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Author Topic: Are the railways fit for their (future) purpose?  (Read 3346 times)
grahame
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« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2021, 11:08:12 am »

...A rail journey from Norwich to Southampton with suitcases is not going to be easy, and I doubt that there would ever be sufficient demand to provide a regular though through service. It would be possible to avoid central London by using the North London line Stratford to Clapham Jcn, but the easiest way to shift two people plus suitcases from Liverpool Street to Waterloo would be in the back of a taxi. ...

A few things occurred to me having read the OP (Original Poster / topic starter) and the above response; the level of demand for a through Norwich>Southampton service might be doubted by most people but I would be very interested to know if the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) or any of their agents has ever looked at the (ticket) data to form a quantitative view. Probably not?

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Would it be beyond the capabilities of the relevant cruise ship company(ies) to provide taxi or, if customer numbers rendered it appropriate, minibus (with plenty of room for luggage, obviously) connections between the arrival station and London Waterloo as part of the package?

I'm not sure how commonplace it is, but the cruise company we are travelling with offers a "free" coach service from across the UK (United Kingdom) to Southampton to connect with their sailings.  These coaches call at various motorway services along the way, and passengers can then get friends, family, or taxi drivers to drop them off there.   They seem to be well used as an alternative to "free" car parking at Southampton.  We tend to take our cruise operator up on the third "freebie" that' offered - you can take any one - which is on-board spending credit, then catch the train to Southampton - but noting that there is not the co-operation between RDG(resolve), AToC, National Rail, DfT or whoever it might be to offer a packaged rail option.

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If it becomes apparent that demand does exist EWR (East-West Rail) could in the future be used to provide a more direct service but in the meantime, since it already covers the route from Southampton to Ely, albeit not continuously, XC could do the job.

Too much to hope for I guess.

I was considering too the direct Basingstoke to Colchester / Ipswich service that's tried out a few years ago.   Agreed this is not an easily solved one ... and indeed the flow volumes may be such that it's not "worth" solving.   Lisa and I will continue to take the train from Melksham and grab a taxi (under a tenner) in Southampton in preference to getting a lift to Leigh Delamere and losing far more than our train fare in on-board spend.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #16 on: November 24, 2021, 12:03:24 pm »

On Sainsbury's only opening if sufficient staff turn up: what would they do if one morning only the manager and one till operator were there? Probably they have a bank of supply staff they could call up at short notice. But till operating and shelf stacking are low skill jobs that almost anyone can do with ten minutes' training and it costs nothing to have that reserve unused. Train drivers need a lot of training and need to be paid even if you did keep them on effectively a zero-hours usage contract.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2021, 11:25:37 am »

On Sainsbury's only opening if sufficient staff turn up: what would they do if one morning only the manager and one till operator were there? Probably they have a bank of supply staff they could call up at short notice. But till operating and shelf stacking are low skill jobs that almost anyone can do with ten minutes' training and it costs nothing to have that reserve unused. Train drivers need a lot of training and need to be paid even if you did keep them on effectively a zero-hours usage contract.

That wasn’t really the point I was making.

Any business that sets itself up to provide a service to the public has an obligation to provide that service whether it is a grocery chain store, a leisure centre, a railway or indeed anything else. And one of the most crucial factors in that process is having sufficient staff available to provide the service.

The railway has pared its staff to the bone in recent years. There is very little if any spare capacity. I can see the financial drivers for that approach but it does mean that the travelling public are let down, time and time again.

Yes I accept that the alternative is carrying “surplus” staff; staff sitting around in the mess room drinking tea and playing cards all day if not required, but if the railway wishes to fully fulfil its obligations to its passengers then it should have those staff available.

Organisations like the supermarkets are not only aware of that, but are also aware that if they do not provide the service that say they will provide, their customers will go to their competitors instead. In many parts of the country, the local TOC (Train Operating Company) has no effective rail competition so they can believe they can provide a sub-standard service in far too many occasions and get away with it. The trouble is they are right.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2021, 03:18:38 pm »

Yes, I agree with all that^^ and understood your point. But what is to be done about it? AFAIK (as far as I know) there has never really been competition in railways – even pre-grouping different companies ran different lines, which might at best have had similar endpoints but served different intermediate stations – and even where multiple operators run on the same line, there is only limited competition, because the services will run at different times. It's simply not like a supermarket where I can just go to Tesco's if Sainsbury's is closed. There might be a way of introducing that competition but I don't know what it would be?
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grahame
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« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2021, 06:33:41 am »

The railway has pared its staff to the bone in recent years. There is very little if any spare capacity. I can see the financial drivers for that approach but it does mean that the travelling public are let down, time and time again.

Yes I accept that the alternative is carrying “surplus” staff; staff sitting around in the mess room drinking tea and playing cards all day if not required, but if the railway wishes to fully fulfil its obligations to its passengers then it should have those staff available.

[snip]

In many parts of the country, the local TOC (Train Operating Company) has no effective rail competition so they can believe they can provide a sub-standard service in far too many occasions and get away with it. The trouble is they are right.

There *are* alternatives to sitting in the mess room, drinking tea and playing cards - important but not time critical tasks that need to be undertaken. At least there were when we had a business where it was critical for us to have someone available at a couple of minutes notice.  And in the market we were in, failing to provide for customers would soon have got us a bad name, lost most of our business to others, and resulted in additional unpleasant work for our team dealing with unhappy people who had booked with us.

You see this at work in the supermarkets and corners stores too - with staff at "other tasks" called to the checkouts when they get busy - the supermarkets do not let huge queues build, nor routinely (to my knowldege) have extra staff dinking tea (or coffee) and playing cards (or mahjong) in the mess room.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2021, 09:32:11 am »

You can tell a lot about a business by its attitude towards its customers. A fundamental cultural shift in this area by the railways would go a long way in making them more fit for future purpose, but cultural change is always the hardest to achieve, and the railways, together with many who operate them, are very set in their ways and attitudes....and of course the lack of competition helps them to get away with it.
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« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2021, 02:39:57 pm »

To get a cultural shift you need all stakeholders on board.  At the moment the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) is calling the shots, based on the record of governments (especially this one) in customer service, I am not sure they will be on board.  Suspicion and doubt is certainly the hallmark of HMRC, DWP, Home Office on when dealing with 'customers', why should DfT be any different?
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #22 on: November 26, 2021, 08:16:40 pm »

You can tell a lot about a business by its attitude towards its customers. A fundamental cultural shift in this area by the railways would go a long way in making them more fit for future purpose, but cultural change is always the hardest to achieve, and the railways, together with many who operate them, are very set in their ways and attitudes....and of course the lack of competition helps them to get away with it.

Competition is the best way to guarantee/ enforce good service, but it can also be done by the correct cultural attitude of staff and management

But I seem to recall that that one of one of the motivators for privatisation. That, I thought, was the idea behind getting rid of the old dinosaurs that were running the railway prior to 1994; to generally clear out the staff and the deadwood who couldn’t adapt to the new ways. What happened there then? Did those Customer Care staff recruited via ads on “The Grocer” not stay? Did they turn into the Porters and Leading Porters and TTIs of old? Did the New Guard who replaced the Old Guard simply become younger versions of the Old Guard? It’s all a mystery to me...

But one element of Customer service I have seen change, and I dare say some in management would use the letters in “improve” to mean “dealing with the peripherals.” We see millions spent on new liveries for coaching stock when franchises change hands – even LNER» (London North Eastern Railway - about), a state-owned operator, couldn’t resist painting its rattlers white when it got hold of them. We see multi-million pound station refurbishment schemes that, other than a new lift, provide exactly the same facilities as the old station but just in different parts of the building. We see new coats of paint going on all over the shop. 

In Chippenham we now appear to have a full time cleaner who spends all day sweeping the floor and polishing the handrails (and this was also before Covid, not just since). I am sure all those people who turn up on the station to find their next London cancelled are gratified to know that they won’t get dust on their shoes as they wait for the next ironing-board-on-wheels to come in and take them onwards. I am sure that those who turn up to find the entire afternoon service to Melksham has been caped because the driver stubbed his toe, are over the moon when they find that they can sit on a clean seat to wait for the bus replacement to amble along.

Is there anybody else out there ho, when observing this “fur coat and no knickers” approach to customer service, think of the marketing executives on the Golgafrinchan B Ark smugly informing that they haven’t the research back yet to finally conclude what shape a wheel should be, or what is the best colour for fire?
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ellendune
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« Reply #23 on: November 26, 2021, 08:49:21 pm »

Competition is the best way to guarantee/ enforce good service, but it can also be done by the correct cultural attitude of staff and management

Not sure.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #24 on: November 28, 2021, 05:11:34 pm »

Fertile ground for COVID

16:33 London Paddington to Plymouth due 20:03

Facilities on the 16:33 London Paddington to Plymouth due 20:03.

Service full and standing from London Paddington. First class is declassified. There are no reservations on this service throughout.
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broadgage
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« Reply #25 on: November 28, 2021, 06:06:22 pm »

Fertile ground for COVID

16:33 London Paddington to Plymouth due 20:03

Facilities on the 16:33 London Paddington to Plymouth due 20:03.

Service full and standing from London Paddington. First class is declassified. There are no reservations on this service throughout.

Flexible train length, or something else.
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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 #26 on: November 28, 2021, 06:13:08 pm »

Fertile ground for COVID

16:33 London Paddington to Plymouth due 20:03

Facilities on the 16:33 London Paddington to Plymouth due 20:03.

Service full and standing from London Paddington. First class is declassified. There are no reservations on this service throughout.

Flexible train length, or something else.

Real Time Trains tells us it's 5 carriages - which feels a little short for a late Sunday afternoon service on the main line to the South West - really needs 9 or 10 to help with social distancing, customer expectations of comfort, and in developing the leisure market which is, I understand, so important to the future of the railways in the UK (United Kingdom).

There may also be a clue in

Quote
16:04 London Paddington to Penzance due 21:08
16:04 London Paddington to Penzance due 21:08 will be started from Reading.

It will no longer call at London Paddington.
This is due to a fault with the signalling system.
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« Reply #27 on: November 28, 2021, 10:26:18 pm »

Normally you’d get away with a five car for the 1633 semi fast, but as Graham points out, the 1604 started at Reading owing to the inbound running very late leaving the five car 1633 to carry way more passengers than it normally would.
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grahame
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« Reply #28 on: November 29, 2021, 02:06:31 am »

Are the railways fit for purpose (5)

Our plan was to dock at Southampton on Saturday morning, grab a taxi to Southampton Central and train (change at Westbury) to Melksham.  Later in the day, our friend, looking after our dogs and house while we're away, would return to Somerset by train with his dog.

Well - it didn't work out like that.  Storm Arwen kept us in the Bay of Biscay and English Channel for a further 24 hours, and we docked not at 06:00 Saturday but at 06:00 Sunday.  Simples? Push back plans 24 hours?  No, sadly not. I have this thread running - "Are the railways fit for their (future) purpose?" and the answer yesterday was "no" - at least they weren't fit for our Sunday purpose, even though they worked on Saturday.

The problem

Southampton to Salisbury was "bustituted".  On the first alternative route, trains across Basingstoke were bustitued (Winchester to Reading). On the second alternative, trains Upwey / Dorchester to Yeovil Pen Mill were bustituted too.  The third possibility was Cross Country, running a diverted service from Southampton via Havant and Guildford to Reading - three scheduled trains at 08:15, 09:15 or 11:15. But then there were three incoming boats ships - Iona with around 4,000 passengers, plus two Cunarders - Queen Mary II and Queen Elizabeth - which probably doubled that number.  We were concerned at the capacity of these trains, and also their reliability based on Cross Country's significant further service reductions from this weekend, taking out trains shown in the timetables. Even overcoming those issues / if all worked well, there would have been over an hour at interchanges on the way. Buses were ruled out any part of this specific journey for reasons particular to us on this journey. (*)

Now, let's take a look at Melksham to Taunton for our friend.  A train every 2 hours from Melksham (and he would have been catching - at the earliest - the next train in the 'cycle' 2 hours after we arrived in Melksham. And then a two hourl train Westbury to Taunton - with a consistent wait of aroud 90 minutes there on every cycle.  The Melksham to Trowbridge bus - a substitute for the train where there are gaps in service - runs every 30 minutes during the morning ann earlyu afternoon on Monday to Friday, every hour on Saturday and - oops - not at all on Sundays, which as I understand it are now one of the busiest days for travel.

On my own, without having mobility and time limits, I suspect I would have take the trains the long way round, enjoyed the route via Rowland's Castle and North Camp, and sat patiently with a cup of coffee at Reading and later Westbury composing parts of the Advent quiz.  But I was not alone!

The Chosen Solution

We still have a c-a-r though I'm now limited as to how far I will drive - I find it tiring and place a conservative limit on myself of a couple of hours in a day.  Fortunately, our good friend drives too and was able to arrange extended insurance to drive to Southampton, pick us up, and drive us all to his final destination in Somerset.  From where I was within my limit to drive home.  The whole operation completed five hours ahead of the best (im)practical rail alternative, and at an incremental running cost (as we have the car anyway) well below the rail fares.

Oh dear!  I'm a huge advocate of public transport, but there are times that it is not fit for [my] purpose.  I will put myself out considerably, I will put others out a little.  But yesterday - Sunday 28th October - was beyond the pale, espcecially with a loss already of a day ane a need to get back into normal life.  On Saturday, the trains might have worked, on Sunday for the same travel plans they were found unfit for purpose.  I will leave you with questions - are we expecting too much of public transport in thinking it should have worked for us in this case? and if it didn't work for us, are we the exception and it works for most people?
« Last Edit: November 29, 2021, 02:24:21 am by grahame » Logged

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broadgage
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« Reply #29 on: November 29, 2021, 06:26:38 pm »

The previous few posts suggests that the railways are NOT fit for their PRESENT purposes, let alone for future purposes.
Half length trains.
Cancelled trains.
Trains that run for only a small part of the route.
General discomfort and lack of facilities.
And on a Sunday, lucky to get a train at all.

But never mind, the new covid variant can be used to justify reduced capacity, for a few years at least. Overcrowding is not due to half length trains/fewer trains, but can be re-branded as being due to people making non essential journeys.
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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.
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