Archive for tag: DfT

More Trains For Bristol

Anyone who reads my CV will know that listed in my interests is "representing rail travellers as part of the First Great Western Customer Panel". We meet directors of the railway on a quarterly basis and listen to and comment on plans for improvements to the service, usually meeting the MD each year. I represent customers from Freshford, Avoncliffe, Bradford-on-Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, Melksham, Frome, Bruton, Castle Cary and all stations to Weymouth, including Yeovil Pen Mill and Dorchester West. It's a lively session and surprisingly I'm known for getting a little bit aggitated.

Most of my business is conducted either writing code on the train or travelling to customers sites on the train, where I can give rapid feedback by writing up reports etc. on the way home instead of lots of frustrating driving. As such I travel extensively over the rail network in FGW area, and originally came to Frome & Westbury via a commute from Brighton on the now FGW line, formerly the "Wessex main line". When this service was incorporated into the "Greater Western Franchise" I applied to join the panel to try and ensure the smiley and pleasant service didn't degrade. Many of the people I work with also travels these routes by train and many ad-hoc and informal project meetings occur in this space too.

Just thought I'd share my response to these press release for further comments.

DfT: 8,800 extra spaces for busy trains on key routes


FIRST GREAT WESTERN: Additional Carriages for Bristol

The feedback I've received from other channels also suggests that these numbers are a little bit misleading as they do not take into account the outflow of stock from FGW over a similar time period. However hopefully at least this new stock is more relaible than what we lose.

I'd really value your comments especially if you live in the rail area I represent.

So this is what I wrote to the customer panel in response:

to: customer.panel@firstgroup,com

That's fantastic news.

Just out of interest, it's worth noting a couple of things about the Bath-Bristol-Westbury service that then either terminating at Westbury/Frome or onwards to Weymouth or Portsmouth/Brighton service.

Obviously this was one of the pinch points that caused the vocal protests and "rail fare strikes" some years ago. It has been the case recently that due to frequent stock failures that these trains have recently often been formed of 2 instead of 3 car services and this still causes massive overcrowding and people not being allowed to board on a regular basis.

The over crowding is now to a comparable level to the highly contraversial overcrowding that occurred around the start of the Greater Western Franchise.

So as I say fantastic news.

The other thing that has been really good is the use of trains that have extra carriages between Westbury and Bristol and then these detach for the less busy services onwards to Cheltenham/Worcester etc, or Weymouth/Portsmouth.

However what is really worth noting, the trains that are just shuttling from Bristol / Westbury tend to be more lightly loaded as they don't have the base load of passengers travelling further afield, these passengers tend to have more luggage and bicycles etc. but as these services are relatively infrequent it is these services that have the heaviest load. The stress level is raised further if you try and board a train at Bath Spa which is overcrowded and you know it is 2 hours until the next service, the passenger is far less likely to take no for an answer and then delays ensue whilst passengers scuffle and argue to get on the train, making the whole experience one that denigrates the FGW brand as a whole.

I understand that the reason why there are service gaps of up to 3 hours between trains to Weymouth is due to a lack of stock. Maybe McNulty will lead to the prices for these tickets also increasing - and so making it economically more viable to run more trains without the risk of not breaking even on extra provision of rolling-stock. Frome is a major population centre, compared to other freqeuently served stops such as Bradford-on-Avon, Freshford & Westbury. In Frome there is a strong local will for greener travel but with service pattern of up to 3 hours between trains travel is frequently unviable for many travellers. There is a totally unacceptable gap in the evening service provisions meaning that you either need to depart Bristol at 17:49 or 19:49 (with an unreliable changing option in between and a greatly extended journey time). If it is possible more trains that start/terminate at Westbury should be considered to go from Frome as was previously the case, eg the Trans Wilts train (once a day via Melksham & Chippenham to Swindon) used to start in Frome and there are many Frome based people who travel to these towns but the change at Westbury again makes this route less reliable and more time consuming.

Yeovil is also another major population centre with stong transport demand to Bristol & intermediate stops but with this terrible service pattern. Maybe a train that stopped at Yeovil or Taunton to meet with services that no longer stop at Castle Cary/Westbury to make for a faster journey time.

The travelling experience from Westbury to Exeter in the day time is now woeful with this lack of connection possibilites to Taunton.

It has been stated in the past that more services to Weymouth (via Frome) are not possible due to a lack of units. I hope it can be considered that if there are more units this service provision can be improved.

The use of spare units to travel just between Westbury & Bristol does increase the journey time, sometimes by only a few minutes which is more than acceptable but at certain times of the day it is 25 minutes or more.

The last "before work" train leaves Frome at 8:05 and then there is no service until the 10:15  departure that starts from Weymouth. This then holds at Westbury for 25 minutes timetabled delay and the guard advises people to go to the cafe whilst they wait for the extra carriages to be joined on. So then the journey time to Bristol is significantly extented, and you get to Bristol at nearly noon. Just not a useful service provision for serious business or time constrained travellers.

There would definitely be significant revenue returns from very slight improvements to the service pattern. There are big holes here that need to be filled.

But brilliant news that there is now more stock.