I should have known my trip to Preston today would be problematic when I heard that the Waterloo and City line was closed due to "excess dust on the platforms".
Luckily, my route didn't require me to use it but it was clearly a warning sign.
My long distance trip, on Virgin Trains, started out well: by booking ahead I managed to get a first class ticket for less than half the price of a walk-up standard class ticket (and, crucially for expense purposes, for less than all other advance purchases).
However, as soon as we left Crewe, things went very wrong. Network Rail had decided that having four tracks was excessive and that one was more than sufficient. So we spent ninety three minutes stationary whilst trains in front of us and trains coming the other way took turns to use the single piece of track.
By the time I arrived at my client, it was time to go home! I changed my plans to take a later train (I got the ticket office staff to allow it even though my ticket was inflexible) and booked a cab for as late as possible from the client to the station. Even so, this meant that I had far less time with the client than I would have liked.
I'm really not sure if there's a lesson in any of this but excuse of "dust on the platforms" is one I'll always remember. I'm sure there's a poem about this..... "For the want of a vacuum cleaner...."