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Author Topic: Positive changes on all journeys through Westbury?  (Read 1045 times)
grahame
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« on: July 10, 2021, 08:46:14 am »

EDIT - 11th July at 09:15 - I have added a positive proposal (2nd reply in this thread) to the issues raised in the initial news I have been hearing. .  It is possible to provide virtually all the journey opportunities - and much improve many of them - with some re-jigging of services within current infrastructure and rolling stock limits.



From the Rumour Mill - a threat to future of SWR» (South Western Railway - about) services from London (Waterloo) into Bristol; reactions to enquiries suggest there may be reason to have concern.  These services are very popular and have been very well used and unless adequatly replaced would be a significant loss.  The Rumour Mill, when pressed, also came up with a garbled suggestion that SWR may no longer be providing servives via Frome and Castle Cary from December 2021.

There are concerns from Kintbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn that the suggestion of a shuttle service from Newbury to Westbury and a proposed "Kennet and Avon CRP (Community Rail Partnership)" sponsored by TransWilts might damage their though London service, and that CRP re-organisation from the old Heart of Wessex CRP is resulting in a new outfit looking only at the Westbury to Weymouth section of the route.

A welcome to the stepped up half hourly service from December from Severn Beach and Avonmouth to Bristol Temple Meads - but ongoing services to Westbury, to make the service up to every 30 minutes (all stations) plus hourly (semi-fast Cardiff to Portsmouth) seem absent, with services off "the Beach" terminating at Temple Meads or carrying on to Weston-super-mare.

Noting today (Saturday 10th July) cancellation of four successive services from Paignton to Paddington - that's a ten hour gap in semi-fast services from Taunton to London via Reading.  As I write, no indication of any alternatives when you call up the cancelled train on JourneyCheck; there may be plans in place, but not clever and the choice to kill virtually the whole service without telling customers about alternatives is poor to say the least. What does this tell us about the rail industry's priorities and plans?

There ARE service issues that should be resolved - current services running for historic reasons, or failing to join up properly, and a lot better could be done. But odd peeps coming out from various places at the moment have a negative bias, information and consultation with groups that have strong customer representation are poor and missing, and I wonder if I see storm clouds gathering.

For today - posting all these adding concerns in a member only area. But I may move tomorrow (when I'll be around) into a public area - depends to some extent on responses and feedback. There may be a significant requirement to be a critical friend, point out consequnces and suggest adjustments to make this work for the Treasury, the DfT» (Department for Transport - about), the operators, the local economy, the climate and most importantly the passengers!

Update 08:55 - sprinkling of extra stops added to West Country to London exprsses.  Not actually shown if you look at the cancelled train on JourneyCheck (yet?) but there if you look at the Penzance to London service.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2021, 09:23:28 am by grahame » Logged

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bradshaw
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2021, 08:59:47 am »

A number of those SWR» (South Western Railway - about) services via Castle Cary seemed to have been ECS (Empty Coaching Stock) workings Yeovil to/from Salisbury. The pathing that way built up staff route knowledge for the diversions when needed. Unless these Yeovil starters/terminators also go there seems little to be gained from removing the passenger services.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2021, 09:13:28 am »

Let's take a positive approach - and look at what should (IMHO (in my humble opinion) !!) be done ... this is a very rough outline that provides expanded journey opportunities and connections, possible on current infrastructure and without adding in trains beyond those already planned for MetroWest.

Across Westbury - The following services to run every two hours. Where a service is mentioned twice, that's hourly.  Services approaching Westbury from the North and East listed. Equal and opposite services from the South and West.

1. Bristol - Waterloo (all stations to Basingstoke)
(1a. Salisbury - Waterloo)
2. Bristol - Weymouth (all stations)
3. Bristol - Westbury (all stations)
4. Bristol - Yeovil (all stations; perhaps on to Junction)

5. Swindon - Romsey via Southampton
(5a. Salisbury - Romsey via Southmapton)

6. Cardiff - Portsmouth (semifast)
7. Cardiff - Portsmouth (semifast)

8. London - Exeter (all stations Newbury to Exeter St Davids)
9. London - Exeter (all stations Newbury to Exeter St Davids)

That's 18 services every 2 hours at WSB» (Westbury - next trains) - one train calling every 7 minutes which should be do-able with three platforms and nothing terminating any longer except towars the close of service.  Yes, there will be crew changes on many of them.
* Service numbers 1 and 5 provide an alternate hour service between Westbury and Salisbury, creating an hourly train each way at Dilton Marsh.
* Service numbers 2 and 5 both call at Westbury at same time to allow connections both ways - wait of a few minutes in service 5 for the arrival of the train behind is fine.
* Services 5 and 5a double up to provide the hourly Salisbury to Solent stopper
* Services 1 and 1a provide, between them, the hourly Salisbury to London "stopper" service that runs in addition to the Exeter - Salisbury - Waterloo train.
* Services 8 and 9 take over the 2 hourly semi-fast currently running (when there are enough staff and trains available) and also the hourly Paddington to Bedwyn service (when there are enough trains available to run that!).
* Regular 30 minute stopper service Bristol - Bath is the Bristol metro. Retains Bristol - Salisbury - London through service provision but releases the odd awkward paths.
* Enabler for Devizes Gateway Station and retains through services Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury to London
* Frequency taking some priority over speed (e.g. journeys such as Westbury to London and Bradford-on-Avon and to London)

All services listed should be possible on current infrastructure and with current stock of trains and staffing. "Nothing to stop" this plan being implemented from Decmeber 2021
- It may be that an extra electric train every hour from Reading to Newbury should be run (depends on where the EXD (Exeter St Davidsnext trains ) train stops?)
- Peak hour adjustements and tuning (if there is still a peak hour - but there will be for school traffic) necessary
- What about the through services to Brighton?
- What about onward from Bristol Temple Meads?
- What about services to the Rhubarb Loop?
- Trains turning back at Warminster and at Frome do not form part of a regular pattern - however, both those stations have a much improved through service now
- Do the London - Exeter trains call at Theale, Thatcham, Frome, Bruton? (Frome call would retain a through London to Frome service, though not Waterloo)
- Do all Bristol - Westbury trains call at Freshford and Avoncliff, or do they alternate?
- What rolling stock to be used for the Bristol - Waterloo?
- May be an issue going regular 30 mins south of WSB and providing good connection from Swindon toward Weymouth.
- What would operate from which depot and by which TOC (Train Operating Company)?
- Does "which TOC" matter any longer - logic to transfer Salibury to GWR (Great Western Railway) and make SWR» (South Western Railway - about) an electric-only franchise.
- Logic to transfer Portmouth - Cardiff to Cross Country or even TfW? It may be that an extra electric train every hour from Reading to Newbury should be run
- Peak hour adjustements and tuning (if there is still a peak hour - but there will be for school traffic) necessary

If we have any Local Transport Authority, Network Rail, Government, Train Operator, Community Rail Network, subNational Transport Body, Local Enterprise Partnership readers taking a look through this thread - please take a look, and pick up the idea, follow them through.  Please put your name to this sort of progress - though a link back to this thread would be appreciated!

Edit to remove duplicated text
« Last Edit: July 12, 2021, 07:19:43 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2021, 07:12:42 am »

In the cut and paste you appear to have repeated yourself.

For those who are not local a definition of the Rhubarb Loop would be useful. Presumably not "oop North" where they grow the stuff in darkened warehouses.
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2021, 07:28:11 am »

In the cut and paste you appear to have repeated yourself.

Oh goodness - thanks. I know I did that initially - thought I had corrected it, but there was still debris left.  I have gone back and tidies up further.

Quote
For those who are not local a definition of the Rhubarb Loop would be useful. Presumably not "oop North" where they grow the stuff in darkened warehouses.

The "Rhubarb Loop" is the line that completed the triangle to the east of Bristol Temple Meads - allowing trains arriving from the Bath direction to carry on northwards up Filton Bank to Filton Abbey Wood, avoiding a call and reversal at Bristol Temple Meads. 

Historically, trains coming up from the South Coast used the loop and called at Lawrence Hill rather than Temple Meads, and carried on through the Severn Tunnel, then up north via Shrewsbury.  It also had commuter use from Avonmouth to Keynsham for employees of the chocolate factory at Keynsham. Current(ish) normal time use is a solitary late afternoon train taking commuters from Filton Abbey Wood to Keynsham, Oldfield Park and Bath Spa.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2021, 04:52:48 pm »

Comment from Chris Irwin, chair of TWSW» (TravelWatch SouthWest - website), shared here with his permission

Quote
Thanks for sight of this interesting piece.  It makes much sense.  A few comments, though:

We must acknowledge that there is tremendous Treasury pressure to rein back on the level of support - an extra £12 billion, so far - that has gone to the railways during the pandemic.  I think we must also accept that the pandemic has accelerated some behavioural trends (working from home, greater use of on-line services for shopping and for access to services (notably health) and possible acceptance that not all the travel that we used to take for granted (especially face-to-face business meetings) is necessary/desirable) although it is difficult to predict, accurately either the medium of the long-term outcome. 

The sector's costs generally are too high, but it is doubtful that these can be reduced significantly by snipping at marginal services.  More likely, overall revenue will be increased by developing additional services to pick up potential demand: a comprehensive network (and integration with other public transport networks where possible) enables modal shift, providing a practical alternative to car dependence for many.  Improved asset use usually reduces unit costs, although it may bring forward the date for replacement where the effluxion of time is not the main cause - but that itself may trigger an opportunity for economy through replacement as the Swiss railways are arguing in increasing service frequencies and routes as part of their fight-back from Covid-19.  My judgement is that rail's excess costs can be attributed principally to the lengthy asset life (and consequent lack of flexibility/adaptability) of much of the equipment; the relative failure (compared to the airline sector, for example) to exploit the potential of digitalisation for traffic management, operation and control, for asset maintenance and back-office functions; the resistance - often on hypothetical safety grounds - to the introduction of lighter weight vehicles and equipment (cheaper to build, cheaper to operate); archaic industrial relations and work practices (viz the resistance to obligatory Sunday working that led to the rash of cancellations coincident with the Euros last night) and the time-consuming and labour-intensive culture of railway decision making to name but some of the cost drivers.

Which leads me to doubt the logic of curtailing the SWR» (South Western Railway - about) services via Westbury, especially as those via Yeovil Pen Mill make use of long-standing diversionary route familiarisation slots for SWR drivers which have to be run with or without passengers.  I would also take a punt to query whether the cutting back to Salisbury the through services to and from Bristol would release rolling-stock for those parts of the Waterloo-Exeter route at times when it is needed - e.g. peak school hours into Exeter in the morning.  We shouldn't accept service cuts too readily where there are genuine actual or potential flows (accepting that the Chris Loder-inspired services via Pen Mill may have yet to find significant passenger use but recalling that he might be a powerful ally in the Commons should we want to get some public debate on their retention).

Concerning the limited through service to and from Brighton.  Here is what we told the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) at the time its continuance was last the subject of consultation in 2018:
"This issue was examined by Passenger Focus in research undertaken in connection with the aborted planned renewal in 2013 of the Great Western Franchise. It showed an aggregate of 31% of passengers surveyed whilst using inter-regional services would have been unlikely to make the journey if there had been no direct services and if they had to change trains. Resistance on this service was highest amongst business travellers, occasional travellers and, particularly, those aged 65+. While this level of consumer resistance might be mitigated overall by carefully planned cross or same platform connections and the assistance of suitably trained staff, we consider that the particular (often elderly) market served by this service placed particular value of being able to make the journey without a change. Indeed, we believe that, additionally, there is a good case for reintroduction of a daily through service between Brighton and Plymouth via Salisbury. There may be scope for improving (and rationalising) the service currently operated by Great Western on the corridor to Brighton. Existing trains arrive at Brighton at 0815 (Saturday)/0817 (Monday to Friday) and 1612 (Monday to Friday)/1615 (Saturday), departing Brighton at 0859 (Monday to Friday)/0900 (Saturday) and 1700 (Saturday)/1702 (Monday to Friday). Passenger needs might be met better by a single return journey, departing Bristol Temple Meads after the morning peak and returning in time for the rolling stock to be used on local services originating in the Bristol area in the evening peak."

The (then) Passenger Focus figure of 31% of passengers being deterred by having to make an intermediate change of train is significant.  It approximately coincides with research that I came across when working on a project with KTH - the Royal Institute for Technology - in Sweden almost ten years ago and confirmed recently in conversations that I have had with ProBahn in Germany in the context of the TEE (Trans Europe Express) 2.0 proposal.  As hinted in the 2018 DfT consultation, there may not be a case for a clock-face pattern of longer-distance through trains to remoter destinations but there is certainly a case for at least one through service at an older-passenger-friendly time on established 'visiting friends and relatives' flows.

More broadly, it is usually worth emphasising that the Trowbridge-Melksham-Westbury-Warminster agglomeration is due to have a population exceeding that of significant existing nodes like Exeter. People unfamiliar with the area seem to think that Westbury is probably best represented by Eric Ravilious' picture of the White Horse seen through the window of a third-class compartment: ((here))

Because through services often aren't a practical option, we need to focus on connections.  I liked your conceptual list, but I think it needs to be complemented by some reference to the importance and potential of services connecting with one another, particularly N-S with E-W, notably at Salisbury, Southampton, Bristol, Taunton/Exeter, and Newbury.  I mention the latter because - given sufficient platform capacity - I think that a good connection there with the electric service to Paddington would obviate the need for additional calls at Theale and Thatcham of the sort you moot.  If the majority of through Far South West services are to be spared the time cost of a Westbury call, and if Devizes Gateway gets the go-ahead, and if the Taunton/Exeter semi-fasts are to have Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury added to their calls, we should acknowledge that Thatcham and Theale may be the calls that make the overall journey time intolerable.  (I have been pushing the importance in the Network Rail Wessex Dorset Connectivity Strategic Study of E-W connections at Castle Cary for services off the WEY-BST route, with much support from David Northey, the Taunton-located, Western Route Strategic Planner.)

Why would one want to run a scheduled service over the Rhubarb loop?  Is there a potential flow of which I have never heard between Avoncliff and Lawrence Hill which would make it worth not running a train through Temple Meads?
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