5-and-a-half coping strategies for a 5-and-a-half-hour train delay

Hundreds of passengers were stranded in a broken-down First Great Western train at the weekend. Here are five-and-a-half suggestions for making a five-and-a-half hour delay more tolerable, writes Kathryn Westcott.

1. Play compensation snap. Many train operators have a "delay repay" compensation scheme but how much one individual will receive depends on ticket type. Passengers delayed by 30 minutes to an hour can claim a 50% refund for a single ticket or 25% for a return ticket. For delays of more than an hour, the full amount for a single journey can be paid, or half for a return journey. Then there are season tickets to be factored in. It could be that there are a number of variations within a grouping of eight seats. See if any two people are able to claim the exact same amount.

2. Talk about it. While many people welcome the distraction of conversation on a long journey, they don't know how to start one. A survey in 2007 found that 75% of all train travellers in the Netherlands were curious about the person sitting next to them on the train. More than 60% said they would like to strike up a conversation sometime but find it awkward to do so. A late-running train is a sure-fire conversation starter.

Image caption Anyone for poker?

3. Start a sing-song. This could be extremely annoying for many people, so if the response is tepid at best, don't pursue it. But you might be pleasantly surprised. After hours of being stranded on an Los Angeles runway last month, passengers on board a beleaguered flight broke out in spontaneous sing-song to lift their spirits. One passenger provided the inspiration by holding up a portable music device and blasting out R Kelly's I Believe I Can Fly. Railways have also inspired some memorable music - Long Train Runnin' by the Doobie Brothers would be a contender - but few would know the words.

4. Pool your resources. In April this year, passengers on a delayed Amtrak train from New York City to Washington DC were treated to an impromptu wine-tasting when a winemaker en route to a conference decided to share his wares with fellow passengers. Janne Nolan, an international security research professor at George Washington University, was one of the lucky recipients. "Realizing he was going to be too late," Nolan reports, "Goldschmidt [of Chateau Siaurac] decided to take out his many wines and launch a spontaneous, engaging presentation of his several varieties of excellent Pomerol. Before long, the disgruntled passengers were singing 'La Marseillaise'." Not too many people travel with luxury wine, but chocolate, water and crisps would, no doubt, go down well.

5. Find a friend. Trains have often been a byword for romance - think Brief Encounter. In February, The Yorkshire Post reported that a public appeal by the National Railway Museum in York for people's stories around the railways noticed a romantic theme emerging. Emails and letters flooded in with tales of love being found on the tracks.

and a half. Cheer every time the word "inconvenience" is used by the announcer.

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