“BRITAIN GRIPPED BY BIG FREEZE” screamed the headlines in the tabloids. Grim-faced newsreaders warned of severe disruption. Earnest weather presenters pointed at chromakeyed maps, excitedly pointing out where and when the next load of snow was due to be dumped. It was, the statisticians agreed, the coldest period of weather since the last one.
The perfect time to go out and visit some stations, then.
I hadn’t planned to head out this early in the year. In February it’s still fairly dark and cold; conditions not conducive to fannying around limited service railway stations. I changed my mind, however, when London Midland reintroduced their Great Escape offer, tempting trainspotters with the prospect of a day’s unlimited travel on their shiny Desiro EMUs for just 15 quid.
When I embarked on my Cheshire Day Ranger trip, I had thought that buses would be the weak link in my plans. As it turned out, while delayed trains had (briefly) thrown my plans into disarray, the buses had worked much better. My second bus of the day was just as good as the first, and turned up exactly on time. I was relieved as I had been waiting at the stop for some time – so long, in fact, that I actually saw the same bus go past on its inward journey some twenty minutes earlier.
As I gazed out of the window, picturesque Cheshire villages soon gave way to runway landing lights and budget hotels, as the number 200 made its way along the Manchester Airport approach roads. I alighted at the airport’s transport interchange complex and made my way to the railway station, where things were in slight disarray, with trains cancelled, passengers confused by the departure boards, and an unattended suitcase on platform 3 causing some consternation.