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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.