FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan yesterday crossed Wales by train as part of an election publicity stunt - at the same time as up to 22,000 commuters were caught up in more chaos on one of the nation's busiest lines.
The timing of Mr Morgan's train ride could not have been more embarrassing for the First Minister. He tried to highlight investment in the rail network in Wales while it came to a standstill across much of the country.
Work on the Cardiff to Swansea line has overrun from the bank holiday weekend, forcing rail passengers on to replacement buses for the whole week.
Network Rail has since apologised and promised a "full investigation" into why the work was not completed on Easter Monday as planned.
The First Minister acknowledged the irony of the situation as he started his epic nine-hour trek from Cardiff to Bangor on a succession of Arriva trains.
"It's slightly ironic," he said, "But only slightly because you have got to remember that's a £400m investment overall.
"It's very regrettable that the work has taken longer than expected and I'm sure there will a lot of letters flying to and from passengers."
It is understood that a full service will be available from 3.30pm tomorrow , while a limited service between Cardiff and Swansea was due to be running today via the Vale of Glamorgan line.
Western route director Robbie Burns said, "Hundreds of engineers have been working round the clock to finish testing the new signalling system... We would like to thank everyone for their continued patience whilst we finish this crucial work. I can assure you that we will undertake a full investigation into the causes of this overrun once normal services have been restored."
The money being spent on the new signalling system was "a huge investment in Wales" and "the sort of money you only spend once every 40 or 50 years", the First Minister said.
If re-elected on May 3, his party would integrate Wales' transport networks by harmonising rail tickets and timetables with the TrawsCambria bus service. Labour is offering more carriages, discount off-peak travel for pensioners, more police on public transport and better lighting at stations.
Mr Morgan said rail subsidies from the Assembly Government had made travelling from North to South Wales more reliable and comfortable.
"There are more people now using the railways in Wales than at any time since 1959," he said.
However, his words were of scant consolation to the thousands of commuters and shoppers caught up in the seventh day of disruption.
First Great Western, which runs services between Swansea and London, estimated as many as 20,000 of their passengers had been affected by the works, while Arriva Trains Wales estimated up to 2,000 of their passengers had been affected.
A spokeswoman for rail watchdog Passenger Focus said, "Our view is that passengers are quite understanding about the reasons for the engineering works, if they're told in time. Many passengers will have planned their journeys around engineering works, specifically expecting them to end on Tuesday. To find out it's overrunning to this weekend is very frustrating for them. [Network Rail] need to get their timescales right for passengers to plan their onward journeys."
Alun Ffred Jones, Plaid's transport spokesman, said, "I do the journey from North to South Wales on a weekly basis. On the plus side the two-hourly service from Holyhead to Cardiff has been a success but for me to get from Bangor to Cardiff sometimes stretches to five hours. What we're asking for is a proper three-and- a-half hour train journey. We need to keep on investing more highly so we can link this great nation of ours."
Rhodri's publicity stunt yesterday may have seemed a trifle odd, but it was nothing compared to his striking choice of necktie.
Featuring a segment of a large purple saxophone, it would have looked like a poorly-chosen Christmas present from a distant cousin, were it not for the vaguely official-looking crest at its centre.
Either way, it certainly failed to hit the right notes.
Rhodri Morgan's train journey in full
8.50am - Leaves Cardiff Central Station
9.27am - Arrives Abergavenny to meet local Party campaigners
9.57am - Leaves Abergavenny
12.06pm - Arrives at Wrexham to meet local candidates and see site of proposed new rail depot
1.34pm - Leaves Wrexham
2.02pm - Changes trains at Shotton
2.39pm - Arrives at Flint for tour of railway station and town leisure centre, where he met skateboarders (see picture)
4.49pm - Leaves Flint
5.47pm - Arrives in Bangor for door-knocking with local candidate
Total time: Eight hours and 57 minutes
Comparable time for the new Government-subsidised north-south air link between Cardiff to Anglesey launched on Wednesday : Under an hour