‘We were concerned for our safety’ Passenger tells tale of his rail replacement woe

A disgruntled man has described his experience on a rail replacement service as “an absolute, unmitigated shambles”.

On Sunday, Graham Larkbey, his partner, and friend had to take a replacement bus service provided by London Northwestern Railway due to major engineering works affecting trains between London Euston and Hemel Hempstead.

The trio’s bad day began at Kings Langley station while waiting for a bus to arrive to begin their journey to Surrey.

Mr Larkbey said there was no one at the station to help passengers and the signs were not clearly visible.

He said although the maps showed buses running through to Stanmore they discovered they had to change at Watford Junction .

When the bus arrived, Mr Larkbey said the driver did not know the route.

Mr Larkbey said: “We and other passengers had to direct him. This included a man who spoke virtually no English and was totally bewildered.”

The group then got on a bus for the Watford Junction to Stanmore leg of their journey where the driver again had “no clue where to go”.

He added: “It inevitably went wrong, resulting in a complete loop around the whole Watford ring road before we got out of town.

“And even then, the driver was clearly uncertain how to reach Stanmore.”

He said: “Our journey back included stopping in the middle of the road, several wrong turns including one leading to a low bridge requiring us to backtrack and inexplicably turning left when the signpost said ‘straight on’ to Watford Junction.”

“More than once we became concerned for our safety or whether we would get there at all.”

When the group arrived in Watford Junction that night they saw their connecting bus back to Kings Langley leaving as they pulled in.

Mr Larkbey said he banged on the windows pleading for the supervisor to stop the bus but was told: “I have to send buses out on time. I don’t have to put up with this, if you want my job you can have it.”

He added: “These engineering works have been preplanned for weeks – how can a major train operator and its bus contractors get it so spectacularly and incompetently wrong? London Northwestern need to make urgent improvements in time for this weekend and the one after.”

London Northwestern Railway said in response: “The experience for the customer concerned is certainly not what we would expect any of our passengers to endure, so we’re really grateful for his feedback that is enabling us to have a detailed conversation with our suppliers to ensure such situations are not repeated in future.

“Any customers who were delayed or missed connections due to issues with rail replacement buses over the weekend are advised to make a claim for compensation through delay repay.”

“Over the next two weekends (25 – 27 August and 1 / 2 September) the advice to rail passengers is to avoid travelling if possible and to make journeys on alternative days. If customers do need to travel they should leave additional time for their journey and expect services to be busier than usual. Amended timetables will be in place so anyone travelling should check their train times at nationalrail.co.uk.”

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