May I take this opportunity to wish all forum members a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
2011 has been an interesting year rail wise. Rail transport has been fairly high up the political agenda and many positive noises are coming out of Westminster. The industry, whilst it still has many faults, appears to be in pretty good shape.
Another year has passed (bar a few days) without any passenger fatalities on trains, whether that be as a fault of the industry or a third party. Travelling by train is safe and remains so. That said the problem of level crossing misuse is one area where there remains the potential for serious accidents. There have been numerous LC incidents this year, and whilst there have been injuries, we should all be thankful that there have been no deaths.
As the year ends fares and capacity/overcrowding are hot topics on this forum, other rail forums and the wider media. The annual spotlight on the rail industry because of fares increases has been dimmed somewhat by the decision of Government to reduce the increases from RPI+3% to RPI+1%. Still, a 6% increase is significant and will impact on those who have
to use trains, particularly for those whose income is not matching inflation.
In FGW land capacity/overcrowding is being addressed thanks to stock cascades. The Bristol area is already seeing the benefits from cascaded Class 150s from London Midland. The Thames Valley should also see some benefit when the Class 180s return to the Cotswold Line (and possibly the odd TV diagram) freeing up Turbos for use elsewhere. I don't pretend that this cascade will solve all the problems of capacity and overcrowding, but it's one small step in the right direction. Other areas in the country may well have had as good a case for the freed up stock as FGW, so we in Coffee Shop land should be grateful that FGW were the net beneficiaries.
Paddington station finally got more daylight thanks to the completion of the work on the fourth span.
One of the most positive things from 2011, were the Summer Sunday trains to Weymouth organised by the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership
. These days out, along with the recent Santa Special really do highlight the viability of a more practical train service on the line through Melksham. Build it (or rather 'Advertise it') and they will come!
So, what can we expect from 2012?
Well, the biggest thing on the horizon is the retendering of the Greater Western franchise. That process has begun and the DfT has started its consultation process (see http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=10025.msg104191#msg104191
for a current discussion on refranchising and where there are links to the consultation documents). Anyone can submit to the consultation in a personal capacity through bodies such as Passenger Focus and Local Authorities or through their MP. I urge forum members to do so if they feel strongly about issues they feel should be considered for the next franchise. This forum may also, in the coming days and weeks, look to gather opinion from the membership to put to the consultation. That is something under discussion by the admin/moderator team at the moment.
A new and improved Reading station is a work in progress and continues through 2012. Some benefits of the improvement work should begin to show through next year, although the entire project including the track layout and remodelling will continue through to 2015.
I'm sure there are many other things to look back on and forward to. So to that end I'll ask the wider forum for their thoughts on the past year and their hopes for 2012. Over to you.....