When Twitter comes into its own

Twitter is the answer to travel nightmares. I remember thinking this last November in the snow and today this was confirmed. From sometime this morning there was widespread travel chaos across the Southern network caused by a flood and then a landslide.

Landslide at Croydon - via First Capital Connect

Landslide from slightly different angle - via Southern

Looking at the live departures on Southern’s website it was clear that we would not be going anywhere south of Croydon this evening. Then Tweets confirmed that there were huge delays at Gatwick and the rail replacement bus services were overwhelmed. Before Twitter I could only have guessed this but through my network I had people updating me from all over the place. I knew the Eastbourne and Brighton lines were both impossible to get down. The national rail website only told me all the trains were cancelled and I needed to find alternative trains. It made no suggestion of what these trains were.

So I looked at other routes, using my own local knowledge combined with confirmation from Southern that Southeastern were accepting tickets. I realised if I could get to Tunbridge Wells I could get a bus that stopped practically outside my flat. So I left work and headed to Charing Cross.

Emerging from the underground I heard an announcement that no trains were travelling between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells due to a lineside fire. Tonbridge is the town before Tunbridge Wells. This was not good news. I then saw a tweet from @southernrailuk saying I should go on this route. I replied to them and told them there were problems. My response was retweeted by people living near me.

After encountering flood, landslide and fire I  laughed at a tweet from @angefitzpatrick suggesting that she wouldn’t be surprised if all replacement bus services were cancelled due to Godzilla. I wouldn’t have been surprised either!

I then had a text from my friend Catherine saying she was on a train to Ramsgate and getting off at Tonbridge, the guard on the train said that the trains still weren’t going through to Tunbridge Wells but should be soon. So I hopped on the next train to Tunbridge Wells in the hope it would get me home.

While I tweeted about my journey I had a message from someone else on the same train asking how to get from Tunbridge Wells to Lewes. I also spoke to some people around me who were trying to get to Uckfield and Lewes. They were impressed that I had information from Twitter. Through Twitter and my friend on the train in front I was able to both be informed and keep people informed. A group of random people became connected. I was also buoyed up by tweets from friends wishing me luck on my journey and really impressed by Southern’s own use of Twitter. They replied to my tweets. This included an apology after I tweeted them an update on the journey.

Tweet from SouthernI was able to check bus times on my ipad and tweet them. We arrived at Tunbridge Wells just after 6:45 and the bus came on time at 6:58. I’m sure he doesn’t normally have quite so many people going to Lewes at that time.

The journey through the highways and byways of Kent and Sussex was speedy and a bit of a white knuckle ride but an hour later I was getting off the bus just by my flat. It was almost 4 hours after I left work (thirty minutes early) and I was over an hour and a half late home but because the delays were so bad I didn’t mind so much.

It’s times like this people muse why I commute. It’s simple, I get to live in the best place in the world. Delays like today are very rare and they are so bad there’s nothing anybody can do about it. It wasn’t Southern’s fault that a watermain burst and then there was a landslide. The fire was just so surreal that I was waiting for a plague of locusts to delay the bus.

So, yet again, if anyone asks why you should join Twitter tell them that it is the best way of finding out what is going on and should fire and brimstone rain down on your journey home nothing beats it to help you get on your way. Or as @archelina said “twitter f***ing rocks in a travel crisis”. Couldn’t have put it better myself!

UPDATE

This morning I caught my usual 6:51 train and over heard a couple of commuters talking about their horrendous journeys home. It was clear they hadn’t used Twitter and had been in the dark about what was going on. If you are a commuter then sign up to twitter, follow @SouthernRailUK and @NRE_Southern (or the relevant ones in your area) also follow other people from your area. I was home 2 hours before the people who hadn’t used Twitter!

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