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Author Topic: Social engineering - major changes in way of life cause by rail changes  (Read 22958 times)
grahame
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« on: June 03, 2007, 08:27:12 am »

Mandy is seriously considering giving up her current job, and Sam has already made dramatic changes to hers - all due to the timtable changes introduced by First Great Western last December. 

Mandy and Sam are - or rather were - regular commuters from Bath to Oxford. Five years ago, they used the regular, direct train service for their commute. That service was withdrawn about 3 years ago, and then they had to change at Didcot on each journey. Now the timetables have changed, and the 4 minute "connection" at Didcot often fails. Compounding that, new patterns in the trains that stop at Didcot mean an hour's delay in getting home if the connection fails.

Are the train operators aware of the problems their new timetable has created?  Yes, they are; they have received more than enough feedback from these, and other, unhappy customers to make it crystal clear to them. But their loyalty is to the profit they can make for their shareholders, and to the contract laid down for the franchise, both ahead of their customer's needs.

"You can't make an ommlette without breaking eggs".  I know this, and timetables need to be overhauled; services that are moribund need to be rejuvenated or replaced, extra convenience and capacity provided for growing routes, and that might be to the detriment of other services.  But here we have an example of far more eggs being broken than was really necessary.

Why was the direct train withdrawn?  Was it really because it got in the way of others, or was it because the First group took over the other operator (Thames Trains) then used its monopoly position to make the change?  Why do we now have the strange stopping pattern at Didcot - is it really in order to provide an equal slowing of the Bristol and Cardiff trains with the "extra" stop, or is it because more stops at Didcot would mean many more people buying much cheaper regulated tickets (Bath to Didcot + Didcot to London is MUCH cheaper than Bath to London!)

This has ceased to be amusing in any way. This is serious. This is a monopoly playing at social engineering and changing people's lives - a service provider who seems to be less and less aware of that role, and showing little interest in it.

Sam used to commute every working day. Now she makes just one journey a week. "It's cheaper and less stressful for me to stay over in Oxford for a night or two" she told me - maybe, but it must be tough on your young kids. Then she works from home for the rest of the week.   So she's looked and made a choice beyond First's monopoly - their income from her has been cut, as has her travel.  Possibly it's even a good solution.

I've not been in touch with Mandy for a few weeks.  I must catch up and see how her problems are doing - where she's headed.
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Lee
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2007, 12:22:56 pm »

Why was the direct train withdrawn?

The blame for this (as well as the lack of a station at Corsham) can be laid at the door of the SRA. From the Great Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy (link below.) :
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/strategyfinance/strategy/greatwesternmainlinerouteuti3510

Aspiration - Re-introduction of through services between Oxford and Bristol.

Current SRA view - Services were withdrawn in 2003 due to low levels of demand and to improve performance on the heavily utilised routes over which they operated. No justification has been found to warrant reversal of that decision.

The SRA provided RPP funding for a new station at Corsham , with a planned opening date of 2003. However , they then proceeded to withdraw the Oxford - Bristol service that would have called there.

The SRA took the following view of the Corsham station proposal in the Great Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy :

"Scheme design and development was previously undertaken. The business case for the station is currently poor due to cost escalation as a result of unforeseen ground conditions and the withdrawal of the Oxford - Bristol trains which were to have provided the service (the SRA were the ones who withdrew the service.)

Unlikely to proceed at the present time."

As has been noted elsewhere on this site , campaigners continue to fight for a new station at Corsham.

The fact that First appear to have included re-routing the 232 Bath - Corsham - Chippenham bus service via Chippenham railway station as part of their bid for the Greater Western Franchise seems to indicate that they see the bus , not the train , as the future provider of public transport for Corsham. The fact that First won the franchise based on that bid appears to indicate that the DfT share that view.

I also feel that an Oxford - Bristol service is unlikely to be re - introduced in the near future , despite the fact that Jacobs recommended that it should be (pages 40 & 41 of the link below.)
http://www.dft.gov.uk/foi/responses/2006/september06/swindonwestburytrainsservice/greaterwesternoutlinebusines1103

That , of course , is only my assessment. If First or the DfT were to announce that a new station was to open at Corsham , to be served by a Bristol - Oxford service , then I would happily admit to being proved wrong.
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Timmer
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2007, 05:34:26 pm »


That , of course , is only my assessment. If First or the DfT were to announce that a new station was to open at Corsham , to be served by a Bristol - Oxford service , then I would happily admit to being proved wrong.

I dont think you will be proved wrong on this one.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2007, 09:31:25 pm »


That , of course , is only my assessment. If First or the DfT were to announce that a new station was to open at Corsham , to be served by a Bristol - Oxford service , then I would happily admit to being proved wrong.

I dont think you will be proved wrong on this one.

With selective door opening, 125s could serve a short platform at Corsham.  If a station was provided there primarily for MOD visitors, I might expect to see (say) two morning peak trains off London (so trains running against the flow) and two evening trains from Bristol calling ... gaining traffic for the "contra-flow" trains with longer distance travellers who typically travel first class and so are nice and lucrative.   What additional services could be persuaded to stop, I don't know ...
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2007, 08:51:30 am »

Another consequence of the schedule changes brought about the time table changes are the increased journey times for 'simple' routes.

For example, the 0701/0656 train from Bristol Parkway to Reading

BPW - Reading till Dec 2006, used to take 49 minutes
BPW - Swindon - Didcott - Reading till May 2007, used to take 55 minutes
BPW - Swindon - Didcott - Reading now takes 62 minutes

Still not sure why a this train has to stop at Swindon or Didcott, passengers must love standing, but the delay at each station over the past month is really annoying. I think FGW/DfT have rescheduled the train to reduce the delays. So now we have to wait at Swindon/Didcott for ages.

As this process continues, many more people will work from home.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 10:41:56 am by simonw » Logged
Lee
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« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2007, 10:57:10 am »

With selective door opening, 125s could serve a short platform at Corsham.  If a station was provided there primarily for MOD visitors, I might expect to see (say) two morning peak trains off London (so trains running against the flow) and two evening trains from Bristol calling ... gaining traffic for the "contra-flow" trains with longer distance travellers who typically travel first class and so are nice and lucrative.   What additional services could be persuaded to stop, I don't know ...

One problem that you might find with this idea is the fact that peak London - Bristol trains in these directions will be calling at Keynsham & Oldfield Park from December 2007. I doubt that FGW would want to slow these journeys down further by calling at Corsham as well.
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2007, 12:30:42 pm »

One problem that you might find with this idea is the fact that peak London - Bristol trains in these directions will be calling at Keynsham & Oldfield Park from December 2007. I doubt that FGW would want to slow these journeys down further by calling at Corsham as well.

I was thinking more along the lines of the 08:00 and 09:00 from Paddington calling at Corsham at around 09:22 and 10:22, whereas the trfains that wll stop at OP and Keynsham are probably the 06:30, 07:00 and 07:30 off Paddington (peak time into Bristol - 08:22, 08:47 and 09:10 at present, rather than peak time out of Paddington)
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Lee
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« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2007, 02:27:57 pm »

Genuine query as I am not "au fait" with the typical MOD vistor's travelling habits :

How many passenger "entries & exits" would Corsham arrivals at 0922 and 1022 be likely to generate?

Also , which evening trains would you envisage calling at Corsham , Keynsham & Oldfield Park respectively?
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2007, 05:15:27 pm »

Genuine query as I am not "au fait" with the typical MOD vistor's travelling habits :

How many passenger "entries & exits" would Corsham arrivals at 0922 and 1022 be likely to generate?

Also , which evening trains would you envisage calling at Corsham , Keynsham & Oldfield Park respectively?

I'm making semi-educated guesses too.  But let's say that 4 First Class and 4 Second Class return journeys, full fare, are made from Paddington to Corsham each day on each of the two trains, you get an annual income for FGW of 530,000 pounds per annum at Chippenham fares.  Not bad for 4 calls a day at a station which lookd like it might be government funded.

Evening, I would go for the 16:30 off Bristol calling at Corsham, the 17:00 and 17:30 at Keynsham and Oldfirld Park, and the 18:00 at Corsham.  That gives extra high peak service to K and OP and 2 trains from Corsham - one for the "my meeting will be over by 5" folks and another for the "do a full day plus" folks.

Having got a station at which trains could stop for the above purpose, I could see a business case for  stopping one or two trains in the opposite direction too in the morning and evening peaks.  A few lucrative London commuters from the town of Corsham in a train that's going through there anyway.

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eightf48544
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2008, 11:44:23 am »

For example, the 0701/0656 train from Bristol Parkway to Reading

BPW - Reading till Dec 2006, used to take 49 minutes
BPW - Swindon - Didcott - Reading till May 2007, used to take 55 minutes
BPW - Swindon - Didcott - Reading now takes 62 minutes


I remember the Reading - BPW sprints from my working days, the stewards used to work very hard to get you breakfast during the run. That was also when Padd Cardiff was well under 2 hours.

Happy days.

But Grahame is right in the original post that changing timetables can have profound affects on peoples' lives. Social engineering.

The DfT in awarding franchises on the basis of who can do them cheapest and hopefully pay a premium doesn't actually improve the quality of life for rail travellers.

There were many instances in the last round where stations like Melksham and services like Bristol Oxford which were quitely building up regular users who were using them to carry on with their lives were abruptly withdrawn. As he says this can have profund affect  on people not least pushing them back onto the roads.

Some how we've got to persuded "THEM" that once instigated a train service at particular frequencies serving a particular route should not be withdrawn arbitrarily unless it is either hopelessly uneconomic or a viable alternative can be provided.

We need to push predict and provide for rail services as "they" do for roads and airports. Just as it's said if you build a new road people will use it. I would suggest provide a decent rail service and people will use it. 
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2008, 01:59:20 pm »

.

Why was the direct train withdrawn?  Was it really because it got in the way of others, or was it because the First group took over the other operator (Thames Trains) then used its monopoly position to make the change?  Why do we now have the strange stopping pattern at Didcot - is it really in order to provide an equal slowing of the Bristol and Cardiff trains with the "extra" stop, or is it because more stops at Didcot would mean many more people buying much cheaper regulated tickets (Bath to Didcot + Didcot to London is MUCH cheaper than Bath to London!)

.

But were the Bristol/Oxford services withdrawn after the merger of the Thames Trains into FGW? I think it was before, quite a time before actually. The reason I say this is because I worked these services as a train manager regularly ( I've been a driver since July 2001) and they were withdrawn shortly after I commenced my training (maybe either Winter 2001 or Summer 2002). They were ( except for a couple during the peaks, well to be honest a waste of time, through the lack of patronage. The SRA had a big say in their withdrawal. I've known trains with just 2 or 3 passengers in total on board throughout! Even the heavily subsidised British Rail would have had a hard job justifying that.
All that said however I think the re-introduction of those services that were fairly well used with the use of Class 165/6 or 158's stopping at the likes of Keynsham & Oldfield Park should looked at once again This would go some way to reliving the pressure found on the HST's between Bristol -Bath-Chippenham-Swindon-Didcot during the morning and evening peaks!
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Lee
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« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2008, 03:09:46 pm »

The SRA did have a big say in their withdrawal, which took place in May 2003, before the formation of First Great Western Link (see links and quotes below.)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2663117.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2664821.stm

Quote from: BBC article
Oxford - Bristol Temple Meads: All 18 trains are being withdrawn on First Great Western or Thames Trains' routes that previously called at Didcot, Swindon, Chippenham and Bath Spa.

Two changes (Didcot and Swindon) may now be required for some Oxford-Bristol journeys.

The number of trains calling at Didcot will be addressed in the September 2003 timetable review.


I note the BBC article caption "First Great Western is cutting trains to and from Bristol".....

Why was the direct train withdrawn?

The blame for this (as well as the lack of a station at Corsham) can be laid at the door of the SRA. From the Great Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy (link below.) :
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/strategyfinance/strategy/greatwesternmainlinerouteuti3510

Aspiration - Re-introduction of through services between Oxford and Bristol.

Current SRA view - Services were withdrawn in 2003 due to low levels of demand and to improve performance on the heavily utilised routes over which they operated. No justification has been found to warrant reversal of that decision.

The SRA provided RPP funding for a new station at Corsham , with a planned opening date of 2003. However , they then proceeded to withdraw the Oxford - Bristol service that would have called there.

The SRA took the following view of the Corsham station proposal in the Great Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy :

"Scheme design and development was previously undertaken. The business case for the station is currently poor due to cost escalation as a result of unforeseen ground conditions and the withdrawal of the Oxford - Bristol trains which were to have provided the service (the SRA were the ones who withdrew the service.)

Unlikely to proceed at the present time."

As has been noted elsewhere on this site , campaigners continue to fight for a new station at Corsham.

The fact that First appear to have included re-routing the 232 Bath - Corsham - Chippenham bus service via Chippenham railway station as part of their bid for the Greater Western Franchise seems to indicate that they see the bus , not the train , as the future provider of public transport for Corsham. The fact that First won the franchise based on that bid appears to indicate that the DfT share that view.

I also feel that an Oxford - Bristol service is unlikely to be re - introduced in the near future , despite the fact that Jacobs recommended that it should be (pages 40 & 41 of the link below.)
http://www.dft.gov.uk/foi/responses/2006/september06/swindonwestburytrainsservice/greaterwesternoutlinebusines1103

That , of course , is only my assessment. If First or the DfT were to announce that a new station was to open at Corsham , to be served by a Bristol - Oxford service , then I would happily admit to being proved wrong.
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2008, 04:00:15 pm »

As I started my current commute to Filton early in 2002 I can distinctly remember the Oxford services, although I had little use for them other than the occasional trip to Bath if the timetable was convenient. I always felt that it was a bit of a loss when they were withdrawn.

Memory may be playing tricks but hadn^t they not long been introduced in the first place, as I think I went out of my way to travel occasionally on one, but that might possibly be due to there being rumours they were being withdrawn.

As a serial hoarder I am surprised I didn^t keep any timetables from the period, I would love to see the differences compared with the current one.
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2008, 11:09:55 pm »

Quote from: 12hoursunday
They were ( except for a couple during the peaks, well to be honest a waste of time, through the lack of patronage. The SRA had a big say in their withdrawal. I've known trains with just 2 or 3 passengers in total on board throughout! Even the heavily subsidised British Rail would have had a hard job justifying that.

It was hardly surprising they were empty when they were cancelled so frequently.  I understand that FGW/Thames Trains were running them on an experimental basis which meant cancellations did not have an effect on their performance stats (or something like that).

At the time, I lived in Didcot so I didn't really need to use them (although sometimes got the 07:26 Didcot-Oxford).  Now I live in Oxford and regularly travel to Bristol, South Wales and Exeter, so they would be very handy for me.  There are usually a good number of changers at Didcot when I'm making the trip in either direction so it should be justified now.

I think that a two-hourly Oxford-Cheltenham Spa would be a good idea, i.e. extend the Cheltenham-Swindon trips to Oxford (or Bicester?).  Or even a semi-regular Oxford-Westbury via Melksham trip.  Either would connect Oxford with many other lines in the area and also offer connections from the west to CrossCountry at Oxford.

Might even make Wantage Road station a reality.  Or am I getting carried away?
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« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2008, 11:36:57 pm »

While I sympathise with Mandy and Sam's situation, the direct service was always regarded as experimental, so perhaps not the best thing to build one's life around.

The end of the direct service was entirely the SRA's doing, though I don't think FGW and Thames were too upset to be told to drop it.

And from my recollections of often observing one of the trains arrive at Oxford while waiting for my train home, I can endorse 12hoursunday's comments on usage. The passengers carried would always have fitted comfortably into a single coach of the two-car 165s that were used. Yes, there were cancellations if they were short of a driver for a London service, but I don't think it made that much of a difference.

As well as scuppering Corsham, the withdrawal also effectively put paid to any immediate hopes of reopening Wantage Road station - as a Wantage & Grove Parkway - an aspiration of Oxfordshire County Council.

They may manage to squeeze some money to pay for it out of developers building new homes on Grove airfield, but even then you need to have the trains and FGW has never expressed much enthusiasm for the idea. In any case, this station would need London and Reading trains as much, if not more than Oxford services, as many people currently drive over to Didcot to catch trains to London.

The backers of the East-West rail link aspire to serve Bristol, so getting this scheme off the ground perhaps offers the best opportunity to revive some sort of through service. Roads running south west from Milton Keynes are poor, so rail would win hands down on journey time between MK, Oxford and Bristol. See www.eastwestrail.org.uk
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