A pleasant if uneventful trip to London was marred by the now familiar chaos around the replacement bus service between Newcastle and Morpeth, the line north of Newcastle being closed due to planned engineering works. Our train arrived at Newcastle on time, though there were no on-board announcements re the replacement busses for onward connections. More surprisingly, there were absolutely no staff present at the gateline on platform 2. The entire rail industry seemed unaware that even during their own engineering works, the world doesn’t stop at Newcastle, and some passengers might need assistance. So, out onto the street. But Newcastle station has been substantially redeveloped since the last time I was obliged to use replacement busses, and the area where the busses used to wait is now pedestrianised. So where are they now? Where should I go? Eventually I spied a coach with a couple of guys in yellow jackets up towards the Centre For Life. I wandered up there, and asked if it was a rail replacement coach. (To be fair, they are clearly marked as such on the front, but I was approaching from behind the coach). “Yes”, he assured me, “but not the Morpeth coach. That one hasn’t arrived yet, but will be pulling up right here at 18:25” (the expected time).
However, by this time I had spotted another coach waiting in a different position, on the main street. “Where’s that coach going?” I asked. “That’s got nothing to do with us” he replied. “It’s not a rail replacement bus”. But with 15 minutes to kill, and waiting in the rain, my curiosity got the better of me. I approached the 2nd coach, again with a group of drivers standing around. “Where are you going” I asked. “Morpeth” came the reply. “But that guy said the Morpeth bus wasn’t here yet, and you weren’t a rail replacement coach.” “Oh, we are”, he said. “But they don’t know about us. Those Stanley coaches are LNER coaches. We are KT coaches, and are being run by Arriva”. Which is strange, I thought, as I climbed on board. My ticket clearly states my replacement coach would be operated by Northern, not Arriva. How are passengers expected to know what coach to board? After a few minutes, we set off on schedule, with just a few passengers on board, no doubt leaving behind the many others who had been instructed to wait the other side of the road by the rival coach company, for a coach that would not come.
Could it not have been possible for LNER (the station operator) to have a sign up telling people where to find the replacement coaches, and at least one member of the station staff on duty in the coach waiting area, to ensure passengers are given correct and impartial advise as to what coach to board?