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31  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: Cambridge to Cardiff to Portsmouth to Cambridge - Fare/Parking Advice Needed on: February 15, 2017, 07:10:16 pm
Thanks for the Didcot suggest, Graham.

In the end, I booked Cosham (that'll bring back memories) to Cardiff Central, so I'll just come down to Portsmouth a bit earlier than planned.  Only £8.90 each way, so beat any fares from London.  Plus I know where to park for free nearby.
32  Sideshoots - associated subjects / Preserved railway lines, Railtours and other rail based attractions / Re: The Somerset Explorer - GWR HST on West Somerset Railway (Paddington to Minehead) - 13 May 2017 on: February 15, 2017, 07:05:24 pm
GWR, Visit Somerset and Buses of Somerset invite you to a special charity event to celebrate the life and work of Bob Smart, the former chairman of Visit Somerset who sadly passed away last year. Bob was the driving force in helping visitors and residents to explore the wonders of Somerset by highlighting tourism, heritage and realising projects to increase Somersetís profile. We at GWR will always be thankful for the strong relationship Bob built with us at GWR and the work he did.

On Saturday 13 May 2017 "The Somerset Explorer" will offer three separate options for the traveller, ranging from a fun filled land cruise across Somerset to a classic train journey from London Paddington to Minehead via Frome. The special service will be formed by a pair of 1976 HST Powercars hauling our classic MK3 carriages and will run via Frome on the outward journey before returning to London Paddington via Weston Super Mare.

Whilst On-board there will opportunities to explore the wonders of Somerset and you will be able to purchase souvenirs of the day and the Great Western buffet car will be open selling a full range of items.

All profits from the day will be donated to the Weston Hospice. On the return journey, there will be a presentation at Weston-super-Mare prior to departure.
The ticketing seems somewhat complex, but range from £30.00 to £100.00.

Standard round trip without discount is £66.50.  Apparently some Facebook groups have been given discount codes.

It's worth noting that First Group (bus or train) employees can taken themselves and up to 3 guests at the discounted rate of £33.25 each.
33  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Cambridge to Cardiff to Portsmouth to Cambridge - Fare/Parking Advice Needed on: February 11, 2017, 03:47:52 pm
I need to travel from Cambridge (or Waterbeach) to Cardiff on the 23rd March to arrive before 2pm.  Can travel back anytime the next day.  I don't want to drive to Cardiff as my destination is right on top of Central Station and there's nowhere to park at my hotel.

Then need to travel to Portsmouth and be there Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th.  But this is the complicated part: I need my car whilst there.  I can arrive Friday or Saturday, it doesn't matter.

It seems a little pointless to travel up to Cambridge (from London) on Friday afternoon, only to travel back past London the next morning.  So I'm thinking of driving to West London somewhere to park, travelling to Cardiff from Paddington.  The train fare is only about £2.50 cheaper each way.  Then I can drive straight onto Portsmouth.  But I've no idea where to park in West London without spending an absolute fortune.  I previously lived near West Ruislip and know there's on-street parking, but it was almost impossible to park there after 9am.

Any suggestions would be helpful.  I'm trying to plan quite a few trips at the moment, so I'm going a little mad and not seeing obvious solutions to logistical problems!
34  All across the Great Western territory / Buses and other ways to travel / Re: Severn Bridge tolls on: January 13, 2017, 07:37:33 pm
As much as I detest selective road charging, a "free flow" system would be much welcomed.

I've been very happy with the Dart Charge system.  You either pay for an individual journey or have a prepay account (a bit like an Oyster card but without the card).  The account gives a discount.  Even when I had a zero balance one time, the toll was still applied to my account (at the discounted price) once I topped up the following date.

Many people say it is hassle having to pay online, but I personally find this easier than having to slow down, queue then count out cash at a toll barrier.  Especially as it can be done in advance and multiple journeys paid for in one transaction.
35  All across the Great Western territory / Your rights and redress / Re: Lack of seats / first class /mother and baby. International perspective. on: December 18, 2016, 01:15:56 pm
There is a video on The Sun website:

Having seen the video now, I'm of the opinion that she is just using the baby as a reason to sit in First Class without paying the appropriate fare.

............and presumably you heard the guy say that there had been an announcement at Blackfriars advising that First class had been declassified?  Smiley

I didn't hear that until I turned the volume up high.  His voice is quiter than everyone else in the recording.  Fair enough if First Class had been declassified.
36  All across the Great Western territory / Your rights and redress / Re: Lack of seats / first class /mother and baby. International perspective. on: December 18, 2016, 12:48:59 pm
There is a video on The Sun website:

Having seen the video now, I'm of the opinion that she is just using the baby as a reason to sit in First Class without paying the appropriate fare.
37  All across the Great Western territory / Looking forward - 2019 to 2045 / Re: Cambridge - future view for a UK city away from our area on: December 18, 2016, 12:35:19 pm
Cambridge's biggest issue has been greed over the last 20 years or so.  The local authority has happily allowed new business to locate to the city, without any consideration for the appropriate infrastructure to be in place first.  What has happened to vast numbers of people have relocated to the city, without having any noticeable increase in housing and without any substantial improvement in public transport.  The type of jobs that have been created (mainly in technology, finance and science) won't appeal to the majority of local people, as very specific qualifications are required to do the jobs.

We now have the situation where most local roads, the M11, A1307 and A14 are fully loaded during the morning and evening rush hours.

Existing solutions (including the busway) only address the needs of a small number of people travelling from specific locations to North Cambridge.  It made no improvement to travel within the city centre.  Nor did it make any impact for people travelling from the (cheaper to live in) areas to the east and south of Cambridge, mostly in Suffolk and Essex.

I think this proposal by John Bridge is another such example of this.  The city is wanting to be at the forefront of technology, without considering any practical aspects of the proposal in the short term.  What Cambridge needs right now is a fully integrated public transport system, with a completely off road (i.e. underground) system in the city centre.  A well thought out underground system could also connect into the railway mainline to places such as Ely, Newmarket and Whittlesford.

I think the biggest lesson to learn from Cambridge is that proper planning is essential.  Attracting world leading business to an area is great, but you need the infrastructure available before the businesses arrive.
38  Journey by Journey / Bristol Commuters / Re: Bristol: former Royal Mail sorting office building eventually chosen as new University city campus on: December 13, 2016, 06:40:59 pm
This is an excellent idea, especially considering the constraints on further expansion around Woodland Road.  Unless things have changed recently, some of the university buildings were in a dire state when I left in 2011, so new developments are much welcomed.

The long distance transport links are also good for the staff.  I know a lot of academics commute some distance for their work.  One of my professors at Bristol lived in Exeter!

However, as someone who previously worked at a university with multiple campuses, travelling between them can be quite frustrating, as something like attending a one hour seminar could easily consume more than three hours of your day when using public transport.  The institute I was working at provided an electric car for this purpose (for staff only).  The concept worked reasonably well, provided it was booked in advance and the previous user had remembered to put it on charge.
39  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: Nearly 100 fare dodgers fined just under £60,000 in latest blitz on: December 13, 2016, 07:20:03 am
I find it surprising that 98 people decided not to show (i.e. plead guilty or not guilty by post).  Would 98 people charged with a non-railway offence, facing a similar fine, not show up?  Unlikely.

I also wonder how many of that 98 could have explained any mitigating circumstances, had they turned up in person.  Especially since the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 (as opposed to the byelaws) requires the prosecution to prove intent.
40  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: Tickets between Bath Spa and "London International CIV" on: December 06, 2016, 08:59:21 pm
If I manage to book £58 return tickets, the Eurostar to Lille looks like a reasonable option. Coach fares seem to be half to three-quarters that, but the coach takes a lot longer and is less comfortable. If Eurostar tickets are dearer, I'll have to wait and get coach tickets.
I have a French colleague who regularly travels back to Paris.  She tells me that Ouibus (owned by SNCF) is actually a good option if you can pick up a low fare.  They usually take the Euro Tunnel Le Shuttle train, so you can remain on the coach for the entire journey, rather than having to roam around a ferry with the other coach operators.  You also get free wi-fi in both countries and power sockets at every seat.
41  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: Bristol to Edinburgh (return): suggestions on possible splitting of tickets on: November 20, 2016, 03:58:24 pm
That compares to 1h 10m by plane, so with check-in and getting to and from Bristol Airport and Edinburgh Airport (9 miles from Edinburgh) perhaps 4 hours?
Having done a similar journey (Stansted to Edinburgh) several times this year (once by train, three times by plane), I can confirm 4 hours is about right for the total travel time when flying, assuming about 45 minutes travelling time to the airport at the England end and a taxi to the city centre at the Scotland end.  This also assumes you are not checking in any luggage and capable of getting through security without flustering around too much (i.e. read up what's not allowed before travelling so your luggage doesn't need to be searched by hand).  Domestic arrivals at Edinburgh are dumped into the departure lounge, from where you can exit to the taxi ranks very quickly.

On the train journey, it took about 8 hours (total travel time, including connections either end) due to a delay.  Nevertheless, flying offered the option of making a day return (therefore saving on hotel costs), that wouldn't have been possible by train, even without the delay.
42  Sideshoots - associated subjects / The Lighter Side / Re: Annoying / amusing use of completely irrelevant stock photos to illustrate press articles on: November 13, 2016, 01:52:28 pm
New one from The Cambridge News:

Is "FLIRT UK" a new destination on the Fen Line?
43  All across the Great Western territory / Buses and other ways to travel / Re: Cambridge Guided Busway - ongoing discussion and updates (merged topic) on: October 24, 2016, 08:02:59 pm
1. How are the buses guided along this guided busway?   I don't see any raised guides, just a dashed white line, and I'm wondering is the buses are guided by having a chap with a steering wheel sitting in them, reading the road layout with his eyes and adjusting the vehicle's direction accordingly?    How does this vary from a regular bus?
It will operate like a normal bus.  General opinion round here is that the council finally realised the "guided" part of the busway was a total waste of money.

I'm very much looking forward to Cambridge North opening.  At present, the journey to Cambridge station (on public transport) adds about 45 minutes to my rail journey, so driving is often an easier choice.  Cambridge station gets incredibly busy at the weekends.  I would argue it is probably not fit for purpose, in it's current form.  A few weeks ago, I counted 30+ people queuing for the TVMs (and roaming staff with Avantix machines) and about 25 at the manned ticket office.  The queue for the ticket office moved so slowly, I missed my train.  I ended up driving the journey, which actually turned out to be much cheaper.
44  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: Rail firm to test Uber-style mobile payments system on: October 01, 2016, 05:58:03 pm
Greater Anglia have been testing something similar in the last few months.  The page on their website appears to have disappeared, so I'm not sure whether it is going ahead or not.

On their implementation: you open the app and start a journey, then using bluetooth your start and end stations are automatically determined.  At stations without barriers, you just get on the train.  At barriers, you have to show the app to staff.  On train checks are carried out by showing the app to staff.  Later on (probably overnight), the back office system determines which fare would be cheaper, taking into account any possible breaks of journey or returns that have been observed.

Personally, I think a TfL style contactless sytem would be much simpler for passengers to use and probably cheaper to implement.  The contactless payment providers (both MasterCard and Visa) have agreed to a new set of rules for transit based payments, including the application for transactions over £30* and not requiring a PIN every x number of transactions.

* = This is already used, as the Zone 1 to Gatwick peak day cap is £30.50.
45  All across the Great Western territory / Fare's Fair / Re: Avantix replacement - coming soon to a train near you on: September 29, 2016, 08:36:26 pm
Saw one of these new machines in use today in Suffolk.  Two passengers in my carriage wanted to buy a ticket.

Passenger 1
Wanted to pay by credit card for fare around £6.  Guard offered contactless, customer says yes, transaction comes up as "card void".  Tried chip and PIN.  Still comes up as "card void".  Tried second card, comes up as "card void".  Guard waits until we are closer to a station and tried again.  First card works this time.  Appears to need mobile signal for all purchases, regardless of whether contacless of not.

Passenger 2
Wanted to buy some combination of tickets.  Guard cannot issue one of the tickets as some fares on that flow do not appear to be in the system.

General comments from the guard suggested most transactions experience an issue of some variety.  But, more positively, I notice nearly all ticket barriers in this part of the world now have barcode scanners attached.
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