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26206  All across the Great Western territory / Smoke and Mirrors / Re: First Great Western Plans To Axe More Services on: February 15, 2007, 04:51:05 am
The movement from a long distance railway company, operating services which a huge number of people use very occasionally, into a company that gets a steadily higher proportion of its income from medium distance passengers - commuters from Newbury, Swindon, even Bristol into London has lead to the use of carriages which have more seats each (and also more room for standing) and also the withdrawal of buffet car facilities.   So we see an increase in seats but a decrease in carriages, and a decrease in the space and comfort and facilities offered to each passenger.
26207  Journey by Journey / TransWilts line / Re: AM Wed 14th on: February 15, 2007, 04:45:57 am
Dawn, I hope the return train was on time too (or do you train / bus home?) and you got back to enjoy a nice Valentine's evening.

Let's see if we can keep up the pressure and see if we can make the shocking state of affairs of a train running on time into normallity  Grin
26208  Journey by Journey / TransWilts line / Why cut to just 2 trains a day? on: February 15, 2007, 04:42:40 am
From an answer I have just written to someone about the service cuts / current level and how it came about ...


Official Answer:

"Trains were lightly used".   Doesn't hold water due to growth rates of between 8% and 35% per annum depending on measure taken, but decisions for 2007 were based on 2002 usage figures with an assumption of 0.8% growth.

Some Unofficial Answers:

1. A short train of slower stock carrying passengers at 20p per mile is s nuisance on the mainline from Chippenham to Swindon where it can get in the way of 7 / 8 car HSTs (High Speed Train) carrying passengers at over 50p per mile and delay them.  If an HST if running late but the slower train is on time, it can delay the HST further and cause a penalty for the TOC (Train Operating Company). Evidence includes the fact that the first train of the day off Swindon is at 06:19 - before the first HST from London.

2. The single track line from Thingley to Bradford South provides part of the only useful route for freight from Southampton to the Midlands and North that avoids Reading and Bristol bottlenecks. It is shown as "high growth" in railway plans and that could lead to a capactity issue. Best get rid of the "TransWilts" service now before it gets too busy.

3. When the franchise was awarded, FGW (First Great Western) / the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) were looking to the local county council to "play ball" and provide some subsidy, but the county council pleaded poverty and the service was lost due to a lack of agreement

4. First also run buses along the Chippenham - Trowbridge stretch, and end to end passengers can also make the journey with a dogleg change at Bath. Both options are much slower and inconvenient, but users without their own transport are forced to use them.The bus from Melksham to Chippenham actually costs more than the train.  Until last April, different operators were involved.

5. The line does not link Labour / marginal consituencies. It's Labour at one end, but the rest is all Blue and Yellow and those are the areas the majority of the passengers come from. So there's no "political will" to provide.  And the people of Wiltshire are a quiet bunch who accept what's thrust upon them with little objection.

6. The service doesn't start from / end in London, nor do the majority of users connect in or out of London services. And Wiltshire, to London based officials, is sometimes just a county of green fields they pass through on their way to the South West. They would personally have little cause to travel between Wiltshire's five largest population centres, all of which are served by the line.

Closure by stealth???

We did wonder.  The remaining timings are a useless combination for any of the regular traffic flows - if the service is right for someone at one end of the day, the return train some 12 hours later is just too far separated from it - people don't work / shop / go to college for THAT long.

However, I received an email in the last few days from the Department for Transport that says "We need to put the 'closure by stealth' concept to one side, as it is self-seeding and insidious in its effect.  I would like to be absolutely clear that there is no conspiracy going on here.  Closure of the Melksham line, whether by stealth or otherwise, is not on the agenda". I'm personally of the opinion that a discussion of the options IS healthy, and looking at a worstcase scenario is a useful exercise in helping to remind us what may happen if we don't react what appears to be an ill-fitted and limited current (and I hope temporary) timetable.
26209  Journey by Journey / London to Swindon and Bristol / Skipping stations ... on: February 12, 2007, 03:57:00 pm
High Speed Services -
From tonight's bulletin:

1548 Paddington to Cheltenham Spa will not call at Reading or Didcot Parkway.
1630 Bristol TM(resolve) to Paddington will not call at Didcot Parkway or Reading.

We apologise for these alterations which are due to mechanical problems.

Odd one - why could this be?    Could it be because one of the two power cars is dead and they're skipping station stops to ensure they're on time at destination?

26210  Journey by Journey / TransWilts line / Re: Meeting - 5th March - all interested parties on: February 12, 2007, 06:44:42 am
invite letter

I am writing to invite you to attend a meeting on the evening of Monday, 5th March to focus community support onto the "TransWilts" railway line that links Swindon, via Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge to Westbury, Dilton Marsh, Warminster and Salisbury.  Formal invites are going out to many organiations involved, but additionally I'm inviting current, past,and potential future users and other interested parties too - this meeting and stong support COULD MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE.

The use of train service linking these towns - including the five largest towns in Wiltshire - grew dramatically up to last December; growth rates of between 8% and 35% per annum are quoted for the five years up to that point, and a service that was very quiet five years ago had become pretty busy by last autumn.  But the service was cut back in December to just two trains a day, running at times that are inappropriate for the main traffic flows.  The reasons given are poor economic value, but arguments from various parties to the decision were based on older (so lower) usage figures, and consultant's reports that assumed a growth rate of just 0.8% per annum.

I have various indications that the service provision is now being reconsidered much more throughly and constructively, with what I believe to be a better chance than at any point previously of us securing an appropriate service to meet customer needs.  But we're still not out of the woods - we need a community push to ensure that the optimism isn't stillborn, and that a service - when provided - is well advertised and supported by the community.  With the Regional Spatial Strategy proposing a high growth rate all the way from Swindon to West Wiltshire, increasing conjestion on the A350 and other roads in the area, and strong traffic flows between the towns in the county, a two hourly service starting later this year makes sense.

The meeting will start at 19:30 (arrive earlier for coffee) at Well House Manor, 48 Spa Road, Melksham SN12 7NY on Monday, 5th March.  If you are unable to attend personally, please nominate an appropriate council member or officer to attend in your place.  You are also welcome to pass this on to other parties and invitethem to attend on a less formal basis.

So that I can plan the meeting, I WOULD like some idea of numbers - it would be much appreciatiated if you can RSVP.

I look forward to seeing you at the start of next month
26211  Journey by Journey / TransWilts line / Re: Meeting - 5th March - all interested parties on: February 12, 2007, 06:43:33 am
This is a special meeting organised by "Save the Train".  We have been campaiging for an appropriate train service for West Wiltshire to Swindon, and from Swindon and Chippenham to Trowbridge, Warminster and Salisbury, for 18 months.

A petition to the Prime Minister, which has just closed, drew nearly 1700 signatures including 8 Members of Parliament, 5 MEPs (Member of European Parliament) and many councillors, and became the top domestic public transport petition on the PM's web site (8th out of over 400 on transportation and infrasturcture).  That's very respectable for a locally based petiton with no formal organisation that ran for just three weeks.

The petition and the wider campaign has received good press exposure - a half page in the Sunday Express, a shorter piece in the Daily Telegraph, and an article in the Metro which actually reprinted the current minimalist timetable.  An item on HTV West showed just how poor by comparison the bus alternative is from Melksham to Swindon, with me taking well over an hour to make a journey that would have taken less than 30 minutes by train, and pieces on "You and Yours" and "Westminster Hour" on Radio 4 should be noted.  And those appearances are in addition to enormous local support from newspapers and radio stations in the area.

At Westminster, Ann Snelgrove, James Gray, Michael Ancram and Andrew Murrison - that's all the MPs (Member of Parliament) for the Swindon - Westbury section - stood up and spoke in favour of an appropriate service during a debate, and Robert Key and Sandra Gidley, MPs for the extension to Salisbury and on to Romsey, have also signed up.

We have received overwhelming encouragement from other organisations at a local and regional level, and we now hear reports of much more serious discussions involving the Department for Transport and the First Group amongst others.  Communications from both organisations within the last few days indicate a door that is pushed far more open to our proposals that at any time previously, with serious attention being given to both the financing and the timetabling of the new service.  And these are THE two key players.
26212  Journey by Journey / TransWilts line / Meeting - 5th March - all interested parties on: February 12, 2007, 06:42:38 am
"Save the Train" - TransWilts Train service between the major population centres of Wiltshire.

5th March 2007, at Well House Manor, 48 Spa Road, Melksham SN12 7NY.

19:00 (tea and coffee) for 19:30. We will meet attendees off the 19:08 train at Melksham, and ensure that everyone gets home afterwards.

Draft Agenda:

1. Welcome

2. Where are we now?

3. How can we get an appropriate service returned?
   (If we get good news later this month, we may be able to skip)

4. Community support to build, sell and retain the new service.
   What do we need to do?

5. Action plan - who, how, mechanisms.

6. Conclusion

It is anticipated that the meeting will close at around 21:30.

Contact - myself (
26213  All across the Great Western territory / Introductions and chat / Re: Lee Fletcher on: February 11, 2007, 06:32:31 pm
I'm delighted to appoint Lee as a Global Moderator on this forum.

Very occasionally, there's a need for someone to "jump in" ... for example to remove posts which are off topic (e.g. advertising erotic material) or to help calm down an argument or remove the sounce code of a virus.  Actually, none of these has appeared on yet, so Lee's life might by quiet for a while ... but if you spot anything that you feel needs attention, let him, or me, or Nick know.

Lee - great to have you on board.
26214  All across the Great Western territory / Introductions and chat / Re: Graham, aka 'Graz'! on: February 11, 2007, 01:04:33 pm
Good to see you here, Graham / Graz.    I've set up this board in addition to "Save the Train" as I've had requests from users of other lines for me to host a forum " like ...." and, after thinking it through - yes, it's a good idea.

The effect of issues is very different on your journey (where ovecrowding is nor rife, I understand) and my journeys and those of my clients, who used to use the train to Melksham (40% of them anyway) but have now migrated away to other means of transport to get here.  But the route cause of the malaise is the same - a contract between the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) and First, and the goals of both organisations who are parties in that  contract, which between them seem to give scant consideration to the customer's travel needs.

Do you feel like telling other people on your commute about this board  Grin  ... it's newly set up, and we don't have the marketing budget nor the team of press people that First have - but we do know we're on to something.  1700 names on that petition rather confirms it ...
26215  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Fares - some ticketing statistics on: February 11, 2007, 12:53:14 pm
On the government's figures ....

48% of journeys are made with season tickets or TravelCards.
50% of journeys are made with tickets purchased at the time of travel.
2% of journeys are made on advanced purchase tickets.

The "purchase at time of travel" category includes cheap day returns, saver tickets and full fare payers.

So if a train company were to remove the cheapest of it's special "walk up" fares and put restrictions on many of the others so that they were less used,  they would be significantly increasing their income.  If they offered a lot of new Advanced Purchase options at the same time, though, that would result only in a slight loss of revenue from that action.

In other word, a train company can significantly alter its balance sheet, at the expense of its passengers, by switching from Supersavers and other deals of that type to the advanced purchase tickets that I'm offered these days in profusion when I call up a timetable ... but which I cannot take advantage of because I don't know exactly what train I'll be returning on ....

Also, for a journey of 150 miles at full standard class fare you'll now pay ...

Over 50p per mile on Virgin West Coast or First Great Western
Around 40p per mile with Virgin Cross Country or GNER (Great North Eastern Railways)
Approx 30p per mile with South West Trains.

Some Bargains around ... 18p per mile, single, from London to Bristol - oh, that's London (Waterloo).

26216  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Who's this forum for? What are the intents? on: February 10, 2007, 06:38:49 am
This forum is provided by a First Great Western Customer, for First Great Western customers.

Although many of us feel that the present product being supplied to us (Feb '07) falls well below acceptable standards, please don't just make this a knocking shop!.

Please use the forum - yes - to report and discuss failings, but also to liaise with others to help make improvements.  That may mean co-ordinating information, publicity ranging from "serious" to "stunt",  and alternatives.  But it also means posting the positive - a good fare offer or  service beyond the call of duty from the staff at a particular station for example.

Knowledge shared is powerful and this can become a real resource.  Please do post up as much other geeral information about the services, places served, good time had in the wedge of the country served westward from Paddington.  And advise on fare options, routes to go, and how to get a seat in the rush hour are all encouraged.

My personal objective is to work with the train operating company (FGW (First Great Western)), with the franchise setters (DfT» (Department for Transport - about)), with the rest of the rail industry (from Network Rail through to the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers)), with local authorities at all levels, and with other passenger groups .... for the provision, together, of an appropriate service - running when and where it's needed, safely and reliably, and at a sensible cost.  And that service should be marketed / publicised so that it's easy to find out about, easy to use, easy for other transport providers to connect to ... and a great moving experience for the customers.
26217  All across the Great Western territory / Introductions and chat / Re: It's James! on: February 10, 2007, 06:18:48 am
Hi, Jim .. and welcome.  Good to spot the errors, but let us know the good aspects too, eh  Wink
26218  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Re: Your forum agreement, and what it means on: February 10, 2007, 06:16:19 am
Some notes on the agreement, and how it relates to

1. Opinions are welcome, whether or not the operators of the board share them, but information which you know to be incorrect (or is misleading) is not.  Personal attacks on people / individuals are unacceptable and the moderators of the board will take appropriate action against anyone who violates these rules ... however,  we have a gentle moderation approach and you're likely to get no more than a gentle warning and a request to change your post if you go "beyond the mark" after a stressful commute from Pangbourne to Paddington one morning.

2. Please keep topics on stream; although we're looking specifically at First's Great Western franchise, other discussions such as the price that Arriva trains pay to rent a train may be appropriate but a site recommending pharmaceutical products probably isn't (travel sickness pills excepted?)

3. It's your responsibility as poster to keep it legal - and there's a whole raft of law from copyright through incitement to consider.   Please ask for advise if you need any - I'm happy to help.  And if you spot anything that you feel isn't appropriate, please met me or a moderator know.

4. Subject to higher legal authority, your identity (such as your email address) will be kept secret unless you choose to reveal it.   The board owners may choose to email you very occasional news updates concerning the board and / or main subjects covered, but it's not anticipated that we'll do this more than a handful of times every year.
26219  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Your forum agreement, and what it means on: February 10, 2007, 06:11:05 am
If and when you sign up for this forum, you're required to agree to the following conditions, which are pretty standard across most forums.

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26220  Journey by Journey / London to the Cotswolds / The train that's caught short on: February 10, 2007, 04:36:29 am
It seems that the "against the flow" early morning service to Worcester gets cut off in its prime and "bustituted" all too often ...
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