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Author Topic: Snapshot stats - Melksham, end of February and start March 2020  (Read 521 times)
grahame
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« on: March 02, 2020, 07:12:08 pm »

Using the old format I used to use during the 2013 to 2016 trial - a look at how things are going; trains I happened to be using to get to and from meeting before and after the weekend.

Friday, 28th February 2020. Cold, wet.
07:52 ex Melksham 25 on, 4 off then 81 on train to Chippenham.  85/29
14:31 arrived from Trowbridge with 21 on train. 3 got off and 8 on. 29/11

Monday 2nd March 2020. Cold and sunny.
07:52 ex Melksham 29 on, 6 off then 87 on train to Chippenham.  93/35
18:00 arrived from Swindon with 97 on, 37 off and 6 on. 103/43

In purple bold, the first figure is the total number of passenger journeys on the train on the section between Chippenham and Trowbridge - where there are no alternative services. The second figure is the number of people making use of that train at Melksham - getting on and getting off there. We do count babies and infants (not that I can recall more than 1 or 2 in these counts) and our counts will include staff not on duty, so numbers are likely to be a little higher than number of tickets sold.
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2020, 11:11:36 am »

Do you think this is still increasing Grahame, or it has levelled off until a better (more frequent) service is provided.

Also, is there a black hole in Swindon (or Chippenham)?  87 got on one of two commuter services in the morning, but only 37 got off the only sensible commuter service back in the evening?
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Phil
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2020, 11:31:38 am »

Do you think this is still increasing Grahame, or it has levelled off until a better (more frequent) service is provided.


I'm not sure it's frequency so much as service unreliability. I am aware of several people who I'd formerly see very regularly on my commute who got tired of setting out not knowing if they'd reach their destination in time or if they did, whether they'd ever be able to get home again. They have all drifted away in the past few months.

I know it's an unimaginably awful thing for all concerned and I'm reluctant to mention it even now, but to be brutally honest cancelling services between Westbury and Swindon for the best part of a day because of a person hit by a train in Didcot (as happened a while back) wasn't an easy thing for me to explain to a young guy who was in tears and desperate to get to his job in Trowbridge because he was already on a formal warning about his timekeeping. You don't see the M5 in Devon being closed because of an accident on the M74, so why should it be different on the railways? I'm sure there was a perfectly valid operational reason at the time, but it wouldn't have helped even if I could have explained it. I never saw him again either.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2020, 12:29:27 pm »

... is there a black hole in Swindon (or Chippenham)?  87 got on one of two commuter services in the morning, but only 37 got off the only sensible commuter service back in the evening?

No - I lacked clarity in my documentation.  25 people got onto the train at Melksham, which left with 87 people on board. So that was 62 through passengers who joined at either Westbury or Trowbridge and stayed on until either Chippenham or Swindon.  Additionally, 6 passengers travelled from Westbury or Trowbridge and got off at Melksham.

the 07:52 is the busiest northbound train at Melksham each day (both in terms of passenger on or off at Melksham) and the 18:00 is the busiest southbound.  However, the 18:00 is busier than the 07:52, as it also carries a lot of passengers who travel north on the 07:19.    Capacity of the 18:00 was what initially stopped our meteoric growth - no room for more passengers. Since it became 2 cars, 2 years ago, we've had the year in which electrification work in the Newbury area left us back down from 8 to 2 trains a day for 50 days, and the year which seemed to be short notice cancellations due to "lack of crew" which put people off.   I will address "what's holding you back now" - the second part of your question - in a further follow up, including a comment on Phil's post.
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2020, 02:59:57 pm »

Do you think this is still increasing Grahame, or it has levelled off until a better (more frequent) service is provided.

I'm not sure it's frequency so much as service unreliability. I am aware of several people who I'd formerly see very regularly on my commute who got tired of setting out not knowing if they'd reach their destination in time or if they did, whether they'd ever be able to get home again. They have all drifted away in the past few months.

There are a number of factors which have been holding back growth. And, yes, we need a "better" service.   

Better is first and foremost in terms of reliability. Service failure (percentage of scheduled services that do not depart from Melksham) really needs to be consistently well below 2%.  But here is the current record:
6.5% - June 2019
6.4% - July 2019
9.6% - August 2019
5.5% - September 2019
4.9% - October 2019
2.2% - Novemeber 2019
7.1% - December 2019
2.4% - January 2020
7.1% - February 2020
And starting March with 6% for the first four days.

At cancellation rates in excess of 2% every single month (more than twice that level most months!), passengers are simply getting fed up and looking for alternatives.  You can see this in the number of cars parked at the station, which has plummeted; car drivers (unlike many others) have the option of driving to Chippenham, Bradford-on-Avon or Westbury (or if they're driving out of town anyway, doing their whole journey by car!).   You also see this mistrust in the behaviour of "kiss and ride" access to trains, where instead of dropping off and driving away, the norm is now to hover until the train pulls in.

The effect of a cancellation (also when a connection missed) is exacerbated by length waits for alternative travel.  Not uncommon to see someone reporting having to wait for the next train - the 19:06 from Chippenham was cancelled about 10 days ago, and passengers reported on social media that they had to wait for the 21:00. And even for those who "know their rights" and demand better, there's been waits of 90 minutes at an unstaffed station for provision of a taxi. GWR have done a little better at times in providing a bus, and especially when a station is staffed, but there's still very slow provision of alternatives and a habit of answering questions from an operational viewpoint and not from a customer's persepective.  "I see the 19:06 is cancelled - when it the next train" ...
Operational viewpoint: "Not until 21:00, I'm afraid sir"
Customer perspective: "Not for a long time sir, so we'll provide a taxi for you"

We have long felt that cancelling a train when there isn't another one due for two hours should be a last resort. However, at times it feels like a first choice option - witness our cancellation rates versus GWR averages.

So Better is first and foremost about reliability of the service. If GWR were to halve the number of trains they cancel, it would still be worse that other lines but if that were a consistent improvement, it would for sure be better and numbers would grow.  [bWith the present state of affairs, the single thing that GWR could do to provide a better service would be to run all except the very, very occasional train to the published timetable.[/b]

So - reliability, reliability, reliability ... then what?
1. More frequent services
2. Extended operational day
3. Better connection and through services
4. Better and easier ways to get to and from the station
5. Interchangable rail and bus tickets on corridors where they both run
6. Better fare and timetable information

Before you suggest I am looking for just about everything ... I have NOT asked for
A. Better local fares
B. Safer trains
C. Politer staff
D. Longer trains
E. Buffet cars (or even trollies)
F. Quiet coaches



I know it's an unimaginably awful thing for all concerned and I'm reluctant to mention it even now, but to be brutally honest cancelling services between Westbury and Swindon for the best part of a day because of a person hit by a train in Didcot (as happened a while back) wasn't an easy thing for me to explain to a young guy who was in tears and desperate to get to his job in Trowbridge because he was already on a formal warning about his timekeeping. You don't see the M5 in Devon being closed because of an accident on the M74, so why should it be different on the railways? I'm sure there was a perfectly valid operational reason at the time, but it wouldn't have helped even if I could have explained it. I never saw him again either.

Three of the cancellation at Melksham last month were described as due to "Person hit by train". And in two of the three cases, the train that failed to call was long after the time specified on Journey check as "disruption is expected until xx:yy".  Two of the three I can understand and forgive ... the third related to an incident far away some five hours earlier and it looked rather as if GWR had been left a train short so decided to cancel ours.   I did dare to express concern, and received a sharp response; there are certain code - AK, J4, VA, VC, VD, VG, XC, XF  - https://wiki.openraildata.com/index.php/Delay_Attribution_Guide where its feels in poor taste to even ask, but can leave one sometimes with the feeling that there may be other causes too.  As a less sensitive issue, the recent use of "landslip" when the train was broken down anyway, and had it been in working order would have run Swindon - Westbury.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2020, 11:15:56 am »

I know it's an unimaginably awful thing for all concerned and I'm reluctant to mention it even now, but to be brutally honest cancelling services between Westbury and Swindon for the best part of a day because of a person hit by a train in Didcot (as happened a while back) wasn't an easy thing for me to explain to a young guy who was in tears and desperate to get to his job in Trowbridge because he was already on a formal warning about his timekeeping. You don't see the M5 in Devon being closed because of an accident on the M74, so why should it be different on the railways? I'm sure there was a perfectly valid operational reason at the time, but it wouldn't have helped even if I could have explained it. I never saw him again either.

Here's a fresh example - from today:

Quote
Alterations to services between Yeovil Pen Mill and Weymouth
Due to a person being hit by a train between Yeovil Pen Mill and Weymouth the line is blocked.
Train services running to and from these stations will be suspended. Disruption is expected until 12:00 06/03.

Noting "Disruption is expected until 12:00" and yet ...

Quote
14:16 Westbury to Swindon due 15:00
15:14 Swindon to Westbury due 15:55

15:14 Swindon to Westbury due 15:55 will be cancelled.
This is due to a person being hit by a train earlier.

At least we have this:

Quote
Additional Information
Customers with via Melksham tickets may travel via Bath Spa. Road transport will be requested for customers at Melksham.
and I guess that alternatives will be arranged for passengers from Swindon and Chippenham to Melksham - a significant flow on the 15:14.  The 14:16 Westbury to Melksham normally doesn't drop off too many. 
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2020, 02:46:31 pm »

Further snapshot stats from last weekend:

Saturday 7th March.
09:10 Melksham to Westbury. -2 +15 -> 33 - 35/17
18:41 Trowbridge to Melksham  23, -5 +4 => 27/9

Sunday 8th March
08:37 Melksham to Swindon +8 -0 -> 24/8
15:11 at Melksham arrived from Swindon with 26 on board, 4 joined and 6 left - 30/10

On Sunday I would have expected the 08:37 to be much busier as it usually carries a considerable "day out" traffic, changing at Swindon for trains onwards towards London and towards South Wales.  Low number probably accounted for by engineering works - only onward connection by train was to Gloucester / Cheltenham Spa, with other services bustituted.   Not just my feeling that the TransWilts train was unusually quiet.   "You're only my 5th customer this morning" confided the Upper Crust lady at Swindon where I purchase a cup of coffee.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2020, 02:53:42 pm by grahame » Logged

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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2020, 09:29:29 am »

07:19 / 11.3.2020 (Wednesday) +26, -3 -> 32+28+30; 93/29
[GWR] Manager on train - recons higher than normal load because of problems with Westbury - London services. Personal thought - perhaps a few, but not many - proportion of 1/3 to/from Melksham to through Melksham maintained, large numbers off train (quite a few on too) at Chippenham, which is normal.

20:22 arrival into Melksham from Westbury 12.2.2020 with just 8 on board -5 +4 -> 7; 12/9
Oops - having said which I have been on several trains that had even fewer passengers in Cornwall this week; not the general story - so TransWilts is in line.
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2020, 10:27:46 am »

07:53, Saturday 14th March, Melksham to Swindon. -3 +8 -> 19; 22/11
19:33 Swindon to Melksham 22, -8 +4; 26/12

No Premier league football, and noticeable quiet in other places I know well and am familiar with busyness.
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