The Zero Theorem

In order to make my travel plans today work I had to achieve what (from now on) will be known as a ‘zero minute connection’. The problem was this: My train from Newcastle to Carlisle was booked to arrive in Carlisle at 12:47pm; my train from Carlisle down the coast to Barrow was booked to depart at 12:47pm.

Now any rational person would have decided that this was not a reasonable connection to attempt, especially given that there was a two-hour wait to the next train, but this is me you’re talking about. I decided that this connection was worth a shot because a) There’s always float in the timetable for inbound trains before they reach their final destination – saves the train companies having to pay out for delays; b) The inbound service for the Barrow train had a very quick turn around at Carlisle to keep to; c) Carlisle isn’t New Street, it won’t be that far from one platform to the other.
Unfortunately the internet age turned this into a nail-biter. With the help of the National Rail app I was able to track the inbound service from Barrow up the coast, becoming more and more elated as it slipped to being delayed by almost eight minutes. My service from Newcastle was flying along, arriving early at all the intermediate stops. This was in the bag.

Then calamity struck! Against all expectations the two-car bus/train hybrid thingy coming in-bound from Barrow started to make up time! Suddenly it was only six minutes late, then four, then three. I started looking at the options for a plan b.

Now I haven’t travelled into Carlisle much, so I don’t know what the surrounding area looks like and hence couldn’t judge how much time there was left to go in the journey. When my phone told me that the inbound Barrow service had done-the-impossible and arrived on time I assumed it was game over. With half the World tracking my progress on Facebook today this would require some explaining…

But then we were there! Suddenly the green fields gave way to station concourse and we’d arrived! I looked at my watch: 12:45:54. There was time yet! I flew out of the train like a bullet from a gun and, in a very un-elegant style, ran up, over the footbridge, and down the full length of the opposing platform to where my bus/train abomination that was headed for Barrow was shuddering away to itself. I got on, sat down, the doors closed and it left on time.

I relaxed into my bus-style seat and looked at the other passengers unfortunate enough to be on this ‘train’. I looked further around the carriage. “That’s interesting” I thought: “no toilet”. My mild panic at this development was soon abated when I realised that there was no refreshment trolley either. The twisted logic kind of made sense…if you don’t have the trolley people won’t drink; if they don’t drink, you can do away with the toilet!

It was going to be a long three-hours…


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