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Author Topic: All quiet, campaign fatigue, or is rail becoming irrelevant?  (Read 3017 times)
grahame
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« on: May 01, 2022, 04:08:01 am »

As we enter May, is it a case of "all quiet" on the Western front?  Or is there so much happening in the wider world that rail in the west has slipped off the headlines?  Could it be that everything is right in the public transport world and we are left with little to talk about?  Or that we're so exhausted by the same old problems that we don't voice them much any more?  Is rail becoming less relevant - my local good-service station (Bradford on Avon) lost its London service in December, it loses its Brighton service this month, and I heard a rumour that it might lose its Weymouth service too, with Heart of Wessex trains from Weymouth not running north of Westbury. Whatever reason, the Coffee Shop was quieter than normal last month.

Taking a look at wider stories on our news feed, the top stories from yesterday are / were:

Grant Shapps under fire for bizarre videos and ‘zero interest’ in railways - The Guardian,  17:00 Sat, 30 Apr
Royal Mail to run more cross-Border trains in expansion of 192-year-old service - The Scotsman, 05:57 Sat, 30 Apr
Rail meltdown as May bank holiday starts with yet more travel chaos - i News, 17:49 Sat, 30 Apr
Eurostar confirms plans to connect UK (United Kingdom) to more destinations in Europe - Birmingham Live, 13:46 Sat, 30 Apr
Coal shortages lead to cuts in services on heritage rail line - Dereham Times, 16:11 Sat, 30 Apr
My Leeds to Manchester train was late, loud, shaky and depressing - and just needs one key change - Leeds Live, 06:27 Sat, 30 Apr

None of these was a GWR (Great Western Railway), SWR» (South Western Railway - about), XC (Cross Country Trains (franchise)) or TfW story ...

Here are links to those articles.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/apr/30/grant-shapps-under-fire-for-bizarre-videos-and-zero-interest-in-railways
https://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/royal-mail-to-run-more-cross-border-trains-in-expansion-of-192-year-old-service-3675818
https://inews.co.uk/news/rail-meltdown-may-bank-holiday-starts-yet-more-travel-chaos-1604873
https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/uk-news/eurostar-confirms-plans-connect-uk-23831962
https://www.derehamtimes.co.uk/news/mid-norfolk-railway-coal-shortage-repair-work-update-8933200
https://www.leeds-live.co.uk/news/leeds-news/leeds-manchester-train-late-loud-23829196
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Mark A
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2022, 09:51:49 am »

Putting on a paranoia hat, if the conversations here solely concerned ticketing anomalies I'd suspect that it because the likes of ATOC» (Association of Train Operating Companies See - here) use the forum as an information source for where their fares system is particularly borked and then make adjustments accordingly. The 'Destinations beyond Waterloo being cheaper than Waterloo itself' is one such that seems to have vanished, a ticket that would have cost me just over £30 last year is now just over £40 and I'll be doing something else that doesn't involve rail.

Travelling across to Stratford on an oystercard and then onward to Chelmsford and back into Liverpool Street last week, two separate ticket office staff were very aware and somewhat mortified that the ticketing system overcharges for journeys commencing at Stratford - one cautioned me against this and advised on the workaround, and the other went out of their way to boost ticket sales from a more minor station that I wouldn't be using but which took around 20% off the price of the ticket.

The lack of information to the public on how Oyster (Smartcard system used by passengers on Transport for London services) works at the edges is a thing, and it probably plays into the hands of the railway for it to be a thing. Even finding map of the boundary isn't straightforward.

So, yes, the railway always needs to guard against becoming irrelevant and the industry's hands, on this, are increasingly tied.

Thinking of Bradford on Avon with its vanishing train services: it does at least have a new (sheet steel) roof, wondering what sort of job the contractors have made of that.

Mark
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Mark A
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2022, 10:01:39 am »

On the forum front, *someone* must be thinking whether the much-changed devices landscape demands the big bang approach - i.e. archive the current forum and start anew, bringing the huge gain of a smartphone compatible interface.

Mark
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2022, 10:52:17 am »

Putting on a paranoia hat, if the conversations here solely concerned ticketing anomalies I'd suspect that it because the likes of ATOC» (Association of Train Operating Companies See - here) use the forum as an information source for where their fares system is particularly borked and then make adjustments accordingly. The 'Destinations beyond Waterloo being cheaper than Waterloo itself' is one such that seems to have vanished, a ticket that would have cost me just over £30 last year is now just over £40 and I'll be doing something else that doesn't involve rail.

I think you give the forum far more credit than it is due.  But undoubtedly there's a view that "Fare Simplification" can mean removing fares at the lower end of the scale, including taking out franchise-set marketing fares which were good value.  "It's not a fare rise" you'll be told if you enquire.  Memories of the withdrawal of the Westbury to London day returns with travel cards a few years ago, and a leap in price or around 60% that resulted.   I forget if that was before or after South West Trains (Stagecoach) because South Western Railway (First mostly).
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broadgage
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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2022, 11:29:18 am »

The invasion of Ukraine, and great increase in energy prices have to an extent crowded out other news, hence somewhat less talk about railways.

I and some others are very critical of the new trains, but they are now a "done deal" and people have got used to the reduced capacity, and poor facilities, just as they got used to the reduced capacity of cross country services. New trains are shorter, get used to it. Several respected members felt that I was unduly negative regarding them, so I have avoided frequent comments on that subject. The (near) absence of criticism does not imply satisfaction !

I have previously suggested a great simplification of fares and have described in detail how I would achieve this. SOME repetition of the idea is justified when relevant, but not too often, hence limited posts on the subject. The (near) absence of criticism of the present fares system does not imply satisfaction !

The formation of GBR (Great British Railways) was most interesting news, but little more can be said on that subject until they start actually doing things that can be commented on.

So in general, my view is that there IS less to talk about in relation to GWR (Great Western Railway) and other UK (United Kingdom) rail services, hence the reduced traffic on this forum.
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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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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2022, 07:10:29 pm »

  But undoubtedly there's a view that "Fare Simplification" can mean removing fares at the lower end of the scale, including taking out franchise-set marketing fares which were good value.  "It's not a fare rise" you'll be told if you enquire. 

I suspect that the majority of the general public, rather than the likes of us, won’t “enquire,” they vote with their feet

If the railways wanted to lose trade, this would be by a very good way to go about it

Increasing fares whilst not calling a fares increase a fares increase is hardly likely to increase repeat business. People will see through this newspeak quite easily and the media would have a field day with it, thereby reducing new passenger numbers still further.

Another good way to lose trade is to have frequent short-notice cancellations. There is a thread running at the moment about the south-west bound semi-fasts being chopped due to staff shortages but there is another example far closer to home that affects Graham much more than me. That is the level of cancellations on the Westbury to Swindon service, which has often found an entire crew shift’s worth of trains cancelled. It is starting to amaze me that there are still people using Melksham station at all.

Trains booked as 9 or 10 car running with 5; what passes for a catering service cancelled because nobody can be found who has been trained to wheel a trolley backwards; the list of things that look like they are actually designed to push passenger numbers down is a long one.

Nobody in senior management seems in the slightest inclined to sort out these problems.

There are some on this forum who feel that the government is still as anti-rail as it was in Margaret Thatcher’s time. Personally I don’t believe they are right for a number if practical reasons including facts like building new roads has been seen as impractical for over 30 years, the existing road network struggles to cope with existing road traffic, and that the matter of climate change and pollution are not going to magically go away, and the government knows it. Nevertheless, apparently powerless senior railway management, possibly aided, abetted and/or instructed by the Treasury appear to be doing all they can to make these situations worse

Let’s be honest. If your local Sainsburys treated its customers with as much contempt as the railways are currently doing, the next time your cupboards were getting bare you’d be going to Asda or Morrison or Tesco for the next stock up

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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2022, 07:49:39 pm »

Putting on a paranoia hat, if the conversations here solely concerned ticketing anomalies I'd suspect that it because the likes of ATOC» (Association of Train Operating Companies See - here) use the forum as an information source for where their fares system is particularly borked and then make adjustments accordingly. The 'Destinations beyond Waterloo being cheaper than Waterloo itself' is one such that seems to have vanished, a ticket that would have cost me just over £30 last year is now just over £40 and I'll be doing something else that doesn't involve rail.
Yes, I can confirm that ‘quirk’ in the system has been ironed out  Sad
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2022, 04:45:37 am »

Another good way to lose trade is to have frequent short-notice cancellations. There is a thread running at the moment about the south-west bound semi-fasts being chopped due to staff shortages but there is another example far closer to home that affects Graham much more than me. That is the level of cancellations on the Westbury to Swindon service, which has often found an entire crew shift’s worth of trains cancelled. It is starting to amaze me that there are still people using Melksham station at all.

That used to amaze me, too. I have rationalised it noting that journeys by train per resident per annum for Melksham is around 2 per year where it's around 20 per year for all other Wiltshire towns.   For us, the "typical" passenger has a need for the train service rather than having an easy alternative - a hard core of users if you like to call it that. The same core will be there at Chippenham and Trowbridge too, but diluted by that ten to one factor and so not noticed in the sam way if their service was crippled.   What is noticeable at Melksham if you compare April 2019 with April 2022 is that the numbers parking their cars to catch the train has been decimated; three years ago, it was not unusual to see a dozen cars leave the car park just after 6 p.m. when the evening commuter train arrived from Swindon but that traffic has gone and not returned.  There is though, a strong flow of people walking away from the station.

Quote
Nobody in senior management seems in the slightest inclined to sort out these problems.

[snip]

Nevertheless, apparently powerless senior railway management, possibly aided, abetted and/or instructed by the Treasury appear to be doing all they can to make these situations worse

Exactly - you have addressed your own point.  I'm sure there are some in "Senior Management" who - if they were to do what they would be include to do - would soon be "Former Senior Management".
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broadgage
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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2022, 05:35:05 am »

It will all get better when the new trains start to come into service.
It will be better when all the new trains are in service.
It will get better when staff training has been completed.
It will get better reliability modifications have been completed.
The full benifits of the new trains will be realised after the next timetable change.
It will get better when safety checks are complete.
It will get better when the cracks are mended.
We could provide a splendid trolley service, but have suspended this for everyone's safety during the pandemic.
The real problem is not the new trains but covid induced staff shortages.
It will get better after the pandemic.
It will get better a few years after the pandemic as staff are taking leave that was deferred during pandemic.
It will get better after the war.
We now have a plan to mend the cracks in 6 (railway) years, not including 2022.

The repair process is more complex than was expected and may take a little longer than expected.
Everyone is working very hard to complete the work by 2030.
New war disrupts supplies of imported parts and results in delays.
We fully expect to complete the repairs by the early 2030s
New pandemic results in staff shortages, not our fault.
So as to minimise future disruption, we have decided to combine the crack repairs with a mid life improvement program.

Future predictions in italics.

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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 #9 on: May 02, 2022, 06:00:32 am »

Taking a look at wider stories on our news feed, the top stories from yesterday are / were:

A day on, we have:

How do we fix the railway system in Wales? - The National, Wales, 07:52 Sun, 01 May
Watch: Bridges raised in Manchester as part of Transpennine Route Upgrade - RailAdvent, 09:36 Sun, 01 May
Narrow gauge EMUs (Electric Multiple Unit) enter service - Railway Gazette, 06:16 Sun, 01 May [Switzerland]
How the Merseyrail network looks completely different to 1960s origins - Liverpool Echo, 15:36 Sun, 01 May
Stadler production of Tyne and Wear Metro’s new train fleet achieves new milestone - RailAdvent, 15:32 Sun, 01 May
RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers) is planning 'Extinction Rebellion style' strikes that will cause summer travel chaos -  Mail Online, 11:15 Sun, 01 May

And I have bolded the stories that are "in area"
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2022, 07:00:53 am »

Or blame mother nature!
Cancellations to services between Castle Cary and Weymouth
Due to animals on the railway between Castle Cary and Weymouth all lines are blocked.
Train services running to and from these stations will be cancelled or terminated at and started back from Yeovil Pen Mill. Disruption is expected until 12:00 02/05.

Wrong thread - apologies, but seemed fitting placement
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broadgage
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« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2022, 07:03:50 am »

Perhaps extinction rebellion and the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers) could form an alliance, so as to avoid needless duplication of disruptive efforts. And also to avoid the RMT and XR (Crossrail) disrupting each other.
We cant have XR protesters delayed by train strikes, nor RMT barbecues disrupted by XR protests.

How about RMT strikes only during odd numbered weeks, and XR transport related protests only during even numbered weeks ?

BTW (by the way), Mayday is the traditional start of the rioting peaceful protest season, and is also the beginning of the barbecue season.
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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.
Mark A
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« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2022, 07:56:33 am »

Putting on a paranoia hat, if the conversations here solely concerned ticketing anomalies I'd suspect that it because the likes of ATOC» (Association of Train Operating Companies See - here) use the forum as an information source for where their fares system is particularly borked and then make adjustments accordingly. The 'Destinations beyond Waterloo being cheaper than Waterloo itself' is one such that seems to have vanished, a ticket that would have cost me just over £30 last year is now just over £40 and I'll be doing something else that doesn't involve rail.
Yes, I can confirm that ‘quirk’ in the system has been ironed out  Sad

Now wishing there were snapshots of the fares on that route for say the last 15 years. I will check whether, anytime return aside, they're now close to the equivalent fare via Paddington (though, given the now poor connections at Salisbury, there isn't the train service to support the through route at all). There's certainly the opportunity for the media to highlight instances of 25% and more fare inflation.

Mark
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2022, 08:04:07 am »


How about RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers) strikes only during odd numbered weeks, and XR (Crossrail) transport related protests only during even numbered weeks ?

BTW (by the way), Mayday is the traditional start of the rioting peaceful protest season, and is also the beginning of the barbecue season.

I guess that means BBQs rather than braziers on the picket lines? (especially on Sundays, if that day is included in the picketing week?)  Sad
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grahame
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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2022, 01:14:20 pm »

... It is starting to amaze me that there are still people using Melksham station at all.

That used to amaze me, too. ...

I arrived back into Melksham at 10:00 this morning for Westbury.   Around 15 to 20 off the train arriving in from Swindon at around 25 past nine ... didn't do any on-train counts on way back up, but there were about 10 off at Melksham and perhaps 15 getting on - not bad for a Bank Holiday Monday.  2 short term pick up / drop off cars at Melksham Station, but main car park empty and hub cafe closed.

On wider notes ...

* Quite a number of people off the 08:49 ex Swindon looking to connect onward to Weymouth for the day (?) out. Suspect they were redirected via Southampton though at that point the line as stated as re-opening at midday, with the next train showing as headed just to Yeovil but one an hour later for Weymouth

* 3 car Turbo on the Portsmouth - Cardiff service that picked us up at Southampton at 08:10.  Being a bank holiday, 3 cars was sufficient for that service - about 30% of seats occupied

* Excellent staff service at Westbury - a change of platform of the London train (2 to 3) and station staff came along and checked that everyone waiting on platform 2 knew.

* None stop IET (Intercity Express Train) on the South West main line went none-stop (westbound) through platform 1 at Westbury - relief line closed??

 

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