Last night I was out for a meal, and halfway through chomping on a juicy steak, Robert said to me, "You know when you should finish your blog? When the Northern franchise ends."
I immediately punched him in the jaw for having the temerity to tell me how to write my own blog, but to be honest, I'd had similar thoughts myself. In case you're not up on the world of railway franchising, the company that currently runs trains across the North of England - a conglomerate formed from Serco and Abellio - were beaten in their bid to carry on running the trains by a different company, Arriva (part of Deutsche Bahn). What this means is a lot of new uniforms and posters and, possibly, improved services and routes. (The latter part is not as important as new signs).
When the news came through I was weirdly upset. I didn't start travelling over the Northern map because of some loyalty to the company, or because I thought they were especially good at what they did. They were just the people who ran the trains I wanted to use.
As time has gone on, however, I've grown accustomed to their face. It's like that quiet, nice bloke in the corner of the office, the one you're not actually friends with, but who you chat to easily and who doesn't actively make your life hell. When he announces he's leaving, you get a little wrench, a little sadness, and a little worry about who's going to take over his role.
Thoughts of the Northern franchise ending naturally lead to thoughts of this blog ending. I'm still in double figures for stations to collect, but the numbers are dwindling fast. There have been a couple of Network Rail shaped blockages - the Farnworth Tunnel works have meant that I couldn't collect a station in Manchester, and Apperley Bridge station opened for business yesterday, adding another stop to my spreadsheet. On top of that, Kirkstall Forge and Low Moor stations both have promised opening dates of "the spring", which could be anything between March and May - and the Northern franchise ends March 31st.
So it's possible that this blog and the franchise will end at the same time. It's certainly a date to aim for. I definitely know what the last station will be, and have done for a while. Finishing before the turquoise of Arriva come sweeping in would put a neat bow on the whole experience. But, to quote a different Doctor at the end of his life...