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Author Topic: Beyond insanity is there a return to sanity?  (Read 1700 times)
grahame
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« on: January 30, 2022, 10:29:50 am »

Beyond insanity is there a return to sanity?  The joy if this forum is that we can and do float so many thoughts and ideas, which go into the pot and make us richer in knowledge in what we decide to do perosnally, and what we support and might even suggest for others.  Outcomes - whether it' our own (micro) travel plans or wider stuff are liable to be better, and certainly more throughtly thought through and better informed.

And so with this thread - a whole load of data, ideas, specilation, what-ifs and ideas thrown into the pot. I would far rather have it that way than the straightjacket of "national policy only" which I have observed elsewhere, even in organsatons that rely on and pride themselves with local memberships.  And it means that - at times - we carry news of (and advocacy of) ideas and suggestions that lack supporting evidence, and simply don't add up and get crushed by opposing evidence. 

We get to a point where we look at something and say "that's good or better than good - let's go with it" and do need to brush aside the other thoughts. I personally think we are there with Portishead where I trust to the decison to re-open as a passenger railway through the Avon Gorge.  I remain very concerned on aspects such as cost (is all that work really necessary?), procedure (we seem to have an awful lot of paperwork, enquiries and reports involved), and frequency (is hourly really adequate?). But I don't think it's useful to hold off further while we re-examine other ideas such as converting it into a road, rubber matting to share steel wheeled freight traffic with buses, a bridge over the Avon to bring traffic in via Sea Mills and "The Beach" line, or simply a "do nothing" option.

With passenger services on The Mule, I think (just my view though) that we have many 'futures' possible.  The excellent work already done in recent decades to mitigate the draconian loss of stations and capacity when line was reduced in the Beeching and post-Beeching eras is to be celebrated and encouraged furter, with an eyes to future options and possibilities which look to me to be far wider in there breadth than the "chosen option" we are at with Portishead.

Let's learn from history, but be guided by current and projected future passenger requirements - be those the requirements from the external and natural change and develop of the areas served, or development which comes from the provision (or lack of it) of a good public transport offering.

So - where does that take us?  Look at the travel and transport needs of the ares to be served - the passengers - first and foremost. Not just where they are based, but at the various flows and flexibilty factors, short and long term.  Then take a look at what you operate and where you operate from, with significant views to capacity, frequency and reliability including days when the weather is not playing ball. Only then, really, do you end up looking at which management contract operates it.

There seems (to me) some sense in operating services based in Devon from a Devon base.  There seems sense in providing a frequent local service, a modertely frequent regional one, and a long distance through service to an excellently chosen mix of key destinations at a somewhat lower frequency.  There seems sense in timing trains to make connections where lines / services cross each other, or where another service starts - and that's even if a train needs to be paused to make both-way connections.

What do I end up with, left field?  "Devon Metro" local - out from Exeter, clockwise going around with services to Taunton, Honiton, Exmouth, Paignton, Plymouth, Okehampton and Barnstaple. Extending each of them as appropriate with regional service, and some of those yet further long distance; some compromise on long distance may be needed to ensure comfort, speed, stopping pattern, platform length and loading characteritics work.

Hubs at Yeovil (but which Yeovil?) - Salisbury - Basingstoke, then Bristol - Westbury - Salisbury - Southampton, these being the regional routes, perhaps.  Which depot operates which service - it makes sense that trains that start their in-service day at Exeter operate from there, trains that start at or around Salisbury work from there and if (!) we end up with services starting from London in any significant numbers, they end up based from there.

Yesterday was the final day of the First D1 bus to Salisbury. And there we are long since past planning for the future - it starts tomorrow - and on to implementing the degrade best we have been left with.  Or is that really the scenario?  The First Bus web sites are full of woe of the decimation of their "Discover" network; the maps advertising the buses in the vehicles show the D3 to Melksham, Devizes and Easteton (gone), the D1 (no longer going to Wilton and Salisbury, though it continues a while as far as Warminster) and the D2 - the sole remaining original route from launch just 3 or 4 years ago. Another advert in the bus extols us to "Stay up to date" with their app, ironic when they can't even keep the neighbouring advert current - 18 months since the D3 went. The buses are filthy, though many of them say "I'm a clean bus" on the side.   At Bath bus station, route maps are out of date, and a big poster board tells you about What's on in Bath for Christmas. Labelling on the outside says "Come inside for information and to buy tickets" but the information centre is now abandoned, a walk through to the toilets with a solitary rack of local literature.  Am I sounding a bit negative?  I was there yesterday and, yes, it was depressing. But is it really?

I travelled on the D1 (Salisbury) bus that left at 11:45 from Bath Bus Station, intent to do the whole route but a home issue meant I only got as far as Trowbridge.  Goodness - it takes a long time, even for that part of the route and I got to see a part of Winsley that I didn't know existed.  Right for the bus to serve that area, and notably multiple people getting off and on, but do Bath to Salisbury travellers really need to go along Tyning Road?  I noted only one other long distance passenger on that bus - a known contact, there for the very reason of it being the last day. Good intermediate traffic - not a quiet bus, but no individuals really needed it to go all the way.  Some needed it to go over each intermediate hub, and there's the rub, just as it is with The Mule as discussed above.

First, D1, Bath to Warminster every hour and new Beeline service, 24, Warminster to Salisbury every 2 hours Monday to Saturday IS a good intermediate solution. First's unloved-looking approach a long way from their depot when things break down gives way to a local company who may have problems of their own (careful what you wish!) but at least is providing a service, and connections, and a local contact and responsibility. 

But, yet, we ARE at the planning stage.  The 'new' D1 / 24 combo is a contract of just a few months, rushed in without the time properly needed to consult, and without the long term committment to invest by anyone, and we now have a window o put in all the "left field" ideas, and see if we can do better.  Or we could wait for a few weeks and panic again for the next few months; that might be the easiest way because of how the system works, but it's hardly sensible for a stable, long term, nurtured transit system that would encourage so many more optional users.

So - where am I headed?

As a community we should engage, discuss and encourage our public transport specifiers and providers to look forward to the future, support them in that if we can, and to look back to the past for learning experience - both good and bad.

Not all public transport providers are easy to engage with - some come across as if they view us as a dense nuisance who need to be kept quiet with limited and late misleading data, where others (even in the same company) will share in discussions - sometimes robust - so that we can all work for what is broadly the same outcome and understand where compromises are needed.

Where a public transport provider shows a significant disinterest verging on contempt for its routes and passengers, or parts of the, is it time for that provider to move on an let someone else, even with the heartache of change and perhaps the working with people who haven't been the easiest in the past for that area, take over, especially if shying on that area.

We should welcome an element of centralised planning across a region - services shared in operation between companies makes sense, as does having the trains and buses connect (and that's not suggesting a "Salisbury Connection" a.k.a. "how long can you make them wait") and ticketing work right across the board. However, we should also keep an eye open for monopolistic behaviours - dumbing down services because people have no choice, failing to cater, setting up web sited to encourage people to buy more expensive route with the same parent provider, etc.

15 years and counting ... 15 more years to go?


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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2022, 11:11:54 am »

Posting to Social Media ...

Beyond insanity is there a return to sanity?  Bus services, Salisbury to Bath. Train services, Exeter to London via Yeovil and Salisbury, Train services from Portishead.  Common threads, and how can the community help to the best outcome? http://www.passenger.chat/25953sanityneeded

... and links to some the topics I mention above

http://www.passenger.chat/25879 - South Western reductions from Exeter
http://www.passenger.chat/25919 - Bus service Bath to Salisbury
http://www.passenger.chat/25727 - Trains via Bradford-on-avon and Trowbridge to London
http://www.passenger.chat/231 - Passenger trains to Portishead
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2022, 12:28:10 pm »

I think you are right to distinguish between local, regional and long distance traffic flows.  The effect of the Beeching Cuts around Swindon were based on the idea of a long distance railway (London to Bristol and South Wales) with only occasional stops at Swindon.  Any local services were abolished and a regional service to Gloucester survived. 

Those who demand faster intercity journeys by removing intermediate stops do not realise (or perhaps care) that their long distance trains are forced to function as regional or even local trains due to the lack of other services. So saying that express trains should either stop at Didcot or Swindon but not both is just not a tenable option as it would mean no services between those two stations. 

But what is a local service and what is a regional service? 

Is the Trans Wilts service a local or a regional service?  I suspect it is local for Chippenham, but not really for Swindon. 

Is the Swindon to Cheltenham/Gloucester service local or Regional?  My view is that this is actually a regional service that is also made to be a local service around Gloucester.

What would a local service for Swindon look like:

1) The existing Trans Wilts service with additional stops at Royal Wootton Bassett and possibly West Swindon.

2) A service on the Gloucester line serving existing stations  as well as Moredon/Sparcells, Purton and possibly even Minety. 

3) A service to the east with stations at South Marston, Shrivenham, Wantage, Didcot and preferably all stations to Oxford would make quite a difference. Such a service may well require the restoration of more of the 4 track between Swindon and Didcot. 

4) I am not sure whether local services on the Badminton line would be viable as it just does not go through large enough places. 

The complete absence of local services to the east of Swindon leaves traffic jams on the A420 which are likely to get worse as more housing is built on the Eastern Villages development.  The 45 minute drive to Wantage (not a good road) takes twice as long by public transport and the quickest route is usually a train to Didcot and bus back to Wantage! 


Regional services would be like the existing Bristol TM(resolve) service, The existing Gloucester service perhaps with Stonehouse stop taken out (replaced by local services) plus reinstatement of the Oxford service.  Also perhaps  Westbury/Salisbury fast service?
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2022, 02:16:38 pm »

I think you are right to distinguish between local, regional and long distance traffic flows. 
But what is a local service and what is a regional service? 

Is the Trans Wilts service a local or a regional service?  I suspect it is local for Chippenham, but not really for Swindon.  ...

Is the Swindon to Cheltenham/Gloucester service local or Regional?  My view is that this is actually a regional service that is also made to be a local service around Gloucester.

I would say that at present Swindon has no local services at all, and doesn't have the stations for them.

It has regional characteristic journeys for the most part - let's call them journeys of under 70 minutes which people will typically do as day returns on several days per week if they need to, though they're rather too far for the local journey where a half of that - 35 minutes - might be a typical upper boundary.

That leaves Swindon with a sort of paradox we'll find all over the place, mirroring the Cross County Question we've had for years - "Is it a long distance train, or a regional one?", many of the through journeys being ones that take a long time over the hour and people don't do daily, but many or most of the people who join or leave trains being journeys they repeat often.

What, then does that mean for Swindon?

Let's describe local services as aspirations. To make sense, you'll want several new stations on the way to Chippenham, to Kemble / Cirencester, and to Didcot with questions on line capacity from Didcot to Royal Wootton Bassett. Via Hullavington and Badminton, I think you're right that there's no justification - but then when Little Somerford is chosen as the HQ (Headquarters) for the Ministry of Silly Walks, external development and planning factors could alter that.  These service are unlikely short term candidate, though the may be long term ones.

Regional from a Swindon perspective

- to the EAST I would suggest 3 per hour to London - consistent 20 minute departure pattern, all calling Didcot and Reading, one each at 3 other places (allowance in schedules / can be added later) - say Shrivenham, Wantage Road and Hayes and Harlington - that latter can be done sooner rather than later. Plus a further regional train every hour to or via Oxford - when available serving Shrivenham and Wantage Road, also Radley.

- to the WEST those four from the east carrying on, and 2 extra trains so you have six departures - one via Melksham, two via Corsham, two via Badminton, and one via Kemble. 

Details of which train carries on where to be fiercly argued over - and those become your expresses


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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2022, 05:20:15 pm »

My thinking on long distance or local services is that InterCity mostly had it right. Junctions and major settlements served by long distance then local services running from junction or major settlement to the next. Swindon to Didcot, Oxford or even Reading as there are four tracks, would make perfect sense if stations reappeared between Swindon and Didcot. Attempting to provide all stations in the south with a direct train to london for example is unnecessary in my opinion if you had local trains doing short trips from said important InterCity junction to the next. Provided the local service between the two points was hourly or more, and ran later than the long distance trains. There are examples perhaps where a long distance train can become local at the end of its route for operations sake, like Cornwall for example but the somewhere like the north cotswold line would benefit from less stops for the long distance trains and a better local service between the two junction points, if operationally possible of course. The southern third rail network would really require a lot of thinking but if it already commands decent numbers with plenty of capacity perhaps it’s best left as is. This is all the opinion of someone who doesn’t have a vast knowledge of the operating headaches of the modern railway of course but I do realise how lucky Reading is with its position on the network with local and long distance. Aylesbury always strikes me as somewhere that it is really difficult to use the train to go anywhere but the obvious capital and with its limited service Newbury behaves like it’s the end of a long branch rather than a town on a busy line to the West Country, something extending the Bedwyn train to Westbury might eliminate, or even a Newbury to Westbury local with a bay reinstated. Plenty is possible.
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ellendune
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2022, 06:12:58 pm »

Swindon to Didcot, Oxford or even Reading as there are four tracks, would make perfect sense if stations reappeared between Swindon and Didcot.

Unfortunately GWR (Great Western Railway) never finished the 4 track from Didcot to Swindon and Beeching removed what there was. On the plus side the Wantage to Challow loop was reinstated in the 1990's(?), but that is the only section of 4 track at the moment.  More stations would may require the reinstatement of the Shrivenham loop as well. 
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2022, 09:19:40 pm »

Swindon to Didcot, Oxford or even Reading as there are four tracks, would make perfect sense if stations reappeared between Swindon and Didcot.

Unfortunately GWR (Great Western Railway) never finished the 4 track from Didcot to Swindon and Beeching removed what there was. On the plus side the Wantage to Challow loop was reinstated in the 1990's(?), but that is the only section of 4 track at the moment.  More stations would may require the reinstatement of the Shrivenham loop as well. 

I did mean continuing to Reading from Didcot as there are four tracks between those points. Would it be over complicated to have stations between Didcot and Swindon on the loops for faster trains to pass stopping services? Or would the stopping services have too long a wait/block the path of what’s currently using the loop?
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2022, 07:20:14 am »

For some reason I am reminded of the conversation:

How do I get to XYZ?

Well I wouldn't start from here.

But in terms of the conversation, and the real world, we are where we are. It helps if we are evidence led. Now we had a Census last year, you might not think in the middle of an epidemic is the best time. But I think it will be very interesting to see the Travel To Work data when it is released. TTW data is used for planning by various levels of government. Now the TTW should be, like all Census data, a snapshot in time, but will it in effect be looking backwards or forwards. I mean in last April will enough people's working lives have changed to give any sort of meaningful impression of what the future might look like.
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ellendune
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« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2022, 08:40:47 am »

Swindon to Didcot, Oxford or even Reading as there are four tracks, would make perfect sense if stations reappeared between Swindon and Didcot.

Unfortunately GWR (Great Western Railway) never finished the 4 track from Didcot to Swindon and Beeching removed what there was. On the plus side the Wantage to Challow loop was reinstated in the 1990's(?), but that is the only section of 4 track at the moment.  More stations would may require the reinstatement of the Shrivenham loop as well. 

I did mean continuing to Reading from Didcot as there are four tracks between those points. Would it be over complicated to have stations between Didcot and Swindon on the loops for faster trains to pass stopping services? Or would the stopping services have too long a wait/block the path of what’s currently using the loop?

This would already be possible for a Wantage/Grove station and reinstatement of the loop at Shrivenham would allow one there.  South Marston would be more difficult.  Whether this would work operationally I will leave to others. 
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