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Author Topic: Cornish FAQ  (Read 1608 times)
grahame
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« on: June 27, 2017, 03:10:31 PM »

It's often good to tackle questions asked to check your own sanity.  I thought this was a particularly useful set asked by a thoughtful correspondent who, however may not be fully informed on rail.   I would be interested in your thought on my answers

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Why put these huge expensive trains to crawl through Cornwall instead of using Plymouth as the high speed hub with smaller, speedier more frequent feeder services within Cornwall?

Some reasons:

1. You loose between 40% and 46% of your through customers if you make them change trains along the way, so this would result in significant traffic loss from the Cornish main line, perhaps endangering plans to increase the service to 2 an hour (one fast and one slow).  Making people change twice on a journey such as London to Falmouth (Plymouth and Truro) would really put them off, possibly loosing traffic and then train frequency to your local station

2. Adding a change on long distance journeys also increases the overall journey time

3. Servicing facilities at Long Rock are there for the long distance trains and indeed are financially supported by government to be there. You may (or may not) agree with the politics of this, but GWR as the train operator needs to work within government direction on many matters, and I suspect you are happy to see the employment for servicing in Penzance rather than having it all sucked up to the home counties

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Penryn (on Truro/Falmouth branch line) has ended up with a platform probably longer than Paddington - for a two carriage local train. What ever are they proposing to do to all the stations which will have to be changed to take the new mainline trains - and at what cost? What a waste of money!

Penryn Station has two platforms in one - allowing two trains to call there at the same time, passing each other on the single line.   Without a passing loop, the Falmouth branch would only support one train each way per hour, rather than two. The conventional way to pass two trains is to have a separate platform on each side of the track.   However, it was going to be very difficult to add a second platform back at Penryn, so money was spent making the platform longer.  That also saves on the cost of a footbridge; new footbridges must be wheelchair accessible by law these days, and that involves either a long slope or lifts.  Th long platform is a neat solution at lower initial cost, and lower ongoing cost.

A similar system is used on a number of lines in Germany, and is also being looked at for my own home town station of Melksham.

Some platforms are indeed being lengthened to help accommodate longer trains, but all the new trains will have selective door opening, which means that trains will routinely be able to call at stations with platforms shorter than the train.    There is a balance to be struck here - we are unlikely to see every station lengthened to take every train that calls there in full, but with increased passenger numbers the “dwell time” at some stations has become so long as people get on and off through a very few doors.  I know that one particular concern in Cornwall is Saltash, for example.

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Anyone who has actually used trains in Cornwall will know that you lose the will to live as they are SO SLOW! Why not take this opportunity to restructure and improve the whole service? (It could be much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.)

My understanding is that the Cornish mainline goes up to 2 trains per hour, and advantage will be taken of the extra trains to ensure that alternate trains (?) are faster by leaving out some of the less used stations. This will, of course, lead to strong arguments about what should shop where; TravelWatch SouthWest and the Department for Transport are canvassing for inputs for upcoming franchises and/or management contracts.   I would be very interested to have your input and ideas as to how the service could be much cheaper and environmentally friendly - there are lots of ideas and suggestions about and in many ways “the more, the merrier”.  The Cornish main line has to contend with single line sections, and with delays to trains coming from London and Scotland - so a delay at Dunbar can lead to a train calling late at Lostwithiel.

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Why put mainline trains through Dawlish etc when they don't even stop there? And at what £m cost to maintain it! (It should be on a branch line.)

Trains to Cornwall run through Dawlish because there’s no other line.  A number of other routes are looked at in the Network Rail studies, and whilst some of us believe that the options explored are overpriced / gold plated, it would still cost £££ to maintain the sea wall even if the line though Dawlish was demoted to being a secondary service only.   I note you live in Cornwall, so are likely to be more concerned with through journeys, but the consideration needs to be for all - including the people of Torbay who need to get “up country”.

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Why go the scenic coastal route at all? HS2 is spending billions to knock off 20 mins and GWR go all round the houses. We want speed and connectivity to the rest of the UK.
Why is the SW sleeper still supported with £2m of public money each year? (When our local hospitals are under threat of closure.)

The sleeper is a very effective use of time and connectivity.  But really these are questions for your politicians   GWR are a train operator, though, with a franchise for just a few years, and they’re limited by what they can do based on the needs of their company finances and what they’re instructed to do as part of their train operating contract.

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Where do I go to discuss these questions and to express my opinions please?

Your local rail user group?  Our forum as discussed above?  TravelWatch SouthWest’s meetings?  For the branch lines, the Devon and Cornwall Community Rail Partnership are very active and welcome new volunteers;  there is a case for Community Rail on secondary main lines (such as the Cornish main line) too.  Perhaps a model after the Cotswold Line Promotion Group?

Customer and potential customer input is so important as the lifeblood of feedback on current and future provision.   But that provision is so complex that few of us have even a chance of understanding it, its costs, and its ramifications.  People have different objectives too.

I notice that you live close to Penmere Station. The “Friends of Penmere Station” group are multiple award winners for their work in improving and promoting the station - see https://acorp.uk.com/friends-of-penmere-station-are-showing-off/ - and they have good contacts onwards too.   Every years, such groups come together in regional and national meetings to share best practise …
« Last Edit: June 27, 2017, 06:19:53 PM by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2017, 04:01:28 PM »

It's often good to tackle questions asked to check your own sanity.  I thought this was a particularly useful set asked by a thoughtful correspondent who, however may not be fully informed on rail.   I would be interested in your thought on my answers

Quote
Anyone who has actually used trains in Cornwall will know that you lose the will to live as they are SO SLOW! Why not take this opportunity to restructure and improve the whole service? (It could be much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.)

To improve the infrastructure to an extent that would improve journey time enough to make a difference would cost billions not millions due to all the hills, valleys, viaduct & tunnels. As for making it cheaper, on comparative routes it is already cheaper (and quicker) to use the train than the bus.
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2017, 04:08:48 PM »


Part 2, (sorry I'm not that good with computers!)

Why is the SW sleeper still supported with £2m of public money each year? (When our local hospitals are under threat of closure.)[/quote]

£2m is nothing  these days especially compared to the NHS budget of multi billions. How about cancelling Trident @ £40bn to start with...
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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2017, 04:19:54 PM »

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Why is the SW sleeper still supported with £2m of public money each year?

Probably for similar reasons that Govt money is provided to guarantee a frequent air service between London and Newquay.

It could be argued that these services would not exist if that wasn't the case (as the commercial viability on it's own may not support it),
so I'd prefer to look at it as an investment in order to ensure connectivity, and hence drive business opportunities in the area etc.
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2017, 04:33:18 PM »

Many thanks for the ongoing comments - and keep them coming.   I limited my responses to the original questioner to avoid throwing a veritable Tsunami over him ... but I have been coming up with other answers since.

I suspect there's a further answer to "why use expensive trains to crawl through Cornwall" ... to say that they will no longer be crawling once the shortened HSTs have plug doors, and / or class 82 are running.  They feel like crawling because of the very long dwell times at stations caused by having slam doors on a line where the customer base doesn't all know how to slam a door behind it, that skill largely having been lost in modern society!
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2017, 06:59:39 PM »

Why use expensive trains to crawl through Cornwall?


Ummm so Cornwall can have a direct service to London. I gather Cornwall to London is already well patronised!

I'm very appreciative of what we have here in Cornwall, we have some of the lowest ticket prices, coupled with a £10 railcard to make it even cheaper. Not only that we are getting a massive frequency improvement.
Can we tell the contact to appreciate the service and ticket prices we have and to stop moaning?
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Andy
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2017, 07:20:36 PM »

An answer could be that expensive fast trains can whizz through southern England before they crawl through Cornwall, enabling people travelling from afar to skip the boring bit of the journey and then savour God's Own County in comfort. In so doing, passengers will adjust to the more human pace of life they will encounter when they alight at their destination.
 Wink
     


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marky7890
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2017, 02:22:00 AM »



Quote
Why put these huge expensive trains to crawl through Cornwall instead of using Plymouth as the high speed hub with smaller, speedier more frequent feeder services within Cornwall?

After going on day trips up to Devon I would rather get a direct HST back to Cornwall than have to change at Plymouth, sometimes there can also be quite a long wait for a connection too, which hopefully should be sorted within the next couple of years with the improvements in services, in Cornwall some branch lines have a more frequent services than the mainline (St Ives and Falmouth).
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2017, 06:35:42 AM »

Can we tell the contact to appreciate the service and ticket prices we have and to stop moaning?

We can help inform people so that they learn about the wider picture - that things cannot often be perfect for everyone, and the ramifications of suggestion.  At the same time looking and learning about what people are saying and asking.  Where one asks a question, a hundred may be thinking it.   And for all the ideas where ramifications outweigh gains, there will be some which are worth considering in more depth and a few of those which are worth taking forward more seriously. 

It's wonderful if people can appreciate what they have - that doesn't necessarily mean they should stop asking why some things are done one way or another. Almost inevitably there's an answer to "why"; sometimes that answer is a good one and is a full, proper and positive explanation, but at other times it reveals a situation which is rather more questionable or indeed downright wrong in the eyes of some / many.  And it's educational to those of us who answer as well as those who question to do the testing!   Sometimes it's worth taking up an idea, and it's certainly worth channelling the ideas and energy from inputs such as the one I answered here into something that's more effective and in a positive manner.

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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2017, 09:02:53 AM »

Couldn't agree more, Graham.  What's obvious to many staff, enthusiasts and regular travelers can often be far from obvious to new/occasional travellers and other observers.

That is one of the key messages that is being put across to staff with the ongoing GEM (Great Experience Makers) courses.
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2017, 01:42:53 PM »

Quote
Why is the SW sleeper still supported with £2m of public money each year?

Probably for similar reasons that Govt money is provided to guarantee a frequent air service between London and Newquay.

It could be argued that these services would not exist if that wasn't the case (as the commercial viability on it's own may not support it),
so I'd prefer to look at it as an investment in order to ensure connectivity, and hence drive business opportunities in the area etc.
Overheard someone in the Lounge in Paddington whilst waiting for the sleeper a few years ago. He was explaining that the sleeper was the only way they could be in the far south west in time for the early morning meeting without a hotel. Cornwall is a very poor county and I'm told businesses based there need all the help they can get.
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grahame
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2017, 02:20:51 PM »

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Why is the SW sleeper still supported with £2m of public money each year?

Probably for similar reasons that Govt money is provided to guarantee a frequent air service between London and Newquay.

It could be argued that these services would not exist if that wasn't the case (as the commercial viability on it's own may not support it),
so I'd prefer to look at it as an investment in order to ensure connectivity, and hence drive business opportunities in the area etc.
Overheard someone in the Lounge in Paddington whilst waiting for the sleeper a few years ago. He was explaining that the sleeper was the only way they could be in the far south west in time for the early morning meeting without a hotel. Cornwall is a very poor county and I'm told businesses based there need all the help they can get.

There are fascinating discussions to be had around topics here ... most of which I don't feel well informed enough to be able to weigh up - which is why my original answer on this element of the questioning was a little woolly.   On a general note, there's a difference between services that are to the overall benefit of those they serves and those which are of benefit to the rather narrower group of those who manage and operate them.  That's why we have subsidised public transport services in some places - they bring benefit to those they serve, but not enough of that benefit would otherwise be channelled back to the operator to have him operate it with the encouragement of financial support.

I happen to be down in Cornwall next week (for something my wife calls a "holiday"), and I'll be taking a look at (and learning a bit more about) some of the railways there in the process - including planning a trip on the Falmouth line.  I've dropped my correspondent a note, asked if he can recommend a pub I can stop at (with the dogs) for lunch, and invited him to join me.   Not heard back, but then he's a very busy man with a a very wide range of other issues that he's working on if a search of articles in the local paper is anything to go by  Wink.
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2017, 03:35:46 PM »

On your way through, note the paint job that Lostwithiel Station is getting !

As for pubs, I can thoroughly recommend 'The Front' on Custom House Quay in Falmouth.  Perfect for great beer and watching the harbour.

Enjoy Cornwall
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Umberleigh
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« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2017, 08:01:24 PM »



Quote
Why put these huge expensive trains to crawl through Cornwall instead of using Plymouth as the high speed hub with smaller, speedier more frequent feeder services within Cornwall?

After going on day trips up to Devon I would rather get a direct HST back to Cornwall than have to change at Plymouth, sometimes there can also be quite a long wait for a connection too, which hopefully should be sorted within the next couple of years with the improvements in services, in Cornwall some branch lines have a more frequent services than the mainline (St Ives and Falmouth).

Ditto day trips from Devon down to Cornwall, especially Truro and beyond. Nothing worse than having to give up my comfortable HST seat (and buffet facilities) to then hang around at Plymouth for an age and then squeeze onto an overcrowded 150 that is cramped, draughty, stops everywhere and has zero refreshments available.
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Andy
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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2017, 01:16:21 PM »

Is it expected that the new timetable, with IEP and shortened HSTs, will result in quicker journeys through Cornwall as well as the greater frequency?

I suppose it depends to a large extent on how many stops there are. This is problematic because Cornwall's settlement pattern - market towns of more or less the same size at 10-15 minutes train ride from each other - is very different to that of England.


Additionally, St Erth and Par are stops really only because they are junction stations, though the transport interchange development at St Erth is going to alter this somewhat.

In many ways, Cornwall has much to be grateful for with its rail service. The St Ives & Falmouth branches have excellent services, the sleeper still runs and the main line will be very well served by the new timetable. For me, the "problem" line is the long, circuitous and slow Newquay branch but even that has through services "up country" in the summer.     

 
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