0640 Burnage – Manchester Piccadilly

24 Jan

Sign of the times

Set the alarm clock for 0545, go to bed, wake at the sound of the buzzer, snooze for ten minutes, and then up and about for a shower, cup of tea, possibly even some crumpets. Out of the house at 0630 for the (extremely) short walk to Burnage station: another visit to Head Office looms.

After zigzagging up to the booking office at the top of the embankment, it’s time to see whether the ticket office is open: it normally is, although there’s only ten minutes from opening until train, so a tricky request or a faulty machine will occasionally lead to a ticketless first leg. The usual suspects trickle onto the platform: the Royal Mail worker, the young business man, the lady who wears her hair up in leisurely fashion but will no doubt transform ready for a day at the office. Are they here every day? What do they make of this semi-regular upstart who only appears once a week?

Zig-zag

The train arrives bang on time, a two-coach diesel multiple unit heading for Liverpool. This is the first train of the day into the city, though there are some earlier services in the airport direction. It’s certainly not unusual to have to share our commute with some travellers off the red-eye flights into Manchester Airport, their suitcases and rucksacks stowed on spare seats and in the luggage compartment. There are enough seats for everyone to spread out over two, and I put my laptop on the seat next to me. The guard makes his way down the train to check tickets, with his PDA/ticket-printer combo slung over his shoulder and his Bluetooth card reader hooked on his belt: but he has to make sure he is ready to open the doors when we arrive at the next stop.

A quick call at Mauldeth Road allows another handful of early commuters to clamber aboard, with the occasional student here and there: the student area of Fallowfield stretches into the vicinity. Then onwards, round the curves to meet the mainline at Slade Lane Junction. It is generally a straight-line journey from here on in; past the train maintenance depot at Longsight, where trains can be seen awaiting their path to Piccadilly for their first service of the day, business travellers to London; past the Hyde Road bus depot, where Magic Buses are coaxed into life; past the new Transpennine Express depot on the old railway lands at Ardwick, floodlights gleaming into the early morning gloom. Everywhere is getting ready to go, but we early commuters are already on the move.

Platform level

We are scheduled to arrive on Platform 14 at 0651, with the rearmost doors of the train being best located for the sprint to the footbridge once the train comes to a stop. The train for Birmingham is due out from Platform 5 at 0654 – this is not a connection for the light-hearted. This isn’t a connection full stop if National Rail is to be believed, as the advertised minimum connection time is 10 minutes – but who wants to spend half an hour at the station, even one as nice as Piccadilly? Skip up the steps, checking the departure screen along the way in case of re-platforming, taking care on the bridge for slippery surfaces. The vista across the train shed is as impressive as ever, even for the terminally bog-eyed, but the train we are looking for is the red and silver one there.

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