WESTBURY runners, who had been training for months to tackle the Bath Half Marathon, found themselves late for the race after a special train service to take runners to the race was delayed.
The train was due to depart Westbury at 9.15am on Sunday 6th March and was due to arrive in Bath at 9.47am. Instead, passengers arrived in Bath at 11.20am, feeling angry and frustrated after lack of information and updates from First Great Western.
The race had started at 11am, with runners expected to be at the starting area by 10.30am.
Westbury runner, Patricia Quayle, went to Westbury Station two days before the event to purchase tickets and confirm the times that had been published online. “I asked if these special services would be affected by normal Sunday engineering works and I was assured that the trains would run like clockwork,” said Patricia.
However, on the morning of the race, there was a different story. “We arrived at Westbury station at 9.00am on Sunday morning, to find the 9.15am train ready and waiting for us,” explained Patricia. “We got on, as did many other passengers. At around 9.20am, we were informed that the train had been delayed. At around 9.30am, the screens started showing that the train had been cancelled.
“An announcement followed shortly, telling us that the next available service would be the 9.48am. This would be cutting it quite fine to get to the start line in time, but we believed the information we were given and so settled down to wait. More fool us – the sensible people (or perhaps those with more experience of First Great Western) decided to drive into Bath, despite city centre road closures, or take a taxi, which I sincerely hope they charged to First Great Western.
“At around 9.50am, a train arrived, which at first was declared as going to London. Confusing announcement followed confusing announcement, and there were no staff members present to address the questions of an increasingly anxious crowd. It turned out that this train would in fact be going to Bath, so we all duly got on.
“At around 10.10am, we eventually set off, at a very slow pace, only to hear that we would be going to Bath via Chippenham. Stress levels were rising, as we realised that we would more than likely miss the start of the race.
“A ticket inspector, who did not check any tickets, told us categorically and repeatedly that we would arrive in Bath at 11.00am. However, at 11.00am, we were just pulling in to Chippenham.
“Lots of people gave up at this point – months of training and preparation down the drain due to shocking service provided by First Great Western. At around 11.20am, we eventually arrived in Bath – much later than the 9.47am we were originally expecting. Some runners ran to the start line, adding an extra mile to the 13 mile race, and playing catch up for most of the course. Our performance and times were seriously affected, and what should have been a pleasant day out was completely spoilt.”
First Great Western, the train operating company, say that Network Rail, who Britain’s rail network, were carrying out regular engineering work from the Saturday night which overran into Sunday morning by 90 minutes, leading to closures on the line, cancellations, and delays.
A spokesman for First Great Western said, “We put on extra services to assist with getting participants to the Bath Half Marathon, and it is extremely disappointing and frustrating our extra efforts were negated by Network Rail engineering work overrunning.
“We responded with road transport alternatives from Westbury to Chippenham until Network Rail reopened the line, but at such short notice delays were unavoidable and some Bath Half Marathon runners were affected.
“We’re really sorry, and we’d ask any runners affected by the Network Rail overrun to contact our customer services department on 08457 000 125 to claim compensation for their outgoing tickets.”