My wife and I decided to get away this weekend. A change is as good a break, someone might have said once. We thought we'd go somewhere easy to reach - just a single train ride from Bath - so we chose Weymouth.
In hindsight, I can't believe I was stupid enough to use FGW for a weekend break. The journey down on Saturday morning went smoothly enough. In fact it was almost entertaining; if sitting in a live episode of Little Britain is your cup of tea. We were surrounded by yoofs "Yeah, but, No but"-ing their way from Westbury, Frome and Yeovil all the way to Weymouth.
Interestingly, after listening to the said yoofs discuss tactics for fare evasion (going to the bogs when the collector arrives, hiding their booze and asking for child tickets etc), they all got away without buying tickets after the train manager announced that his machine was broken and would people please buy a ticket at their destination. It'll be no surprise to you that none of them did upon arrival at Weymouth.
At least half the people getting off at Weymouth had no tickets - I hope FGW don't use a lack of revenue as an excuse to shut down this line.
After a wonderfully relaxing weekend, we went to get the 14:00 train back to Bath. This is the first of only 3 trains that run on this line on a Sunday, the others at 18:00 and 20:09. However this train was cancelled. The SWT staff at the station had no idea why is was cancelled, or indeed if the 18:00 would run, only that a bus was being provided. I phoned FGW to find out why it was cancelled, since there was a train on the platform, and was informed that it was due to staff illness.
Outside, sure enough, a bus was on the forecourt to take us as far as Westbury where we'd have to pick up the no doubt already packed service from Portsmouth.
The journey didn't take too long as we only went to one of the intermediate 10 stations (Yeovil Pen Mill) on the way. I hate to think what information was available at the others, particularly the unmanned ones. I suppose most people just had to wait the four hours for the next one.
We arrived just after the 15:58 had left Westbury, and no-one will be surprised it didn't wait, then again, we could have been hours yet, had we stopped everywhere. A long wait was therefore on the cards, but thankfully the coach driver offered to take anyone who wanted, a lift back to Bath or Bristol given that he was headed back to Bristol. So we got back on the bus and arrived in Bath around 45 min late. It could have been a lot worse had the kind driver not gone above his duty.
Question is though, given that the bus was dispatched from Bristol, the staff illness mustt have been known a wouldn't have been easier and cheaper to send a train crew in a taxi? Or was the staffing shortage so bad that there was no spare crews anywhere?