Anybody else catch the Today programme this morning? I was lying in bed in my normal semi-comatose fashion self-administering caffeine, when the headline caught my ears that ‘travel chaos was continuing’ after the storm, and that ‘travellers should check before setting off to the station avoid disappointment’ (my relationship with trains in this country is one of continual disappointment, but never mind). At that point they excitedly went over to their transport correspondent in Paddington for a live update. ‘So,’ Jim Humphrys or John Naughtie or whoever it was asked her, ‘scenes of chaos there?’. Er, no, was her reply. All the trains were running fine with no delays. As were the planes. And the Eurostar. As a breaking news story, this was beginning to resemble the Great Dwarf Shortage of 1994 in its total lack of import. Finally, their hapless correspondent managed to dredge up the fact that GNER and Virgin trains were suffering some delays – Virgin Train Delays, the Dog Bites Man of transport news stories – and they put her out of her misery and went back to obsessing about who called whom what on Celebrity Big Brother. I took a calculated risk and didn’t check before setting off to Vauxhall, where the sum total of the promised chaos was the 7:41 running three minutes late and a slight delay at the news stand before I could pay for my paper.
I think the lesson we can learn from this is that if you’re the transport correspondent of the Today programme, you should think very carefully before calling in and using ‘train chaos’ as your excuse for getting in late in the morning. One of these days they’re going to call your bluff and put you on live before the bleary ears of the entire nation.