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Author Topic: On reliability - how should it be defined and increased?  (Read 246 times)
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« on: February 09, 2023, 12:02:34 pm »

A recurring theme in looking ahead to future timetable that I've been doing over the past week is a response of "yes, but it must be reliable" - a common "write in" answer if you like to address a point I didn't ask.  It is THAT crucial; no equivalent write in messages on capacity, comfort, catering, cost, cleanliness ...

As this "reliability" thing is such a theme, I am looking to define it further.

1. As few trains as practical should be cancelled or changed significantly from the twice-yearly timetable

2.. When a train is cancelled, good information and timeous alternatives should be provided, with the exception of times of poor weather which would make road alternatives dangerous. Such road alternatives should be provided and publicised automatically, and not just to customers who make a fuss.  This provision should be irrespective of the rail industry's reason for failing to provide the service.

3. Where they are necessary, cancellations should be notified as far in advance as is reasonable practical. Should a cancelled service be re-instated, it should still be considered as cancelled for statistical purposes as past experience suggests that such services often carry few passengers

4. Where a service is cancelled to free up line capacity for long distance services, those long distance services should make additional calls at intermediate stations.

5. Where there is a choice of services to cancel, consideration should be given to how long the gap is to the next train.

6. Where a train that makes a timetabled connection is delayed, consideration should be given to the holding of the connecting service. This is done on occasions, but the overall consideration should be total passenger delay and not total train delay.

Is there something to be said here for length of train being enough, working air conditioning, loos working, disabled access, catering provided as advertised ...

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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2023, 09:58:02 pm »

I think you have just about nailed it Grahame.

I would just add to point 2, that (if applicable) the information such include any alternative rail routes that are available, and to point 3, where the cancellations are planned in advance (such as weekend engineering works) these should be coordinated across the network to ensure that at least one of any alternative rail routes between the same points remains open. And yes, there is something to be added about ensuring that as many of the advertised facilities are maintained and as much of the planned capacity runs as possible.
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2023, 10:27:54 pm »

2.. When a train is cancelled, good information and timeous alternatives should be provided, with the exception of times of poor weather which would make road alternatives dangerous. Such road alternatives should be provided and publicised automatically, and not just to customers who make a fuss.  This provision should be irrespective of the rail industry's reason for failing to provide the service.

I was recently waiting for a 17:47 service - on an ASLEF» (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen - about) strike day, so TfW was taking the strain, and with cancellations being recorded all day because of the staffing issues. It was cancelled. RTT» (Real Time Trains - website) showed the cancellation (for the part of journey needed anyway) but Journeycheck, Tiger, PIS (Passenger Information System) etc weren't; given that RTT can have some lag with this sort of thing, I assumed the other sources were more up to date, but the train didn't turn up. But it was cancelled. Confirmation came at 17:59, when passengers were told to board the 18:08, and change at SWA» (Swansea - next trains) for stations beyond as the 17:47 was restarting there.

That's no information until 12 minutes after departure time. At a large, staffed station, where surely platform staff would have noticed the train wasn't there and announced that they would try to find out more, even if that's all they knew. And if that's all they knew, why wasn't the information relayed to them sooner? Things understandably go wrong, but providing correct information and doing so proactively will make the difference between good customer service and a bad experience.

The automatic publicising of alternative options is an interesting point. Passengers often panic when they see there's a cancellation, or actively avoid last trains in case they're stranded. If every cancellation announcement comes with clear information that alternatives are available, even those unaffected by the cancellation will pick up on that, and be conditioned into seeing cancellations as a little bit less of a worry. On some routes it might be difficult to list every option – for example on CDF» (Cardiff - next trains)-PMH it might be to go via Reading (if ticket acceptance arranged), or to change at BRI» (Bristol Temple Meads - next trains), or use the Taunton for Bristol, ad infinitum, depending on the destination, with some destinations just requiring the hour's wait. So an announcement could become confusing there; however it might be possible at least to say "passengers for Bristol go via BPW» (Bristol Parkway - next trains) and for anywhere else check with staff and we'll give you options" or make clear that further announcements regarding particular destinations will follow when trains with relevant alternative connections are due.
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