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 10/12/23 - Winter Timetable starts
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Question: Is "Nobody with any sense would rely on the trains" a correct analysis?  (Voting closed: November 06, 2022, 08:25:32 am)
Yes, anyone who relies on a train is crazy! - 0 (0%)
Yes, but with a backup plan they are sometimes worth using - 8 (30.8%)
Yes, but they are good for optional journeys - 0 (0%)
It's more complex - some services can be relied upon - 6 (23.1%)
No, provided you ensure you have a fallback, train is fine - 6 (23.1%)
No, people should rely on the train - 4 (15.4%)
None of the above - 1 (3.8%)
Don't know - 1 (3.8%)
Total Voters: 26

Pages: [1] 2
Author Topic: Can / do your rely on the train these days?  (Read 3825 times)
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« on: October 30, 2022, 08:25:32 am »

From the Sheffield Star

Opinion: 'Delays and cancellations mean nobody with any sense would rely on the trains these days'

"I'll believe it when I see it." So said the woman sat on the cold, metal bench next to me at Sheffield station. The time was 8.51am and our train was approaching the station, according to the announcement.

The article - the opinion of one Nancy Fielder - goes on to talk about cancelled, delayed, overcrowded and replatformed trains and the effect of that on people missing appointments or events, or getting stranded. She talks about through service no longer being through services but requiring a change, and absurdities of the refund system when things go so wrong you can't reach your outbound destination and give up. Interestingly, there's no quibble at the level of fares, nor is there mention I the long list of excuses quoted by the railways of strikes; I suspect that Nancy's main problems are due to changes made on the day.

Sadly, there is (IMHO (in my humble opinion)) a lot of truth in Nancy's article.  I am just back from several long trips, and whist I can withstand and replan on the go, not all can. 
* I'm fit enough to withstand some discomfort, standing and long walks. 
* I have a knowledge of th e rail system that's better than average that helps me replan along the way based on dynamic data. 
* Almost always, I'll travel on train earlier than I need to if I need to ensure I arrive on time, or I'll not worry too much about when I arrive at my destination if it's open ended.
* I will avoid the last service of the day if I can, or have a fallback plan in place.
* I will have something to do with me so that I don't get bored and frustrated waiting around at Westbury or Barnham or Clarbeston Road or Holyhead if a late arrival there misses an infrequent onward connection.

For me personally, relying on the train still makes sense. Long distances on buses and coaches do not thrill me, I dislike airports and flying and feel they are not "green", and driving longer distances tires me out and leaves me needing to stop for breaks. along the way, and perhaps have recovery time at my destination.   

Travelling with family, journeys by train that would have made sense in the past no longer do so. .  And that can be due to unexpected delays along the way, the need for extra changes, delays and physical issues at some of those changes, the discomfort of a train designed for short journeys running over a long distance.  And I'll add some pricing hikes such as the extra limits on Groupsave that have put our regular day trips up by 50%.  Not ruling out all trips, but train moves from being the mode of choice to one of a series of options.

How is it for YOU?
« Last Edit: October 30, 2022, 08:34:17 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2022, 05:06:39 pm »

In my view, one should distinguish between being able to relay on A train and being able to relay on the THE trains.

Relying on a particular train for an important appointment is unwise due to the well reported risks of cancellation etc.

Relying on the railway in general is lower risk and probably acceptable. Dont count on the 09-44 to get you to an important important meeting etc. Travel instead on an earlier service so as to allow for cancellation or significant delay.
And do not rely on the railway for journeys planned far in advance, there might be a strike, or major engineering work, or rain/wind/snow.

Contingency plans should include driving, buses, taxis, or for shorter journeys even walking or cycling.

Other modes of transport can suffer from problems also. Cars breakdown, cycles get punctures, horses go lame, roads are closed by extreme weather, shoes unexpectedly come apart, etc etc. Depending on how important is the journey, consider backup arrangements.

If driving, make certain that the vehicle is reliable and has a full fuel tank, AND that you have a charged cellphone with a list of taxi numbers.
If walking a significant distance, carefully examine shoes for condition and even carry a spare pair.

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 #2 on: October 30, 2022, 05:40:11 pm »

Maybe the Sheffield star should start a campaign to get ticket gates installed at Sheffield station

as well as at Meadowhall Doncaster Barnsley and Rotherham.
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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2022, 08:04:57 pm »

I don't feel that the trains near us have become any less reliable in the past year or two, and the IETs (Intercity Express Train) marked a step up in reliability at any rate. Certainly you'll do better relying on the train service here than on Oxford traffic or the A34.

I do use the train less than I used to, but not because of reliability concerns. One reason is the same as yours, grahame - price hikes. The other is the lousy bike accommodation on IETs.
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« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2022, 09:18:06 pm »

I use the train regularly when working and I don't have too many issues with doing so. The Severn Beach line, which is a regular commuting means for me, proves very reliable and I find that the occasions when anything goes wrong with that route are few and far between.

Therefore I rely on it but I have my car as a backup in case the train is cancelled for any reason.

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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2022, 08:29:56 am »

No, people should be able to rely on the train, was my answer.
Not having a car at my disposal the alternatives are not great. As suggested elsewhere on the forum it helps to have a passable knowledge of the railway system, so you can create a get you home route (talk of upping penalty fares could make this difficult).

Work travel tends involved Reading going in the London direction, where the alternatives to GWR (Great Western Railway), are the Elizabeth Line, South Western or for a very early start the 702 bus from Reading. Other points on the route, Maidenhead and Slough etc are doable in combination with the bike.

Non-work tends to be a case of don't do it, unless there is a bus alterative. If I want to go to Basingstoke it is a bus tour via Newbury bus station. Most other local towns are reachable direct.
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2022, 09:59:58 am »

I don't feel that the trains near us have become any less reliable in the past year or two, and the IETs (Intercity Express Train) marked a step up in reliability at any rate.

Sigh. At Kingham Central Station an IET sat down and wept an hour this morning, royally fouling up the rush hour service. I fear I may have jinxed it.
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2022, 02:20:09 pm »

The second one in less than 10 days too. Last time by 3 hours, this tinec’only’ an hour, owing to door priblems apparently.
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2022, 07:43:32 am »

This poll remains open until the weekend ... at the risk of biasing results, I'll tell you that so far less than 20% of votes have  simply said "you should rely on the train". 

Just think of how much more goodwill and business there would be if the service was, say, 99% reliable ... by which I mean that 99 trains out of 100 ran to the times published in the bi-annual timetable, accepting that engineering works with a month of more notice are understood to make changes.  "Reliability" also means that trains leave and arrive within a reasonable number of minutes of the timetable; no definition of "reasonable" there, save to say that "reasonable" means that advertised and un-advertised but timeous connections are made, and without any "will it / won't it" worries.

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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2022, 04:09:58 pm »

I could not vote on this as i was cruising around northern Norway in search of the Northern Lights. I still use rail for my long distance and London bound journeys and will continue to do so (strikes permitting)

I like to travel.  It lets me feel I'm getting somewhere.
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« Reply #10 on: November 11, 2022, 08:42:38 pm »

I do... but I don't think it's universally possible.

I choose to be carless. Partly to avoid the costs, and partly because I believe in the benefits (environmental, enough traffic on the roads, good to walk etc) and take some pride in not having the option of driving ingrained in my lifestyle. I choose to accept slightly (?) longer journeys, having to walk a lot, having to cart luggage around etc; it would take a lot to convince some people that it's worth it.

But most of my journeys are on fairly 'core' routes. Look at Melksham – useful service lost on political whim. Look at the Heart of Wales Line and Fishguard – somewhat useful commuter journeys added, but when Covid hit they disappeared and weren't quick to be reintroduced. Can a shift worker who needs early, late and Sunday services rely on the train? Perhaps there are timetabled journeys at those times on key routes, but are they consistently reliable, or does the commute become too stressful?

I do think employers should be flexible where possible - so lateness isn't an issue. But even if the employer is 'on side', if someone is frequently delayed, as is the experience on some routes, is that really helpful for the commuter, their employer or their colleagues?

The railway needs to work on capacity. My job involves fairly 'hands on' aspects, so I continued commuting right up until the first lockdown was declared. The Dec 2019 timetable still felt like it was bedding in, and one of my travel-home options had moved about ten minutes earlier as part of the change. However, because of congestion or whatever, it felt like it was still meant to leave at its old time! But as the passenger numbers dwindled, suddenly everything ran like clockwork!

I'd like to see more trains everywhere – then perhaps more will make the decision to use the train. There are so many services that aren't quite adequate enough to be the mode of transport of choise, towns on 'live' railways with no station, and freight-only lines that could be brought back into use. But a lot of investment would be needed to cope with any extra services. But who's going to fund that? Where new services aren't possible, can things be integrated? Perhaps true point to point ticketing would be too complex, but some sort of bus supplement or discount is possible, as products like PlusBus show. But only if connections are held etc.

Many routes are overcrowded. There's hope on the horizon for the former-Alphaline routes such as CMN-MCR and CDF» (Cardiff - next trains)-PMH, but will we actually achieve the vaunted 5 car trains? 9/10 car IETs (Intercity Express Train), for all their flaws, have more capacity than the HSTs (High Speed Train), and on certain journeys that difference is genuinely felt... as long as 9/10 is the delivered product!

There are times when communication would be better, especially when there's disruption. Automated systems are frequent offenders, but human information is also variable. I was recently on a failed train, where the announcement was that there was another train just behind... a quick check online showed it was an IET that would definitely not stop at the halt where we were turfed out, and sure enough it flew through wrong line shortly after! Understandable that in the moment when staff are juggling comms with more safety-critical duties they rush the comms aspect and say something unhelpful, but perhaps an update would smooth errors over! The Whatsapp services are often great for better info – for those in the know, and during opening hours! So much could be done more widely to provide better comms.

Lack of funding, staff availability issues, need for engineering closures, one-off (ish) problems etc are all valid reasons in their own right, but they contribute to the fact that the railway isn't able to provide an optimal service as things are.

Still, better than the buses! UK (United Kingdom) rail 'culture' is ingrained in me, so I see provision for cancellations (if last service or long wait), Delay Repay etc as baseline expectations, and therefore feel buses have a lot of catching up to do in 2022! It's more or less the official line of bus companies that the passenger is on their own if the bus is cancelled, last bus too full to board etc – perhaps fine for short urban journeys were buses are at their best, and a walk or taxi isn't the end of the world, but not so good for other types of journey, and that walk/taxi option isn't always available or suitable. For all its flaws the railway does better here, and often does well.

Info on bus cancellations is often only available if checking social media, and during opening hours. Trackers help but don't show cancellations or diversions - just have to make a guess if particular bus isn't showing tracking info! No delay repay. No replacement service if cancelled. A few years ago, I was affected by a last bus of evening no-show on a mostly rural route... some of us shared a £50 taxi. No-one to contact at operator in the evening. Would everyone be able to afford that up-front? Perhaps a 'replacement taxi' arrangement of some sort is needed to be truly reliable. Often on Gower routes I've noticed the 'little detour' bits of evening routes ignored by drivers - not sure if they just assumed no passengers out of the high season, but if advertised to go there they should! As a result very early for parts of the route - not good if someone's gone to the stop hoping to catch the timetabled last bus of the evening! I used to commute by bus, but for the sort of urban journey where if necessary it's possible to walk (if able-bodied and feel safe doing so) – not sure I'd have felt comfortable using buses for the sort of commute I'd consider by train, even if appropriate services were available.

« Last Edit: November 11, 2022, 08:53:07 pm by Hafren » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2022, 08:09:17 pm »

I need to come back and summarise the poll - in the morning when the excellent French wine has worn off.

I travelled on 7 trains today and arrived at my final destination on time 2 minutes early.  Can't say I would have risked that had it involved a Melksham journey, where as far as I can see half the trains that were in the timetable this time yesterday did not run, and even the only bus (which is every 2 hours on a Sunday) broke down leaving a 4 hour gap.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2022, 08:25:32 pm by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2022, 08:13:00 am »

I travelled on 7 trains today and arrived at my final destination on time 2 minutes early.  Can't say I would have risked that had it involved a Melksham journey, ...

In Melksham today, out again tomorrow on the first train.   Can / should I rely on this?

Yes, but with a backup plan they are sometimes worth using

Yesterday, the first train did not run
Today, it left Westbury 15 minutes late, dawdled, and called at Melksham 30 minutes late, 32 late at Swindon
Tomorrow?  I do plan to catch it,  but will be checking early AND have a lift to Chippenham if I need it.

It's, frankly, incredible just how well our passenger numbers stand up to this crap. The regional trains such as ours are now the busy ones. Just imagine if we had a reliable hourly service.


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« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2022, 02:51:55 pm »

Its not just Melksham though. I turned down a job that had fixed shifts because the trains from Twyford weren't reliable enough on week days and just couldn't do it at weekends. This was an 8am start so early but not unreasonably so. Saturdays were just about doable but not Sundays.

In a previous job I had a start at 06.45 in West London and if I relied on the timetable I was nearly always late so ended up leaving the house at silly o'clock. What I found surprising was just how packed the trains were at 05.30.

This was pre Crossrail so reliability should have improved but not sure about early starts.

Like Hafren I'm carless and relied on the trains and buses most of my life but now I'm reaching the point where its easier not to bother or get a lift. The strikes don't help of course at the moment.
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« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2022, 08:16:41 pm »

I've recently started a new role that sees me going into Cardiff far more regularly than I have been in the past 2½ years. My experience so far is that I can depend on GWR (Great Western Railway) – worst case scenario is the train home is late and I just sit in the lounge at Central enjoying the complimentary tea and ginger biscuits. And I can always work from home on the strike days anyway. The problem is the Central to Cathays leg where TfW come up with creative ways of making me late for work. These have included flooding on the Aberdare branch, with TfW's imagination extending only to turning trains at Central, rather than Radyr or Pontypridd, then amending the short-term plan so their cancellations don't show up on Delay Repay; everything running an entire 15-minute interval behind, and rather than just relabelling the trains deciding that running non-stop from Central to Pontypridd makes sense; general late running caused by trying to squeeze Barry-Cardiff loads into a two-car 150 (TfW are really bad at rolling-stock allocation – they are roughly 30 years out of date in where they think the ridership is); and today's classic of blocking platform 6 with a 769 on the Rhymney Valley Line with dodgy door indication, followed by the gateline (if two counts as a line) at Cathays jamming on my ticket and my having to use the help-point to get someone to come over from the ticket office the other side of the terrifyingly steep footbridge (Cathays is a shockingly underspecified station for how busy it is). When it gets light enough that Bute Park isn't locked, I'll probably start walking up from Central – TfW's "Metro" is so lacking in metro-like characteristics that in pleasant weather it's more trouble than it's worth.

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