25th October 2016
I had a few contingency plans for today's travel. Although the distance to be covered was relatively short it depended on either a ferry (subject to the vagaries of the weather and the tides) or a series of tight bus connections.
What I hadn't planned for was a cancellation of the train from London that would get me to Harwich in time for the ferry in the first place. There was another one a few minutes later, but it was a stopper rather than an express and it missed the connection at Manningtree.
I now had two options: Wait at Manningtree for 50 minutes for the next train to Harwich and then start the trip with a bus back to Manningtree, but with a tight connection there for the Ipswich bus. Given the propensity of buses to run late in the afternoon peak this didn't seem very sensible as the Ipswich bus in question would be the last one of the day.
Or, Get an earlier bus from Manningtree to Harwich and return by train for the Ipswich bus. This seemed a better option even though I would be doing the Harwich to Manningtree section of what has to be a continuous route around the edge, backwards.
Plan B looked likely to fall at the first hurdle when the bus to Harwich turned up ten minutes late, meaning we were now due there at the same time the train back was due to leave. Some research on the internet turned up the possibility of a third option - a later ferry to Shotley (across the river from Felixstowe) and then, after a walk and a wait, a bus to Ipswich and on to Felixstowe, where I had a hotel booked for the night. It was all pretty tight. We arrived at Harwich railway station just as the train back to Manningtree was leaving, ruling out one option. I then had 20 minutes to walk to the ferry terminal, which I managed in seven - only to find that this last ferry of the day has to be booked 12 hours in advance, something that wasn't mentioned on the website! With no boat in sight and no one else obviously waiting for one I now had 10 minutes to decide whether to wait and hope one turned up or get back to the station for a train that would - just - connect with the Ipswich bus somewhere near Manningtree station.
I made the train by a couple of minutes and was relieved to see as we arrived back at Manningtree the bus I needed, waiting at the level crossing on its way into the town. I would have plenty of time to get it - as long as I could find the bus stop in time.
And Still More
I found the bus stop easily enough - at the bottom of the station approach road - but I had grave doubts as to whether it was a sensible place to wait. The images show the problem, although you need to bear in mind that it was now after 5pm and all the roads shown were much busier than they are in the pictures.
|Manningtree railway station looking towards Ipswich. |
You can just see the bus stop below the double-arrow station sign on the left.
The A137 crosses over - and under - the railway. I'm not sure which came first, but traffic in both directions has a choice of using either the underbridge (to the left) or the level crossing (to the right). The level crossing is closed for lengthy periods of time for trains to pass. The bus I was waiting for was stuck there for almost ten minutes waiting for a succession of trains on the main line and the branch. The bridge, on the other hand, is too narrow for two lanes of traffic and there is no traffic control or priority. Movement depends on the lead vehicle in the queue waiting for - or creating - a gap in the oncoming traffic. You pays your money. . . . .
So why not rationalise it and send northbound traffic under the bridge and southbound over the crossing? Unfortunately the bridge, as well as being narrow, is too low for anything other than cars or small vans - everything else, including buses must use the crossing, which means being in the right hand lane at the bus stop.
Nor does traffic have much time to decide which lane to use. Here is the view in the opposite direction.
|Manningtree station bus stop looking south|
My bus was due to approach the roundabout from the left and then immediately take the right hand lane for the crossing. Again, bear in mind that the road was now very busy and that when traffic was waiting to get under the bridge it could tail back beyond the roundabout, blocking all access to the nearside lane. Luckily, when my bus arrived the crossing was open and traffic in the nearside lane was moving, albeit slowly. As I expected, the bus driver headed for the outside lane off the roundabout but he did see my assertively-waved arm and forced his way back into the inside lane to pick me up. I thought he'd be in a bad mood, being already 10 minutes late due to having been held up on the crossing, so I apologised for using such an awkward stop, but he just grinned and said that it wasn't a problem.
|On to Felixstowe in the dark|
That was the excitement over for the rest of the day - almost! We had made up a few minutes on the
way into Ipswich and as we entered the bus station I saw the Felixstowe bus loading on its stand. My driver took us down to the stand for his next run - which just happened to be as far away as it possibly could be from the Felixstowe bus. It needed a run (or at least as near a "run" as I can manage nowadays) the length of the station, but I just caught the 76, saving myself another 30 minutes wait and I completed my journey, unusually, in the dark getting to Felixstowe just after 7pm, where the bus dropped me right outside the hotel I'd booked.