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Author Topic: Review of the last week - train service at Melksham  (Read 212 times)
grahame
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« on: October 16, 2020, 02:24:26 am »

From last Friday through to this Thursday (exclusive) around 15 trains called at Melksham, versus more than 80 you might have expected had you read a timetable. Two days were announced well ahead and alternative buses provided, but three days were short notice changes with poor alterative provision and poor customer information.  This post looks to pick out what happened ...



Last weekend (10th and 11th October), Network Rail and their contractors were doing engineering works on the line between Chippenham and Trowbridge, notified well ahead of time and with rail replacement buses running. Not ideal but necessary from time to time, and customers knew and replanned in advance for the most part.  Then on Monday morning, the 05:17 from Westbury left on time ... but then got delayed on the journey. "On time" changed to "Delayed" ... after a while, myself and the other passengers called in to National Rail Enquiries (help point broken, GWR customer lines not open that early in the morning) where the lady told us that she had nothing from GWR as to why or how long t was delayed and told us the next train would be 07:21 if the 05:33 didn't make it.  And so started a saga or last minute delays, and cancellation of Melksham calls, which lasted until the 18:55 train on Wednesday - three days of disruption (that 18:55 being notified to everyone as cancelled, but then actually ran)

Piecing evidence and public information together ... a digger in use during the engineering works accidentally damaged a signalling cable, I believe on Saturday according to a letter from Network Rail which was published on the TransWilts web site and promoted from Facebook, but now gives a "404 - not found" error. It seems that the problem or its significance wasn't noticed until early on Monday morning when the first train was already on the way, and judging by the depressing story of "yes it's running / no it isn't" conflicts and lack of customer information for the following 3 days, Network Rail were taken by surprise and had no contingency plan in place to cover the eventuality that the line would not be available for proper service on Monday ... or Tuesday ... or Wednesday.



It would also seem that the team of experts involved in fixing the problem either did not appreciate it's magnitude at first - or indeed even as they tried to fix it, when it transpired that considerable damage had been done... either that or they knew it could be a difficult fix but decided not to share that with the railway's customers.  It was good to see the letter from Toby Elliott - a rare breath of good information to explain things to the customers - and I'm astonished it's gone.  By putting things into the public domain, the letter has allowed me to complete the jigsaw with more certainty.

Things DO go wrong ... and there can't always be a contingency for everything.  However, customer information and rail replacement sucked for three days, and background data suggests that Network Rail didn't send people in round the clock to fix the issues, but rather only sent in limited resources - perhaps they don't consider the line important enough to get it up and running as quickly as possible?

Good news ... although the line is closed again (and buses run) on Saturday and Sunday this weekend, it's probable that the line will be back and with passenger trains running again from Monday (I hope so - I will be on the 05:33 again if it runs). Very unfortunate this week - the engineering problems, sure, things happen but the ongoing failure to keep customers informed is the sort of own goal the rail industry should avoid.  I look forward to getting the link to the Network Rail letter restored - if it does not come back, perhaps it points to a distain by both the author and the publisher to the rail customer, without whom there would be no need for a passenger railway.

In case / for when TransWilts restore the letter - https://transwilts.org/2020/10/14/extensive-disruption-to-transwilts-services-october/ and the facebook link showed as follows:

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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2020, 04:49:22 pm »

In case / for when TransWilts restore the letter - https://transwilts.org/2020/10/14/extensive-disruption-to-transwilts-services-october/ and the facebook link showed as follows:

Letter gone for good: "We thought it best to remove the post as it was agreed it breached confidentiality with NR". I will let readers draw their own conclusions about what the organisations involved think of the idea of looking after their customers / passengers by keeping them informed.
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