On 20 December we caught the 2110 from Charing Cross. At this time there was no mention of the fire at Ashford that caused the evacuation of the signal box, but shortly before Grove Park we were told that the train would be held ‘at the next station’ until further notice.
After a bit, it was announced that the doors would open so passengers could get a bit of fresh air and exercise, as there was no immediate prospect of moving off. Luckily for us the shuttle service to Bromley North was unaffected, and we hoped Bromley South to Sevenoaks would be running.
We walked between the two Bromley stations to find that nobody at Bromley South knew what was happening apart from everything currently being at a standstill. The situation was not helped by a chirpy staff member saying things like ‘this train ain’t going nowhere’ about a Thameslink train for Sevenoaks on platform 2. This eventually reversed towards London. Rochester/Margate services were running after a fashion: we had never seen so many people getting off a train from Victoria outside rush-hour!
After a bit, information seemed to filter through and we were advised variously that we could get to Otford (but train seemed to be held indefinitely at Brixton according to the board), to St Mary Cray, to Swanley, to Orpington . . . There were lots of local service buses outside the station but no rail replacement arrangements. There was nothing going to Sevenoaks despite it being Thameslink, as the signalling was apparently also controlled from Ashford.
Finally we bit the bullet and took a taxi. The driver said that he wouldn’t be able to try to take a fare from Sevenoaks back to Bromley as he wasn’t licenced to pick up at Sevenoaks Station, and we passed lots of cabs returning empty.
Reading about the incident the next day, I found a tweet from Southeastern saying they had arranged replacement buses for passengers at Maidstone, so I thought I’d chance it and ask for a refund of the taxi fare as well as Delay Repay. I really didn’t expect the positive reply I received from David Eustace, Customer Relations Officer, explaining the difficulties of the evening, apologising for our experience and not quibbling about offering a full refund of the taxi fare. Give the man a bouquet!