Honiton around 7.50pm. During this time Ross, who did still have battery on his phone, was going via Facebook to find the parents we hadn’t been able to contact as there numbers were on my phone which, if you had remember, had run out of battery due to the time spent on the phone to South West trains in the restaurant where I got no decent information! Thankfully the parents with us had one of the others numbers and eventually we got round to everyone.
Boarding the train at Honiton we then realised that we would have to keep 7 children amused for over an hour. The train was not departing until 8.57pm. No one came to see us. No one checked if we were OK. No one offered us anything. Thankfully I had packed the children’s pieces of birthday cake into their Build a Bear boxes as they had had pudding at the restaurant. They sat and ate that. They played games. Ross let them beat him up – and mess up his hair! One of the little girls got upset and wanted her Mum. We had a cuddle then I pretended to go off and have words with the driver – knowing full well that the train should move in about 5 minutes!
Finally, very tired, we arrived at Crewkerne at 9.25pm. What should have been a 40 minute journey had taken us two trains, one coach, a lot of waiting and a total of 3 hours.
As we pulled into the station I told all the children how brilliantly they had done including the boisterous 3 and a half year old who almost got to call his Build a Bear monkey ‘Mr Poo Poo Head’. A name which may have suited certain other people that day!
Big thanks to Horseshoe Taxis, Build a Bear and Bella Italia for being so fantastic.
South West Trains – I would love to hear from you!