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27406  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Welcome to qprrule as moderator on: March 24, 2008, 09:39:43 pm
"Then there were eight" ...

I'm delighted to announce that the moderator team has invited qprrule to join us a moderator on "The Coffeeshop" and he has accepted.   Welcome - qprrule!
27407  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: So are they really a *xxxx* employer on: March 24, 2008, 10:02:59 am
Find it odd that grahame states he finds this thread not that relevant to this site, i disagree because if FGW (First Great Western) are good or bad to work for it must have a direct impact on the service the customer gets, i thought this site had risen above the FGW bashing of others and wished to portray a more balanced view.

Indeed - I do hope that this site HAS risen above the bashing and name calling on all side, although at times that discussions get heated that's quite a tough one to hold to.   It's quite a struggle at times, but we are very much looking for a knowledgable concensus and good discussion and NOT for slanging matches, name calling, or anyone-bashing.

Let me re-phrase my comment that you found to be odd, dogbox - the thread goes into a very important background topic behind the services offered to passengers and I am delighted to cover these wider issues and learn the real situation.   In real life, I find that I can personally forgive / forget / put up with a lot if I understand the reasons and logic for something; a cancelled train for no stated reason is far worse than a train cancelled because of a member of the crew being taken ill.
27408  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Re: A good time for Coffee Shop questions and ideas on: March 23, 2008, 09:18:56 pm
I had one forum where I was posting that I was roasting a chicken cock - I was, it was a cockerel - but was not allowed to post.

Ah yes - I'm glad that neither Penistone nor Scunthorpe are in our area, nor is Arsenal.  I have similar stories to yours - very appropriate at Easter, I can recall sitting round with a group of very upright reverend gentlemen, throwing naughty words around the room and trying to decide what should and what should not be allowed.

P.S. if anyone ever outlaws crap I'll be off since with FGW (First Great Western) crap and S**t are synonemous with the service and it would not allow the forum to function

Yes - in fact I just commented on this fact in another thread; where it's used as an insult against people of a group of people it has to be outlawed, but I used it, just like you have intimated, to descibe my local train service.
27409  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: So are they really a *xxxx* employer on: March 23, 2008, 08:51:03 pm
"If First Great Western are running no more trains with the 14s/15x fleet than Wessex Trains ran, and no more trains that they bid for in the summer of 2005, why on earth - three years later - are there staff shortages? Did they get rid of too many? Did they find that there is much more natural wastage than they could have anticipated? Did they expect the staff to put in far more overtime that they're prepared to do for the Company? Were they hoping to get away with a far higher cancellation level that the South West public and publicity are allowing? Did they simply get the forecasts wrong?   Have new Health and Safety rules meant far less efeective use of staff than had been planned for?  Are there enough staff, but something has gone wrong with the rostering system?"

It seems very curious to me - very curious indeed - that coming up for the second anniversary of the franchise, we're still hearing about lots of staff being taken on and trained ...

Given such questions, it's only natural that emotions will run high, and at times spill over into personal jibes and insults. Such is human nature.  Indeed, the fact that it spills over this way shows just HOW important it is to people! That's why I've been reluctant - very reluctant - to administer and moderate with more than the gentlest of touches, even if the "how good are FGW (First Great Western) to work for" topic is only indirectly related to passenger issues which are this board's stated aims.   But there are numerous reasons that I have to step in occasionally, blow a whistle, and wave a yellow or red card.

1. There's the legal issue - if it is brough to my attention that a particular post may contravene any one of a whole series of laws, from decency to copyright, and from libel to incitement, it is my responsibility to act on it. I cannot let individuals or entities be called "fools" or "crap", even though I can allow a train service to be describes as "crap" - we have such to Melksham.

2. The forum exists for customers of FGW, or wannabe customers - and whilst that forms the basis of our existence, staff giving good knowledgable answer, or staff discussing points of view civilly is a welcome extension.  But anyone (including staff) calling each other - or other posters, or the unregistered readership names / hurling personal insults at them is not acceptable; that's always been our stated policy.  And - human nature again - pulling the protagonists apart doesn't always result in them calming down; sometimes it just causes a pause and then we see them swing a crafty fist at each other again hoping I won't notice.   Well - I might not, but others do and let me or the moderators know.

3. We have a fabulous team of moderators here, who give freely of their time to help make this a really useful place for the majority of us.   It's totally unfair on them for a tiny minority to make their life difficult by breaking the rules that we have clearly laid down, or seeing how far they can stretch the envelope.  I have little time for people who don't show the same consideration for the moderators that they themselves would wish to be shown if they were in a volunteer position.

Isn't it ironic?  The strong emotions laid bare by this topic have lead to the loss of at least one member who I see is now of "guest" status.  Which shows just how important topics like this are to people.   I wish Mada well - sad to see him go. But at the same time I look forward to seeing this forum developing forward and helping us towards a greater understanding of train services (or lack of them) in this neck of the woods, and how they can be improved to an adequate level; I feel (and so do the other moderators, with whom I havd discussed this) that this can be better achieved within the guidelines we have.

Let's face facts - if I had felt that 2 trains a day,at 06:18 and 18:45 from Swindon, to my home town of 24000 people was appropriate, and that a return fare to London of over 115 pound for the 100 miles if bought on the day was reasonable, then this board would not exist.  If I hadn't found the vast majority agreeing with me, it would not exist.  There is something very wrong with a setup that cuts services by 60%, and increases fares three fold.  I look forward to the day that we can all agree that First - or some other Train Operating Company - are doing a job that's providing what the customer wants.
27410  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Re: A good time for Coffee Shop questions and ideas on: March 23, 2008, 08:06:39 pm
I know of this on other forums, so is there any way to filter certain words automatically as bad language is becoming a problem IMO (in my opinion), and if it was filtered before anyone saw it it would be better.

Thanks - and exactly the sort of thing for us to look at.  Not only would that be helpful in the way you suggest, but it would also do things in such a way that there wasn't any suggestion of different rules for different people.   
27411  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / A good time for Coffee Shop questions and ideas on: March 23, 2008, 04:11:05 pm
"The Coffeeshop" has grown quite dramatically in recent months, and a forum that I started with just a couple of moderators to help has grown quite a bit - to the extent that the moderator team is planning to meet up in the near future to discuss matters that arise, and how we can enhance the boards in the future. We've got a number of topics on our (informal) agenda already, but I'm posting this message up here to let everyone know that if you've any ideas or questions, asking them / making suggestions in the next few days would be a very good idea.   Post here, "pm" me, or email me via ...
27412  All across the Great Western territory / Buses and other ways to travel / Re: SWT v Southern v FGW - a journey of comparison on: March 23, 2008, 02:30:54 pm
Overkill on capacity there me thinks Graham!

For a year or two, yes.  But with the same growth rate as was assumed within the SWT (South West Trains) franchise, this would lead to somewhere around 90% loading by the final (second option) end of the current FGW (First Great Western) franchise.  I got quite a shock when I worked out the numbers!

With the RSS (Regional Spatial Strategy) putting 50% growth into 6 SSCTs in the Wiltshire part of the area covered alone, and without the raising of the A36 / A350 all the way from Southampton to the M4 to a dual carriageway, and with petrol prices ever higher,  I would not be suprised if compound 20% growth turns out to be rather conservative.

To some extent I agree on stock utilisation - there do seem to be some "sillies" around still, but I don't know the full picture on most of them and I'm painfully aware that what looks like an absurdly empty working may not be such on the next leg, or there could be another reason.   For example, I understand (by email) that the SWT 8 car train I saw arriving in Farehame near-empty is near-full when Portsmouth are at home, and in any case it's simply making use of a Fratton to Northam depot move for passengers.
27413  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: So are they really a *xxxx* employer on: March 23, 2008, 01:46:47 pm
In a recent posting smithy claimed that FGW (First Great Western) were in fact a **** employer (his/her words not mine)

You may not have noticed, 12hoursunday, but I locked that other thread because of personal insults and mudslinging that you started there, and I also sent you a personal message reminding you again of the etiquette for posting here.   I'm sorry, but language of this sort is NOT acceptable which is why the other thread was closed, even if you try to sidestep the etiquette by saying "he said it first"; that still doesn't make it acceptable. Neither are personal accusations / suggestions.

I am going to go back and clean up the wording used in your post, but leave the thread open.    There IS a highly interesting point here in that First Great Western are running fewer services than Wessex Trains did in this area, they are telling us they are recruiting and traiining very large numbers of staff ... and yet there are still staff shortages. So I wonder what the wastage level is and why.

27414  All across the Great Western territory / Buses and other ways to travel / Re: SWT v Southern v FGW - a journey of comparison on: March 23, 2008, 12:57:31 pm
I must say I'm really surprised at the low passenger numbers on SWT (South West Trains) services from PM Harbour, but is it always like this? 8 coaches and 4 people leaving seems like such a waste of good carriages. What's that, 1/2 a person per coach!?

Yes - but to be fair it was the least crowded train I saw all day, and at the tail end of its route.   The 15 - 20% loading I've quoted elsewhere was more the average.

Taking Lee's later comment about 20% growth - if you take 15% loading and grow it compound at 20% per annum for 9 years, you get 78% loading in the 10th year, so in that basis it looks like the SWT service levels / capacities are well suited for the period ahead.

Were a similar 20% growth applied to the next 8 years on FGW (First Great Western), currently around 95% capacity or higher from yesterday's snapshot, you would see over 400% loading by the end of the franchise.  Of course, it's physically impossible to have three people standing for each seat taken, so that won't happen.   

The Franschise was let, though,  on a growth rate forecast or around 1% to 2%, I believe. On that basis a 95% loading will still be a loading of only around 110% by the end of the franchise.  However, evidence points to that forecast being dramatically outstripped ... so that FGW services, even with 3 car hourly Cardiff - Portsmouth, won't be adequate through the franchise period; you need something more like 4 coaches every half hour on all sections of the route if the SWT level of growth is reached (and I think it could be with many towns such as Trowbridge, Westbury, Warmisnter and Melksham all slated for huge growth under the Regional Spatial Strategy, and the local papers already full of complains about the A36 and A350 ovecrowded accident blackspotted roads)

Here's a thought to how that can be dealt with in coming years ... making best capacity use, best use of the electric trains from Portsmouth to Southampton.

* An Hourly Portsmouth - Cardiff (4 car)
* An Hourly Southampton - Swindon, giving a 30 minutes Southampton - Trowbridge (operator could be FGW or SWT - possible extension of the Romsey - Salisbury service?) (2 car)
* An Hourly Frome - Bristol and beyond, giving 30 minute Westbury - North Bristol (4 car)

Alternate Westbury to Bristol trains - 2 cars from Weymouth, and connecting across platform at Westbury with the Southampton - Swindon service.

Connection at Southampton from the Southern train from Victoria into the Swindon train, giving connections from East of Portsmouth Island.

27415  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: See You would be no Better off with National Express! on: March 23, 2008, 11:37:22 am
I think we're straying a long way from the origins of this topic here, and I'm not too sure that I'm comfortable with the way the topic is headed - nor with the insults and language that are staring to fly around. Have a look at the guidelines at if you're in any doubt as to where the board's limits are.

The original topic says "You would be no better off with National Express" and I don't know the answer to that. I do know that under National Express, the services that I used were run on a shoestring, with little or no advertising - yet they were useful, used and increasingly used year on year.  Under First, those services that I used have been withdrawn, and I certainly do not feel better off.

However, First had their dictats from the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) (and chose to pay their money to sign up to them) and the management at National Express has changed ... so how would we have done with the same crew staying in charge?  I don't know.

Let's move on, shall we - I'm going to lock the topic, but I'm sure we'll come back to comparisons of First's versus National Express's services in the future.
27416  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: NESTing on: March 23, 2008, 09:56:00 am
Quote from: grahame
Nearly All Seats Taken.

Nearly Every Seat Taken, surely?

OOps - yes - that's what I meant to say!
27417  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / NESTing on: March 23, 2008, 08:53:08 am
I've come up with a new term - "NESTing" - and perhaps it should be the target for all Train Operating Companies.

There's often complaints about overcrowding of trains, but definitions of this vary and people's acceptance levels sharply contrast.  One element looks for a bay of four seats with a table for their group of two people, and feels that the train is too full for comfort when they can't find what they're looking for.  The next group feels that groups travelling together should be able to sit together rather than having to break up.  And at the other extreme, there are people who feel that as long as they can get on the train and stand in comfort, that's OK.  So I propose the NEST standard.

Nearly All Seats Taken. There shouldn't be a need for people to stand in my view (I'll make an exception in the case of short journeys stretches of less than 10 minutes).  But neither should there be an assumption that all travellers have plenty of room to spread out, nor that the seat beside you is designed not for another person but for your bags.

Travelling Southbound from Westbury to Portsmouth Harbour yesterday morning, our 2 car class 158 was nesting all the way.  Excellent, though I think the weather and forecast and Bristol-centric sports program yesterday helped keep it down below the overcrowding level.  I understand that the reverse service that was due to call in Westbury at around 11 was already full beyond capacity before it reached Southampton, and I wonder how the 2 car 158 did on its return - so there IS a need to run services at below the nesting level at times - nesting should be peak!

The train described arrived in Westbury

27418  All across the Great Western territory / Buses and other ways to travel / SWT v Southern v FGW - a journey of comparison on: March 23, 2008, 08:34:56 am
Coming back from Portsmouth yesterday, and arriving at "Harbour" just after the 16:22 had gone, I decided to hop along the coast using other operator's trains to SOuthampton to get a bit more of a contrasting view - to see if we're REALLY being fair to FGW (First Great Western) in terms of slamming them for overcrowding, and lack of appropriate services.

South West Trains

Left Portsmouth Harbour on the 16:54 to Basingstoke - a 4 car class 450.  Warm, comfortable, and very sparse in terms of the number of passengers (estimate - 10% to 20% of seats occupied at some point).  Clean, modern, excellent acceleration.  Changed at Fareham, where its route diverged from the route that I was taking.

Another South West Trains service from Portsmouth Harbour (to Fareham), 8 coaches, was less that 10 minutes behind.  It teminated at Fareham - I saw it arrive, and counted just 4 passengers detraining.

The 17:01 from Portsmouth Harbour, terminating at Fareham


Another 4 car electric train, through from Victoria. On time. Again, warm and comfortable and with a very low occupancy rate, again somewhere in the 10% to 20% of seats taken.  Not quite so clean in terms of a few bits of junk on seats as would be expected towards the end of a long run.   The use of electric trains on this section shown to be really good because of the fast accessleration from the (two) stops on this service and all the slowings for junctions and tight corners.

Inside the Southern Victoria to Southampron service

First Great Westerm

A 2 car diesel train of class 150.  Like the Southern and South West trains, this service was on time but in comparison to them it was noisy, smelly, and dirty. I joined the service at Southampton, from where every seat was taken and quite a lot of people were standing - but it wasn't to the uncomfortable / denied boarding levels.

Passengers remained standing from Romsey to Salisbury, but from that point on I think everyone got a seat, all be it the extra tipup seats in the vestibules were still in use which (perhaps) is not ideal for people making longer distance journeys.

Joining the FGW service at Southampton Central


It was a cold and blustery Easter Saturday with snow flurries which probably reduced the number of sightseers and day trippers from a normal bank holiday. Bath rugby were at home, there was a Cardiff / Bristol match and I understand there were events at the Millenium Stadium.  In contrast, Portmouth were away but I think Southampton may have been at home, not sure who to.

27419  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: 158950 '3 car hybrid' on: March 23, 2008, 08:13:43 am
I was on this today, great to see no overcrowding on what was the 11.10 from Soton (so 10.22 Ports?) with Bath playing at home too. A few people were standing up when there were seats available... Still, takes all sorts.

I was at Westbury at about 10:00 yesterday - headed South - and there was a report that the 09:22 off Portsmouth was full and overflowing by Fareham and had lost 15 minutes - to the extent that an extra at 11:17 was running Westbury - Bath - Bristol - Cardiff.  Good to see that the stock situation has eased somewhat, to the extent that we have a start back for 3 car units, and some capacity for extras.

Class 150 unit in Arriva colours at Westbury yesterday

Portmouth bound 3 car 158 at Fareham yesterday - to form 18:22 back to Cardiff?
27420  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: 'BETTER OFF WITHOUT FGW' on: March 21, 2008, 07:03:06 pm
I'll let grahame answer on the TransWilts May question.

No - we haven't managed any improvements for May ...  Angry

No great surprise, since there aren't any other regular scheduled trains coming through and alterations would be regarded as a major timetabling issue of the sort that happens in Decembers. 

There's a lot of good talk as you may have seen documented around here.   Problem is that there has been a lot of good talk in the spring of both the last two years, and the cynics are seeing something of a pattern and wondering if the TOC (Train Operating Company) makes a lot of positive noises each spring to keep us in line, and supposedly working with them, in the full knowledge that they're going to say "oops, can't do it this year" yet again.  Difficult one, because having been mislead  twice it's very hard to trust ... and some say foolish to do so.

For the reader who may not know Saltash or Melksham ... the level of train service should be very similar. Saltash has a population or 17000 according to Wikipedia, and Melksham is about 30% larger.   Both are through stations, with Saltash being on the main Cornwall line, and plenty of through traffic, and Melksham sandwiched between Swindon and Chippenham on one side - the 1st and 4th towns in Wiltshire, and Salisbury and Trowbridge (2nd and 4th) on the other.  I would expect traffic from Melksham per head of population to be somewhat below that of Saltash - perhaps balancing the difference in population.   I applaud the improvements at Saltash, even though it means we have even further to go at Melksham to get to anything approaching Par
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