Whilst the snow and ice were at their peak, I needed to travel to London. My colleagues thought I was mad of course, but I walked to Maidstone East Station. “Sorry Sir – Ashford’s snowbound so there are no trains” said the man in the ticket office, but he did advise me to try walking across the bridge to Maidstone Barracks and see if they had any services. I did this, and was soon on a train to Strood, where we disembarked.
Strangely, the train at Platform Two was High Speed One, and as everyone appeared to be getting on it so did I. No sooner had the doors closed than the guard told us to get off at Strood if we didn’t have High Speed One tickets. I duly disembarked, and the train pulled away, only to be followed three minutes later by another High Speed One train, which sat at the platform for several minutes before I tapped on the guard’s window and asked “Can I get on this train even if I don’t have a High Speed One ticket?“. “Yes” he mouthed through the window. “Can you open the door then please?” I asked, not unreasonably.
“Sorry Sir – we’re leaving now…” and with a quick press of his bell button, the train pulled away.
Somewhat confused and not a little cold by now, my day was turning decidedly Groundhog when ten minutes later, guess what arrived at the platform? You’ve guessed it – a High Speed One train. I didn’t bother asking, but simply got on board and was even more disconcerted to find, as you’ll see from my photo, that I appeared to be the only passenger!
My first – albeit unofficial – journey on HS1 was wonderful, speeding up to King’s Cross St Pancras in minutes, the only interruption being from a ticket inspector who bade me a cheery “good afternoon, Sir” as he walked through the carriage. At King’s Cross, not a single member of staff impeded my progress, and the barriers were all set on open.
As a cautionary note, don’t try this at home – I’ve since heard that the HS1 trains were merely ‘helping out’ other trains caught on more icy parts of the line. But at least I can honestly say I’ve now travelled on High Speed One!