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Author Topic: Notes from another journey by train - Melksham to Taunton and back, 5.8.2019  (Read 2703 times)
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« on: August 05, 2019, 09:58:51 am »

If trains always ran to time, if information systems always provided the right information, if the public transport fare system were clear and automatically offered best value, we wouldn't have so much to write about, life would be boring, and perhaps we wouldn't have a forum.  Or perhaps we (and the rail industry) could all turn our minds to future deveopments.

09:50 Melksham to Westbury (10:05 to 10:25) to Taunton (10:58 to 11:08) to Norton Firzwarren turn

The 10:25 Westbury to Taunton - due 10:58 for a conncetion into the 11:08 Minehad bus, left on time. Slow running around Bruton (including a signal stop) resulted in an apology from the train manager that there was a slow running freight in front of us.  A further signal stop after Castle Cary resulted in an apology from the driver that there were signalling problems - and that we would be a bit slow "through the tunnel" but then back up to normal speed. Me thinks the problem was probably the signals all along and the freight was running slow because it, too was in a queue, so the train manager could well have been right but was misleading.

Around the point of our second signal stop, when we were about 7 or 8 minutes (my guess) down, I stopped a passing member of GWR train crew and asked him if the Minhead bus connection would "make".   He looked it up on his mobile device and assured me that although the train was currently expected into Taunton at 11:08 the connection should make - "they'll hold the bus" (which same up on his screen) he told me, adding a caution "it would be different for a train".  Sadly, the 11:08 arrival into Taunton was misleading; I think it was based on the normal running time from where we were at the time and made no allowance for us to go slow for another mile or so, nor for getting back up to line speed. I'll admit I was surprised at the estimate when I was told, but as a mere passenger, why should I question a computer prediction which prseumably the GWR person had sanity checked before he passed it on to me.  Needless to say, the every 90 minute bus had left before the train got in ...

Back (Taunton Station) at 17:23 ... change at Westbury, 18:03 to 18:45, Melksham at 19:00

I *knew* ahead of time, from folloing Journey check and this forum, that the 18:45 from Westbury was cancelled - and indeed journey check was advising a train at 15:15 was available, then a gap to 17:41 change at Bath Spa and Trowbridge, arrivale 19:56.

Don't believe everything you read.  I was able to leave a whisker after 4 p.m. as the booth had queitened down and thanks to some very kind visitors to the fayre who gave me a lift, I was back at Taunton Station by half past. Err - long wait for the 17:41?   Not a bit of it!  The 16:41 Taunton to Paddington (Taunton on time, 10 late at Chippenham) took me to Chippenham.   Arrivng there 9 minutes late, that still gave me 8 minutes for the Melkahsm train which got me in there at 18:17.

Journey planner failure then? Perhaps - or perhaps not. Most tickets from Bristol to Melksham allow travel vis Trowbridge or via Chippenham.  But I suspect the Melksham to Taunton ("any permitted") is an exception to that - not that I am a routing guide expert and that all journeys much be made via Trowbridge.  To cover myself going "Off Piste", I asked station staff at Taunton just before the train pulled in if I could catch it to Chippenham and change there for Melksham, and they agreed. And I noted one of their names, having got his authority to use that route "trumping" the routing guide.  Had I been challenged on the route on the train, I would have probably stood my ground fairly robustly; GWR having cancelled (through their own lack of staff) the train I planned to use, it would have made very bad publicity had they tried to penalise someone who was doing his best where he needed to be in spite of the service loss.

And so - a couple of comments.

I bought my ticket from the TVM at Melksham (why is it still offering Off Peak not Super Off Peak on the front panel for London on a Sunday? - £18 overcharge) and it was not checked once - barrier or human - all day.  Just sayin' ... short of staff and I would rather have them helping passengers and running trains.

Delay - repay.   Now - I could put in for 'over 15 minutes' on my way to Taunton, but that will not cover the taxi I then had to grab to get me to the event for my shift on time. Next bus was 90 minutes later.  And for the return.   I had to leave early; by doing so I saved myself being 56 minutes late; "delay repay" would have been 56 minutes later than plan had I done what was suggested, but I put myself out; guess that saved GWR a few quid too.   I am torn as to what / how much bother to go to on Delay Replay / extra expense as in the great run of things I have far better use of my time ... a better system that the old one, perhaps, but still one riddled with intersting situations.

And so back to the start ... if trains ran, and ran on time, we wouldn't have these isssue on what - at times - feels like most journeys.

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest and of RailFuture
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