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27991  All across the Great Western territory / Smoke and Mirrors / Re: Network Rail - Speaker next Saturday at Taunton on: September 22, 2007, 07:20:39 pm
Hi Grahame

You could ask for confirmation that the doubling of Worle Jn to Weston Milton is going ahead in the next year, and if so it would be nice to know dates as soon as possible, as I presume it will entail quite a lengthy shutdown. In general, an update on progress of major items on the infrastrucutre items mentioned in the last NR» (Network Rail - home page) Plan would be good.   

I'll certainly put up any general interest stuff on the day ... and listen out for that specific / seeif I get a chance to raise it if it doesn't come up.  I guess I should also see what drifts I get on some of the other works that may be in the programs (or may be are just thoughts for the program) such as extra tracks against platforms at Chippenham and Westbury.
27992  Journey by Journey / Plymouth and Cornwall / Re: St Ives Branch line on: September 22, 2007, 05:21:24 pm
The standard rule of thumb is that connections are NOT usually held, and that is stated to be because (a) it would lead to knock-on delays and (b) it would inconvenience the people, usually in the majority, who don't rely in the connection.   I suspect that reason (c) - unstated - is that late trains incur penalties and they are to be avoided if at all possible.

There is something of an exception made into last connections of the day.  (Which im my local area means that the 07:00 Westbury to Swindon will NOT be held if the commuter connection from Frome is late, as there's a train later in the day at 19:35, but that 19:35 WILL be held even though it's a train that runs in marginal time with few passengers.  Funny Old system, isn't it?

To be fair to FGW (First Great Western) (why do I so often find myself talking in their defence now that I'm learning more about ralway operation?), they got something of a mess of a draft timetable for the December '06 to December '07 service which they put right in many areas (the easy ones) and they're planning to put more of these issues right this coming December.
27993  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: 'West' fleet refurbishment on: September 22, 2007, 05:07:17 pm
Hi I went on a 150 today and noticed they had posters up about the refresh. There were 3 pics aswell. 1 i hadnt seen anywhere else. It also said the refurb had started Grin and should be completed within 12 months. Sad

The refurbishement is a rolling program scheduled to be completed in September 2008 - I can confirm that date (from a convesation I had last month with two of the very senior people making the plans) and also that the program ties up a number of units until that point.  These extra units are the 158 units at the moment, and become 142s in December 2007.
27994  All across the Great Western territory / Smoke and Mirrors / Network Rail - Speaker next Saturday at Taunton on: September 22, 2007, 02:11:20 pm
I'm attending the Travel Watch South West twice-a-year meeting (of travel and transport groups in the South West) next Saturday, in Taunton.

We are pleased to announce (22/09/2007) that our speakers will include David Ward, the newly appointed Network Rail Western Route Director. says the on line Agenda

What should I be asking Mr Ward on behalf of the users of his intrastructure who post here?  No promise that I'll get an opportunity, but I like to be prepared in case!

Meeting web site:

27995  All across the Great Western territory / Who's who on Western railways / Re: Alison Forster gone from friday? on: September 22, 2007, 09:07:00 am
Without vision and money, not even Harry potter could fix FGW (First Great Western).

I do not pretend to have the answers for FGW problems, but if Andrew Haines could consider ...

Andrew Haines does come with an excellent reputation - so I suspect the vision is there.  And from the little direct evidence I have so far, he listens internally and externally so that he can piggyback on the visions of others.  I was notably disappointed in the days that First were bidding to take over the Wessex servivces as to how little they listened - "we know all about the services through Melksham" they told me. But those days are a distant memory and constructive inputs and realistic discussions do now take place at various levels.

However - he's right - he's not Harry Potter (who I understand has only limited railway experience anyway, and would not have been considered suitable even if he was available Wink )

Money ... in some areas, a little can go a long way and it might not be needed at all.  The proposal for a major improvement to the TransWilts service which you picked up in your suggestion list called for NO EXTRA INVESTMENT but promised three extra round trips a day, including a key morning peak one that would give the return of a viable service. 

I have not studied the finances of the other ideas you put forward Simon, but I would imaging that late evening service increases would incur extra staff costs but would not mean any more trains were needed (unless there's an issue about time to service them all overnight and some have to be pulled after the peak). 

And alas peak provision is always a nightmare;  it was put to me that it's not efficient to hire an extra train to cure gross overcrowding for 10 minutes, twice a day, as that train runs from Keynsham to Temple Meads in the morning peak, and back in the evening. I know the point was made to me in that way to stress tje issues that need to be considered, but it does make you think.

Barriers / gates / ticket queues.  It's struck me that there is scope to simplify some elements of the system, and a simpler system should be more efficient to operate if only by reducring the number of buttons and menu options.  Why can there be 27 different single fares listed when you ask for a SINGLE from Melksham to London ... currently just two practical trains (07:17 and 19:50) per day?

On price reductions .... the cynical view says that if the trains are full, and there's no easy way to add capacity, then there is no point in the commercial operator reducing prices.  What would the effect be?  Overcrowding, more unhappy customers, and less money to boot.  No point in trying to create a market you can't cope with.

I've actually spoken, and on the record too, that certain fares would stand an element of increase - emphatically NOT the ones you're mentioning, but rather others where the cost per mile is much lower - Melksham to Swindon is about a third of the Chippenham to London rate per mile, and could be increased at the same time that the service is increased to an appropriate level by around 20 to 25% with little complaint or effect on traffic levels.
27996  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Andrew Haines interview - reliabiity and cascading trains on: September 21, 2007, 06:07:44 pm
Andrew Haines, interviewed at Bristol on the BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page)'s lunchtime news.  He was talking about things not being fixed quickly - explaining amongst other things that Network Rail has a lot of catching up to do, and how he would be working to improive reliability.   He described how FGW (First Great Western) are increasing train capacity by replacing trains with 200andsummat seats with trains with 500andsummat, and how there's a shortage of trains available and they're scouring the country to get whatever they can to help further.

He wasn't asked (and didn't offer comment as far as I could tell) what will be happeneing to the 200andsummat seat trains when replaced by the 500andsummat seat ones. I had a dream that they could in turn replace the 150orso seat trains that are full to bursting point on Cardiff - Portsmouth, and then those 150orso seat trains could strengthen other services, provide appropriate extras and help Andrew deliver that improved reliabiity by having just 1% more slack in the system. I expect there's no substance in my dream - are the Adalentes off to some other pastures in the North of England, by any chance?
27997  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: Making sense of December. Dean 7 or 9, Melksham 1. on: September 21, 2007, 05:56:15 pm
I have received an email that goes a way towards answering my question.

Services from Dean to Southampton increase from 4 to 7 (05:46, 07:02, 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11:02, 12:00) rather than to 9 ... the two First Great Western services leave Salisbury a few minutes ahead of two of these trains and altough we have historically referred to them as "stoppers" they now call only at Romsey between Salisbury and Southampton.

For a service that runs twice an hour, with multiple coach trains, I'm scratching my head a little at what extra traffic will be generated by a one-coach 153 running literally a few minutes ahead.  It could be that there's an issue with revenue division, and by running these extra trains FGW (First Great Western) will get a bigger slice of the cake. I don't think it can be problems in changing the SLC (Service Level Commitment), as it have to have been changed anyway to allow FGW to zoom straight through Dean and Mottisfont.
27998  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Making sense of December. Dean 7 or 9, Melksham 1. on: September 21, 2007, 04:11:02 pm
(((Posting this one in a general area as I'm comparing two lines which have separate boards)))

I'm trying to make some sense of the timetables / diagrams that are shown up by the latest FOI (Freedom of Information) disclosure and the On Line Journey planner - making sure I get my facts right before I shoot my mouth off.

Melksham to Swindon in the morning.

Now: 07:17
From December: 07:17

Dean to Southampton Central in the morning.

Now: 07:19, 07:50, 08:54, 11:55
From December: 05:46, 07:02, 07:50, 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11:02, 11:50, 12:00
(Problem - the 07:50 and the 11:50 FGW (First Great Western) trains don't come up on the journey planner, ever though they seem to be a part of the 05:29 off Gloucester diagram ... can anyone enligheten me.

And I read the May propsals being as follows:
Melksham to Swindon: 07:17, 08:20, 11:20
Dean to Southampton: 05:46, 07:02, 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11:02, 12:02

For simplicity in working this our, I've chosen just half the day and one direction. It looks to me as if there may be what is pretty close to a duplicated service provided at the minor Hampshire stations where the services are greatly enhanced even without those duplicates. And that the expense of two useful services from Salisbury, Warminster, Westbury, Trowbridge and Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon.
27999  Journey by Journey / Shorter journeys in Devon / Re: Barnstaple " In Town Without My Car Day" on: September 21, 2007, 08:46:54 am
No, I mean the RSS (Regional Spatial Strategy) feed for this forum:;action=.xml

Further answer.   If you add


onto the end of the URL, you'll get 40 articles rather than the default 10.

28000  All across the Great Western territory / Who's who on Western railways / Re: Alison Forster gone from friday? on: September 20, 2007, 06:31:24 pm
... because many of the below are down to the Dft: ....

Yes and no ... It's not that cut and dried.   Whilst the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) ran the bidding process, it was down to the First group to decide what to bid, and they erred (badly) on the side of paying HM Government a lot of money, and cutting out a lot of what they felt was fat (but has turned out to not be fat) in that high payment.

For example, First were asked to put in an option for providing a Swindon to Westbury service through the day.   The Jacob's report (so negative on other services) had actually suggested that a round trip every 2 hours during the day was pretty "even" in terms of pricing - i.e. it would be neither particularly loss making nor especially profitable to run the service, but when the bid came in (I won't quote the amount I was told) it was soundly rejected by the DfT.    Complex scenario ... and I'm really not sure that it can be said to be down to either party.

On the brighter side, with 50% growth now forecast for nearly all the towns along the TransWilts (that hadn't been quantified, I dont think, 4 years ago), the service as now provided is being generally acknowledged as inadequate, and Andrew will be in a position to make himself very popular with Melksham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome and Warminster inhabitants who want to get to Swindon at very little price to First.
28001  Journey by Journey / Shorter journeys in Devon / Re: Barnstaple " In Town Without My Car Day" on: September 20, 2007, 04:12:34 pm
No, I mean the RSS (Regional Spatial Strategy) feed for this forum:;action=.xml

I've just had a brief look and it's not a standard configuration setting as far as I know, nor can I see it in the administrator's area.    I'm forwarding a note of this thread's URL to one of my Xperts who knows the forum software forwards and backwards and if she has an easy way of upping the current number of articles being fed, I'm quite happy to do so.
28002  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: "More trains less strain" encouraging people to break the law? on: September 20, 2007, 07:42:11 am
Think i've opened a can of worms here!


As a moderator of the forum, I encourage the full frank and open discussion of all the various issues including this one, and I welcome views whether or not they're the same views that I share.   At the same time, I must keep a watchful eye out for everything from copyright infringement to scams being sold though the site to posters who are encouraging others to break the law and pornographic images, and take appropriate steps should such postings come to my attention.  Regrettably, this list of "oopsies" is far from all-encompassing, and I have to hide behind the agreement you all signed up to when you joined, and a "my decision is final and doesn't even have to be explained" disclaimer.

Personally as well, I would not (never ?) encourage anyone to break the law, and if there is any doubt about the legallity of some planned action I would advise caution and checking as far as is practical first.   

Two other comments.

Firstly, I am not in the picture as much as the "MTLS (More Train Less Strain)" folks on the commuter run via Keynsham into Bristol, so I cannont comment specifically on their tactics.  Certainly a boycot in any form of the 06:19 off Swindon towards Westbury, or the 19:35 Westbury to Swindon, would have little effect - FGW (First Great Western) have elected to run these two trains at time to suit themselves and not when they're needed - a tragedy that half the SLC (Service Level Commitment) service is wasted - so they are pretty well empty.  FGW could take a lot more through the fare box, and get a lot of local thanks and support, if these trains left Westbury at 08:00 and Swindon at 17:40.  And they would not even get a whiff of any complaint if that service change were to be made

Secondly, I have to admire the publicity that MTLS have achieved.
28003  All across the Great Western territory / Who's who on Western railways / Re: Farewell Alison .... and welcome Andrew on: September 19, 2007, 06:18:31 pm
Put it this way :

A train that is likely to gradually grow in pax numbers


A train that is going to be full to the rafters.

Put yourself in FGWs (First Great Western) shoes, what would they do?

I would put it this way.  An extra train that simply spreads the existing passenger load over more services, so costs more to run for no extra income, or an extra train that generates significant new business that FGW currently doesn't have .... to the tune of over 100,000 journeys per year, many of which are long distance and will feed the lucrative 125 market.

I've put that extremely "opposite" to you, Liam, to make a point;  a passenger who is crowded out of a train or has to wait 30 minutes for the next service is still a passenger, although one who is inconvenienced.  A passenger who need to travel at 08:00 but finds that the next available service isn't until 19:50 will make alternative arrangements.

Also look at the scale of the needs; I note that to meaningfully strengthen the Cardiff to Portsmouth service would require 8 extra carriages - one per set - and that an extra 153 there would really do diddly-squatfor them, whereas it would make a huge impact "TransWilts" (and, yes, I can forecast when it too might be overcrowded  Grin )
28004  Journey by Journey / London to Swindon and Bristol / Re: 0710 Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington cancellation log on: September 19, 2007, 10:40:03 am
Two e-mails this morning which contradict one another ;-

Cancelled due to a train fault according to the e-mail timed at 05:44.
Cancelled due to resourcing difficulties on the e-mail timed at  07:23.

No contradiction - the resource that they had difficulty finding was a working train by the sound of things  Grin
28005  All across the Great Western territory / Who's who on Western railways / Farewell Alison .... and welcome Andrew on: September 19, 2007, 08:16:38 am
So Alison Forster, Managing Director of First Great Western, has moved on to a new role, I read, where she won't be so involved with the regional or commuter trains.   Some are saying "scapegoat" and others that she is moving from a tricky current situation and future that is of her own making.  And it could also be that it was always the plan for her to move or move sideways once the Greater Western franchise had gone through its initial teething pains - either as a natural progression, or as a calculated "do the dirty work and move on" arrangement.

Whatever ...  I wish Alison all the best for the future if we see less of her - she was always personable, polite and we will miss her.

When the First Group took over the the "TransWilts" train service, there were five trains a day operating each way from Swindon - mostly to Southampton, but some early shorter workings and and one very appropriatly to Frome. Four trains each way on Saturday and three on Sunday completed the schedule.  All services were hampered by a lack of publicity and the weekend trains were replaced by buses more often than not, and yet traffic groth had been dramatic - anywhere between 10% per annum and 35% per annum depending on which measure you took.  Trains that had, in all honesty, been fairly empty in 2001 were getting distinctly busy on 1st April 2006.


A growing service.   A growth corridor.  A public enthusiatic to travel. A lot of people who could be sold on train travel, as outlined by Alison Forster's talk at Taunton to Travel Watch South West shortly thereafter.   So what happened?

Most of the train were withdrawn

The remaining trains were rescheduled in "marginal time" - i.e. run at times that were operatioally convenient, NOT when the prospective passengers wanted them.Passenger number have shrunk (my estimate) by 95%.

What a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY squandered!

We told 'em ... really we did ... but it seems that First and the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) knew best. You do still have direct public transport from Trowbridge to Swindon during the day - it's a bus and takes 95 minutes, not a train taking 35.  The direct daytime train from Melksham (population 24000) to Swindon has gone; instead of 25 minutes in a single, comfortabkle vehicle, anyone who needs to go hospital in Swindon, or is called up for Jury service there, is faces with a journey of between an hour and an hour and a half, with changes on the way - perhaps a walk across Chippenham in the pouring rain ...

I'm not for a moment suggesting that this sorry state of affairs be laid at Alison Forster's door.   Far from it; she was acting as part of a system that puts the Franchise payment to the government, and the payment to her employer's shareholders, ahead of the travelling public and the economic good that's generated by efficient public transport in Wiltshire.   And she / First group have listened to us much more that I would have dreamed when I first got involved with this.

A very large number of inputs were made to First for DECEMBER 2006 and timetables were adjusted ... largely for the good.  BUT FOR THE TRANSWILTS, the only last minute changes screwed up the service even more.

Further inputs were made looking for the return of an appropriate service from DECEMBER 2007, and inded a lot of work was done in the background - a Freedom of Information response received in the last few days has quantified this, but in the end of the day we have NO IMPROVEMENTS AT ALL on the TranwWilts on Weekdays; there is (thank goodness) the return of a Southbound train on Sundays.

And we are now told that we need to make a case for DECEMBER 2008 ...

The Cynical reader will think that the First Group may just be playing along with us - keeping us busy and with no real intent of providing any improvement. It certainly looks like that from the outside.   But actually I think that the majority of player DO want to see the return to an appropriate level of service.

I met for 2 hours over breakfast with two of the directors of FGW (First Great Western) (neither of them being Alison Forster) last month, where they went to a great deal of trouble to fill me in on what they had attempted for this December, and where they suggested we could go from December 2008 .... and I'm working to provide them sith further traffic flows / inputs, etc.

Also last month (seeing a feather in the wind) I dropped a note to Andrew Haines - the new man in charge at FGW I understand - and received back a much more positive response that I would have expected a year ago from a First director.  We have come a long way.

It may be that the plan all along was to play "nasty guy, nice guy" with Alison Forster pruning back services to set up a leaner and meaner network from which the nice guy Andrew could then re-grow an appropriate service.  Even if that is the case, as far as I can see it's in the interest of people in Wiltshire to be very supportinve of Andrew and his team in such developemnts, and I welcome him to the role.

Here's the current Northbound service on Monday to Friday from Melksham:
07:17 and 19:50

Here's what was proposed from this coming December (ex FOI (Freedom of Information))
07:17, 08:20, 11:20, 14:20  and 19:50

And here's what we feel is an appropriate service ...
07:17, 08:20, 10:20, 12:20, 14:20, 17:20 and 19:50

I understand that the PROPOSAL failed very much at the last minute, perhaps due to an oversite on platforming at Swindon of that 11:20 Train.

Dear Andrew,

The TransWilts line connects 6 towns in 40 miles that are all going to have major growth in the next 20 years (Strategically Significant Towns and Cities) and the other transport provision between then is dire.  And people DO want to travel the route.

Please act as soon as you can.  Even if there's a problem with the 11:20 from Melksham, please add in those extra trains at 08:20 and 14:20 from December.  You'll find that an 08:20 to Swindon in the morning will generate you a substantial return traffic on the 18:45 return ... and you won't be adding but be multiplying traffic.

And please work with us towards a full appropriate service in December 2008.  It's not just a question of planning - passengers cannot travel on plans - but of achieveing - and I look forward to seeing you achieve for us with FGW.

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