Posts Tagged ‘trains’

Should the North have its own TfL?

March 5th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

train Should the North have its own TfL?London has its own TfL to manage all things train-shaped in the capital, but a think tank has said that the Government should thrown £15bn at a similar transport body for the North of England in a bid to get everything ship-shape.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said this idea would only serve to help George Osborne’s vision of a “northern powerhouse” and they prodded the chancellor to include such a thing in his budget, which is happening on 18th March (so they’ve invariably left it a bit late, as he’s no doubt got the main meat of the budget sorted by now).

The IPPR would call this thing Transport for the North (TfN), although we’d prefer Tremendous Transport for the North so you could have TTFN as the acronym. This body would be responsible for rail, road, sea and air and determine what infrastructure investments should take priority and the like and could be made up of the existing Transport for the North alliance, which the government set up in 2014.

The IPPR plan also includes the need for a transport commissioner for the North, as well as a move toward a contactless, cross-boundary ticketing system.

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North, said: “Northern transport infrastructure is dated, poorly integrated and lacking the large-scale investment it needs, but Transport for the North could be at the vanguard of a coherent economic plan that will fire up the northern powerhouse.”

“Devolving transport powers and budget to the North will help transform the region’s growth prospects and rebalance the economy.”

Drinking to be banned on trains?

February 23rd, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Drinking to be banned on trains?Remember how bad the response was, when drinking on the London Underground was banned? Well, steel yourself, because the bosses of the railways are being asked to consider a ban on drinking on all trains.

So, that’d mean old dears not being able to have a G&T while going on a day trip or someone making a long commute more bearable with a can.

Of course, you can still get on a train absolutely bladdered, which means any notion of this being a thing to stop anti-social behaviour is out of the window. It also goes without saying that you don’t have to be hammered on booze to be anti-social, either.

What’s the big idea then?

Well, this is being floated by the Rail Safety and Standards Board because they want to do something about the number of people killed on the railways because they’re drunk. In the last 5 years, 18 people were killed and 250 were seriously injured after they fell from platforms.

So you’ll assume that the rail safety lot will be banning slippery shoes and people checking their phones when they should be looking where they’re going, too? Not to mention banning passengers from frequenting any nearby pubs, especially the ones that are actually inside the train stations themselves.

This is only in consultation at the moment and you can imagine the Rail Safety and Standards lot won’t be able to justify alcohol bans because, if they do and accidents keep happening, they might have to start spending some money on making train platforms safer, rather than blaming it on alcohol.

Improved WiFi for trains!

February 12th, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Improved WiFi for trains!WiFi on trains is crap, at best. Bearing in mind you get it for free in coffee shops and the like, the fact you have to buy a pass for it on trains is, frankly, rubbish.

Well, the government are looking at connectivity on trains and have announced that they’re going to free up £50 million of funding for free WiFi on the rail networks in England and Wales.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said that the Department of Transport want to make sure that WiFi is available on more services by 2017. It’ll be useful for people who work while they travel and, naturally, it’ll be good for bored people wanting to stream TV shows or listen to Spotify without hammering their data.

In addition to all this, all future bids for new franchises and direct award agreements are going to have to include provisions for WiFi infrastructure. At the moment, the DoT are looking at improvements on Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern, Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “Free WiFi is a priority for many as being able to keep up with work, connect with friends or even check the latest journey information online helps make rail travel more productive.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, looking like a penis hiding in an old sock, said: “The government is earmarking around £50 million to provide free WiFi on trains; this and our other franchising improvements mean that nearly three-quarters of rail journeys will be made on trains with wi-fi provision.”

Are you entitled to Eurostar compensation?

January 19th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

eurostar channel tunnel Are you entitled to Eurostar compensation?There’s been a weekend of complete mayhem at the Channel Tunnel, which means a lot of people are looking at getting some compensation from Eurostar.

As you’ll be aware, the chunnel was closed for most of Saturday because of a fire and then it was locked down again on Sunday because of an unrelated electrical fault. Today, there’s only one of the two tunnels open, which means more delays and headaches for passengers.

It is hoped that the Channel Tunnel will be back to full speed tomorrow, but after this weekend, no-one should hold their breath.

The amount of passengers inconvenienced over the weekend are in advance of 12,000, which is a lot of compensation needing to be paid out.  On Saturday, Eurostar cancelled 26 of their services.

The cancellations were a result of a lorry  which was on fire (or more accurately, it was “”smouldering”, which meant two CO2 detectors went off and everything had to be shut down. Then, once that was put out, “residue smoke” had to be cleared, meaning further delays. Then, when it looked like things were getting sorted, there was a problem with a power supply which meant more hair being torn out in frustration.

So what happens now?

Well, if you’re planning to travel on Eurostar, they’ve said that they’re planning to run a full service, albeit with delays, so you should check-in as normal, but expect to spend some time sat around and tutting.

“As Eurotunnel will not be completely operational Eurostar services may be subject to delays of up to about 30 minutes,” the company said. “If you were scheduled to travel on Saturday or Sunday and wish to change your plans and were impacted by the tunnel closure, you can exchange your ticket free of charge, within the next 60 days to travel anytime within the next 120 days, or apply for a refund.”

If you’re wanting to complain, then there are long waits on the Eurostar telephone services. You can try ringing them - 03432 186186, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri – or, if you prefer, you can email them at traveller.care@eurostar.com and include the details of what happened as well as your six-letter booking reference.

Eurostar’s website says that they have a “generous compensation policy” for passengers who have been affected by delays so if all of the above switches you off, they have an online form to help you get your money back.

And now, instead of some hold music, here’s a man being run over by a moped outside London’s St Pancras, live on the telly. Both are fine.

train1 297x300 Behold the train that was late EVERY SINGLE TIME last yearEveryone jokes about the lateness of trains in Britain, but it is no laughing matter if you’re a commuter who gets the Southern Rail train from Brighton to Victoria.

If you have an annual season ticket, this train costs you £4,068 and, according to reports, this particular train – the 7.29am from the Sussex coast to London Victoria – was late for every single journey last year.

If you commute on the 7.14am from Brighton to London, that service only got in on-time only once a fortnight last year. The 7.44am train got in on-time once a week. So if you’ve been using these services to get into work and your boss has called you a liar, show them this article.

Then karate chop them in the throat for not believing you.

Across the country, 65% of trains were on time, with the best performances found in Chiltern. Barely half of Southern trains were punctual, which isn’t good enough.

A spokesman for Southern said: “We acknowledge that the performance of the 7.29am Brighton to London Victoria service has been particularly disappointing. Although we’re working hard to improve its performance, its planned path is extremely tight because the network is so busy.”

Busy or not, if you’re paying over four grand for a season ticket, you’d expect the service to be on-time at least once in a year.

Train tickets: cheaper in Wales

January 9th, 2015 2 Comments By Ian Wade

train Train tickets: cheaper in WalesTrain ticket prices are a right arse, especially when one can pay such a random array of prices for the same trip, depending on when you buy a ticket.

However, a new study has shown that English train passengers are being properly rinsed, and can save up to 60% if they buy their tickets in Wales.

It’s a bit of a trek, admittedly, to get to Wales to then try and save on a train ticket, however people in Bristol – 20 miles from Wales – are stumping up over £50 or more just to get to major cities in the North, and single peak time tickets bought in Newport or Cardiff to the same destinations are up to £58.60 cheaper.

The key example of the ludicrousness is a trip to Manchester during morning rush hour on Monday next week will cost £80.70 from Bristol Temple Meads, but a train leaving Newport just four minutes later travelling to the same destination will cost less than half the price – only £32.

Welsh train operator Arriva offers cheaper fares on journeys heading north than can be found on many journeys leaving from Bristol, while services from Cardiff to Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Blackpool also proved cheaper than travelling from Bristol, but with just minutes added to the journey.

Latest figures from the Office of Rail Regulation reveal huge disparities between the government funding for passenger journeys, varying from an average of £2.19 per journey in England to £9.33 in Wales.

These price differences are the result of the system used by nationalised operator British Rail, which was privatised during the 1990s, according to Christopher Irwin, a director of Travel Watch South West, which promotes the interest of public transport users.

Irwin said: “The history of British Rail helps us understand how fares are priced. Before the railway was privatised, lines used to be classified in three categories; intercity fares, South East fares, which covered a lot of lines to and from London, and regional railway fares.”

“Traditionally regional lines would charge less, as those journeys would contain more stops and take slightly longer. Something like Bristol to Manchester would be classed as an intercity line, whereas something leaving from Newport and travelling through Wales is likely to be a regional line and would cost less.”

Not wanting to get all electioneering, but the party that promises to re-nationalise the railways, could win by a landslide.

Too often, corporate Twitter accounts and thunderously useless. Through these channels, the best you can hope for is pointless platitudes, overly long hashtags that no-one will use and, when the complaints come rolling in, a lot of shrugging while a team leader desperately phones a marketing team, shrieking like it’s the end of the world.

However, sometimes, they come up trumps.

One plucky scamp decided to tell everyone on his feed that he’d had a poo while on a Virgin Train and there was no toilet roll. Virgin leapt into action!

B6prjiJCUAApl 5 Virgin Trains: Helping you out when youve had a dump

As you can see, instead of simply ignoring the text or offering some vouchers 3 hours after the event, the social media team got someone to take some bogroll to our faecal friend.

That, ladies and gents, is how to do corporate social media properly.

UK train travel costs too much

January 5th, 2015 1 Comment By Ian Wade

2747361429 1a0f416871 187x300 UK train travel costs too muchRail campaigners are calling for action, as the UK’s commuters seem to be regularly rinsed by rail operators.

There is a considerable disparity between the fares on the privatised networks in the UK compared with the publicly owned railways in France, Germany and Italy.

The TUC’s and rail union’s Action for Rail (AfR) campaign has compared average earnings with monthly season tickets covering similar commuter routes across Europe, and has found the UK is charging way more than any of the other European countries.

And the average UK citizen is having to use around 17% of their monthly wage on season tickets, whereas European types such as the Germans are only spending 9%, France are spending 12% and Italians get away with just 6% of their wages on travel.

Three quarters of rail franchises in the UK are now owned by foreign state-owned or backed rail companies. High fares in the UK are in effect subsidising rail investment and lower fares in other countries.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This year’s fare hike will hit passengers particularly hard because wages are rising so slowly. Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people’s wages, leaving precious little for other bread and butter expenses. On average passengers are now paying £600 more for a season ticket and yet seeing no change in their pay packets.”

“The cost to passengers of the failed privatisation of our railways cannot be ignored. We’ve ended up with slower trains and higher fares than countries who have kept their trains in public hands.”

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan chipped in and said: “We cannot continue to damage the economic future of this country by pricing people out of travel and not competing with Europe – where they know the value of encouraging travel for work and leisure. It comes as no surprise that the bulk of our railways are now run by European operators.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The scandal of Britain’s great rail fares rip off continues with today’s hike far outstripping average pay increases, and it will once again hit those at the sharp end of the austerity clampdown the hardest. After two decades of privatisation the British people pay the highest fares in Europe to travel on clapped out, understaffed and overcrowded services while the private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank. Today’s fares jump just fuels that scandal.”

“RMT says we should cut fares and not staff and public ownership would allow us to do just that.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Allowing German, French and Dutch rail firms to run our rail franchises means that UK passengers pay the highest fares in Europe while at the same time keeping fares down in those countries.

“It is the economics of the madhouse. Labour should promise a one year freeze in rail fares if it wins the General Election in May.”

There are some people who believe that Labour might actually stand a chance in the General Election if they re-nationalised the railways. We’re saying nothing.

Rail companies to offer better ticket prices

January 2nd, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

Picture 26 Rail companies to offer better ticket pricesTrain companies will have to start offering commuters about cheapest fares possible. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll be putting their prices down, but at least we’ll now know which are the least expensive.

This move is to deter customers ending up having to shell out an extra £100 when doing tickets at self-service machines.

The changes, due around March, are aimed at ending the anomaly in prices available at the counter, where staff have access to a complex database of fares, discounts and promotions, and the more limited options in a self-service machines.

Naturally some machines are nefarious and offer up the most expensive fares imaginable rather than offering a better cheaper option.

Rail minister Claire Perry reckons she is “absolutely determined that passengers should get the best possible deal for every journey”.

“There is no excuse for poor quality information, restricted ticket choice or confusing screen directions at ticket machines. However, on summit is not the end of our discussions. I will be closely monitoring progress and I will not hesitate to hold the industry to account if improvements are not made.”

Overseen by the Office of Rail Regulation, train companies will be expected to overhaul their systems to ensure that customers are automatically offered all available ticket options.

As a first step, they must label all self-service machines by March to warn passengers they could save money by using the counter service.

traintrack 300x225 Will double decker trains solve the UKs commuting problem?Overcrowding is a problem on Britain’s trains, with people rammed-on for journeys where your face is pressed into someone’s armpit and the sound of a hundred Beats headphones leaking noise that sounds like mice duelling inside a biscuit tin.

Well, double-decker trains might be the answer.

Network Rail is weighing up the double stuffed trains for a number of peak services. They’re also looking at building ‘flyovers’, so trains can bypass the busiest stations. One of the most likely solutions that is being looked at is narrower seats, so more people can be crammed into carriages.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “It’s right that as part of our plans to increase capacity we fully examine the costs and benefits of double-decker trains, alongside traditional engineering enhancements such as flyovers.”

These proposals have been set out in a number of reports from Network Rail who are looking at ways to fix the problem of increasing passenger numbers.

It is clear they don’t want to invest in more carriages on existing trains, but they’ll need to do something as passenger figures are soaring. We all know they’re going to go for the cheapest option, so expect less leg room in the coming years.

Shock as rail fares increase

December 5th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

train Shock as rail fares increaseEveryone agrees that the British train services are extremely good value for money, punctual and incredibly modern with carriages that are spacious and don’t at all smell like armpits and wafting urine.

So obviously, no-one is going to mind that there’s going to be some increases in ticket prices, with some season tickets breaking the £5,000-a-year mark from January 2nd. We’ve all been robbing these train companies blind haven’t we? Of course we’d be happy to pay more.

You can imagine the only people who didn’t detect the sarcasm in those opening paragraphs are the kind of dung-minded bosses who run our dismal train companies.

So, the increase for regulated fares will be up to 2.5% which means, if you catch a train from Canterbury East to London, your £4,960 season ticket will now be in advance of FIVE GRAND. It’s enough to make you think ‘sod it’ and just buy a car instead so you can at least listen to music and fart as loudly as you please on your commute.

And of course, this is only the rise for regulated fares – unregulated fares like off-peak tickets can be inflated by as much as the companies please. Will we see this extra money going toward a sparkling, new and improved service? What do you think?

Rail Delivery Group director general Michael Roberts said: “Money from fares goes towards running and maintaining the railway. This benefits not just passengers and businesses but communities across the country, by improving journeys, creating employment and helping to boost the economy.”

“Over the next five years, Network Rail is spending on average £27million a day on a better railway, alongside commitments made by train companies to improve services. That will mean more seats, better stations and improved journeys. For every £1 spent on fares, 97p goes on track, train, staff and other costs while 3p goes in profits earned by train companies for running services on Europe’s fastest growing railway.”

“The industry is continuing to work together to get more for every pound we invest to enable government to make fares decisions which work best for passengers.”

Aye, right. Thing is, if you get an anytime ticket from Manchester to London – usually in advance of £300 – you could fly to another country for cheaper. The train companies are a cesspool of villainy.

train Network Rail hammered for dreadful punctuality recordYou’ll never guess what – trains are quite often late. Once you’ve composed yourself over that shock news, Network Rail have been slammed over their woeful performance figures.

Richard Price, head of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), told Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, that the company (who happen to manage and maintain 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and 19 major stations) has to improve and that Network Rail are desperately failing passengers.

In a meeting, which occurred before the release of an ORR report on Network Rail’s performance during the first six months of a £38bn five-year investment plan, it was shown that they’d missed their punctuality target, to the tune of 50,000 more trains running significantly late than expected.

In addition to that, Network Rail are forecast to be £112m over budget this year and thanks to generally being lousy, the company are reacting to problems on the network instead of anticipating them and fixing them before they become a bigger problem.

So, in short, passengers are paying for 60% of the cost of running and maintaining the network through tickets sales and absolutely not getting their money’s worth.

With that, there’s a strong possibility for fines being thrown at Network Rail. Of course, they’ve already been heavily penalised in the past for missing a host of targets.

Richard Price said: “I do not think that Network Rail is performing close to its potential, but the new management does recognise this. We’re now watching Network Rail in much greater detail and getting much more data from them.” Price added that, with Network Rail now a public sector body, they’re no longer able to work with the freedom they had as an independent body, so now the “chickens have come home to roost” as a result of years of under-investment in Britain’s rail infrastructure.

Carne said: “The railway continues to see strong growth in passenger numbers. However, we know that there are too many passengers that do not get the level of reliability they have a right to expect.”

This morning, Great Anglia Rail reported delays on one of their services. Always annoying when one of your trains is held-up, but this one piqued the interest.

The delay was because of ‘an unusually large passenger’.

B237fqtIAAASIeV 500x375 Great Anglia Rail delay, thanks to ‘an unusually large passenger’

Spotted by Amy Gray on Twitter, commuters must’ve wondered what in the blazes was going on. It’s one thing being so large you hold a train up, but this passenger was such a behemoth that they were holding up TWO services!

Naturally, the truth of the matter is quite tedious. The word ‘flow’ was cut off the end of the message.

traintrack 300x225 Train ticket machines might save you time, but they cost you money…We’ve all done it- looked at the long queue full of idiots who’ve seemingly never caught a train before and decided to buy our train ticket from the helpful ticket machine standing idly by. After all, modern technology is here to improve our lives, right? Unfortunately, that might not necessarily be true. And almost certainly isn’t going to save you money.

An investigation by the Telegraph has found that actually, using a ticket machine could end up costing you hundreds of pounds more than asking at the ticket office- while railway clerks are required by law to offer the cheapest tickets, regardless of which company they work for- ticket machines are under no such obligation and, not only don’t offer the cheapest fares, they also hide cheaper fares where no one will ever find them. And sometimes, it can simply depend on which particular machine you use when there are a choice in larger stations.

For example, if you wanted to travel from Leeds to Birmingham, if you used Northern Rail’s ticket machine, a First-Class Anytime Return to Birmingham is sold at £271. However, if you slid a few feet to the right and used the East Coast trains machine, you could get the same journey using a First-Class Off-peak Return for £145.70. This type of ticket is not available for customers using Northern Rail’s machines, but saves £125.30.

Similarly East Coast machines at King’s Cross offered a ticket from London Euston to Liverpool on a First-Class Anytime Single fare for £229.50 but a Thameslink & Great Northern machine sells a London Midland-only First-Class Anytime Single for £94, saving £135.50.

Other tips and tricks available at the ticket office, but not at machines include split ticketing (where buying three tickets instead of one to cover the journey from Carlisle to Manchester could save passengers up to £50), and group discounts such as a £45.20 saving for four adults travelling London to Dover. And you can always ask a ticket officer about the possibility of ‘stopping short’ a strange quirk in a complicated ticketing system which can mean it is cheaper to buy a ticket for a longer train journey than you intend to travel, and just get off the train early.

Mike Hewitson, head of policy at the rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said travellers wanted information to be given to them in a clear and simple way. “Our research shows us that ticket machines still aren’t particularly user-friendly,” he said. “Passengers should be able to use ticket machines and be confident in what they are offered, without needing to be ‘experts’ in the system.”

Campaign group Railfuture said that passengers were being forced to “jump through hoops” to get a reasonable fare. Spokesperson Bruce Williamson said it was “clearly wrong” that the cheapest fares were sometimes “buried” behind a number of option menus while the more expensive ones were promoted on the main default screens.“Cheaper options have to be readily obvious and easy to find, not hidden from customers,” he stated, firmly.

East Coast said it was not aware that the cheaper London Midland-routed fares were missing from its machines at King’s Cross and said this had now been changed. Northern Rail said it was working with its suppliers to ensure all necessary data were fed into its ticket machines to offer the best value fares to customers.

HS3 trains to halve travel times in the North?

October 27th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train HS3 trains to halve travel times in the North?The time a train journey takes between Northern English cities could halve if predictions about the new high-speed rail project are correct, according to a report.

The HS3 plans were backed by Prime Minister David Cameron who reckons the new fast railways will ‘create a northern powerhouse’ by giving a shot in the arm to jobs and businesses.

Sir David Higgins, the head of the £50billion HS2 project, unveiled the next phase of plans which will potentially see travel times reduced between Leeds and Manchester, not to mention a host of other journeys.

He described it a ‘strategic necessity’ and as important to the North as the Crossrail is to London.

Cameron added: “Improving connectivity and reducing journey times between our great northern cities is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan for the north. That’s why we are backing HS3.”

The improvements would be in addition to the north-of-Birmingham phase two of HS2 which will see a Y-shaped route going to Manchester and Leeds.

With HS2/3, the predicted times are indeed, much shorter, with Manchester to Leeds taking half an hour, Birmingham to Sheffield taking three quarters of an hour and Manchester to York being doable in under an hour. How much it will cost everyone to use this service and whether trains will be on-time, is quite another matter.