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Author Topic: Rail Replacement bus services  (Read 4702 times)
froome
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« on: February 27, 2020, 09:08:33 am »

Who has responsibility for organising these services? Is it the TOC who runs the station they are to serve, or the TOC who run the service that is being replaced?

Below I will account my rail replacement service yesterday, which I wish to raise with whichever company was responsible. Obviously I will be sending in for full compensation on Delay Repay, but I want to know why decisions that were made were made, and whether they are deemed to be acceptable. Apologies that it is a long story.

As I've posted elsewhere, I was aiming to return from Worcester to Oldfield Park on the direct service (to Weymouth) that leaves Foregate Street at 14.53 and which should have got me home by just after 5pm. The service was showing as on time on my arrival at Foregate Street, with the 14.47 train to Great Malvern stopping at the platform first, which it duly did. However, rather strangely, the platform screen continued to show the Great Malvern train as the next train due after it had left, but removed the Weymouth train completely from the list. However, the Weymouth train did arrive, at 14.56, and set off to Shrub Hill, arriving there at 14.58. It then sat there for half an hour, while we heard that signalling problems meant the train wasn't yet able to move forward. Eventually, at 15.27, we were all told that the train was now cancelled, and that a rail replacement bus was waiting outside the station to take us directly to Cheltenham, where we could all catch onward trains. This all seemed reasonable at the time.

'Outside the station' meant actually at the bottom of the ramp, so those of us who didn't know Shrub Hill, inc me, had to follow those who did, as the bus wasn't visible or obvious (and thus didn't have a chance to relieve ourselves or do anything else that we felt necessary for the bus service). We queued up to get on. The man in front of me asked if the bus would be stopping at Ashchurch (the only station between Worcester and Cheltenham) and was told it wouldn't, and wasn't offered any alternative. Not surprisingly, he wasn't happy (he looked resigned as if it happened often). I didn't see him again, so have no idea what happened to him. We will come back to Ashchurch later.

We got on. The bus then didn't move for over 20 minutes. By this time, many people were becoming increasingly concerned about their onward connections, and at least 8 went out to order taxis for themselves, to ensure they got to Cheltenham reliably. I assume they had to take the hit in their pockets for that, but would be interested to know if they could still make their Delay and Repay claims, as they wouldn't have the information needed to fill in the forms.

Another group of passengers then got onto the bus, so that it was completely full, and it set off. However, rather than heading towards Cheltenham, it headed back into what was by then the rush hour traffic of Worcester city centre, and eventually stopped outside Foregate Street, about 75 minutes after I had left there. Why, I have no idea. Nobody got on or off, and there wasn't any room anyway if anyone had wanted to get on, and there was no explanation. After a few minutes we set off again, back into the rush hour traffic, and eventually started to leave Worcester. However, I was rather alarmed to see the road signs showed we were heading out on the road towards Stratford-upon-Avon. Later on, we turned off this onto roads signposted towards Evesham, which at least felt slightly closer to Cheltenham, if not actually in the right direction. We had a tour of south Worcestershire, and then stopped at a place which I later saw was called Pinvin, and was actually home to Pershore station. Again nobody got off or on there as far as I could see, and we then headed on to arrive in Evesham, where all the batch of people who had boarded the bus last got off. So it became obvious, though nobody had bothered to tell any of us who were sat on the bus, that the bus had been also used to replace a train to Evesham rather than go straight to Cheltenham, as promised. Had we known that, some others of us may also have chosen to take taxis from Worcester.

At Evesham, the person I mention elsewhere, who was heading for Paddington, asked about getting out, as his phone suggested that he could get a train from there. But nobody knew what he should do, least of all the driver, who said he didn't have a clue, and those who knew the area well advised him to stay on to Cheltenham, so he did.

The bus then set off towards Cheltenham, but diverted off onto the Tewkesbury road to go past Ashchurch. I think this diversion was to reach the motorway rather than to go to Ashchurch itself, but one passenger, looking up, suddenly said that she was actually trying to get there, and ran down the bus to ask the driver to stop. Fortunately for her, he did, and it sounded as if she had been told to board the bus to Cheltenham from where she would have been given transport to Ashchurch, which wasn't the advice the other Ashchurch passenger was given. It all felt very ad hoc and chaotic.

Once we were on the motorway, the journey sped up, and we arrived at Cheltenham station, almost 3 hours after having first left Foregate Street.

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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2020, 03:52:44 pm »

Not to put too fine a point on it, it is a long time since I heard a story involving as many balls-ups as that!

Logically (if that has got anything to do with it...) GWR should have organised rail replcement buses. Plural rail replacement buses. One for Cheltenham and one for Evesham.

Logically the Cheltenham-bound bus should have gone straight down the M5, and come off at the Ashchurch junction to serve the station which is less than half a mile from the motorway junction, then gone back to the motorway and carried on to the next junction and turned off for Cheltenham.

A second Evesham-bound bus should have covered the rail replacement service in that direction.

If we give GWR the benefit of the doubt that this was not all a malicious plot of theird to get seriously up the noses of their passengers (and one might argue that's a big if...) I suspect it comes down to the practicaltlies of the day. Here is a possible scenario:

GWR find they've got a blockage that has closed the line probably between Worcester and Norton JUnction. Someone gets on the blower to their bus contractor asking for two rail replacements. But - as you say - it's rush hour. Or more precisely, it's starting in early rush hour when all the bus and coach companies have their peak of school contract work.

Perhaps they only had one bus at that time of day. Perhaps they only had one driver. Perhaps the conversation went:

"We can give you a bus now and another in 90 minutes when Sid gets back from half way to Kidderminster. What do you want us to do?"

So what do you, as the bloke or blokess on the railway end of the telephone do? Make one lot of passengers wait an extra hour and a half or improvise and try to get one bus to do two jobs at once? I suspect that's a difficult question to answer, especially for armchair experts like me... Wink

All that said, the passengers on that bis should have been told what was going on, and perhaps more imprtantly why it was going on. A GWR staff member (if there are any at Worcester), should have been on that bus explaining matters before departure. If that wasn't possible, at the very least the driver should have been told by his manager what was happening and got him to make an announcement to the passengers. After all he had been told where he was going!

To me it appears to be a total system breakdown for whatever reason, with a total lack of communication between the railway and its passengers.

Could do better...
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chuffed
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2020, 04:03:07 pm »

The only mitigating circumstances which have not been mentioned is that there was rather a lot of flooding in Worcester yesterday with the main road  bridge over the Severn having been closed from 2pm, and the bus station out of use since Monday.
It does not totally explain why things were apparently handled so badly at the Shrub Hill/ Foregate Street end.
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rogerw
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2020, 04:33:05 pm »

There are scheduled regular bus services from Worcester to Pershore and Evesham, operated by First, although they do not stop very close to Shrub Hill.  Could not rail passengers have been directed on to those
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2020, 04:42:47 pm »

There are scheduled regular bus services from Worcester to Pershore and Evesham, operated by First, although they do not stop very close to Shrub Hill.  Could not rail passengers have been directed on to those

As a First bus driver in another part of GWR land every now and again when the rail shuts down in an unplanned situation we get messages sent to our ticket machines requesting we convey rail passengers over suitable services. I’ve also had a case where I’ve called my office for the ok to carry a wheelchair passenger st Austell to Newquay as the replacement coach couldn’t accomodate a wheel chair and the available taxi was 2 hours due to the time of day.
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stuving
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2020, 04:44:29 pm »

Who has responsibility for organising these services? Is it the TOC who runs the station they are to serve, or the TOC who run the service that is being replaced?

It's the TOC operating the train. The franchise agreement defines that requirement in schedule 1.2:
Quote
6. Obligations of the Franchisee in the event of disruption to railway passenger services

6.1 In the event of any planned or unplanned disruption to railway passenger services operated on the Routes, or on other parts of the network which are reasonably local to the Routes, the Franchisee shall:
(a) without prejudice to any other provision of this Schedule 1.2, notify the Secretary of State promptly where such disruption would materially (having regard to both duration and scale) prejudice the Franchisee's ability to deliver the Timetable or deliver the Timetable in accordance with the Train Plan;
(b) co-operate with Network Rail and other Train Operators to act in the overall interests of passengers using such railway passenger services, including using all reasonable endeavours to ensure that such disruption is not concentrated on a particular part of the network, except where such concentration either:
(i) would be in the overall interests of passengers using such Passenger Services or railway passenger services and would not result in disproportionate inconvenience to any group of passengers; or
(ii) is reasonably necessary as a result of the cause or the location of the disruption; and
(c) use all reasonable endeavours to provide or secure the provision of alternative transport arrangements in accordance with paragraph 6.2.

6.2 The Franchisee shall use all reasonable endeavours to provide or secure the provision of alternative transport arrangements to enable passengers affected by any disruption referred to in paragraph 6.1 to complete their intended journeys in accordance with this paragraph 6.2. In particular, the Franchisee shall use all reasonable endeavours to:
(a) ensure that such alternative transport arrangements are of reasonable quality, of a reasonably similar frequency to the Passenger Services included in the Timetable which such arrangements replace and reasonably fit for the purpose of the journey to be undertaken;
(b) transport passengers to, or as near as reasonably practicable to, the end of their intended journey on such Passenger Services, having particular regard to the needs of any disabled persons and, where appropriate, making additional arrangements for such disabled persons to complete their intended journey;
(c) provide adequate and prominent publicity of such alternative transport arrangements in advance, subject, in the case of unplanned disruption, to the Franchisee having sufficient notice of such disruption to enable it to provide such publicity;
(d) provide sufficient alternative transport capacity for the reasonably foreseeable demand for the disrupted Passenger Services; and
(e) ensure, if any planned disruption overruns, that there is a reasonable contingency arrangement for such alternative transport arrangements to continue for the duration of such overrun.

However, your issue is not whether there was transport provided, but its suitability and the quality of performance. And there the words lean heavily on string-meters. Is there a code of practice, or a guide to doing RRBs, to quantify DfT's expectations? I don't think I've ever seen one.

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froome
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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2020, 10:16:05 am »

Not to put too fine a point on it, it is a long time since I heard a story involving as many balls-ups as that!

Logically (if that has got anything to do with it...) GWR should have organised rail replcement buses. Plural rail replacement buses. One for Cheltenham and one for Evesham.

Logically the Cheltenham-bound bus should have gone straight down the M5, and come off at the Ashchurch junction to serve the station which is less than half a mile from the motorway junction, then gone back to the motorway and carried on to the next junction and turned off for Cheltenham.

A second Evesham-bound bus should have covered the rail replacement service in that direction.

If we give GWR the benefit of the doubt that this was not all a malicious plot of theird to get seriously up the noses of their passengers (and one might argue that's a big if...) I suspect it comes down to the practicaltlies of the day. Here is a possible scenario:

GWR find they've got a blockage that has closed the line probably between Worcester and Norton JUnction. Someone gets on the blower to their bus contractor asking for two rail replacements. But - as you say - it's rush hour. Or more precisely, it's starting in early rush hour when all the bus and coach companies have their peak of school contract work.

Perhaps they only had one bus at that time of day. Perhaps they only had one driver. Perhaps the conversation went:

"We can give you a bus now and another in 90 minutes when Sid gets back from half way to Kidderminster. What do you want us to do?"

So what do you, as the bloke or blokess on the railway end of the telephone do? Make one lot of passengers wait an extra hour and a half or improvise and try to get one bus to do two jobs at once? I suspect that's a difficult question to answer, especially for armchair experts like me... Wink

All that said, the passengers on that bis should have been told what was going on, and perhaps more imprtantly why it was going on. A GWR staff member (if there are any at Worcester), should have been on that bus explaining matters before departure. If that wasn't possible, at the very least the driver should have been told by his manager what was happening and got him to make an announcement to the passengers. After all he had been told where he was going!

To me it appears to be a total system breakdown for whatever reason, with a total lack of communication between the railway and its passengers.

Could do better...

Yes, I'm sure the conversations will have been just as you describe, and it was an attempt to make best use of whatever resources they had. But the end result was to worsen it for the majority of passengers.

And yes, flooding was a mitigating factor, with the bus station out of use, and roads closed.

But there were no GWR staff at the bus. The only GWR staff member I saw was the person who came onto the train at Shrub Hill to explain the situation. She did a very good job, which is why I was at that time quite confident we would be dealt with reasonably smoothly.

In fact there were no rail staff at all at the bus until just before the late batch of passengers got on (who were the ones going to Evesham). He was a West Midlands staff member, who I assume run the station, and he never got onto the bus, just walked around outside.

Had the bus been allowed to set off at 15.30 when we had all boarded, I would assume we could have been in Cheltenham by around 16.15, eben with a stop at Ashchurch, and the bus back in Worcester by 17.00 to pick up the Evesham passengers, who would have had an hour's wait at Shrub Hill but may have had the possibility of a bus service as well to use (perhaps an offer of taxis to take them to it?).

Obviously easier to say in hindsight, but as Stuving notes, there need to be some standards set for replacement services to meet, and this fell below any reasonable ones.
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Reading General
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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2020, 10:42:11 am »

I'm starting to think that, with all the miscommunications that happen with rail replacements, and how often they happen, perhaps it's time for the TOC's to consider owning a fleet of buses themselves.
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« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2020, 10:49:19 am »

I'm starting to think that, with all the miscommunications that happen with rail replacements, and how often they happen, perhaps it's time for the TOC's to consider owning a fleet of buses themselves.
And the TOCs will say.....oooooozzzz gonna pay for it?

Agree, would be useful but someone will have to pay.
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GBM
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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2020, 03:02:30 pm »

A fleet of how many busses at each major centre perhaps?
If these standby vehicles are at the bigger stations, there will be journey travel time to get from their depot to the problem station (maybe 2 hours or more wait).
With each vehicle you will need at least one, two or even three drivers to cater for their legal driving hours.
We now have a spare vehicle with up to three drivers paid to wait around.

Multiply this up by the number of vehicles for an area, and the bill mounts rapidly - 24 x 7, then x 365.
A good idea, but not really practical unfortunately.
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Reading General
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« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2020, 07:37:06 pm »

 Grin
It was a bit of a joke. GWR get their own buses, decide that disruption is often enough to use them all the time, find it's cheaper and let network rail know they can close the rail line to passengers.
Seriously though, the railway does rely heavily on the road network and the internal combustion engines in buses and coaches.
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« Reply #11 on: February 29, 2020, 09:11:03 am »

Apologies RG.  Took it too seriously.  Remind me take more giggle juice when not working!

Years ago, First locally had a spare bus or two every day; together with three spare drivers over the working day.
As financial cuts came in, thee number of drivers dropped to one, with one spare bus.
The final cuts were, of course, removal of all vehicles not in use, and a computer pogramme used to work out the minimum number of drivers and vehicles needed.
Thus is was, and mostly is today.  If something fails, then something else is purloined from a route that the loss won't be so noticeable.

Drivers have always said there is a need for spare vehicles and drivers, but finance dictates otherwise.
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« Reply #12 on: February 29, 2020, 10:33:42 am »

A sorry tale of woe.

I can't help wondering if the provision of rail replacement services treats the symptoms of a problem more than the root cause.   Why do signalling systems and trains breaking down as much as they are?  Why are embankments allowed to get into such a parlous state that they slip (as at Salisbury) where an unconfirmed report suggest there was a known problem and had been a speed restriction for ages?  Why are there still as many crew shortages as there are?

The NHS is heavily involved in preventative medicine, and indeed we're told of such things with Network Rail too - and yet reports of slips, floods, trees on lines seem far too frequent.  The NHS tell us they do it because it saves them in the long run.  Do NR / GWR / Hitachi have the balance right, or are they running systems that are far too much "fair weather" tuned resulting in far too many needs to replace trains by road transport at very short notice?

A system than needed far fewer replacements might not make individual replacements any less of a nuisance in themselves - but it would sure as heck reduce the total nuisance.  And without the TOC having to buy in so many replacements, perhaps it could afford (when it did) to buy separate vehicles for the north Cotswold line and to Cheltenham Spa!
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« Reply #13 on: February 29, 2020, 10:36:43 am »

So, next time Cowley Bridge, Dawlish or South Wales is shut, expect this to be waiting in the station forecourt.
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« Reply #14 on: February 29, 2020, 01:10:37 pm »

Why do signalling systems and trains breaking down as much as they are?  Why are embankments allowed to get into such a parlous state that they slip (as at Salisbury) where an unconfirmed report suggest there was a known problem and had been a speed restriction for ages?  Why are there still as many crew shortages as there are?

The ORR keeps haranguing for spending too much on maintenance and demanding further "efficiency savings" could there be a link here?

So called efficiency savings are usually demanded by economists who know nothing of the technicalities they are dealing with and who have done some comparison with what they think is something similar to prove that further savings are possible.  But are they really comparing apples with apples? and are the systems they are comparing really doing that good a job?

I am sure NR could same some money somewhere, but I am not sure how much and I am skeptical that these demanding targets are the way to go about it. 
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