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Author Topic: The importance of good connections  (Read 827 times)
grahame
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« on: March 08, 2020, 07:17:42 am »

I bring to you an illustration of the importance of good connections.

Taking a handful of day trips from Melksham, updating my picture library, learning about places and lines I don't normally travel on, I have a "Freedom of the South West Rover".

I have looked at going to Barnstaple today, and I can get there in 2 hours and 53 minutes.  But if I have anything like any time to walk over to the town and have a look around,my return journey is going to take nearly 4 hours ... or perhaps even longer.  The net effect of paltry (infrequent) services on tow legs of the journey that don't even connect with each other.

Much as I'm familiar with Westbury Station, I won't be going to Barnstaple today.  If I'm put off, what about others with less interest in rail?



For other reading this post .. there are some excellent connections and day trips from Melksham ... you just need to be particularly careful now that you check both ways for anywhere in the West Country, and destinations on the Heart of Wessex line.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2020, 02:59:42 pm »

Two points immediately spring to mind here (although it is of course too late to do anything about it!)

Firstly, I very much doubt it crossed those responsible for timetabling's minds that they even had a traffic flow from Melksham to Barnstaple  Grin And as of course you are dealing with two two-hourly services on a Sunday, and a hardly clock face timetable for the "main line" leg, it is inevitable that some connections will be better than others.

Secondly, if it were me and I really really really wanted to go from Melksham to Barnstaple and back on a Sunday, for the return leg I'd look at possibly going via Bristol and getting a Faresaver bus from Bath, using my Senior bus pass. I understand you've got one too  Wink

Finally, a personal opinion (other personal opinions may vary...). You may be hard pressen to find two hour's worth of things to look at in Barnstaple - its pleasant alongside the river and the old Town station building is worth a look, but other than that there's not much there.
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JontyMort
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2020, 03:15:08 pm »


Finally, a personal opinion (other personal opinions may vary...). You may be hard pressed to find two hour's worth of things to look at in Barnstaple - itís pleasant alongside the river and the old Town station building is worth a look, but other than that there's not much there.

To be be fair, however, I donít think that one can justify a more frequent service to/from [wherever] merely on the grounds that people need to get out of it quickly Smiley

Grahamís central point about connections is sound. They are not reliable, so people donít like them, so the TOCs put no effort in - itís a vicious circle.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2020, 05:20:59 pm »

Kiwifruit = Barnstaple
Custard = Melksham
Chreimoya = Torre

I just picked one piece of fruit out of the whole fruitbowl of the "Western Peninsular" area, and one topping from our area - could have been cream, custard or ice cream.  Apples and pears. Oranges, grapefruits, mandarins and limes. Nectarines, apricots, peaches and plums. Bananas and mangoes. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwifruit and passionfruit. Watermelons, rockmelons and honeydew melons. Tomatoes and avocados. Rhubarb, star fruit and guavas ... just look at how many combinations you have.   And I happened to choose kiwifruit and custard as my example.  Of course there are other rarer fuit I have not considered such as Cherimoya ...

It's a whole fruit and topping issue - not just kiwi and custard

Agreed on service frequency on lower use routes ... but increasing commonly acknowledged that the TransWilts should be hourly and the Berks and Hants semifast should be hourly.  I can point you to maths for the TransWilts.   Actually to provide a better connection timing only one of the two needs to be fixed.

Firstly, I very much doubt it crossed those responsible for timetabling's minds that they even had a traffic flow from Melksham to Barnstaple  Grin And as of course you are dealing with two two-hourly services on a Sunday, and a hardly clock face timetable for the "main line" leg, it is inevitable that some connections will be better than others.

I have been in a meeting where others (not myself in this case) were raising the fruit and topping, Monday to Friday, issue with GWR.  They are aware / have looked. But fix this one and you have to be careful not to mess up something else and with only 3 platforms at Westbury there's a limit to what can connect.

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Secondly, if it were me and I really really really wanted to go from Melksham to Barnstaple and back on a Sunday, for the return leg I'd look at possibly going via Bristol and getting a Faresaver bus from Bath, using my Senior bus pass. I understand you've got one too  Wink

A big off topic ... but I'm in the age bracket where a senior railcard is mine, but the senior bus card has been yanked further ahead of me.   At my current age, a number of members here would have had one, but having paid my way right through ...

It will be changing in April, but at the current time (looking at next weekend), the 14:35 train from Barnstaple would get me home at 19:40 via Bath and the last First Bus, also evey 2 hours and with an awful connection at Bath Spa.  If I could trust a 4 minute conection from train arriving to bus leaving in Bath I could be an hour later from Barnstaple.  Faresaver do not - until 5th April - do Sunday buses to Melksham.

No - logic is to provide public transport at a level above "infrequent" where the route will stand it.Our route will.  Where routes/ combined flows will not justify it, and least choose the same set of connections to make in each direction!

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Finally, a personal opinion (other personal opinions may vary...). You may be hard pressen to find two hour's worth of things to look at in Barnstaple - its pleasant alongside the river and the old Town station building is worth a look, but other than that there's not much there.

And that would, for sure, be a different thread.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2020, 06:56:31 pm »

To be be fair, however, I donít think that one can justify a more frequent service to/from [wherever] merely on the grounds that people need to get out of it quickly Smiley

Grahamís central point about connections is sound. They are not reliable, so people donít like them, so the TOCs put no effort in - itís a vicious circle.

I agree completely with that sentiment and also Graham's point about picking one journey from many (although quite what a list of fruits from the dictionary has to do with it is another matter)

But this is "welcome to public transport" Central." Be it rail, road, air or sea, good traffic flows will be catered for and poor traffic flowd have to squeeze their way into the system too. Poor traffic flows are served by means of connecting services. They always have been and they always will be. To quote Walter Kronkite (not a name you hear much nowadays) "That's the way it is."

Of course one can argue all one likes about potential traffic flows and increasing frequencies such as at Melksham, but to an exrent that is a side issue. Even with an hourly Transwilts service a train from, say Exeter, that is advertised as a connection for onward travel to Melksham may be delayed, and trains rarely wait for connections these days, so one could easily have a 59 minute wait at Westbury even with an hourly service on both lines.

And of course there may be more important (ie good) traffic flows that that train is carrying, for example Devon and Cornwall to Gatwick or Heathrow, or to Oxford - that list could be endless.

A couple of years ago when I was marking 50 years since the end of BR steam, and going around the country compiling "then and now" shots, one day I went from Chippenham to Rose Grove (near Burnley to those for whom the name means nothing). Did - indeed should - GWR and XC and Transpennine and Virgin bend over backwards to give me a seamless no-changing journey? Of course they didn't, and no-one should realistically be expecting them to.

And I'm not sure if it should be expected when the same TOC runs all of the services either. Can somebody please tell me what time the next through train is from Luxulyan to Culham or Radley? Or from Forsinard to Dumfries?

PS - sorry if I sound a bit grumpy - my flight back to Heathrow from Johannesburg tomorrow has been cancelled, and my CONNECTING flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg has been changed three times (split ticketing can work with airlines too... Wink

Bloody public transport operators - no consideration for their passengers whatsoever... Wink
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2020, 05:21:13 am »

Of course one can argue all one likes about potential traffic flows and increasing frequencies such as at Melksham, but to an exrent that is a side issue. Even with an hourly Transwilts service a train from, say Exeter, that is advertised as a connection for onward travel to Melksham may be delayed, and trains rarely wait for connections these days, so one could easily have a 59 minute wait at Westbury even with an hourly service on both lines.

It's the same old story - reliability, reliability, reliability.  Inevitably, two public transport services connection will be unreliable, but if you cut increase the ppm from 80% to 90%, you step up the combined ppm (yes, you may question the Mathematica basis of this) from 64% to 81%. 

"Easily 59 minutes" - actually, I beg to differ. Even if totally random that would only be 1.6% of the time, and I believe that most staff at Westbury are now aware that they should not dispatch the West Country train so that it's pulling out from platform 2 as the train from Swindon arrives at platform 3.  To be caught in such a miss is a memorable experience for all - the customer failed in what was probably an advertised connection and the station staff having to look after a flange of unhappy (to put it mildly) punters.

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CyclingSid
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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2020, 07:02:44 am »

Of course the more connections there are the more unreliable it will be. Thought about that with your thread about getting the bus to London.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2020, 08:41:29 pm »

Right - I've now got back from South Africa to "the thread of the moving goalposts" (not really a suggestion for a title change  Grin )

Of course one can argue all one likes about potential traffic flows and increasing frequencies such as at Melksham, but to an exrent that is a side issue. Even with an hourly Transwilts service a train from, say Exeter, that is advertised as a connection for onward travel to Melksham may be delayed, and trains rarely wait for connections these days, so one could easily have a 59 minute wait at Westbury even with an hourly service on both lines.

It's the same old story - reliability, reliability, reliability.  Inevitably, two public transport services connection will be unreliable, but if you cut increase the ppm from 80% to 90%, you step up the combined ppm (yes, you may question the Mathematica basis of this) from 64% to 81%. 

I agree with the basic principle, but the matter of traffic flows also comes into the equation - good ones tend to get better connections than poor ones.

When I worked on BR(W) now over 40 years ago, by your yardstick we probably gave a better service, but only if you think that connecting services should be held for each other. I doubt the punters who weren't making that connection and were sitting on those trains took they same view, because their personal journeys were being delayed whilst the connecting passengers had their needs attending to. That argument in fact cuts four ways, because it can also make a shambles of the timetable and rostering arrangements.

We also hardly ever cancelled a passenger train. We could do this for two reasons that aren't available today - Firstly we had more train crew than we knew what to do with and who would otherwise have been sitting in the mess room all day smoking, drinking tea and playimg cards , and secondly, in the case of a traction shortgae we could always nick the engine off a passing freight. Mind you, I doubt that did much to keep what little freight traffic we had left at the time but - hey ho - it was a nationalised industry so who cared?

Unfotunately, reliability and efficiency don't always make good bedfellows in a finance-driveb environment, so you tend to get one at the expense of the other.



So now we've gone from an inabilty to mke a sensible day out from Melksham to Barnstaple on a Sunday, through an editiom of "Gardebers Question time" and now we get to reliability

Quote
"Easily 59 minutes" - actually, I beg to differ. Even if totally random that would only be 1.6% of the time, and I believe that most staff at Westbury are now aware that they should not dispatch the West Country train so that it's pulling out from platform 2 as the train from Swindon arrives at platform 3.  To be caught in such a miss is a memorable experience for all - the customer failed in what was probably an advertised connection and the station staff having to look after a flange of unhappy (to put it mildly) punters.

See above for most of the answer to that. But in direct response to your suggestion that the staff at Westbury will always ensure connectons (within reason) - not of Control has been breathing down their necks about clearing the single line they won't, as they would especially if a previous incident had had repurcussions like, for example, a down freight being held at Thingley waiting line clear that then blocked a London to Ristol causing Delay Repay to kick in.

It is more important to look at the bigger picture than many may realise, and as I doubt that you are the sort of person who would not consider the bigger picture,  I don't quite undertand why you are making such an issue of this.


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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2020, 09:40:34 pm »

Right - I've now got back from South Africa to "the thread of the moving goalposts" (not really a suggestion for a title change  Grin )

Perhaps it's not the goalposts that are moving, but where you're viewing it from?

We started looking through an example, then moved on via a simile to a generalisation.  And then a shift (I will admit) from the discussion of describing the goal posts to looking at how they took up, then looking at how they could be improved for their purpose.

You are correct, Robin, that many don't appreciate how difficult connections are to plan and maintain or that they can't all be maintained.  And I agree that having resource "sitting in the mess room all day smoking, drinking tea and playing cards" does not make financial sense.  But I don't recall making that suggestion - you may have "caught" me at some point mentioning a Facebook friend who's in a management role with a different TOC and who was being trained as a train manager in addition to her normal role.   Her normal role is an important one but not time critical over a few hours; having a train manager available in the occasional (as it should be) shortage is urgent.
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