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Personal view: Is a friend worth a rail replacement bus?




It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m tired. I’m travelling back to Bury St Edmunds after a weekend catching up with old university friends in Leicester. Almost needless to say, I haven’t had much sleep. Unlike my friends, I can at least somewhat justify this by claiming I am still a student - albeit one with one lecture a week as I slowly complete a masters degree - and that late nights are something of a given. But, unfortunately, being a student doesn’t give me superpowers (unless you include an NUS card that gives me a 10 per cent discount at select retailers) and I still need sleep.

A rail replacement bus service(16767684)
A rail replacement bus service(16767684)

I’m feeling groggy. And you can imagine my joy when I find out the first leg of this quest involves a rail replacement bus service to Peterborough.

I’ve recently felt that I have reached the point in life where maintaining friendships is becoming increasingly difficult as people move further away. I like the the adage that a friend is worth a flight, and I recently put this to the test by journeying to see a friend who was working in Argentina. That venture did have the additional hardship of us being based right by a beach - and it was hard, but I pulled through that one and I know my friend appreciates it. A friend is worth a flight, but are friends worth a rail-replacement bus journey? Is there a more painful four word collection in English? (Ruled out for offside? No more mobile data? Poorly written newspaper column?) As we leave Leicester, the radio playing in the bus is advertising live coverage of a music festival featuring Simply Red, Westlife, Bananarama and Emeli Sandé. I nod off as we chug through a village with the presenter announcing Emeli Sandé has pulled out and will be replaced by an extended DJ set from Craig Charles.

When I wake up we are coming into Peterborough and I’m desperate for a cup of tea. Luckily, Network Rail must have foreseen this, and allowed me a generous 51 minute transfer time, so I head for the station coffee shop where I am offered three sizes.

“Will a larger tea just be more water?” I ask the barista. She looks back with enough astonishment to suggest my question would offend Mr Starbuck himself.

“No!” she says. “It will be a larger tea!”

I’m too tired to debate. I order the largest size and make some significant progress into the book I’m reading.

By the time my tea is finished, the train is coming into Bury St Edmunds and I feel the journey wasn’t, on the whole, too bad - although I make a mental note to look up planned engineering in future before booking.

There’s an hour before church and I feel I should be using the time to sort myself out ahead of the week. But there is a pub near the station that I’ve always fancied but never quite set foot in.

I deserve this, I think to myself. An hour later I’m texting someone to say the journey was good and that I might even go back to Leicester soon.

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