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Author Topic: Happy New Year to all of our readers!  (Read 794 times)
Chris from Nailsea
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« on: January 01, 2018, 12:09:36 am »

Happy New Year to everyone in the Coffee Shop!

 Wink Cheesy Grin

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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2018, 09:00:01 am »

Happy New Year to everyone in the Coffee Shop!

 Wink Cheesy Grin



Thank you Chris ... and what a lot of people there are in "Everyone"  Grin

In 2017, we had 315,643 visits (real visits, not search engines) of which 300,921 were identified as being from the UK. Those visits were made by 106,961 different users(1) with visits averaging between six and seven pages each. About a third of our visitors just look at a single page and do not stay; that could be because we're not what they're looking for, or it could be because they land on a page telling them all they wanted to know.

(1) - I suspect that "different users" from Google Analytics means "different devices" and as most regular users these days browse from different devices, I suspect the number of actual people to be closer to 70,000 than 110,000. Many of our visitor are not signed up as members - just surfing and find us - so the proportional drop may not be as high as one would initially guess.

Here are two graphs of the number of new posts made on the forum.  The graph on the left shows the number of posts made every December in this decade, and the graph on the right (or below if you have a narrow screen!) shows the number of new posts each month in 2017.



To a very great extent, the Coffee Shop forum is driven by our subject - the provision and operation of public transport services in the wedge from Paddington to the South Coast in Dorset, though the West Country, and up to South Wales and the Cotswolds.   So a major influencer on our growth or shrinkage is how GWR is doing - be it well with sleek new train, or poorly with trains sitting in sidings unable to run through lack of electricity or lack of drivers.  Human nature being what it is, good news is quickly passed by and bad news tends to stick around.   The other influencers are the long term moves away from independent forums such as our to Facebook groups, and also how well the forum runs - whether there are technical issues that put people off using us.   I have not seen the gentle decay I would have expected in the forum over the years as our member move(d) to social media - though I do see some of the same members on Facebook groups, and I conclude with a reasonable confidence that we do have / have seen some leakage but that it's lost in the ups and downs of how GWR have been doing - the Coffee Shop being driven by our subject.

So - oh dear - the slight year on year growth, and the dramatic rise of posts in the last six months suggest that all is not well with Great Western Railway and its provision for passengers.   You can see this if you browse the forum, with tales of heartache in the Thames Valley for a multitude of reasons, short formed trains leading to overcrowding in the area covered by class 143/150/153/158 units, and a truly shocking catalogue of trains completely cancelled due to lack of drivers or conductors.  And when the disruption happens you find that any backups of alternative services, and information about them, are sorely lacking - which is odd considering that GWR have had so much practise in dealing with these situations.  Follow ups after the event - requests for refunds, questions to customer support, again are an issue - responses take far longer than the customer would expect, or is lead to believe.

I believe that as we enter 2018 we are at something of a turning point.   I am assured by very senior people in GWR that the problems we have been experiencing are a temporary issue due to the electrification of the main lines and the  delays to that program ("it's Network Rail's fault really") and that with a large swathe of trains that have been parked in sidings now actually able to be run as part of the fleet, things will rapidly get better.   Apparently, staff shortages have been caused by all the extra training needed for the current staff to learn about the new trains that are coming to their area.   Alas, talking with people at an operational level, the story is of a simple shortage of headcount - trying to run too many train services with too few available drivers and conductors, and with drivers and conductors getting rather fed up being asked to work yet more extra shifts ... combined with a lack of appreciation of how they put themselves out to keep the service running when "management" don't provide enough people to do the job in the first place.    In reality, I suspect there's considerable truth in both stories that I hear and the real problem is a combination.

I believe that as we enter 2018 we are at something of a turning point.  I have been told to expect a fast (but not instant) improvement in the New Year - that's now.  But then that's from the same people who told me to expect 2 carriages on the TransWilts train from last May, to expect service problems on Sundays and not all week, in the summer and autumn, and who promised that the 08:30 Westbury to Swindon on Sundays would start back from Warminster in the New Year.   If GWR deliver the improvements that they have told us we should expect, I will be delighted and we can start to rebuild (I have customers saying they will "never use the train again" based on recent experience); if they fail to deliver close to what we are lead to believe, then it may be time to look back towards our roots and look to using other (and less popular with GWR) methods to get a service that's appropriate for our passengers and the economies of the areas served.



TransWilts specific - but it could be a microcosm of the area ...

In the last fortnight of December 2017 - 14 days:
- 2 days had no services because of the annual Christmas and Boxing Day shutdown
- 2 days had a full scheduled service
- 1 day, services were lost due to flooding (a new location for floods where track lowered for electrification!)
- 1 day, services were lost due to the lack of a working train to run them
- 8 days, services were lost due to lack of staff to operate them!

Cancellation rates were between 20% and 30% (it depends on whether you treat a train as cancelled if it comes up on all the online planners as cancelled, putting people off, then gets re-instatated and runs with a light load of passengers).   I have no general stats on how long people had to wait for alternatives, but within the sample period I have reports of people being told to wait 2 hour for the next train, and of people being promised taxis "shortly" which didn't materialise within the hour, even with reminder calls.

We are told it will get better from 2nd January.   Good - if it does.

I have suggested a target of no more that 5% of services to be cancelled during January - which should be very much achievable if promises made are not just hot air.  Remember that GWR are contracted to run 99% of services timetabled, so I'm not even asking them to get close to what they are supposed to do all the time.   A further suggestion is that for February, 3% cancellation should be absolute tops.

From tomorrow, there should be a 2 car train on the TransWilts to cope with the ludicrous overcrowding that has stifled our growth.  Frankly, that's less important than getting a train to run at (or a few minutes) after the time that's shown for it in the timetables on a routine basis.    The rail industry has done a really, really good job in putting people off using the TransWilts over recent months, so I actually expect it to take a while to setback to where we were.   And if the rail industry fails to deliver a reliable service as we get into 2018, it will loose so much of the goodwill. It will mean that people can't get to their jobs, nor to their educational establishments.  That visitors are put off coming to the area.   I remember a tale from my early days, when GWR was multiple franchises and a rather irritated Bristol Temple Meads station manager who rose to a senior role in First was heard to say "get that little thing out of our way" to the Wessex Trains team when she wanted the platform for First.  Perhaps First are now looking to win just one of two franchises in the next round in the South West, and really don't give a **** about the "red" services?


See http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=19039.0



It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next couple of months ... and to see and hear what inputs people are making to the DfT in the consultations that are running.  How much effect the inputs will have in steering government decisions and policy is a mute point, but it sure as heck will get the issues more raised that they would otherwise have been!
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TransWilts Rail - Linking North to West and South 9 times a day. [see here]
SandTEngineer
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« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2018, 10:42:47 am »

Back at the begining of Privatisation I used to commute weekly from the far Southwest to my job in London.  For many weeks at a time the trains always ran and were on time arrival at the destinations.  I'm glad in a way, that a change of job back nearer to home stopped all that because, having watched the FGW/GWR performance disappear 'down the plug hole' in recent years, I don't have to do that 'commute' any more.  The two prime trains up to London in the morning have rarely been on time (usually 10 - 15 minutes, or more, late arriving) and the Friday evening regular that I used to catch home, never on time.... Roll Eyes

Well, as an engineer that has been involved in the specification and design of many railway schemes, what do I think the problem is?  Answer: No spare capacity in key areas for recovery.  Look at the evening peak out of Paddington. Approximately one train every 3 minutes on the Down Main alone.  It only takes one train to be delayed by one minute and the service recovery back to 'on time' can take up to one or more hours.  I hate to think what its going to be like once CROSSRAIL starts on the Relief Lines.

Possible solution: Longer but less frequent trains with long distance trains making less stops in the London and Southeast area.  I don't understand why it is necessary, for example, for evening peak West Country trains to stop at Newbury and Hungerford.

Anyway, I'm (semi)retired now so only use trains for leisure purposes now......

...oh, and a happy new year to you all..... Wink
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« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2018, 11:03:41 am »

Possible solution: Longer but less frequent trains with long distance trains making less stops in the London and Southeast area.  I don't understand why it is necessary, for example, for evening peak West Country trains to stop at Newbury and Hungerford.

Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with that comment, I am sure I have heard many times over the years that "we want to get as many people out of London as quickly as possible and we don't care how we do it".

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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2018, 11:11:41 am »

Possible solution: Longer but less frequent trains with long distance trains making less stops in the London and Southeast area.  I don't understand why it is necessary, for example, for evening peak West Country trains to stop at Newbury and Hungerford.

Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with that comment, I am sure I have heard many times over the years that "we want to get as many people out of London as quickly as possible and we don't care how we do it".



There is huge sense in suggesting that all peak hour trains from Paddington should be as long as possible, and should run with rolling stock and initial stopping patterns that have the same performance envelope.  You can then build in the "occasional" spare path to allow for recovery to timetable in the event of an operational issue.

Having made that comment, I recall when the "10 car scheme" came in from London out to Dartford / Sevenoaks that there were complaints that the 2 extra carriages were quiet as they had been added at the furthest point out from the barriers at Charing Cross and Cannon Street, and not nearest to the barriers where the overcrowding was at its worst.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2018, 12:29:04 pm »

In 2017, we had 315,643 visits (real visits, not search engines) of which 300,921 were identified as being from the UK. Those visits were made by 106,961 different users(1) with visits averaging between six and seven pages each. About a third of our visitors just look at a single page and do not stay; that could be because we're not what they're looking for, or it could be because they land on a page telling them all they wanted to know.

(1) - I suspect that "different users" from Google Analytics means "different devices" and as most regular users these days browse from different devices, I suspect the number of actual people to be closer to 70,000 than 110,000. Many of our visitor are not signed up as members - just surfing and find us - so the proportional drop may not be as high as one would initially guess.

Those stats show that each different user made an average of 3-ish visits in the year?
As a number post here on a regular basis, that must mean a single visit by a larger number in the year, to get that average....
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2018, 01:13:07 pm »

In 2017, we had 315,643 visits (real visits, not search engines) of which 300,921 were identified as being from the UK. Those visits were made by 106,961 different users(1) with visits averaging between six and seven pages each. About a third of our visitors just look at a single page and do not stay; that could be because we're not what they're looking for, or it could be because they land on a page telling them all they wanted to know.

(1) - I suspect that "different users" from Google Analytics means "different devices" and as most regular users these days browse from different devices, I suspect the number of actual people to be closer to 70,000 than 110,000. Many of our visitor are not signed up as members - just surfing and find us - so the proportional drop may not be as high as one would initially guess.

Those stats show that each different user made an average of 3-ish visits in the year?
As a number post here on a regular basis, that must mean a single visit by a larger number in the year, to get that average....

Yes - although the footnote mitigates against that.

We do have some evidence of a significant traffic from search engines with people looking for answers to specific queries.   Many find what they're looking for - specialist stuff - and so don't need to register or come here again.   The "chat" that we turned on for a while last summer gave up a flavour of and the opportunity to interact with some of these people - and indeed if we took advertising and used the income to pay someone to man that service, there might be a workable business model.    Hypothetical, by the way - NOT a proposal!
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2018, 03:02:09 pm »

For those in the Thames Valley 2018 will be electrifying  Grin 

The Western Region electric train service was something I had wanted to see since the mid 1980's I was involved in the HEX electrification but not involved in GEWP,

When I started in 1975 the HSDT Intercity 125 were just being introduced, they were modern and faster than the class 47 and rakes of Mk2e's and f's

Looking the other week of a 125 sitting along side an IEP it suddenly dawned on me whist the 125's have given sterling service over the last 40 plus years they are now staring to look dated.    The Thames Turbo's in the 1980's again looked fresh compared to the old Pressed Steel slam door DMU's they replaced but in reality they were not that much of an upgrade, Network Southeast (BR) missed a trick by not having a through corridor connection between units and having air conditioning that actually worked.

Finally the eastern end of Western has a fresh modern set of trains for 2018.

Happy New Year  Smiley
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Mark Carne 26 June 2015 - "The challenges of delivering myriad improvement projects while still running a railway seven days a week were simply overwhelming".
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