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Author Topic: South Western Railways - reductions west of Salisbury  (Read 5731 times)
PhilWakely
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« Reply #30 on: January 27, 2022, 10:13:48 am »

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

Given the recent 'duplication of services' argument relating to Bristol to Salisbury, the comment still applies regarding the service end points (i.e Exeter and London) whoever has control.
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RichardB
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« Reply #31 on: January 27, 2022, 10:14:50 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.

Definitely "wibble".   Certainly, when - and I do say when, not if - there is an additional passing loop between Whimple and Cranbrook, GWR will run the extra hourly service between Exeter and Axminster.  That's not even news.  The Waterloo - Exeter service will stay hourly - it's been a great success since the Axminster dynamic loop opened in 2009 and that came as a result of its success since the introduction of the 159s in 1993.

Can you imagine trying to reduce Templecombe, Sherborne, Yeovil Jn and Crewkerne to effectively a Parliamentary service!   Definitely "wibble" but a sign of the times (hopefully shortlived times) that someone actually voiced such a view.

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paul7575
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« Reply #32 on: January 27, 2022, 11:16:33 am »

The normal hourly through Exeter service is showing in RTT» (Real Time Trains - website) from 16th May. 

GWR (Great Western Railway) are not live yet, if they’re adding any short workings I expect we’ll see them within a few more days...
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grahame
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« Reply #33 on: January 27, 2022, 01:23:06 pm »

Have we started to think about the unthinkable? To question the future of successful lines and services in their current or any form? Does the very act of asking put them on the radar and agenda of others who may not have the same view of the future that we do?

Two years ago - January 2020 - indications were that SWR» (South Western Railway - about)'s through services from Bristol, Bath and West Wiltshire to London Waterloo were a success. South West Trains had seen them grow into well used and loved services, and South Western Railway had taken over the mantle.  Service had grown to departures at 08:49, 12:49, 15:50 and 19:35 from Bristol, with a short working to Salisbury at 22:25.  Departures from London at 09:20, 12:20, 16:20 and 19:20 as well as a short working from Salisbury at 06:40. A service on the upward trajectory, and all seemed rosy.  Then Covid struck and, rightly, a number of train services were temporarily suspended.  Except - was it temporary?

One year ago - January 2021 - and the world was taking far longer to "bounce back" than had been allowed for in the early, crisis reaction days.  Pen was being put to paper (or rather finger to keyboard) to see how expenditure could be reduced, and discussions started between South Western Railway and the Department for Transport. Priority at both organisations was commuters and school children, and a beady eye fell on this service - very successful though it had been (and probably would be again when some sort of normality returned), it was identified y a collaboration of DfT» (Department for Transport - about) and SWR employees as something they could - with minimum fuss, they felt, cull.  As far as we can tell, they didn't ask the passengers. They didn't ask the local transport authorities it served. They didn't ask passenger groups such as the West Wilts Rail User Group or TravelWatch SouthWest. They didn't even ask their own Transport Focus 'watchdog". The did, in due course, ask Network Rail if withdrawing these trains would cause them a problem, and they did co-ordinate with their First Group colleagues at GWR (Great Western Railway) who were in the process of pulling out some other trains.

So - this time last year, all looked Rosy. Some of the Bristol - Waterloo trains had come back and there was good growth in them and the leisure market they were serving - and indeed they went on growing (in percentage use) back far, far better than SWR's commuter traffic.  But - it turned out - that didn't matter; it had looked rosy, but it was blighted under the covers.

Someone, somewhere, had seen a way of cutting costs and of ticking boxes. Someone noted that there were other trains on the same line and labelled them "duplication". Someone felt that 'core business' is commuters, and these were not commuter services.  An organisation that majors on "frequent" services saw an opportunity to rid itself of an infrequent one that needed different staff management of route learning skill. And the area served was mostly senior government safe seats, so they would get away with political lip service if they cut it.

So - this time, this year. The service that we thought was a success (and it was) two years ago is gone.  Passengers have been shifted to less good, more expensive alternatives if they travel at all. And a lesson as been learned.

We should have been asking questions earlier - a year ago. No use waiting until the plans had been made and were dribbled out in mid summer.

We should be asking questions NOW about remaining services operate by SWR to the west of Salisbury. Not all the same metrics, but if GWR start running east from Exeter, is that not duplication?   There are difference, but there are also frightening similarities - starting with the same people being involved. I will admit to having a crisis of confidence and I now treat everything that they say with three pinches of salt not one.

I am not, I hope, a total profit of doom. There are modernisation options that are "left field" and could be operated - a 30 minute local service Exeter to Yeovil Pen Mill by GWR for example, with onward (London) service from Yeovil Junction with SWR? No-one mentioned this so far?  I wonder if there are crayonistas in the DfT just as there are here (heck, I'm one today!) only they owe their income to their crayoning to the satisfaction of their bosses upstairs and at the treasury.

So - we should ask ourselves, and others, the questions. Indeed, if we know what questions to ask, we should do so, trying to pre-empt that tradition of FOI (Freedom of Information) requests that they find answers only after it's too late to do anything about what they reveal.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2022, 01:28:55 pm by grahame » Logged

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eXPassenger
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« Reply #34 on: January 27, 2022, 05:03:44 pm »

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.

Should this be referred to the Competition and Markets Authority in view of their comments when First Group took over the SW Trains franchise.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #35 on: January 27, 2022, 05:50:43 pm »

No, it's temporary owing to Covid (so far, and that's the answer you will definitely get)
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grahame
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« Reply #36 on: January 27, 2022, 10:35:54 pm »

[snip]

So - we should ask ourselves, and others, the questions. Indeed, if we know what questions to ask, we should do so, trying to pre-empt that tradition of FOI (Freedom of Information) requests that they find answers only after it's too late to do anything about what they reveal.

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.
Should this be referred to the Competition and Markets Authority in view of their comments when First Group took over the SW Trains franchise.

No, it's temporary owing to Covid (so far, and that's the answer you will definitely get)

I'm not sure which of the two comments you are answering, Chris.    The answer you will get if you ask, I agree, is "it's just temporary".  The problem I have with that is that less than two years ago we were told the the SWR» (South Western Railway - about) Bristol service was only temporarily gone.  Bits of it came back and it looked like it was heading the right way, but we were then told it was just a temporary return of a few of the services and it was permanently gone - with no consultation because it could be done without under Covid.    Putting it another way - we trusted what we were told about it only being gone temporarily but that turned out to be not exactly the case, and this by the very same people who (as you would expect) are giving re-assurances on the Exeter services, and who have already pulled the one adjustment they promised.   And they now "have a lot on their plate" so haven't even looked at continuing to (re)provide it.

Sure, I look through very cynical glasses.  Problem is, almost everything that's happened tells me that's the attitude I need to take with these people, and it's desperate hard to break the cycle now.
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Timmer
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« Reply #37 on: January 28, 2022, 07:34:13 am »

It’s not just west of Salisbury that’s causing concern:

https://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/19876584.train-timetable-changes-causing-chaos-dorset-commuters/

Quote
Train passengers have spoken out against temporary changes to timetables in Dorset that have left stations beyond Bournemouth without a direct connection to London - with some voicing fears they could become permanent.

South Western Railway (SWR» (South Western Railway - about)) introduced the new timetable as a temporary measure on the Weymouth-Waterloo line in light of staff shortages due to Covid-19 and because fewer people are travelling.

Passengers said the move had led to longer journeys, people spending more time at stations, and encouraged some to travel by car instead.

The changes mean anyone who travels between Weymouth and Bournemouth will have to change at the latter to head closer to London and one commuter fears this step could be used to justify permanent changes.
Continues…

The two extremities of the SWR network which appear to be unfairly picked on. One question I see frequently asked on articles about cuts on both lines is how come they can run a near normal timetable of direct services on weekends but not weekdays?

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grahame
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« Reply #38 on: January 28, 2022, 09:22:32 am »

The two extremities of the SWR» (South Western Railway - about) network which appear to be unfairly picked on. One question I see frequently asked on articles about cuts on both lines is how come they can run a near normal timetable of direct services on weekends but not weekdays?

I am - ever so slightly - stand in SWR defense here and offer a partial explanation / suggestion.

Were I looking to be in charge of running a TOC (Train Operating Company) network at present and with limited resources out of my control (whether I was very short on staff, or very short of money to pay for day to day operation), I  would look to be providing a good service to match current demand as far practical - and that relates to journey opportunities and reliability.

Taking the West of England 'section' ...
* A. From Exeter, a base service every two hours all the way to London (Waterloo), calling at nearly all stations as far as Basingstoke then Woking, Clapham Junction and Waterloo
* B. From Exeter, a second service every two hours - "Metro", probably to Honiton or Axminster, and picking up any / few stations missed by A.
* C. From Salisbury, a second service every two hours, all stations to Basingstoke then Woking, Clapham Junction and Waterloo.

During "peak" hours ... some extras.  Staffing in not an art I am totally familiar with, but let's plan for a surge in shift starts a couple of hours before morning and evening peaks, providing more drivers and train managers during those busy periods (including shoulders) so we can offer some of those extras.   Rolling stock wise these extras are not highly efficient - in fact we're back to the dreaded "used only for commuters" units that have been held up as being so expensive over the years.

Note that I have prioritised frequency of service to all stations and through trains over speed - however, I'm conscious that a slower service probably means another train / unit in the cycle.  I have also run trains "over" Salisbury, but am aware that will mean extra staff there to help add / remove carriages (is an issue with providing staff for these purposes why people are being asked to change from a 159 to another 159 at present?). And I would wish to ensure that first and last trains run pretty much close to "how they used to be".

Now - I don't know whether or not the real issue at SWR is (i) Staff shortage (ii) Short term funding shortage (iii) An opportunity to restructure or try out things for the future.  I would suspect a mixture, and I'm not totally sure how much it matters if a decent, though thinner, service that meets customer needs is running this winter.   Weekend services better than weekday under this scheme too?   Yes - it may make sense to match the staff and money resource by having more shifts and more trains out at the weekend while it's busy.

Funny, isn't it, how we can slag off SWR but then when we look to come up with a suggestion of how we would do ut under similar constraints, there is a similarity in our suggestions to what they are doing.   Differences "it it were me" ... I would really look to continue to offer through trains (and excellent connections - a 10 minute pause at Salisbury to couple / uncouple is also an opportunity for the Cardiff to Portsmouth train to swap passengers, for example), I would be open with listing the reasons to the public, rather than being partial in such a way that I'm clearly not telling the full story, I would maintain first and last trains, I would be making very strong representations to my funders in relation to how we must regrow and not be on a spiral of decline (SWR may be doing this).





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ChrisB
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« Reply #39 on: January 28, 2022, 09:39:44 am »

My comment above that Graham queried was about the referral to the CMA.
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Southernman
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« Reply #40 on: January 29, 2022, 12:13:08 am »

Graham said:-I am not, I hope, a total profit of doom. There are modernisation options that are "left field" and could be operated - a 30 minute local service Exeter to Yeovil Pen Mill by GWR (Great Western Railway) for example, with onward (London) service from Yeovil Junction with SWR» (South Western Railway - about)? No-one mentioned this so far?  I wonder if there are crayonistas in the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) just as there are here (heck, I'm one today!) only they owe their income to their crayoning to the satisfaction of their bosses upstairs and at the treasury.
 
There is a similar rumour locally, but that GWR service runs from Exeter to Reading via Yeovil Junction & Pen Mill. SWR start/terminate at Yeovil Junction.

Also hear that from May, Salisbury to Waterloo services will divert after Basingstoke to terminate at Reading with only core Exeter trains running to Waterloo. Whether this applies to the services starting at Yeovil I do not know.

Not sure which, but one of the new GWR Exeter to Axminster trains runs on as a route learner to the Yeovils and Castle Cary.

I do wonder if the eventual intention is for Paddington to become the sole station for the West Country?

I agree with Graham that questions should be asked now, rather than in a couple of years time!
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« Reply #41 on: January 29, 2022, 05:24:32 am »

BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page) Spotlight local news for the South West,on its lead story on Fridays tea time news an update about the Exeter to Salibury plans.

Persons interviewed

Bruce Duncan Salisbury to Exeter rail user group at Axminster station

Stewart Palmer director of rail future

Bryony Chetwode Travel watch south west

BBC local news availble for TWENTY FOURS ONLY on the i-player catch up thingy

Politics south west on Sunday morning should have an expanded version of the news item 
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grahame
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« Reply #42 on: January 29, 2022, 06:10:32 am »

I agree with Graham that questions should be asked now, rather than in a couple of years time!

Thank you - and to stress that positive change is to be encouraged.  I worry about the recent track record of the people and organisations who would be involved, in both what they have done and how they have gone about it. If they are reading this (stranger things have happened), we would really appreciate working with them in good time, openly, and demonstrably fully to come up with the best modernisation - services that:
* meet people's need and desires with quality
* encourage (far) more people to use the trains
* Work operationally and robustly
* result in a net reduction of the contribution needed from the public purse
* people feel they own and will nurture through their communities, of which they become an even more vital part

And who best to provide steer and thoughts on this than to help tune it that - well -
Bruce Duncan Salisbury to Exeter rail user group at Axminster station
Stewart Palmer director of rail future
Bryony Chetwode Travel watch south west

« Last Edit: January 29, 2022, 06:18:53 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #43 on: January 29, 2022, 06:49:58 am »

There is a similar rumour locally, but that GWR (Great Western Railway) service runs from Exeter to Reading via Yeovil Junction & Pen Mill. SWR» (South Western Railway - about) start/terminate at Yeovil Junction.

Also hear that from May, Salisbury to Waterloo services will divert after Basingstoke to terminate at Reading with only core Exeter trains running to Waterloo. Whether this applies to the services starting at Yeovil I do not know.

Not sure which, but one of the new GWR Exeter to Axminster trains runs on as a route learner to the Yeovils and Castle Cary.

None of the above are borne out by the May 2022 timetables as released earlier this week.
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PhilWakely
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« Reply #44 on: January 29, 2022, 07:00:07 pm »

There is a similar rumour locally, but that GWR (Great Western Railway) service runs from Exeter to Reading via Yeovil Junction & Pen Mill. SWR» (South Western Railway - about) start/terminate at Yeovil Junction.

Also hear that from May, Salisbury to Waterloo services will divert after Basingstoke to terminate at Reading with only core Exeter trains running to Waterloo. Whether this applies to the services starting at Yeovil I do not know.

Not sure which, but one of the new GWR Exeter to Axminster trains runs on as a route learner to the Yeovils and Castle Cary.

None of the above are borne out by the May 2022 timetables as released earlier this week.

I strongly suspect that the whole timetable for May has not yet been loaded. What is 5L97 (Axminster to Axminster) for instance? I guess that an Exeter TMD (Traction Maintenance Depot) to Axminster and Axminster to Barnstaple are yet to be loaded ??
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