Buses, trains and automobiles

Last weekend I was car-free for a little over 48 hours.  I supported my wife at the Edinburgh marathon and chose not to take a car into the city on one of its busiest weekends.  It won’t come as a surprise that public transport is not my favoured means of travel.  That said, I do enjoy trying it out periodically to ensure I appreciate the benefits of the private car.  Sometimes, I’m even surprised by how good public transport is.

Is a spanner award a good thing?

The train in to Manchester is no more than a hot smelly bus on rails but the subsequent four hours were spent in air-conditioned comfort (although facing backwards, despite my wife booking a forward-facing seat).  The fun started just outside Waverley station in Edinburgh with a points failure.  I’m perfectly aware that cars suffer problems too but we wouldn’t have had to suffer the lady in the carriage who (being charitable) was barking.

Our hotel was near the station (also near the start line) so no further wheeled transport was needed until the marathon began.  I used three taxis to get about on the day, which were all perfectly efficient.  They would be – they’re cars.

This was the hottest Edinburgh marathon on record.  While it was a little on the warm side for spectators, the conditions were very cruel for the runners.  Many fell by the wayside; one gentleman sadly lost his life.  And after it was over, runners and supporters alike had to make their way back to their hotels or homes.

“They’re putting extra buses on” said my wife.  I looked at one bus stop opposite the race course in Musselborough and there were about 200 people in various levels of pain – and no buses.  Despite everything being sore, my brave lady and I started to walk to find another option.

We found an empty bus stop half a mile away and (after quizzing a couple of locals) determined that we might catch a bus back to the centre of Edinburgh from here.  Buses seem to be okay for regular travellers but the numbers and routes are impenetrable to the casual user.  Perhaps there is a good reason why the first eight buses wouldn’t stop at all for us but it wasn’t clear to the gathering number of frustrated travellers.

Eventually a measly single deck bus did stop, it was going our way and I had enough water left to stop us completely wilting in the heat.  Most old vehicles have effective cooling, even though there isn’t air conditioning – the Land Rover has the flaps under the wind screen, the MGB has quarter lights and a large opening panel on the bulkhead to allow cool air in.  Buses give us the worst of both: new enough that they should have air conditioning yet with only small flip down windows for ventilation.

At last, we were dropped back on Leith Street.  After a gentle evening for recovery, the rail trip back on Monday was reasonably uneventful.  The only technical hiccup was that the barriers don’t let people through with advance-booked tickets.  How, exactly, am I supposed to know this?  (My wife did tell me off for the expletives I used.)  We also enjoyed someone sniffing all the way from Edinburgh to Chorley.

Finally, I walked home to collect the Saab to pick up my wife from the station.  Her legs were not up to the final haul up the hill.  And this highlights another problem with public transport – it doesn’t actually take you home.

Congratulations to Mrs. Motorwriter for finishing her first marathon and raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Eight out of ten to the trains and four out of ten to the buses in helping her achieve this.

The attached photograph was taken the morning after the marathon on Princes Street: 300 yards of uninterrupted buses.  Where were they when we needed them?

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