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  1. #1

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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Just seen the Panorama on Britains railways. As a commuter I experience the service provided between Wolverhampton and Telford (At the weekend as well as Monday to Friday, damn shift hours...) at first hand and I find it ludicrous that a documentary on this subject, whilst nailing Network Rail for over spending, failed to make a passing mention of the train operating companies. The level of service provided by the two companies on the Wolves - Telford route, Arriva Trains Wales and London Midland, is a fucking disgrace. (There used to be a third company, but Wrexham and Shropshire went bust last year, meaning that Shropshire is the only county in England without a direct link to London)

    Arriva Trains Wales: Almost all of their rolling stock is ex-British Rail shit with crappy seats that would be uncomfortable on a short bus ride, let alone a potential Birmingham to Holyhead trip. The train between Wolves and Telford is supposed to be 4 carriages long, but is more often than not made up of just 2 carriages: You can imagine how much fun that is at 16:53 (Although I have got the train home at 11:53 and it has 4 sparsely populated cariages) The companies record on liability also leaves much to be desired, mainly because almost all of their rolling stock is ex-British Rail shit. Many times I have been on the train destined for Birmingham that has terminated at Wolverhampton due to running late (Paradoxically, the company is fined less for a cancellation than a severe delay)

    London Midland: In their defence, the rolling stock is modern and pleasant to use at 11:08 when it has 3 or 4 virtually empty carriages, however at 17:08 when it has arrived before the delayed ATW 16:53 and has only 2 carriages, well you can guess. Apparantly 6 carriages into 2 will go! Funny how standing at top flight football is banned as it is unsafe, yet standing on each other's feet on a train doing 60 through a set of points is perfectly fine.

    It also isn't Network Rail's fault that a commuter town like Telford has just 2 trains in each direction during the week (When Wrexham & Shropshire folded, their services were not picked up) and the horrendous overcrowding is not their fault either. It is completely ludicrous that the railway is privatised: If I was disatisfied with Morrisons, I would go to ASDA or Sainsburys (Tesco can fuck off mind...) yet if I am disatisifed with the train company, there is no alternative

  2. #2

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Excellent- a trains thread.

    Some positive signs amid all the shit. SouthWest Trains (the operator) to form a partnership with Network Rail (the track owner). That should be much more efficient that now.

    What will the regulator make of it?

    Funny how standing at top flight football is banned as it is unsafe, yet standing on each other's feet on a train doing 60 through a set of points is perfectly fine.
    I'm not a big standing at football man- like all the serious faces, I've been in the seats for some years- but this is bang on. I complained about this and was told that it was OK because the guard wouldn't have let me get on otherwise.

  3. #3

    The mind works better at 3mph....
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    Something by Mulino Bianco...

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    If it's any consolation, practically evey week I read of delays on the Geneva-Lausanne line (proper not comedy "We are sorry for running 5 minutes late" Japanese type stuff) which is a notorious bottleneck in Switzerland so even in railways nirvana, things are not that rosy...

  4. #4

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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    When we went to Berlin last summer, I had an experience that really destroyed, for me, any idea that the Germans can do railways much better than the British.

    We went out of town one day and, on the way back, our train just stopped for no reason, about six stops from Hautbahnhopf - no announcements, nothing. We were left standing on one of the middle of four or five platforms, watching as the signs flicked from one destination to another seemingly at random. Trains pulled in, stopped with their doors open and we got on and were told to get off. It absolutely chaotic and it took us about two hours to make a journey that should have taken about forty minutes. When we got back, my partner spoke about this to someone that used to live there and she said that this happens all the time, to the extent that she gave up and bought a bike instead.

    None of this means that our trains are much good, though. My parents live on the outskirts of Horsham, about thirty miles from Brighton, and we haven't had a trip up to see them on a Sunday that hasn't been horrific because of maintenance for a couple of years.

    You have to change at a place called Three Bridges, near Crawley, and last Sunday there replacement buses running from there to Littlehaven, the nearest station to where they live. The bus driver, rather than stopping at the station, stopped about half a mile from it "because it's got a level crossing", but didn't tell anybody and, when we realised (as we sailed past my parents' house), refused to stop to let us off and drove into the centre of Horsham, leaving us with a twenty minute walk back.

    When we got to Horsham, I was so incensed that I made a complaint with noe of the people at the station, and in the middle of this somebody else came over and said, "Yeah, same thing happened earlier - the bus driver turned off about half a mile from Littlehaven leaving about twenty people standing at the station because there were no instructions on where they needed to be to get the replacement bus."

    I don't drive and am a staunch defender of public transport on the whole, but sometimes even I feel as if they play into the hands of those that would rather see public transport wither away and die.

  5. #5

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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    I don't know if Panorama mentioned it, but franchises are so tightly managed by the Dft that any flexibility from timetabling to purchasing additional units, is controlled by the department. Hence the recent 1000 day hiatus in rolling stock order when passenger numbers are at a post war high.
    As for "BR shit" (158s) there's far worse out there, ask anyone further north (in England, that is).

  6. #6

    How now brown cow
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    A lot of the BR stuff is a lot better than the new stuff that has been made. The Voyagers used on the cross-country trains are so unsuitable you wouldn't believe it. Also, be careful what you wish for - the French may well have a fantastic TGV network but they keep the running costs very close to their chests. Nobody really knows how much it costs to run and there is a suspicion it is a huge loss-maker. It's one of the reasons why I'm opposed to High Speed 2.

  7. #7

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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    My recent experience of the Belgian railway system wasn't particularly great either. I was travelling from Brussels to Luxembourg and the train I got arrived in Luxembourg nearly 2 hours late.

  8. #8

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    Let's take a ride and run with the dogs tonight

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    I think spending money on running public transport is a good thing - "loss-making" means nothing in this context.

  9. #9

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Paul S wrote:
    A lot of the BR stuff is a lot better than the new stuff that has been made. The Voyagers used on the cross-country trains are so unsuitable you wouldn't believe it. Also, be careful what you wish for - the French may well have a fantastic TGV network but they keep the running costs very close to their chests. Nobody really knows how much it costs to run and there is a suspicion it is a huge loss-maker. It's one of the reasons why I'm opposed to High Speed 2.
    There must be other high speed trains where costs are public.

    Aren't some British made Bombadier trains not very good, or have I got that wrong?

  10. #10

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    They had an extensive article about railways in The Guardian or The Observer within the past few weeks.

    It suggested that German, French and British subsidy of each rail journey is pretty much identical, the reason our fares are on average 4.5 times higher than in those countries is because of our fragmented and inefficient system of franchises, Network Rail etc.

  11. #11

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Scotland's railways are generally pretty good, rolling stock is newer than in many areas of the country and prices certainly compare favourably to those in the home counties (£840 for an annual season ticket for a 19 mile return journey in my case).

    What strikes me about new train design is that they often stink, toilet compartments are in the same area as the passenger compartment and not sealed in the vestibule as they used to be. Paul rightly decries the Voyagers used by Cross Country and Virgin, they are completely unsuited to long distance travel, cramped, uncomfortable and the noise from the under-floor engines is hugely annoying (think they were made by Bombardier but I couldn't swear on it).

    As for some of the trains operated by the Northern franchise, fuck me they're poor. Cramped, too small for the routes they cover and the passenger numbers using them and it can feel like you're sitting on a fairground ride as you're buffeted from side to side and up and down. Think this is less Northern's fault than the DfT's though, if I've got it right they've refused the level of investment needed for new stock for the franchise.

  12. #12

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    My mate works for London Midland out of Shrewsbury. He was telling me the other week that they are so short of drivers and guards/conductors that they regularly cancel off – peak services and change their roster at short notice to get the ‘commuter’ service running. Crisis management springs to mind.

    Anyhow I thought the operators got financial penalties is they cancelled too many services? Anyone know? I didn't think to ask him.

  13. #13
    Kevin S's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Baptiste wrote:
    As for "BR shit" (158s) there's far worse out there, ask anyone further north (in England, that is).
    Yeah, there's a lot to be said for them. Here, the ones that used to run between Cambridge, Norwich, Peterborough and Ipswich have pretty much all been replaced by 170 Turbostars:


    They're nice enough, modern and light etc, but a real bugger in the summer as the windows don't open. So when you're crammed in by the doors, or the air con fails, it's pretty unpleasant.

    East Midlands have done a lovely job on the 158s, which they run from Norwich to Liverpool, and I reckon the seating's more efficient as well.




    EDIT - looks like the refurbed 158's windows don't open either...
    DOUBLE EDIT - yes they do, halfway down on the left. D'oh!

    I should also point out that the railways round here are ok on the whole, and from time to time I get on one of NX EA's new 379 EMUs. It's like going to work inside an iPod:


  14. #14
    E10 Rifle's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    like all the serious faces, I've been in the seats for some years
    I think this immensely subtle crowbarring-in of a Danny Dyer-ism warrants a bit of recognition. Well done.

  15. #15

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    E10 Rifle wrote:
    like all the serious faces, I've been in the seats for some years
    I think this immensely subtle crowbarring-in of a Danny Dyer-ism warrants a bit of recognition. Well done.
    Thanks.

    When I did stand we took the home end at Bashley.

  16. #16
    E10 Rifle's Avatar
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    You can't whack a custard cream

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    They're game lads Bashley, so that's a result

  17. #17

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    Let's take a ride and run with the dogs tonight

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Have you been to Bashley?

  18. #18

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    No.

    Shit, busted as a wannabee. I did live in Custom House for a month though. Must have been near a Dyer at some point.

  19. #19
    Kevin S's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    New franchise starts in the East.

    Making the right noises so far, about customer service and cleanliness, rather than the endless brand offensives that we got from NX (the company that brought us "one" trains).

    It's not First or Stagecoach either, always nice to see how some new faces get on.

  20. #20
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The answer? Let them use Oysters...

  21. #21

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    When we went to Berlin last summer, I had an experience that really destroyed, for me, any idea that the Germans can do railways much better than the British.
    I've also had some bad experiences in Berlin. Engineering work meant no trains to the airport were leaving from one of the main stations –*Haupbahnhof or something –*but the only information about this was an A4 sheet of paper pinned to a message board. No info on the signs, no people to ask.

    One crucial thing to get right when talking about trains is to compare like with like. Getting from, say, Slough to London in the morning is probably much more expensive than the equivalent distance from a Paris or Berlin or Rome commuter town to the centre. But the trains are often much faster for that journey in the uK, and they're much more frequent. No train services are exactly equivalent. Although the prices are high, often the service is pretty good in the UK.

    Of course like any like minded individual I advocate renationalisation of the railways, mind.

  22. #22

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Good points, I think. Privatised rail is shit and inefficient but you do have to compare like with like. The stat about the subsidy going up is a good example of that. The dying days of BR saw no investment both because of uncertainty and a much broader public spending freeze. Whatever the faults of the current system, there is, visibly, investment going on. In fact, George Osborne has belatedly realised that fairly small amounts of money can make a difference. For example, he approved £8.8m for the Todmorden Curve, which Adonis and all didn't. There are quite a few other small projects too.

    But the McNulty report was shite. All the more so because McNulty himself comes from Northern Ireland and should therefore be aware that rail there is much more integrated and efficient.

    I think the Oyster point is good. There are loads of commuter towns with barriers installed where Oyster doesn't work.

  23. #23

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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    I know the ticketing system for UK trains has been discussed here before what with the ridiculous amount of ticket types, prices and restrictions on offer, but Northern Trains still has the power to surprise, as I discovered on Saturday evening.

    Boarded the train to Manchester at Meols Cop in Southport, which is a station without any ticket purchasing facilities whatsoever. No problem, the conductor came along and we were able to buy a ticket from him. Odd thing was, a single to Manchester would have cost a tenner. The return ticket price was 5 quid. How the hell does that make any sense?

  24. #24

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Having heard many horror stories about the state of the railway system after the privatisation of British Rail, I was pleasantly surprised by the cheap, quick service between Birmingham and Coventry. £8.70 for a return trip, trains every 10 minutes, speedy travel and ample seats - of course, when Ireland has the worst rail system in Europe, all things are relative, but if Virgin ever wanted to take over Iarnród Eireann, few would complain.

  25. #25

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The Transport Select Committee aren't impressed with the government:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/may/08/train-travel-worse-government-plans

    Check out Theresa Villiers pretending that critics are in fact agreeing with her.

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