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  • XC Consultation launch: May 22, 2018
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Author Topic: Public Consultation on next Cross Country franchise  (Read 1421 times)
grahame
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« on: May 04, 2018, 03:17:02 pm »

Early intelligence (or perhaps not quite so early??)

Quote
The DfT will be launching public consultation on the new franchise on 22/05/18 and they will be holding events in Bristol and  Torquay in June 2018.

The franchise will start in February 2020 and run for 7 to 10 years. 
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 03:15:38 pm by grahame » Logged

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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2018, 09:00:30 am »

Links to consultation document:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/cross-country-rail-franchise

This consultation closes at 11:45pm on 30 August 2018

Quote
Consultation description

The current Cross Country franchise is due to end in December 2019. We are running a competition to select the next operator for the franchise.

This consultation seeks your views on various aspects of the Cross Country passenger rail service. This will inform what the Department for Transport asks from potential operators when reletting the franchise in 2019.

41 pages, 28 questions.  Mirror at http://www.twcrp.org.uk/xc_consult_2018.pdf

TravelWatch SouthWest initial discussion for user groups on 22nd June - please ask me if your group would like an invite and you're not already in touch with Bryony. Space may be limited, so we really should keep this in the TWSW area - Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Dorset and south west thereof.

Any thoughts from members here ... if anyone wants to lead with splitting out the questions and key points - either early on or after 22nd June ...
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2018, 10:11:19 am »

I don't feel qualified to make strategic points, but in my planning for an upcoming rail rover tour to Scotland, I am trying to avoid using XC at all (as normal) as I don't find them an attractive proposition for a relaxing journey.  Some of my reluctance is probably exaggerated, but I have an impression of a train service which struggles to provide me with a cost effective experience. 

If I book a seat I don't know if I will be travelling backwards for hours on end.  If I don't book, my unreserved seat might be taken from me after a couple of hours of settled travel. Even when travelling 1st class (which I will be this time) there is not the ambience in the Voyagers to warrant the high fares when compared with GWR or the Virgin East or West Coast - or even the faded glory of Anglia from Liverpool Street. I have yet to try an IET so hold judgement on that 1st Class offering for now. The limited assets are sweated so much, that boarding part way through the lengthy journeys sometimes means really grubby conditions.  I know the passengers are responsible for creating the mess and getting through a packed train is impossible for travelling cleaners but that's a reason not to put yourself in the mess if avoidable. (Full marks to GWR for sending around cleaners during the Portsmouth - Cardiff journey.)

The HSTs are better than the Voyagers (and Standard seats better than GWR HSTs) but I have only been on one once in the past 5 years.

The ordinary fares are high and make me think of alternatives when considering a journey exclusive to XC (including air travel).

Having said all that, I want to be fair.  I'm perhaps too fussy in my expectations of train travel. On a recent XC journey boarding a Saturday train at Tiverton Parkway on which a very few passengers had to stand to Exeter St Davids (EXD), some young people (mid-20s?) rose from their seats (obscured view, travelling backwards) at EXD and I overheard one say, 'Well that was great.  I don't know why people moan about the trains.'  Make of that what you will.  I've no idea of how far they'd travelled or how much they'd paid, what they earned etc to make them think it was good value.  As the train emptied out at EXD I was able to move to a forward facing window seat and became much more gruntled than I had been.

Staff on XC are generally polite and helpful and will be a great asset to whoever runs the next franchise.
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Phantom
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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2018, 02:53:59 pm »

Those Voyager trains have to be up there as the worst invention to grace our area.
They are always overcrowded, often smell horrendous and rip you off to pay for wifi

The sooner those damn things are scrapped the better
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2018, 04:58:00 pm »

Those Voyager trains have to be up there as the worst invention to grace our area.
They are always overcrowded, often smell horrendous and rip you off to pay for wifi

The sooner those damn things are scrapped the better

Taking an overcrowded train and scrapping it would - according to the laws of physics as I recall them - simply make for more overcrowding on whatever's left.    And scrapping trains with paid WiFi to bring in alternatives with free WiFi seems very much like a sledge hammer (or a wrecking ball) to crack a walnut.

I suspect that running them around in pairs - and adding in other new trains to take over the services from which the second of the pair may have been 'pulled' - might be a pragmatic answer to the overcrowding.  Rather than adding a new type, perhaps 9 car class 801 units might be appropriate for Manchester to Bristol and Plymouth services - running on electricity in the North and Midlands all the way from Manchester to Bromsgrove, and in the West all the way from Westerleigh Junction to Bristol Parkway.

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Adelante_CCT
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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2018, 06:23:47 pm »

Quote
perhaps 9 car class 801 units might be appropriate for Manchester to Bristol and Plymouth services -

Hmmmm, a class 801 might struggle a little between Bristol and Plymouth, as well as most of Gloucestershire  Wink


Quote
running on electricity.....all the way from Westerleigh Junction to Bristol Parkway.

Please tell me that's tongue in cheek  Tongue
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Phantom
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2018, 11:55:18 am »

Those Voyager trains have to be up there as the worst invention to grace our area.
They are always overcrowded, often smell horrendous and rip you off to pay for wifi

The sooner those damn things are scrapped the better

....And scrapping trains with paid WiFi to bring in alternatives with free WiFi seems very much like a sledge hammer (or a wrecking ball) to crack a walnut.

It's no more than a flick of a switch in the carraige between making it available or not
Am I correct in saying Crosscountry are the only franchise that still charge for wifi?
Obviously as per Government policy change they will have to drop this in the new deal anyway
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bignosemac
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2018, 01:18:44 pm »

CrossCountry should have been offering free WiFi by April 2018.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/better-journeys-for-passengers-on-the-cross-country-network

And XC's response to my twitter query:

Quote
We have advised the DfT that we weren't able to launch the free WiFi by April 2018 due to improvements/upgrades being made. They have agreed that this will still be launched but at a date to be confirmed later this year.

Bit like GWR's commitment to Delay Repay. Agree something with the DfT then not bother. Another example of TOCs and the DfT colluding to the disbenefit of passengers. Roll Eyes
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 01:32:11 pm by bignosemac » Logged

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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2018, 03:06:55 pm »

CrossCountry should have been offering free WiFi by April 2018.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/better-journeys-for-passengers-on-the-cross-country-network

And XC's response to my twitter query:

Quote
We have advised the DfT that we weren't able to launch the free WiFi by April 2018 due to improvements/upgrades being made. They have agreed that this will still be launched but at a date to be confirmed later this year.

Bit like GWR's commitment to Delay Repay. Agree something with the DfT then not bother. Another example of TOCs and the DfT colluding to the disbenefit of passengers. Roll Eyes

Hmmm ... technical improvements, or a chance to rake in more money while the passenger's watchdogs are sleeping?

The DfT does think XC are good ... from the consultation

Quote
Cross Country is a good franchise which is generally well run and we want to improve on the quality of service and performance it already achieves. We want the next operator to make real improvements throughout the duration of the franchise, within the constraints that exist.

Also from the consultation in reviewing how we got to where we are:

Quote
A 2016 Direct Award to AXC, which extended the franchise to 2019, included the following improvements for passengers:
●● shorter journey times from Birmingham to Manchester, with a typical reduction of nine minutes on a weekday and 12 minutes at weekends.
●● £20 million investment to upgrade the High Speed Train fleet for improved accessibility.
●● extra services calling at Morpeth.
●● free Wi-Fi, and 4G for faster download speeds.
●● customer services open 24/7, and a new mobile app to buy tickets and check live running times.
●● challenging targets on punctuality and service reliability to improve the passenger experience.
●● the waiving of a £10 ‘change of travel’ fee for Advance tickets.
●● £340,000 per year of funding for community rail partnerships across the Cross Country network.
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2018, 03:18:48 pm »

TravelWatch SouthWest consultation meeting on the Cross Country franchise - 22nd June 2018, Taunton.   A chance to hear what others are saying / listen to some experts who have been reading the document, and help formulate the TWSW and your own group's response too.    TWSW members please contact Bryony ... if this would be useful and you're not already linked to TWSW, please send me a message.
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2018, 01:37:10 pm »

From the DfT ... video setting out the basis. From the DfT this morning

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grahame
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« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2018, 04:21:25 pm »

A very intersting day at TravelWatch SouthWest as our members met to discuss and consider our thoughts and work towards inputs to the Cross Country franchise consultation.  Many thanks to Peter Langham from the DfT for his introduction aftre the video, to Chris Irwin and Frank Chambers for setting the context, disecting the consultation with us question by question, and looking forward to the answer process.  A final round-robin ensured that Bryony Chetwode has captured points from all attendees, and that she will be feeding and working with Chris to get a draft response from TWSW circulated in early August.  TravelWatch SouthWest will be putting in a general response, but also encouraging individual member groups and members to make their own submissions, with an eye to requests and suggestions aligning where possible.

I am now on the train from Taunton, headed up north, and will be writing up further. Three things that shout at me as headlines from the day:
Connectivity
Capacity
Customers

More about those later as I get the opportunity.   Others very welcome to comment.
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« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2018, 09:32:43 pm »

Following on my earlier post elsewhere, I have found this consultation and responded.

Three  points for our forum. Firstly I would like to speak up in support of this franchise and its two holders so far. I thought it was tough on Virgin/Stagecoach to lose the franchise having transformed the service during their tenure. However Arriva have also kept it as a very useful link between those of us in the Thames Valley and the north. The two an hour service to Birmingham, and one an hour to Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton really does provide an alternative to taking your car or struggling across London. The Voyager trains I also find comfortable, although I am aware that those over 6 feet tall find them cramped, and its a shame that there are windowless seats in most (all?) coaches. I am not able to comment on fares as most of my peak hour journeys are for work on tickets procured through work. They are not particularly quick (it would usually be quicker to go via London from Newcastle to Reading), but you can see that there is plenty of slack in the timetable to take account of the fact it crosses everyone else's networks with their problems and delays. It's quicker to Birmingham and (usually) Manchester from Reading.

Secondly- I am amazed how few people know about this service! A colleague from our Manchester office and I had a meeting in Reading, and he was surprised he could get a direct train- even more that it called at his home station, Macclesfield. Network Rail and the franchisees have not done a good job at alerting the travelling public to these useful services.

Thirdly - it occurred to me that this franchise might be a better home for one of the Cinderella services of the GW franchise, namely the Reading - Gatwick service. The service suffers from being unknown to many, made worse by the inconvenience of its departure platforms at Reading (remote 4,5 or 6 - a long walk for holiday makers loaded with luggage, and with narrow platforms) and now unsuitable trains. Until recently FGW used the airconditioned Turbos 166, which at least had extra luggage space in the centre coach, more 4 across seating and two first class sections at either end. However they have now largely been replaced by the 165s with 5 across seating in most of the standard class accommodation, one first class section at one end and which therefore end up  clogged with luggage. Not a good travelling experience, which is a shame as it's another useful service (and a pretty ride from Guildford to Reigate!).

My suggestion would be that the Gatwick service be transferred to Cross Country, perhaps as an extension of the Newcastle to Reading. I've seen elsewhere on this forum a suggestion of upping North Downs services to three an hour, so two stopping GW Reading to Guildford and Redhills and a limited stop Reading to Gatwick operated by XC could be the answer. Perhaps the fragmented nature of franchises and their renewal rules this out. I also appreciate that platform lengths apart from Reading, Wokingham, Guildford and Redhill are probably inadequate. No doubt more knowledgeable users of this forum will know of other problems.

However, would Grahame's colleagues in Wiltshire welcome the opportunity of a single change of train at Reading to get to Gatwick as part of the new franchise?     
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ellendune
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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2018, 09:52:41 pm »

Thirdly - it occurred to me that this franchise might be a better home for one of the Cinderella services of the GW franchise, namely the Reading - Gatwick service. The service suffers from being unknown to many, made worse by the inconvenience of its departure platforms at Reading (remote 4,5 or 6 - a long walk for holiday makers loaded with luggage, and with narrow platforms) and now unsuitable trains. Until recently FGW used the airconditioned Turbos 166, which at least had extra luggage space in the centre coach, more 4 across seating and two first class sections at either end. However they have now largely been replaced by the 165s with 5 across seating in most of the standard class accommodation, one first class section at one end and which therefore end up  clogged with luggage. Not a good travelling experience, which is a shame as it's another useful service (and a pretty ride from Guildford to Reigate!).

My suggestion would be that the Gatwick service be transferred to Cross Country, perhaps as an extension of the Newcastle to Reading. I've seen elsewhere on this forum a suggestion of upping North Downs services to three an hour, so two stopping GW Reading to Guildford and Redhills and a limited stop Reading to Gatwick operated by XC could be the answer. Perhaps the fragmented nature of franchises and their renewal rules this out. I also appreciate that platform lengths apart from Reading, Wokingham, Guildford and Redhill are probably inadequate. No doubt more knowledgeable users of this forum will know of other problems.    

Two immediate issues with this:

1) Cross country is an intercity service and Reading Gatwick stops at every farm gate along the way!
2) Reading Gatwick is 2 x an hour and Reading Newcastle is hourly
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bignosemac
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« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2018, 10:21:41 pm »

Additional rolling stock, staff, and servicing/stabling facilities would be needed. I'm not sure XC could easily find such at the Gatwick end.
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