Storm Arwen reminded us that false hope amid crisis is worse than simple pessimism

Regular train travellers – of which I am one – have all experienced what I did on Friday afternoon when the weather warning associated with Storm Arwen turned from amber to red.

It’s a very particular, pit-of-the-stomach sense of dread that creates this almost imperceptible gnawing away at whatever part of your brain controls those stress dreams when you’ve got an early flight to catch.

I am convinced it’s a feeling that is unique to the (genuine) joys of railway travel.

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Over the weekend, I was one of the unlucky thousands who had planned a trip using the East Coast Mainline.

Storm Arwen caused widespread disruption across Scotland and north east England.
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Instead of coming back from a friend’s stag do in York on Sunday, I, along with a friend, was forced to stick around in my home city for an extra day as the mainline stayed resolutely shut.

No problem, I was one of the lucky ones, I could rely on my parent’s wood stove and heating levels that would make jumper manufacturers shudder.

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Others in the North East of Scotland are still without power, some without water.

For an unlucky few, this could last until the end of this week.

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Even Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell took to the floor of Holyrood to rail against the concept of ‘rolling deadlines’, which are a favourite of utility companies and the railways alike, saying initially he had been told power would be restored within four hours.

Instead, it was more than four days.

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For my part, trains were initially planned to run north to Edinburgh for the first time since Friday from mid-morning on Monday.

This target was not hit despite the best efforts of LNER and Network Rail staff, leaving thousands at stations and on trains stranded in Newcastle or Edinburgh for another day.

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There is a certain comforting clarity in deadlines that offer simple pessimism, allowing for the joy of surprise when something restarts ahead of schedule.

Rolling deadlines tend to result in spitting fury when they are missed.

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Companies should realise that while information is always appreciated in times of crisis, false hope is always a dangerous way to go.

It can often cause more problems than it solves.

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