I step outside the Bristol Parkway station five years ago and notice nothing in particular. My then boyfriend and I are visiting for the weekend and hadn’t yet learnt which of the Bristol stations is actually near the city centre. Knowing what we know now, we would have got back on a train and been at Temple Meads in eight minutes. Instead we took a bus and spent over half an hour being driven back through Lockleaze and Fishponds.
These days I pass through Parkway almost daily and I know not to get out. It’s usually the people that get in who are the problem and I hope they don’t take this personally because I’m pretty sure they see us in a similar way. I have no idea where the train stops before it gets to Temple Meads so I can sympathise with those who look upon us as simply seat invaders.
Not all trains are the same of course and over the last four years I have travelled on a range of services between 0627 and 0900 to get to work. The 0627 gets me to my desk sometime between 0745 and 0800 and is the loveliest service. There are nine carriages and barely any passengers. The service goes to Edinburgh so I guess it gets a little busier but from Bristol Temple Meads I usually get a table seat and a carriage all to myself.
The 0700 is busier during summer but quiet later on so a seat is always guaranteed. The 0730 is a nightmare with only four coaches including first class. The Parkway people are sometimes left with the corridors and aisle as their only choice for travel and I undoubtedly have to share with someone else. The eight o’clock is not so bad and then we get to off-peak tickets so the trains get busier on their way to Manchester or Edinburgh.
I don’t seem to notice the Parkway people so much on the way home. They drift out with barely a glance back. There are fellow commuters who I chat to and it’s not until they stare blankly as I mention the 0730 delay or the 0800 being packed that I realise who they are. “The 0740” they correct me with barely a flicker or “the 0810”. One has been commuting for 19 years and is the veteran among us. My four years seem a little mediocre compared to K’s seven but then I am far more seasoned than barely eight month traveller who may be getting a job in the Bristol City Centre. I don’t blame her. I enjoy my commute but some days having three hours less travel would be bliss.
All this occurs during normal service, and while I am always surprised to say this, normal service seems to happen a lot. On the infrequent occasion when things don’t go to plan the delays seem to drag. After a recent night out in Cheltenham the driver announced quite enthusiastically that we would be arriving 20 minutes early but to Parkway and not to Temple Meads.
The Engineering works scheduled for that evening had been cancelled and the train would wait at an empty station and then arrive at Temple Meads half an hour later. From 42 minutes, the journey lasted over an hour and it’s probably the only time in my commuting history that it felt like Parkway got the better deal.