It’s not what you want to hear want to hear when you get a phone call from the garage.

“That’s not an engine you’ve got in there,” said my mechanic. “It’s a boat anchor.”

Two pistons had melted entirely, fusing the most important – and expensive – part of my car into a useless lump of metal. It meant I was facing a sizeable repair bill, if not a hunt for a new vehicle.

But worst of all, it meant no end in sight to a public transport commute I had come to dread.

It had all started promisingly enough. At first I welcomed the prospect of a spell making my commute to Bradford from my home in South Yorkshire by train. It would at least provide a bit of respite from a daily 100-mile round trip by car taking in the delights of three motorways, including the notorious M62.

There would be the chance to get some work done on the train – check emails, surf the web, write up the odd report. Finish off a few odds and sods that would otherwise keep me in the office late.

I’d heard my fair share of public transport horror stories, not least where the much-derided Northern Rail was concerned.

But, like many who don’t rely on the buses and trains on a daily basis, I assumed these bad experiences must be the exception rather than the rule.

Especially since Northern Rail’s much-vaunted new fleet of trains had been brought in since the last time I used them. On the first morning of my new commute, I boarded a brand-new model, the grandly-named TurboStar 800, which still had that new-train smell. What was all the fuss about?

I would soon learn.

Until you actually try getting to Bradford by train, it is hard to appreciate quite how cut off the city is.

I knew there were direct trains running from Bradford to London. I’d been on them. They’re fast, they’re pleasant and they stop in my hometown.

What I didn’t realise was that there is precisely one of them per day in each direction, and the times didn’t remotely fit in with my shifts. So that was out. Local services would have to suffice.

That meant changing in Leeds, with a connecting train scheduled to leave three minutes after the first one pulled in. From another platform. Over a footbridge.

A trot along a platform and up an escalator, a full-tilt sprint down another, along the platform and through the closing doors just in time to inflict my gasping, perspiring carcass on the long-suffering travellers of the 0752 to Preston.

That left no margin for error. Train into Leeds a couple of minutes late? Tough, that’s another half hour on your journey.

Which would be fine if the trains could be relied on to run to time. But as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority will hear later this week, levels of ‘significant lateness and cancellations’ are on the rise.

And anyway, one time I even made it with time to spare, only to be left staring at the already-closed doors of a motionless train, wheezing sullen profanities at the stony-faced driver as it eventually pulled out of the station without me.

Then there was the day all mainline services out of Leeds were cancelled and I had to detour via Sheffield.

And the two consecutive Friday afternoons when a peak time train was cancelled for no apparent reason, leaving twice the number of people to fight for space on the next one.

That new fleet is still a work in progress, too. The dreaded 1970s ‘Pacer trains’ – basically bendy buses on rails - are alive and well, seemingly rolled out as a last resort at times when the network is struggling to cope – which, let’s just say, doesn’t really help.

As for working on the train, that proved trickier than anticipated too. Northern Rail provides free wi-fi, but it’s not fit for purpose.

The login screen informed me I was enjoying ‘max speed’ access – in this case stretching the definition somewhat to mean 1Mbps – but that I only had a quota of 150MB before it would slow down still further.

It just about worked for a while, but logging into my emails instantly wiped out a quarter of the allocation and, once the quota expired 20 minutes into the journey it was like going back to the days of dial-up.

When my car was finally back on the road after seven weeks I had never been happier to see a foggy morning on the M62.

Forgive me if this has come across as blowing off steam, but there are some serious points I want to make here.

First, Bradford being shunted down a siding of the rail network is not just an inconvenience to passengers. Investment follows infrastructure, and Bradford is very much on the wrong side of the tracks.

You don’t have to look far for an example: it is no coincidence that the plentiful tracks snaking their way into Leeds station are lined with shiny, ambitious modern buildings and dozens of cranes adding more to the skyline. The approach to Bradford Interchange, by contrast, is a mess of neglected, rubbish-strewn embankments. A new station is an absolute must if Bradford is serious about changing its fortunes – if high speed rail bypasses the city, decades of decline will only be accelerated.

Second, it is positively perverse, when we are actively discouraged from driving to work yet forced to look ever further afield in our job hunts, that one week’s travel on public transport should cost more than running a family car over the same distance. Especially given the travelling conditions.

Those of you who make journeys like this day in, day out, I salute you.