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Perfect timing

Missed the last train home? Get the time-table and calculator out and plot your next move

Passengers stranded at St Pancras station, London, September 12, 2008
Saunter into St Pancras as if you haven't spent the last four hours on train and foot in an effort to get there © AFP

I can't remember ever being stranded in a city, unable to get home, like I was in London after the India-England game at Lord's. I'd finished work in the press box at 11pm, 10 minutes after the last train for Sunbury, where I'm living, had left from London Waterloo, which was itself a 15-minute journey from St. John's Wood. On Sunday the public transport facilities shut down earlier than they do during the week.

The alternative was to take a cab, but the 18-mile journey would cost a bomb, so I heeded advice and spent the night at a colleague's house. My chances of catching the 10.15am train to Nottingham from St Pancras the next morning appeared thin for I had to make a one-and-a-half hour journey home, pick up my stuff, and leg it all the way back into town.

After examining tube and train timings, there emerged a possible route, one that left no room for slip-ups, no extra 10 minutes of snooze once the alarm went off, and no hope if I missed one of the several connections required to get there and back again. That I'm sitting in Nottingham writing this is due to the clockwork precision of travel services on Monday morning. I wouldn't have had a hope in most other cities.

Woke up at 5am, caught the 5.30 Circle line tube from Bayswater (the service begins at 5.20), got off at Victoria five stops later, took the Victoria line to Vauxhall (two stops away), and arrived on the national-rail platform for the 6.16 train, which arrived precisely on time, to Sunbury with five minutes to spare. Had I missed that one, the plan would have gone bust because there's only one train to and from Sunbury every half hour.

Got to Sunbury at 7 - the journey always takes about 45 minutes - and home after a 15-minute walk. Left the house 40 minutes later and made it to the station to catch the 8.16 to Vauxhall (which arrived precisely on time) with five to spare. The next train was due at 8.46 and would have been too late. Reached Vauxhall by 9 in the middle of rush hour, stood in long queues to get through the tube turnstiles, and eventually sauntered into St Pancras International at 9.30am with enough time to enjoy a meaty breakfast. Of course, I could have saved myself all the trouble and simply bought new clothes in Nottingham. I doubt, though, whether the accounts office at Cricinfo would have been too pleased about that.

I love how punctual and organised the tube and trains are in London. The system is simply genius and its reliability saves a lot of headache and worry. I'm relieved I was in Nottingham during the 48-hour tube strike in London last week.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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