Posts Tagged ‘trains’

Chancellor selling Eurostar

October 13th, 2014 8 Comments By Mof Gimmers

george osborne 300x300 Chancellor selling EurostarSeeing as the government is unwilling to chase big companies for the tax they haven’t paid, there’s only one thing for it – selling off the family silver.

With that, George Osborne is going to sell its 40% stake in Eurostar before the election.

Gideon says that he’s looking for bid by the end of this month and hopes that the privatisation of the Channel tunnel train operator will raise £300m for the country. Looks like we’re selling a company that is making a profit (£18.6m last year and £16.3m the year before).

Of course, selling a profitable business is not a new thing or indeed, a bad idea. However, you can’t help but wonder if we’re all looking at a repeat of the absolute farce that was the Royal Mail sell-off.

Today, Osborne will say: “I am determined that we go on making the decisions to reform the British economy and tackle our debts. So we will proceed with the potential sale of the UK’s shareholding in Eurostar today. Ensuring we can deliver the best quality infrastructure for Britain and the best value for money for the taxpayer are key parts of our long-term economic plan.”

“As part of our aim to achieve £20bn from asset sales by 2020, the sale proceeds would make an important contribution to the task of reducing the public sector debt.”

Here’s a thing – Britain’s national debt is £1.4tn, so the sale of Eurostar isn’t going to make much of a dent and, of course, privatising railways hasn’t really worked out for everyone.

traintrack 300x225 Rail fares are still going up   the North gets hammeredRail fares are going up by 2.5% in January and waxy old George Osborne has capped the ticket prices for the second year running, so it’s slightly better news than the feared 3.5% – 5.5% increases.

He also announced that he was scrapping the ‘flex’ system where train companies could cheekily raise some fares by up to 2% above the permitted average.

It will cost the Government £100 million though, so they’ll claw that back from you elsewhere no doubt.

As if pre-programmed, Mr Osborne trotted out his: “Support for hard-working taxpayers is at the heart of our long-term economic plan.”

“It’s only because we’ve taken difficult decisions on the public finances that we can afford to help families further.”

However, rail passengers in the north of England are not going to be feeling very supported for their hard work and tax payments, as new rules mean that passengers in Greater Manchester and parts of Yorkshire won’t be able to buy off-peak return tickets for travel between 4pm and 6.30pm. That basically means that, because they’ll be buying ‘peak’ or ‘anytime’ tickets, it’ll cost them 40-50% more than off-peak fares.

So, if you’re catching a train from Rochdale to Wigan, it’ll now cost you £11 when it would’ve cost you £4.20.

Martin Abrams of the Campaign for Better Transport isn’t happy: “The DfT’s extension of peak fares on Northern is part of an incoherent strategy to make existing passengers pay more for outdated services instead of investing in better quality rail for the future across the region.”

Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

August 26th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Just as train fares were announced that they were going up, a Bank Holiday travel tale of woe occurs to remind us how infuriating our train services can be.

Yesterday,  a train was delayed by a whopping 5 hours. That’s not ‘delayed while everyone was at the station so they could go and have a brew or whatever’, but rather, ‘passengers sat on the train for 10 hours with the driver buggering off somewhere, the passengers left with no water, a lack of air in the carriage and people fainting all over the place and left stranded with nowhere to go’.

Not good. Of course, customers tried to get things sorted on Twitter because East Coast weren’t feeling too responsive (initially).

2014 08 25 23.29.30 376x500 Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

East Coast, of course, seemingly did so little that, instead of identifying and correcting a problem, they just allowed more passengers to get on the Bank Holiday Doom Train.

2014 08 25 23.30.47 432x500 Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

After a while, someone jumped on East Coast’s Twitter account and started saying sorry to everyone, but of course, the passengers had all gone a bit mental by this point and had more pressing concerns – like what where they supposed to do if they’d missed their connecting trains and were stranded.

2014 08 25 23.31.41 367x500 Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

The only person to come out of the whole thing with any praise is Gary The Train Guard who got his own #garythetrainguard hashtag last night. A man who single-handedly tried to stop the passengers from going Lord of the Flies on each other.

Someone give Gary a raise!

gary the train guard Bank Holiday rail nightmare with East Coast

And the problem that held up these passengers is still here this morning. If you’re travelling into London’s King Cross through Peterborough and Stevenage, be warned that there’s an extensive disruption to services on the East Coast main line.

Today, there’ll be severe delays and cancellations .

An East Coast spokesman said: “Network Rail engineers have been working through the night to restore the overhead power lines… as a consequence, East Coast trains are expected to be severely restricted, and cancellations are likely throughout the day.”

“Customers are advised to defer travel until later in the day, or alternatively, to travel tomorrow if possible. Tickets dated for travel on Monday or Tuesday will be valid for travel on Wednesday and customers are advised to try to travel as close as possible to their original booked time.”

“East Coast is very sorry for the inevitable disruption this will cause to your travel plans, and is working hard with its infrastructure provider Network Rail to resume a good service.”

Customers delayed by more than 30 minutes are eligible for compensation under East Coast’s delay repay scheme. Click here and get your money back.

Train fares to increase today: protests likely

August 19th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Train fares to increase today: protests likelyToday’s the day when we all find out how much train fares are going up by, not that train travel is a rip-off as it is. But as morning follows night, train companies put prices up year on year when the RPI inflation figure is announced.

The formula used allows prices to be increased by an average of RPI plus 1%, but train companies have the option to add another 2% to some fares, just as long as the overall average remains in line with the formula.

Next year’s price rise could well take the overall increase to around 24.7% during this Parliament, according to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and protests are expected at stations across the UK.

In addition to that, Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh reckons there’ll be a further rise of 24% by 2018 if the Tories stay in power. She’s obviously forgotten about the Lib Dems being in the coalition as well, but that’s British politics for you.

The CBT are right to point out that, in the same period train fares have risen by upwards of 24% since 2010, wages had only risen 6.9%. Everyone knows that the UK has some of the highest train fares in the world and as a result, customers don’t think train companies are at all trustworthy.

Rail Minister Claire Perry did acknowledge that “we have had inflation-busting fare rises almost every year over the last decade” but insisted the Government is committed to “fair fares”.

She said: “What we have got to do is make sure rail passengers, who could be forgiven for thinking ‘What on earth am I getting for these rises I’ve seen over the last decade?’, start to realise that they are paying fair fares for comfortable commuting.”

“Passengers are paying for the “biggest investment in the rail network since Victorian times”, she added while yammering on Radio 4.

People think train companies are untrustworthy

August 15th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train People think train companies are untrustworthyNews that will shock you to your core, it turns out that people who use trains think that the train companies are not on their side, according to a large survey from customer watchdog Passenger Focus.

So why don’t people trust them? Well, the survey showed that many don’t trust train companies to provide a decent service, day-to-day. They also don’t trust them to tell the truth about anything, or communicate well or generally be fair with anyone.

The survey looked at punctuality/reliability, value for money, problem resolution, helpful staff on trains and helpful staff at stations.

The firms that inspired the least trust were in London and south east England, but that’s not good news for the rest of the country’s train companies. Grand Central, Merseyrail and ScotRail got reasonably positive scores when it came to service, but Southern, First Great Western and Southeastern were the ones who came off worst.

Regarding trust in relationship (which focused on being truthful, acting with honesty and integrity, building long-term relationships, treating customers fairly and communicating well), the best scorers were Grand Central, Virgin Trains, Merseyrail, Chiltern and ScotRail. Down the bottom were Southern, Southeastern and Northern Rail.

Passenger Focus concluded: “To build greater trust with passengers, it is important not only to deliver a punctual and reliable service but also to build a stronger relationship with passengers, this being based on communicating openly and honestly.”

“Most TOCs (train operating companies) can also increase satisfaction by focusing on passenger engagement, as customers do not currently feel that TOCs are ‘on their side’, acting with their interests at heart. In particular, there is the potential to improve satisfaction by increasing the amount of TOC communication and being proactive, communicating with openness and transparency, particularly when things go wrong.”

This survey comes days before the announcement of July’s RPI inflation figure, which is the number used to work out how much rail fares will increase next year.

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “This survey does not surprise us in the slightest. Why would people trust private train companies whose only objective in life is to hack back staffing and services to the bone while whacking up fares for the travelling public in the name of pure and unadulterated greed?”

“Passengers are set to get hit with another inflation-busting fare increase when the figures are announced next Tuesday, while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.”

First Great Western 300x225 Quiet carriages still a thing, says First Great WesternCome in off the ledge everyone, First Great Western are NOT removing their quiet carriages after all.


The train company were keen to dismiss such balderdash after several reports had said they’d done away with them.

A name-free First Great Western spokesman said: “There will be a quiet carriage on all our high speed trains for the foreseeable future. Claims that there will be no solace for customers who want a quieter journey are simply unfounded.”

What is true, added the spokey, is that they’re removing the First Class quiet carriage in the next few months, as an overall overhaul of its First Class carriages.

“The company is converting some First Class carriages into Standard carriages on all its long distance trains, which will only leave one and a half First Class carriages.

“To make one of those carriages ‘quiet’ would be madness, but it is a practical decision based on the need to increase the number of standard seats on our services. The renewed First Class carriages will instead be fitted with specially designed headrests and partition screens to keep noise levels to a minimum.”


Network rail Network Rail posts profits of £1bn but is still always lateThere may be some plastic cups of warm cava being drunk at the Network Rail offices tonight, as it announces a profit of £1bn.

But wait a minute (or perhaps more accurately, an hour and a half at Carlisle) – despite the whopping profit, Network Rail failed miserably to reach their punctuality target, with almost 730,000 trains running late last year.

What’s their excuse this time? Melted tracks? Leaves on the line? The driver’s in the toilet? No, according to CEO Mark Carne, it was because we’re all using the trains! He put their failure down to: ‘congestion as the railway witnessed growth of 5.7 per cent in passenger journeys during the year.’

He also mumbled about winter storms and all that – even though most of the damage to the rail network was covered by insurance.

But he did admit that an increase in commuter numbers, leading to packed carriages and irate angry mobs, posed a ‘challenge’ for the industry.

‘We need to do more to improve the reliability of the railway.’ He conceded. ‘We know we have to do better and we are very determined to address those issues so that we can provide the high quality of service that passengers expect.’

How about ploughing some of those lovely profits back in, then? Er, well, there’s a little problem with that. Network Rail owe a mountain of debt – £30bn in fact – due to massive upgrades to the Victorian infrastructure.

Hmm. Looks like we’re going to be late for work forever.

train The trains are going to get better, according to Network RailLong suffering train passengers, good news! Network Rail have announced a 5 year investment plan which means you’ll get more trains, more seats, less congestion and bigger, nicer train stations. What do you mean you’ll believe it when you see it?

Network Rail will be spending a whopping £38bn on rail infrastructure, which also includes new tracks and an upgrade of existing lines. How they’ll manage to keep our trains on time while doing track work is another matter.

Obviously, this hasn’t come about out of the goodness of anyone’s heart. Network Rail are looking at a £70m fine for delays over the past few years.

In a statement, chief exec of Network Rail, Mark Carne, said: “Passenger numbers in recent years have grown far beyond even our own industry’s predictions, so it’s vital that this investment over the next five years helps meet the continuing increase in demand for rail travel.”

“Bigger, better stations, more tracks and longer platforms, electric-powered trains, reopened railway lines and fewer level crossings – all will help deliver more frequent, more comfortable, more reliable journeys and a safer, better-value railway for everyone.”

The plans show that there will be (up to) 700 more trains a day between major northern cities, a 20% increase in the capacity of London’s commuter trains, electrifying 850 miles of track, an east-west project which will connect Oxford and Milton Keynes and a facelift for Birmingham New Street and Manchester Victoria. £13bn has been put aside to sort out old tracks, points, platforms and fencing.

Carne also noted that Network Rail will be making provisions to make sure our trains can cope with extreme weather: “Over the next five years we will work tirelessly to improve the resilience of our railway, targeting investment in areas we know are vulnerable to nature’s impact and reducing the likelihood of damage and disruption.”

Which! airport train service is the worst?

February 25th, 2014 4 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Getting a train from the airport to a nearby city is usually an expensive business, but it’s over to everyone’s favourite consumer gods, Which! to tell us which one sucks the most.

gatwick express 300x300 Which! airport train service is the worst?

And the accolade for the crappiest airport train service goes to…THE GATWICK EXPRESS, which scored 60/100. Why? Because, as anyone who has ever been on it can testify, out of all the airport train services, it’s bad value for money at an always shocking £19.90 each way for a journey that lasts about half an hour. And they don’t even put on nice shiny trains.

The Heathrow and Stansted Express also scored low for value for money – but while the Stansted Express is a terrifying £23.40 each way, it scored higher marks for luggage space and comfort.

The best, easiest and cheapest London journey by far was the Docklands Light Railway from London City Airport. (And the DLR is also good because you can sit in the front seat and pretend to drive it.) But then, only business class types and golden gods can afford to fly from City airport.

Outside of London, regional airports scored highly for their train services, with the top spot occupied by Virgin Trains, whose cheap as chips and highly efficient rail service from Birmingham costs only £2.40.

Which! say that passengers need to complain more about the standard of train services from the big London airports, otherwise we’ll continue to be fleeced. Ricardo Lloyd spat:

‘There are unacceptably wide differences in the levels of customer satisfaction for airport trains, with many people especially unhappy about the high cost of some express services. Train companies must do more to listen to travellers’ views, which is why we’ve launched a campaign to Get Trains on Track, calling for a better response to complaints.’

Another Which! campaign. Don’t these people ever SLEEP?

What do you hate most about public transport?

February 25th, 2014 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 What do you hate most about public transport?Public transport eh? A wonderful thing and occasionally, hellish beyond belief. Concerning the latter, a survey has been conducted to see what we all hate most about riding the train or sitting on a bus.

With any luck, those dreadful annoying humans that cause such grievances will read this and realise how annoying they are.

It’s not going to happen is it?

Topping the list of annoying habits, people who try and jump on a train before everyone has got off have swatted aside all other bugbears. Other actions which grate us all include the scum who hog seats with their bags, the gits who read over your shoulder and those who sit in a reserved seat without a ticket. That last one doesn’t seem like a big deal if you’ve got the nerve to tell them to sling it. What’s wrong with you soft arses?

Other irritants included those who loudly talk on their mobile, people who get off with each other and those who still have their keypad tones on. The latter, in fairness, should be thrown off the train. While it is moving. Then there’s drunk passengers, children and people who eat smelly food, too.

Gareth Woodhouse from said: ‘’Sometimes we can get a bit wrapped up in our own journeys or have a lot on our minds and it can make us less considerate of those around us. The ability to put up with things that annoy us is quite a British trait but it’s inevitable that certain behaviours test our patience more than others. Clearly those who can’t wait for the train to clear before boarding or people hogging seats can rile us but with a little more consideration and some common sense train travel can be comfortable and efficient for everyone.’’

Here are the top annoying habits:

1) People forcing themselves on when others are still getting off
2) Smelling bad
3) Drunken behaviour
4) People playing ringtones/music through speakers
5) Others kicking the back of your seat constantly
6) Parents not controlling their children, even when they’re grabbing at your face
7) People who don’t give up their seat for others who need it more
8) Playing music too loudly over headphones
9) Eating noisily
10) Putting feet on seats

For the rest of the list, click over the jump

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you know how to apply for a rail refund?

February 21st, 2014 3 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Most of us have no idea what our rights are when it comes to applying for a refund after a cancelled or delayed train journey. Do we get compensation? Is it worth bothering to fill in a million forms only to be given a £5 voucher for your next soul-destroying adventure?

train 287x300 Do you know how to apply for a rail refund?

A report from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found that 75% of us know ‘not very much at all’ about the refund process or what compensation – if any – we’re entitled to. It also found that 74% of passengers felt that train companies do bugger all to provide information about compensation.

Passengers suggested a poster campaign and more prominently displayed information about compensation on websites, somewhat naively thinking that the rail companies might have our best interests at heart. At the moment, half of the 1000 passengers surveyed said they wouldn’t know where to find information on compensation even if they looked for it.

The ORR are now planning to develop a code of practice on clearer and more freely available information about rail compensation by the end of 2014, saying that passengers are ‘at the heart’ of the rail industry and are ‘crucial to its growth.’

Whether that will make rail companies treat us more like human beings rather than doomed pigs on the way to the abbatoir remains to be seen. But you never know – furious customers demanding compensation might be just the ticket to get trains running on time.

Which!!! have conducted their third annual train satisfaction survey and it is pretty obvious what the outcome is, considering that our train services are pretty lousy and, more pertinently, everyone loves moaning about trains.

The results showed that we have a very low level of satisfaction with most of the train companies. Which!!! came up with a score for each operator based on overall satisfaction and whether or not those polled would recommend it to a friend.

11 of the 19 companies looked at had a score of 50% or lower. Merseyrail trounced the opposition with a score of 70%, subsequently becoming the first train company to be a Which!!! Recommended Provider.

Here is a graphic containing the results.

2014 Magazine train satisfaction table best and worst 401x500 Which!!! announce that everyones not happy with the trains

They survey also found:

  • Nearly one in five (16%) of all passengers experienced a delay on their last journey (this rose to 26% for commuters)
  • One in five (21%) of commuters said they were likely to have stood on their last journey
  • One in ten (11%) said toilets were not in good working order – this rose to 20% for London Midland Trains, 19% for Southeastern and 17% on First Capital Connect
  • One in ten passengers (11%) told us they had cause to complain about the last journey they had taken, but three-quarters (75%) didn’t officially complain. Of those who did complain, more than half (55%) were dissatisfied with how it was handled.

Which!!! are now encouraging you lot to formally complain to train operators and share your findings with them on their website, so they can present their own findings to the train companies also.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s disappointing to see some train companies consistently falling down on the basics of customer service, with dirty and overcrowded carriages and toilets that don’t work. Seven rail franchises end in the next two years and we want to see passengers’ experiences put right at the heart of the tender process so companies respond to consumer expectations and can be held to account if they don’t.”

Have a look at the dedicated Which!!! site where you can gripe about trains by clicking here.

New trains made from British Siemens

January 29th, 2014 17 Comments By Mof Gimmers

New trains are going to appear on British tracks, but a stir was caused after a load of foreign manufacturers started bidding for the jobs. Just how many jobs are going to be generated for British workers? Well, that’s the question on the lips of a director at German giant Siemens.

See, the Government (less arsed about British jobs) awarded Siemens a £1.5bn contract to build 1,140 train carriages and, noticing the uproar, the Germans stated that they would create 2,000 jobs in the UK with this work.

And this is what they’ll be building. By the looks of it, an old train with a shell on top.

siemens 700 thameslink train  482 New trains made from British Siemens

Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of rail systems for Siemens, said: “There is definitely a big push to look at what you can do to help regenerate the economy. Going forward, that focus is going to be on even more. If you look at what London Underground and Crossrail have done, they are all trying to demonstrate the spend in the UK market.”

The new Thameslink carriages (due 2016) are being built in Germany but many components are being sourced from the UK.

Rail minister, Stephen Hammond, unveiled the new train and took a swipe at Europe in the process, saying that no-one can guarantee big contracts like this can stay in the UK thanks to European procurement laws.

Still, doesn’t matter because no-one will be able to afford train tickets soon, so they should probably spend the money on fixing the roads for us all to drive on instead.

[Yes, the headline doesn't quite work, but  we were determined to crowbar in something that sounded like a train was made from spunk]

Should first class train travel be scrapped?

January 2nd, 2014 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 Should first class train travel be scrapped?The Government are toying with the idea of scrapping first class train travel on routes that are busiest for commuters. Train companies won’t lose out on money because they’ll be given money to provide the extra seats.

Of course, a lot of train companies open up first class when they’re overcrowded, but that hinges on whether first class is empty or not. Now, it seems, certain routes won’t open up the front carriages up to wealthy people in the first instance, thereby ensuring that there’ll be more room for the proles going to work.

With rail fares in the UK rising by an average 3.1%, something needs sorting out because people can’t be expected to pay more for a service that is getting increasingly worse. The Government have promised to cap fares as train ticket inflation is greater than wage increases, but the 3.1% rise is for regulated fares only (including season tickets) while increase on unregulated fares (off-peak leisure tickets) are not capped.

The Department for Transport state that these increases are paying for the £38bn of investment in the rail network over the next five years, even though a decade of price hikes has shown little for us so far, leaving us with the most expensive trains in Europe and a cruddy service to boot.

A lot of UK commuters, according to campaigners, are coughing up almost 15% of their salary towards a season ticket, compared with less than 5% in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, just to get to work and back.

At least the commute will see the people who normally sit in the posh seats suffering with the rest of us. Hopefully then, when they’re crammed in a carriage with everyone else, something might change for the better… provided they’re not the only people who can actually afford train tickets.

Free WiFi on First Great Western trains

December 12th, 2013 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train 287x300 Free WiFi on First Great Western trainsFirst Great Western have announced that 53 of their high-speed trains will have free WiFi for passengers from June 2014. It’ll take a while because the company have to equip the trains with the relevant equipment.

FGW did a deal with Nomad Digital which means the partnership will roll out the free WiFi across the rail operator’s fleet.

The company’s free WiFi trials of its class 180 trains have been well received said FGW’s Managing Director Mark Hopwood: “I am delighted that we are able to extend this free service, and within the next year all High Speed and Sleeper fleet customers will be able to read their emails, browse the web, or simply catch up with friends while on the move.”

This comes on the back of Virgin Media offering free WiFito commuters on the London Underground, while Sky’s ‘Cloud’ offers WiFi at the stations of the London Overground. If this keeps up, all the train operators will have to follow suit, if only through professional jealousy.

Here’s hoping. It is about time we got something back for the ridiculous price rises in tickets.