Trapped In A Train For Four Hours

Trapped In A Train

To fully understand this story and the length of the train delay it chronicles it is important to know that the Fyra train travels between Rotterdam and Amsterdam via Schiphol every day, twice an hour. It is vitally important to know that it does this journey just in forty minutes which is twenty minutes faster than regular trains which cover the same distance in just over an hour. It is because of this that the Fyra train cost extra compared to regular, slower trains. It is also important to know that about the only fact that they got right was that it costs extra.

We’d already stopped moving shortly after leaving Schiphol and had been sitting in the middle of nowhere for the past ten minutes before there had been an announcement informing us that we were experiencing a small delay (which most of us had worked out by then).

A short while later there was another announcement, upgrading our short delay to an unknown delay (completely skipping medium and long delay). There was a slightly eery synchronised groan from all of the passengers upon hearing this announcement. I did not blame them. I preferred the short delay too. A short delay sounds nice. It’s kind of like, “There is a delay but don’t worry. It’s only a short one.” It’s the kind of delay you laugh jovially about afterwards over cocktails.

But an unknown delay is unknown. It’s more like, “We do not know how long this delay will last. It may last forever or it might not. We do not even know how many of you will survive it.”

I phoned my wife to let her know that I would not be home for dinner and continued my attempts to distract myself with my laptop.

An hour passed and tensions were already starting to raise. The offer of free tea and coffee had done nothing to calm the nerves of my fellow passengers. Perhaps they feared, as I did, what would happen once the supplies of hot beverages run out after the panic buying started. I hoped that there were not many other English people on the train because an English person without tea is not a pretty sight. I tried to put it out of my mind and tell myself that we would start moving again soon.

But a second hour passed and there was still no rescue in sight. Small arguments had started to break out between passengers and staff. The realization that we were all trapped in a train was starting to set in. The smokers had it the worst. They were starting to go through withdrawal. Eventually the train conductor was forced to give into pressure and opened one of the doors for them before he had a nicotine patch fueled riot on his hands. He pleaded that they stay on board, huddled around the open door and under no circumstances step out on to the tracks in case they got hit by a passing train. I imagine that some of them tried to make a break for it anyway.

A third hour passed and disaster struck. My laptop battery died. I considered making a break for it with the smokers. With my only form of entertainment gone I was forced to face the full reality of our situation. It was getting dark outside and I had not eaten. I was starting to consider searching for gum under the train seats. I wondered if I would ever see home again.

A fourth hour passed and playing eye-spy with myself was starting to get really boring. It was night time. Other trains continued to pass but we remained unmoving. I was starting to forget what my wife looked like. All hope seemed lost. What if the train never moved again? What if we were forced to stay on the train forever? What if we died on the train? What if…

I jumped up and was about to scream when the whole train suddenly shook and lurched. I froze, unsure of what was happening. A second later there was a huge cheer. People started to clap and high five each other. Could it be? We were saved! Yes we were!

The engine that was going to get us moving again had finally arrived and was being fitted onto the train. A short while later (the good kind of short) and we were being towed… back the way we came. I did not complain. I was happy to be moving again. I sat back down in my seat.

When we stepped off the train at Schiphol it was with a feeling of triumph. We had survived the ordeal. We were no longer trapped in a train. We had faced disaster and come out of it as survivors. I felt closer to my fellow passengers. I wanted to hug one of them and shout, “We’re alive,” while bursting into happy tears of joy but the train conductor I had approached with my arms wide open looked very stern so I decided against this course of action.

Instead I boarded another train home and prayed it did not break down.

My original train journey started at 6:26pm. I finally stepped through the front door of my home at 12:15am the next day. Forty minutes my arse.

21 responses to “Trapped In A Train For Four Hours”

  1. Jason says:

    “Fyra” is Swedish for “four.” I’m not really sure what the Swedes have to do with it, but they’ll try to convince you that the name represents the 4 cities it will serve. As you found out, it simply refers to the average length of a delay.

  2. Heidi says:

    And I was annoyed the other day when the trains weren’t running between Schiphol and Utrecht… At least we just had a small detour through Amsterdam Centraal.

    Glad you guys made it off the train before people turned to cannibalism!

  3. dragonlady says:

    We even have ghost trains in Britain. There real trains but they don’t stop at any stations apart from where they start and where they finish.. Apparently its cheaper to run them that not. ?????

    • Kevin says:

      I read an article about those ghost trains recently. They aren’t advertised and they don’t have any regular schedule, but you can get on them if you manage to catch them at the station.

      From what I understand, they do that for lines that they no longer wish to offer service on, but don’t want to abandon completely. So they offer the minimal amount of service possible on that line in order to keep the line on the books, which is often one train a week run at some random time.

      The act of reopening a train line after it’s been abandoned is apparently a nasty, bureaucratic nightmare, so they’d rather run ghost trains on a line rather than abandon it completely in order to easily reopen it in the future if they ever find it necessary.

      Sounds like some bureaucratic reforms are needed if it’s that bad.

  4. Keith says:

    Aw, come off it, that’s NOTHING compared to British Rail. Not only do trains break down and get stuck for hours, but some of them actually disappear, never to be seen again.

    It’s either they have gone through a time-warp, or due to Government cut-backs to save money!

  5. Invader_Stu says:

    Jason – That’s two funny to be a coincidence

    Heidi – Hopefully it was not my train that was blocking the route between Schiphol and Utrecht :p

    Keith – You are right. There are steam trains in Britain that are still delayed. Holland does come very, very close though.

    Dragonlady – Do they have passengers on them or do they just have to run them so they don’t fall apart from disuse?

  6. Alison says:

    There’s no excuse for a delay that long in a country this small. Sorry you had such a nightmare commute!

  7. Keith says:

    Nervous old lady taking her first flight in a little Cessna asks the pilot “What happens if it breaks down?”

    He replied “Then we would have to wait until someone comes up in another plane to fix it. Not to worry though, we wouldn’t have to wait as long as Stu did on the train.”

  8. Wezz6400 says:

    If the train breaks down you’re pretty much screwed. Keeping spare ones available is very expensive, so is having drivers on stand by. A government run rail company might feel it’s worth it, but for today’s private rail companies who struggle enough making profit as it is, the occasional 6 hour delay is simply the cheaper option. It blows, but that’s just the way it is. Politics wants to change it, but without the willingness of paying for it I don’t see it happening any time soon.

    It’s not much of a consolidation, but it could have been worse. There have cases where this happened in freezing weather with the heating out, or very hot weather with no aircondition working and windows that can’t be opened.

  9. Invader Stu says:

    Well. Wish me luck guys. I’m about to leave the office and just heard about massive delays. Let the fun begin.

    Alison – I’d not thought of that either. You’re right. I should have been able to cross the whole country in four hours.

    Keith – Hopefully I never get such a delay on a plane.

    Wezz6400 – And the Fyra has been losing a lot of money as well. They keep on trying to get more people to use it to make their money back but I don’t know how well it is going for them. The good things is I got 40 euros compensation which I forgot to mention in the story.

  10. Hurrah – you made it!

    I suppose this explains the REAL reason why we have not seen much blogging activity from you recently – it’s all due to the Dutch trains!

  11. Invader Stu says:

    Unexpected Traveller – Hahaha. Yeah. I was on the train the whole time and unable to blog. Funnily enough, at the time I thought I could have used the delay to write some posts but strangely at the time I was not in the mood.

  12. VallyP says:

    Have you demanded a refund of your fare, plus damages for stress and anxiety, plus damages for broken promises (40 minutes to 4 hours is more than a slight difference, methinks) plus the emotional distress for your wife, plus the loss of sleep…shall I go on? I really think you have a pretty good case!

  13. French Bean says:

    Good Lord! o_O

    You should start travelling with a “train survival kit” from now on, complete with a thermos of tea and 5 ham and cheese sandwiches!

  14. Kelly M says:

    I feel your pain, Stu. I don’t travel on the Fyra line but I have my fair share of horror stories as an NS traveller. The complete breakdown of services between Almere and the rest of the known universe only a couple of weeks ago comes to mind. I spent 4 hours pacing back and forth between the train station and bus station before I gave up on my epic quest to get to work (my office is close to A’dam Lelylaan). Thankfully, my boss was very sympathetic about it all and gave me the day off. In internet speak, this would be a classic case of epic fail turning into a win. ^_^

    French Bean’s idea of a “train survival kit” is a good one, though I would include a handheld fan. Nothing worse than being stuck on a train for hours without air-co or the option of opening a window..

  15. Jules says:

    Yeesh…that sounds about as bad as SEPTA. When I was commuting every day, I eventually started taking the slightly-longer train through Schipol, because the line between Utrecht and Leiden was down every other day, or so it seemed.

  16. Invader Stu says:

    VallyP – They were actually kind of good about it. I got 40 euros in vouchers. The money back for my ticket and two vouchers for free tea. Of course the tea is all I really care about.

    French Bean – I like your thinking. It must be done.

    Kelly M – I was very lucky that the airco was still working otherwise I think I would have really cracked. From now on however I will take a fan with me in case I am not as so lucky next time.

    Jules – I like the way it has now become known as the TSk :) The hot water bottle and the canned sandwiches sound like a good idea.

  17. dragonlady says:

    The gohst trains do have passengers if they get on at the start of the journey. They just can’t get off untill the end of the journey which may be miles from where they want to be. Unless they feel like jumping off as it speeds through their station. They even have a ticket inspector.

  18. Windmill tales says:

    Oh Going to Schiphol on the Fyra, next month to catch flight. Think I might leave a day early!

  19. Invader Stu says:

    Dragonlady – Sounds useful if you have long journeys

    Windmill Tales – Make it two days to be safe :p

  20. Kevin says:

    That very much reminds me of one time long ago when I was stuck on a broken-down bus in Bosnia somewhere east of Sarajevo for six hours in a snowstorm. It was really cold and I was going all numb by the end. I was the only one on the bus who wasn’t a Serb and I sure didn’t speak the language, so although my fellow passengers were friendly, they weren’t much help when it came to entertainment. We finally got out of there when the next scheduled bus came along and picked us up.

    Then there was another time when I was stuck on an airplane for two hours in the Honolulu airport while they replaced some aircraft part. Two hours in a non-functional plane in Hawaii makes for some very hot conditions. I was so glad when they were able to start it up again and we got cold air blowing on us. On looking back at it, I wish they had let us back out into the terminal. That would have been much better.

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