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Author Topic: Southampton to Westbury (for Melksham) ... journey log - 28th August 2021  (Read 1828 times)
grahame
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« on: August 28, 2021, 04:54:15 pm »

We got off "Iona" much quicker than we expected; got to Southampton Central at 08:15 just in time to see the Cross Country service to Manchester to call on time, and the Southern train from Brighton pull in, turn aound and leave again.  South Western Railways to Waterloo, called, local to Weymouth left, and their Romsey via Eastleigh called on time. All ship shape and Southampton fashion.  Lisa and I hopped onto the 08:37 South Western Railway service to Salisbury - first train out in the direction we wanted, and I wanted to go up that way on a "stopper" to see the various intermediate stations and how busy they were.

We pulled into Salisbury on time at 09:15, and there saw the London train leave at 09:21 before the train from Cardiff called at 09:30. Why, oh why, were GWR (Great Western Railway) running a 2 car class 158 on that service on a Bank Holiday Saturday; platform very busy - don't know what it was like on the train as it was across the station. Our 09:42, intially showing "On time" slipped by a few minutes and we were told that it was due to staff being delayed. The departure boards showed the next GWR train via Westbury at 10:42 was already cancelled, as was the following one at 11:13 - good job we were this early, and with 38 minutes (10:06 to 10:44) to change at Westbury, we were OK, right?

Wrong.

That 09:42 slipped and slipped - a couple of minutes at a time. Real Time Trains showed it making extended station stops and then dropping more minutes between stations too. It dragged in - an old blue turbo, just 3 carriages long, at 10:03.  Extended station stop simply because of the numbers of passengers off and on, attempting to social distance on a train that should have had five carriages for us to spread out.

A 10:06 start and we crawled out of the station. Noticably slow.  A garbled conductor's announcement said something about engines, but I couldn't catch it; I surmised that one engine was out. And indeed that proved to be the case; the train manager came through to let people know too - and to tell people there would be a few minutes extra delay at Westbury while engineers looked at it, but we would get to Cardiff, even if very late.  Slow start from Warminster, but still 14 minutes before our connecting train on from Westbury - or so we thought.

We crawled through Dilton Marsh, and came to a halt at the signal before Westbury.  Waiting for a plaform, perhaps?   I don't know - but we pulled into platform 3 at 10:44 - the departure time of the Swindon train. Which, sadly, had left directly across also (on time) at 10:44.  About a 30 second miss, I think.  Why, oh why, oh why.  Monumental failure? The Cardiff train was stopped for repairs; unusual to see "do not move" boards (and very quickly) on a train full of passengers, so clearly this was planned.  No problem of the 10:44 to make up a couple of minutes, and no problem with any resultant congestion.

Passengers piled off our late arrival "Swindon train?" I asked. "Stay on this one and change at Bath" we were advised. "Err - for Melksham?". "Taxi at the front of the station".  We were far from alone - people asking for Chippenham and Swindon too - all told to get back on the train to Bath as we dropped into the Subway to the front of the station, where coaches were being organised for Weymouth, and taxis commandeered for Bruton to save the bus going there.  No sign of anything for Melksham; fortunately, our friend who was going to pick us up at Melksham Station offered to divert to Westbury, and we ended up with a ride home by car from there - home at about 11:25

As an eplilogue, I looked up how those Swindon passengers sent on to Bath would have gotten on. They should have left Westbury on the 10:44 and got to Swindon at 11:31.  As it was, their train got to Bath at 11:20. The 11:48 to Swindon was cancelled and the "half hourly" service is only running every hour today, so the next train was 12:48, arriving in Swindon at 13:13.  Actually, they would have done better to wait for the next TransWilts train at Westbury which would have got them to Swindon at 12:50.  They would have done even better to stay on the Cardiff train to Bristol Parkway (actual 11:50 to actual 12:12) for a Swindon arrival at 12:34. Or they could have left Westbury at 10:53, changes at Reading (11:50 to 11:59) and arrived Swindon at 12:26.

Us passengers really not impressed by Great Western today - shortage of staff, maybe - so fewer trains running, so why put out short forms and why put out faulty trains?  Also why dispatch the Swindon from Westbury when the incoming connection was seconds away?  And why advise Swindon Passengers to stay on the train and change at Bath Spa, when there were three quicker ways to do it? Why no taxi when we were told there would be one? And $64,000 - why did it look like other operators didn't have anything like these problems?

These are "passenger's questions".  I can sorta guess the answers to most of them ...

Credit where it's due. To our lift from Westbury. And to the train manager on the train limping from Portsmouth to Cardiff.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2021, 08:45:59 pm by grahame » Logged

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ChrisB
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« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2021, 05:27:53 pm »

That turbo probably wasn’t faulty at the start of it’s journey?..
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2021, 05:38:24 pm »

That turbo probably wasn’t faulty at the start of it’s journey?..

Maybe not ... but a faded old 3 car unit on a service that we were promised would be 5 does not inspire confidence.  And a 5 car with 1 engine out has 80% power where a 3 car with one engine out is down to 66%.  Just 3 late off Portsmouth Harbour and time lost for every stop - if not faulty at the start, it looks like it was faulty pretty darned soon thereafter!  I'm putting the passenger view, Chris - it was probably running fine when it left St Phillip's Marsh at Silly O'Clock if that's where it started the day!

For the record - this is why diverting TransWilts passengers via Bath Spa is not a great idea today.  Note the service from Bath to Chippenham and Swindon usually runs every 30 minutes.

Quote
Cancellations to services between Swindon and Bath Spa

Due to a shortage of train crew between Swindon and Bath Spa fewer trains are able to run.
Train services running through these stations have been cancelled. Disruption is expected until the end of the day.

Customer Advice
A 2-hourly train service is available between Swindon and Bath Spa due to train crew unavailability.

Limited replacement road transport is available between Swindon and Bath Spa, calling at Chippenham. The buses will be busy in both directions and you may not be able to board the next bus, with long waiting times at the stations expected.

Please check your journey before travel, replacement road transport is available inbetween train services and journey times may take longer.
Replacement road transport services are conveying passengers between Swindon and Bath Spa in both directions until further notice.
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« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2021, 05:44:40 pm »

Some good points to put to Mark Hopwood when he joins us on the forum next time.  A smorgasbord of things, so of which wouldn’t take much to put right.
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« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2021, 08:37:23 pm »

Remember that shortage of staff can also lead to "more trains than usual waiting for someone to mend them". Though I have no idea whether that has actually been happening.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2021, 06:07:10 am »

Remember that shortage of staff can also lead to "more trains than usual waiting for someone to mend them". Though I have no idea whether that has actually been happening.

You could be right - a VERY brief glance across to the sidings at Westbury yesterday looked like there was plenty of stock there; doesn't tell us much though I would expect stuff on a maintenance backlog to be at Bristol or Exeter, and that the trains aside at Westbury to be there for the services that should have been running but were cancelled overnight.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2021, 07:29:33 am »

Some good points to put to Mark Hopwood when he joins us on the forum next time.  A smorgasbord of things, so of which wouldn’t take much to put right.

If he isn't aware of repeated systemic issues such as these already and addressing them, then the reasons for their endlessly ongoing nature are perhaps clearer.
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bignosemac
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2021, 10:11:10 pm »

Sadly, I won't always be there to divert and pick up!

This wasn't an isolated problem with GWR (Great Western Railway) this weekend. Various issues across the network.
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2021, 06:26:26 am »

Sadly, I won't always be there to divert and pick up!

It was very much appreciated, thanks.  With rail and local knowledge:

* We could have carried on to Trowbridge and caught the bus - except that the 10:59 bus, if it were on time, would have left from Trinity Church - 50 yards from the station - at the same time that the train called at the station so a 60 minute wait at the bus stop; I did check and we both had our bus passes there. So that would have been 12:35 in Melksham

* We could have stood on GWR (Great Western Railway) to provide something (such as a taxi)

* We could have followed GWR advice and carried on to Bath Spa.  Not sure what we were supposed to do from there - shown as arriving at 11:20.  My own thought would have been the 11:45 bus which calls at 12:28 (literally) across the road from our home.

* We could have waited for the next train at 12:05, arriving Melksham 12:20 ... surprisingly close for once (everything different to normal)

One of the things that I notice when trains are cancelled / seriously delayed are just how many people can call on others to pick them up / give lifts.  We were very fortunate, but our fortune / ability to ask favours / with fantastic (or long-suffering, or loving) friends and relatives.  What and how the "are you going to [Chippenham/Trowbridge] too - can I give you a lift" Good Samaritan approach which we have sene over the years will work now in the Covid era is something I have no evidence for.

Quote
This wasn't an isolated problem with GWR this weekend. Various issues across the network.

Far from unique issues - which is why they were 'worth' watching and documenting.  In the flow of things - OK - we were a bit late home and would have been a bit later still without that lift.   Hasn't actually put me off catching the train, but confirms my recommendation to MTUG» (Melksham Transport User Group - site) that we do not market "try the train" days until it gets better - a day trip by train from Melksham usually involved an out and back service, often with a change along the way, 4 chances of it going wrong (6 if you add in the missed connection possibility).
« Last Edit: August 30, 2021, 07:30:40 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2021, 09:41:07 am »

Your last point is particularly potent. There have been many marketing attempts to get more people to use the train, and when they do they are let down in some way, and are put off for life (or at least a considerable time).
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2021, 07:20:20 am »

Remember that shortage of staff can also lead to "more trains than usual waiting for someone to mend them". Though I have no idea whether that has actually been happening.

I followed up on short forms on various routes (high speed, and Cardiff / Portsmouth) and understand that while the Cardiff / Portsmouth services are unable to call at Bristol Temple Mead because of the possession, strengthening and shortening trains at the major station nearest their main depot hasn't been possible, and it's been problematic to do it elsewhere.
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