We went from not being able to go far because of Covid restrictions to facing disruption and delays caused first by staff shortages triggered by the pandemic, principally in aviation but also to an extent on rail, which has since become the focus of increasing industrial unrest amid the cost-of-living crisis.
On reflection, it was amazing how quickly we cast off our Covid inhibitions – just weeks after nervously finding myself in close proximity to large numbers of people at a rail conference in Glasgow, I was jostling with crowds of other holidaymakers waiting to drop off our baggage at Edinburgh Airport. But, looking back, it’s also strange to think we were still wearing masks for hours on end as part of the air travel experience.
However, my first vivid travel memory of the year was entirely different – a reminder of how much I dislike turbulence while flying, or any other rollercoaster-type sensation – when coming in to land at Glasgow Airport during an amber wind warning in February. Touching down with something of a bump, the pilot joked: “That was fun.”
Equally unnerving was finding myself trying to get a hotel for my family after a flight home from Gatwick was cancelled at short notice in May in the midst of the aviation disruption. An apparent glitch in Easyjet’s online help section meant we were faced with having to fend for ourselves, and I recall trying to appear calm before securing a room as the airport’s cafes started to close for the night around us.
But such disruption wasn’t confined to the air, and I also experienced the shambolic state of Avanti West Coast in September when attempting to book a Glasgow-London train, only to find seats were available only a few days in advance, with no discounts available. However, the journey also showed the operator’s staff at their best, who managed to get the very busy train to its destination on time despite a significant delay caused by a passenger being taken off for medical treatment en route.
I should also say I’ve enjoyed pleasant flights with Ryanair, Easyjet and Loganair this year, and good rail trips with ScotRail, LNER and CrossCountry. I’ve also had a range of memorably positive experiences on various other forms of transport in 2022, from a trip “doon the watter” from Glasgow to Dunoon aboard the historic paddle steamer Waverley that makes for a perfect day out, to exploring one of Scotland’s forgotten waterways, the remnants of the Monkland Canal in North Lanarkshire.
Even taking a bus again after the pandemic was an unexpected delight with First Glasgow, from the “tap on, tap off” technology that means you don’t even need to ask for a fare, to the increasing number of electric buses in the fleet making for smoother, quieter rides.
Finally, I was lucky enough to have been given advance sight of what could be one of 2023’s biggest Scottish transport innovations – the long-awaited new fleet of Glasgow Subway trains, with their bright, open-plan interiors and see-through ends, which promise to transform the world’s third-oldest underground system.