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Author Topic: South Western Railways - reductions west of Salisbury  (Read 5732 times)
PhilWakely
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« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2022, 01:49:03 pm »

Is this going to be streamed live?

I cannot find it on any listings as a live broadcast. BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page) Parliament has a 'Select Committees'  summary on Saturday afternoon.
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PhilWakely
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« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2022, 02:02:07 pm »

I was walking the pooch passed Pinhoe station this morning at about 9:20am. A couple, complete with suitcases, had just arrived onto the London-bound platform. Under the revised timetable, the 09:25 EXD» (Exeter St Davids - next trains)-WAT (due Pinhoe at 09:35) is replaced by a 08:55 EXD-SAL (due at Pinhoe at 09:10).

I was rather concerned as they showed no sign of having missed their train, so asked them where they were heading. They had tickets for the 09:35 to travel to Gatwick Airport, via Salisbury andClapham Junction. When I mentioned the revised timetable, they were somewhat surprised and disappointed to hear that the next available service would not be until 11:05. They have no access to the internet and had not seen or heard anything about it. To make matters worse, there are no posters up at Pinhoe station advertising the revised timetable and, as has been reported on here previously, the CIS (Customer Information System) on the Up platform has not been working for more than 18 months.

I don't know whether they had a flight to catch, but I suggested that they got hold of a complaints form and let SWR» (South Western Railway - about) know their feelings. Sadly, they would not be entitled to any delay-replay compensation.



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grahame
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« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2022, 03:40:47 pm »

Interesting to see Nick Hurrell pointing out that very few services had been cancelled in recent weeks. Looking at RTT» (Real Time Trains - website) regularly that was the impression I had. So is Covid really the reason behind the changes?

I have been researching this, and I understand that a staff shortage due to Covid is unlikely to be the reason.   Rather, with passenger numbers being low the opportunity is being taken to services, and reduce overtime and rest day working from normal (whatever they are) to minimal levels, and indeed also provide a small buffer of "rostered spare" crew in case of late absence.  So if we are told "it's because of Covid" that could be right - in that passenger numbers are low enough for "them" to get away with a reduced service, and those numbers are low because of ongoing covid concerns.

With costs being "king" ... fewer services, less track access charges, less overtime to pay, the "saving costs" objective is helped.  Whether the cost saving is greater than or less than the income lost, I would not know, and whether a cost saving in the short term results in an income loss over a substantially longer period, I would not know.   I would not know, either, if and how Network Rail is going to be making up the loss of TOC (Train Operating Company) income from reduced track access charges.
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grahame
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« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2022, 04:28:53 pm »

From the BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page)

Quote
UK (United Kingdom) train services cut due to Covid staff absences

Further cuts to train timetables have been made in response to Covid-related staff shortages.

South Western Railway (SWR» (South Western Railway - about)) said it was running 28% fewer weekday trains from Monday, compared with pre-pandemic levels, due to staff absences caused largely by the Omicron Covid variant.

The Rail Delivery Group's latest figure for rail staff absences is at 11%.

and later in the same article

Quote
SWR said its move to a temporary emergency timetable would enable the operator to "match capacity and demand effectively", and reduce the need for short notice changes.

It has not given a date for when the timetable will change back.

Meanwhile, c2c's website says that as well as improving reliability given increased staff sickness rates, the timetable it has introduced until further notice will also "enable [it] to save taxpayer money, as passenger demand has fallen significantly in recent weeks".

and that says something different to the headline - it admits as I read it that SWR are reducing the timetable because there are not enough people using the trains to justify the provision and expense of a full service.

c2c (quoted) and Greater Anglia further down the article both talk of cuts in response to lower passenger numbers (rather than lack of staff) and other TOCs (Train Operating Company) are quoted with lower service specs without reason given - SWR are the only ones quoting staff absence  Grin Grin
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« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2022, 06:38:20 pm »

I haven't posted on this board for ages, but as someone who uses this service from time to time I'm pretty hacked off about this. It's not really down to Covid; there's a chap in our user group who monitors performance, and in recent weeks SWR» (South Western Railway - about) have hardly cancelled anything on this line due to staff shortages. (Since they withdrew the Bristol services in fact, presumably because they've now got a glut of crews.) Last week there were no staff-related cancellations.

If it's down to reduced passenger numbers, why not just terminate every other Exeter train at Salisbury? Making people change trains introduces an element of risk, with the possibility of missing the connection, or the twenty minute delay if all goes well. Plus they've introduced stonking great delays at Yeovil Junction and Pinhoe (Exeter bound). It all seems designed to put passengers off using the line, so they can say "Look, no-one's using the trains, let's cancel some more".

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's no restriction on weekday leisure travel, is there? Surely people should be encouraged to be using trains for longer journeys rather than driving up and down the A303. Wan't our PM in Glasgow recently lecturing other countries on how they should be doing more to reduce carbon emissions, or was I dreaming all that?
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grahame
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« Reply #20 on: January 17, 2022, 08:05:41 pm »

I have invited SWR» (South Western Railway - about) to comment:

Quote
Dear Andrew,

It has been brought to my attention ...

[snip]

1. Please re-instate for the duration of the current annual timetable the late service which allows passengers to travel from Bristol and Bath to Warminster and Salisbury.

2. Please provided copies of correspondence between yourselves and the Department for Transport to clarify the background reasons for these new cuts - how the decision was reached to make such significant reductions, what consultation with Transport Focus and passenger groups was undertaken, etc - the data that would be available to me if I were to make a formal Freedom of Information request via the DfT» (Department for Transport - about)» .

3. Please provide comment (should you wish to do so) on the changes west of Salisbury (including the withdrawal of most through service to an from London) which can be shared to help passengers and community groups across Wessex understand where you are coming from and what your long terms plans are.

[snip]

This is an "open" letter, Andrew, which you are welcome to share to help illustrate the issues and concerns to your team at SWR; I am also sharing for information to passenger groups of which I am a member and in context at http://www.passenger.chat/25879 . I very much hope that you'll be able to provide a response which is suitable to re-assure your customer base. 

I look forward to hearing

Many thanks to Andrew at SWR for a prompt reply - and much more substantial that just a holding letter too.   Much appreciated!

Quote
Dear Graham,
 
I will pick up each of your points in turn:
 
Emergency pretext – no this is not about saving costs. It is purely about staff availability – I’m sure you’re aware that virtually all TOCs (Train Operating Company) including GWR (Great Western Railway) have had to make some quite significant changes to timetables. GWR have chosen to do it on a week by week spot basis for individual trains. We’ve chosen to give customers a bit more certainty by publishing a full revised timetable. Of course each TOC and depot is affected by different levels of sickness and base levels of crews – you’ll be aware that we were already short of drivers at Salisbury due to the impact of Covid on training over the last few years, so this just makes it worse, especially as we cannot easily move drivers between depots because of the traction knowledge.
 
1. I will ask our train planning unit to see what they can do. Inevitably there have to be compromises with first and last trains when introducing emergency timetables but given the context of this one I will ask whether a special case can be made. It will of course depend on whether crew and stock can be in the right place at the right time. I would point out that we are using the ‘spare’ stock to strengthen the remaining services – it won’t just necessarily be sitting at Salisbury.

2. Explained above. We write to DfT explaining the staffing sickness levels and a proposed outline timetable. They have to approve the proposals, which they did. I’m not sure what data you would be expecting – sickness levels by depot on a week by week basis? Obviously a decision had to be made some time in advance if we were to go with a full new temporary timetable across SWR – changing crew and rolling stock diagrams is a massive task, as well as ‘bidding’ for the revised paths through NR» (Network Rail - home page). We could only base this on the information and projections available at the time. To have done nothing based on that information would have been irresponsible – we were asked by Government to give customers certainty. For these reasons it was unfortunately not possible to carry out consultation – there simply wasn’t time. I’m aware that GWR did some limited stakeholder consultation on their plans, but as I said they chose to give customers less certainty over the next few weeks by making changes for individual services on a weekly basis which made that process easier. We have already factored in feedback on school and college services based on last year’s experience.

3. We have been clear that this is a short term emergency timetable, nothing more than that. It is the same one that we introduced and then withdrew early last year. We all acknowledge that the current timetable with the split at Salisbury is far from ideal but it is currently the only way of providing a stable pattern of services with the staffing levels available. There is absolutely no basis to suggest this is part of a plan to run the line down – indeed we have been putting in a lot of work with Network Rail and local stakeholders to promote the plans for capacity enhancements, improved performance and journey time improvements. Again I’m not sure what data you are expecting. Inevitably we, like all other TOCs, have to agree budgets with DfT on a year by year basis for the foreseeable future until GBR (Great British Railways) comes into existence. What services we can provide will subject to those negotiations and what DfT is able and willing to buy. In the immediate short term the plan is to go back to the December 2021 timetable as soon as staffing levels allow. I’m sorry but I don’t understand the point about higher fares – are you referring to GWR and Paddington? Fares along the West of England haven’t changed as a result of the timetable although I am following up queries about advance fares.
 
I hope that answers your questions and gives you the reassurances you require.
 
Regards
 
Andrew

I will follow up the fares issue - explaining what was a passing reference in my original letter - in a separate post.

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« Reply #21 on: January 18, 2022, 01:13:04 am »

From Claire Mann, MD of SWR» (South Western Railway - about) to the Salisbury Journal

Quote
SWR’s Managing Director Claire Mann commented: “The spread of the Omicron variant has had a significant impact on our railway, with fewer people using the train and staff shortages impacting on our ability to consistently deliver the current timetable.

“Having assessed demand and spoken to our industry colleagues, we believe this new timetable is the most effective means of ensuring our customers receive a reliable service, with short-notice cancellations minimised.

There needs to be a balance. Short notice cancellations can be minimised "to extremis" by culling fare more trains than really necessary, and, gosh, that must be so tempting if demand is low and you are being bullied to keep costs as low as you can.   Problem is that if you provide a naff service frequency, even if it's reliable, you drive demand ever lower in a spiral.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2022, 08:51:28 am »

Over the few weeks that it should apply to staff shortage/illness, I don’t think it’ll have much long-term affect frankly. Only if the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) insists they continue for longer will that fear materialise.

In the short term, far worse is GWR (Great Western Railway) & other TOCs (Train Operating Company) week-to-week changes such that planning a trip with constraints on arrival and/or departure time (if for an evening out, requiring last train) sre far more difficult, if nigh on impossible.

I suspect SWR» (South Western Railway - about) will find some way of providing that last departure from BRI» (Bristol Temple Meads - next trains) to Westbury.
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grahame
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« Reply #23 on: January 18, 2022, 08:53:06 am »


I will follow up the fares issue - explaining what was a passing reference in my original letter - in a separate post.



New thread at http://www.passenger.chat/25888
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PhilWakely
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« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2022, 12:36:20 pm »


Many thanks to Andrew at SWR» (South Western Railway - about) for a prompt reply - and much more substantial that just a holding letter too.   Much appreciated!

Quote
Dear Graham,
 
I will pick up each of your points in turn:
 
Emergency pretext – no this is not about saving costs. It is purely about staff availability – I’m sure you’re aware that virtually all TOCs (Train Operating Company) including GWR (Great Western Railway) have had to make some quite significant changes to timetables. GWR have chosen to do it on a week by week spot basis for individual trains. We’ve chosen to give customers a bit more certainty by publishing a full revised timetable. Of course each TOC and depot is affected by different levels of sickness and base levels of crews – you’ll be aware that we were already short of drivers at Salisbury due to the impact of Covid on training over the last few years, so this just makes it worse, especially as we cannot easily move drivers between depots because of the traction knowledge.

<snip>
 
I hope that answers your questions and gives you the reassurances you require.
 
Regards
 
Andrew


From Claire Mann, MD of SWR to the Salisbury Journal

Quote
SWR’s Managing Director Claire Mann commented: “The spread of the Omicron variant has had a significant impact on our railway, with fewer people using the train and staff shortages impacting on our ability to consistently deliver the current timetable.

“Having assessed demand and spoken to our industry colleagues, we believe this new timetable is the most effective means of ensuring our customers receive a reliable service, with short-notice cancellations minimised.

If, as both Andrew and Claire at SWR appear to be saying, it is purely a staffing issue, then .....

Why is SWR able to run a full service with full-length trains today (Saturday) without too much trouble, when they say they can't run a virtually identical timetable on weekdays?
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grahame
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« Reply #25 on: January 24, 2022, 02:00:00 pm »

From SWR» (South Western Railway - about) (copied on to me with "request so share widely" ... and I happen to be on BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page) Radio Wiltshire this afternoon too, though talking buses, so I will slip it in if I can.    No feedback on the promised last train of the evening nor on fares from EXD» (Exeter St Davids - next trains); both may be sorted but I have not had a chance to look and re-research!

Quote
Dear all,
 
Please see details below of an additional westbound train from Salisbury to Yeovil Junction at 16.10, starting this afternoon, primarily to cater for school and college flows. This will also provide an additional connection from Clapham Junction and Waterloo off the 14.20 service.
 
I would be grateful if you can publicise this through your various communication channels.
 
Regards
 
Andrew
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« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2022, 04:03:15 pm »

I'm out and about for the next couple of days doing some mystery shopping. I've just changed trains at Salisbury. Going to the south coast so it was a necessary change.

What I've just noticed though is a lack of facilities today (could be a one off) which isn't good when so many folk have to change trains here currently.

Gents on P4 closed. Waiting room on P2/3 closed. Costa Coffee on P2/3 closed. Cafe Ritazza in booking hall closed. All told it makes for a not particularly nice place to change trains.

Praise be for the trolley on my GWR (Great Western Railway) train to Portsmouth. Shiraz and Mini Cheddars to see me through!

I'm mystery shopping a couple of stations. Good job for SWR» (South Western Railway - about) that one of them isn't Salisbury!
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« Reply #27 on: January 27, 2022, 09:14:18 am »

I suspect SWR» (South Western Railway - about) will find some way of providing that last departure from BRI» (Bristol Temple Meads - next trains) to Westbury.

The Bristol to Westbury extra was promised from 13th December by GWR (Great Western Railway) and is being provided.  The Westbury to Salisbury section was promised by SWR and they have NOT found a way of providing it.  10 days after my initial enquiry, and with my contact on leave from tomorrow, I chased it up:

Quote
Re the late evening train from Westbury: I did ask Control to look at it but have not had a response yet. I will chase this up but they have a lot on their plate at the moment.

Basically, too busy to even have a look for the best part of two weeks.

Two months ago, SWR ran around 15 trains a day from Exeter to London, and around 3 trains a day from Bristol to London.  Now they run just one a day (at 05:09) from Exeter to London, and none at all from Bristol.

Has the combination of SWR, the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) and Covid succeeded where Beeching and British Rail (Western Region) failed in making GWR the only rail route from London to the West?   Is the next step the "localisation" of the Salisbury operation as part of a greater Wessex regional organisation, covering southern Wessex lines and with trains running to the boundary of third rail territory, from where London passengers will change into the electric trains of the South West Home Counties operation?
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PhilWakely
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« Reply #28 on: January 27, 2022, 10:01:04 am »

Two months ago, SWR» (South Western Railway - about) ran around 15 trains a day from Exeter to London, and around 3 trains a day from Bristol to London.  Now they run just one a day (at 05:09) from Exeter to London, and none at all from Bristol.

Has the combination of SWR, the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) and Covid succeeded where Beeching and British Rail (Western Region) failed in making GWR (Great Western Railway) the only rail route from London to the West?   Is the next step the "localisation" of the Salisbury operation as part of a greater Wessex regional organisation, covering southern Wessex lines and with trains running to the boundary of third rail territory, from where London passengers will change into the electric trains of the South West Home Counties operation?

I overheard an interesting conversation a few days back. There is absolutely no firm evidence to back up the comments, so it is probably just 'wibble' to be taken with rather more than just a pinch of salt, but it would not surprise me if there is a tiny element of correct speculation. The comments were essentially that GWR would take over Exeter to Axminster services completely with SWR running Gillingham to Basingstoke. Two trains (one Up and one Down) per day would run from Exeter to Salisbury to enable the line to remain open for diversionary purposes.

I sincerely hope it never comes to that, but I do fear a repeat of the mid-1960s now that one company has control over both routes to the westcountry.
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« Reply #29 on: January 27, 2022, 10:08:56 am »

That one company being the Dft?  First Group (or any of the operators) don’t have any control anymore.
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