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Author Topic: MEETING (20.10.2021) report - Bristol to Waterloo  (Read 1014 times)
grahame
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« on: October 21, 2021, 07:42:27 am »

21st October 2021 - writing in progress.  Please follow other links at top of page for more information This URL written at 07:45 and will be updated in coming hours.

A full room at the Bethesda Baptist Church Hall, Trowbridge, and as many people joining Zoom yesterday evening, heard Andrew Ardley of South Western Trains and Martin Pearce of the Department of Transport explain why the through trains from Bristol to London (Waterloo) are being withdrawn permanently in December.   There was very real anger at the removal of the service, and at the way it is being done without any consultation, and without the provision of adequate alternative, to a very popular service.  The service has been very well used and its loss will make a huge difference to many passengers and to the places it serves. Andrew Ardley explained that the decision was made by the Department for Transport and that it’s too late in the day to make any changes for this December. Chris Irwin of TravelWatch SouthWest challenged both the removal of the services and the way it is being done, with applause from the audience of local residents.

There re already 3,000 signatures on a petition asking that the service be continued through 2022 and properly consulted on and upgraded / modernised from major timetable changes planned in December 2022.  The meeting encouraged further signature (there’s a link via http://www.passenger.chat ) and everyone to write to their MPs (Member of Parliament) and the Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member responsible, Dr Mark McLelland; informed speakers appreciate the support already received from the Wiltshire MPs and Dr McLelland, and area urging people to write to strengthen their hands as they help us battle the Department for Transport.   

The petition is already the most-signed open petition in the South West Wilts Constituency (Dr Andrew Murrison for Trowbridge, Westbury, Dilton Marsh and  Warminster Stations) and Chippenham Consitency (Bradford-on-Avon and Avoncliff stations) even though it has only been running for two weeks - with the number of signatories, were it to be duplicated across the UK (United Kingdom), making it eligible for a debate five times over. In the Bath and in the North East Somerset seats (Wera Hobhouse and Jacob Rees-Mogg), for Bath Spa and Oldfield Park, and for Keynsham, signatories would also make It a candidate for a debate and in 14 other constituencies it has already passed the much lower “you will get a written response” hurdle,

The meeting heard that the decision to permanently withdraw the service is a financial one, looking to save money by ceasing to provide what Andrew Ardley described as “services that are duplicated by Great Western Railway”. He also told us of a driver shortage that has lead to them already being withdrawn on Saturdays (when they have been observed full and standing) and that it was too late in the day for public input through normal consultation input routes would be too late to save them. He admitted that there had been no opportunity for the public to make any input. He did tell us of an offer to MPs in the spring, prior to SWRs» (South Western Railway - about) consultation for all other services across their area of South West London, Hampshire and the Exeter line , of a briefing. He told us that only a few had taken this up, probably because SWR had been unable to say what the briefing was to be about because of commercial confidentiality.  A member of the audience compared this to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, where a public notice was posted on the underside of a filing cabinet in a disused toilet.

Comment from various people present at the meeting pointed out that the way the Department for Transport, and South West Railways, have gone about the removal of this service lead the public to distrust them. A freedom of information request has turned up data that has confirmed that this service withdrawal was stitched up and infomed in such a way that inputs and proper review was suppressed, and delayed intentionally so that any analysis would only be received too late under rail industry standards to continue to run the service.  Not only is a wait of between 49 and 59 minutes at Salisbury totally inappropriate to replace a through train, but a promise that it will be looked at to see if it can be improved at the end of 2022 was far too little, far too late, and far too untrustworthy to offer any form of compromise.
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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2021, 08:49:40 am »

Continuing ...



The meeting’s organisers asked that SWR» (South Western Railway - about) and the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) not only explain where we were, but also help us all take things forward. The decision to cull these services seems to have been done without partnering with passenger groups, and seems perverse when viewed against climate, congestion, increased rail use, extra leisure staycation, GBR (Great British Railways) stated goals and so many other policies. We aere being signalled “go green” and yet being driven to drive - a decision that is not only harmful to many users of the service and the places it serves, but also to the environment  and to policy.  The absurdity of spending £500 million on “Reopening Briatn’s Railways” and then culling a much loved and used service to save £1 million next year was pointed out.

Where do we go from here?

- What we want is for the services to continue to run to the pre-Covid timetable through 2022, giving time for review and consultation.

- In December 2022, MetroWest services are set to be introduced to Westbury, and the second train in the hour Salisbury to Waterloo to be restored. At that time, it would seem to be logical to join up these trains  giving a through Bristol to Waterloo service - all stations Bristol to Basingstoke then Woking, Clapham Junction and Waterloo.  But - this is for consultation / discussion with the experts

- SWR are short of drivers - can GWR (Great Western Railway) drivers take over their trains at Westbury - same class of train.

- We need to continue to press our MPs (Member of Parliament) and councils for a political solution.  It was very clear from Andrew Ardley and the few words Martin Pearce said that they came along without any offer to continue to provide service in any meaningful way beyond 10th December and are probably planning that after our little protest meeting we’ll roll over and accept the loss of the services.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2021, 08:56:34 am by grahame » Logged

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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2021, 09:11:08 am »

Five things to do
- Supporting Group
- Sign Petition
- Write to your MP (Member of Parliament)
- Write to Dr Mclelland
- Remind people of the economic case

To follow up here and elsewhere
- Technical cross-Salisbury data and discussion
- my slide set is online at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/20211020_ge.pdf

AND MOST IMPORTANT

Thank you to
… West Wilts Rail User Group for sponsoring the room, and to Richard Cowell their chair for starting us off
… To Mark Annand of Two Tunnels for introducing the history and status of the service to give us a good grounding
… To Wendy Thorne, national director of Railfuture for looking ahead at where rail should be going
… to Andrew Ardley for coming along and the presentation of his case and explanations
… to Martin Pearce of the Department for Transport for coming along in support of Andrew and to help on certain points
… to Chris Irwin, chair of TravelWatch SouthWest for his lead during the Q&A and “where we go from here” section (the most difficult job of the evening!)
… to Bryony Chetwode of TravelWatch for running the online Zoom session
… to Nigel Bray and Roger Witt for there note-taking / minutes
… to everyone who has helped publicise the case thus far
… to everyone who came along last night in person or on Zoom
… and to the 3,147 people who have signed the petition to date
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rogerw
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« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2021, 10:16:54 am »

A very comprehensive report Grahame. I have nothing to add from my own notes
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Witham Bobby
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« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2021, 11:37:01 am »

Officialdom -v- The Public.  I'm sure Officialdom would have preferred not to have had to listen, but I'm glad they had this encounter with the effect this has on the citizens who pay for all this!
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2021, 02:39:47 pm »

Officialdom -v- The Public.  I'm sure Officialdom would have preferred not to have had to listen, but I'm glad they had this encounter with the effect this has on the citizens who pay for all this!

Indeed.

"I'm not sure if anyone from the public left last night's meeting feeling other than tee'd off to put it mildly ..." writes one of our team this morning. He's right - "While it was good of SWR» (South Western Railway - about) and the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) to send someone, it didn't come across that they were in listening mode and some of their talk came across as a filibuster - people really weren't there to hear about the new wifi and power sockets on the trains that are being withdrawn from the region."

Indeed. They are railway professionals - they are so familiar with rail that they don't appreciate the issues facing us mere morals. And they look at solutions from a railway operations standpoint, not from a passenger's view - so distant at times that the audience doesn't feel a connection.

We were told, in essence, that the decision to withdraw the trains was made in the spring and it's now too late to do anything to have the trains continue into next year - inputs would have been needed months ago. However, because the DfT was looking for quick wins there had been no time to do any public consultation. A Freedom of Information request (these things are great at telling you what went wrong when it's too late!) confirms a less that open or properly informed process - a "stitch up" and "collusion" are terms used last night.

So - what now? Something for our MPs (Member of Parliament) to raise? Andrew Murrison (Trowbridge) and Michelle Donelan (Bradford-on-Avon) are pressing the Department for Transport. Wera Hobhouse (Bath Spa and Oldfield Park) is pressing very strongly too, and indeed looking to raise the issue in Parliament - article shared here. I understand that Jacob Rees-Mogg (Keynsham) has asked the Department for Transport for their "take" on this, but I have no copy correspondence from that area, so he may have done more. Please write to your MP. Please sign my petition at https://lnkd.in/gVZk3jch asking for the service to continue pending proper consultation and appropriate alternative provision.

As I write, there are 784 signature for Trowbridge, 776 for Bradford-on-Avon, 230 for Bath and Oldfield Park, and 180 for Keynsham on the petition. It is being noticed and followed up for us. Life would be much easier for the SWR and DfT men who came last night if we just rolled over now and meekly accepted their organisation's scheming. But that would be letting down all the people who use and love these services. Seat occupancy graphs were shown last night, and we were supposed to believe the numbers were low. Sorry, gentlemen, I know the average seat occupancies on public transport; you failed to provide a "control" such as a national or franchise average, and I suspect that's because the figures are actually rather good when seen against a datum.

From the Bath Echo

Quote
Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has backed a campaign to keep the popular train service between Bath and London Waterloo running.

The MP has weighed in on the Government’s decision to cancel the service, which stops at Oldfield Park and Bath Spa.

Mrs Hobhouse wrote to the Department for Transport to raise the issue but received a response claiming that the service is a duplicate.

Supporting the campaign, she believes that the cancellation will be “hugely damaging” and inconvenient for residents across the West.

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bobm
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« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2021, 03:03:44 pm »

There is an adjournment debate on "Rail service reductions" tomorrow and a fortnight today (4th Nov) at 9.30am there are Transport Questions.
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broadgage
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2021, 03:38:06 pm »

BTW (by the way), I was NOT present at the meeting despite two suggestions otherwise.
Whom is pictured wearing a brown pullover and standing up near the window ?

Definitely not me, though there might be a passing resemblance.

NO offence is intended to that person who is probably younger, slimmer, and more handsome than I !
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
grahame
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« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2021, 06:20:07 pm »

There is an adjournment debate on "Rail service reductions" tomorrow and a fortnight today (4th Nov) at 9.30am there are Transport Questions.

I have dropped a briefing note to the four MPs (Member of Parliament) at the top of the petition signatories
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johnneyw
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« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2021, 11:10:07 pm »

The Beeb news website had this coverage with quotes:

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-wiltshire-58979185
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