Posts Tagged ‘trains’

Southeastern delays caused by… sunlight!

January 28th, 2016 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Sun 300x225 Southeastern delays caused by... sunlight!The day after we relayed the news that rail passengers are, by and large, a satisfied bunch, Southeastern and a host of other train companies were on hand to remind us why travelling by train can be murder inducingly frustrating.

Across the UK, services were down after overrunning engineering works left a host of lines without any power to work, with 20 services delayed or cancelled this morning, during the already stressful rush hour.

Southeastern though, were particularly bad, with trains delayed or axed, because of that most pesky of problems, sunlight.

What with ‘the day time’ being a thing for as long as there’s been a sun in the galaxy, a Southeastern spokesperson was tapped up to say that it is indeed a legitimate source of problems which cause delays. They said on Twitter: “Unfortunately if the glare is on the monitors, the driver cannot dispatch for safety reasons.”

Southeastern noted that their services were back in working order this morning, but of course, there were knock-on effects of the previous delays, which will continue throughout the day.

They continued: “Services were affected by power supply problems due to overrunning engineering works, which were supposed to be finished on time today. They are back to normal now, but there will be knock-on delays. We advise passengers to check updates online.”

Brilliant.

Rail passenger satisfaction is, remarkably, up!

January 27th, 2016 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Rail passenger satisfaction is, remarkably, up!The amount of people who are satisfied with their rail journey in Britain has, you might be surprised to hear, gone up for the first time since 2012, according to a new survey.

Figures from the National Rail Passenger Survey, asked over 28,000 people, and it saw a 2% year-on-year rise in overall satisfaction, to 83%. If you’re wondering, the survey is bi-annual, and this one was carried out between 1st September and 12th November 2015.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said that this rising satisfaction was “a welcome sign that our record investment is starting to deliver results”. She added: ”There is clearly much more to be done, which is why we are continuing to invest to reduce crowding, cut journey times, and improve the passenger experience.”

As for individual ratings, the worst three performers were all in the South East, with Thameslink having the lowest rates of satisfied customers (at 73%), followed by Southeastern (75%) and Southern (78%). They’re still pretty high figures, considering the big disruptions the services have faced thanks to the development work at London Bridge station.

The most satisfied customers were found at First Hull Trains (97%), followed by the customers at Heathrow Express (95%).

However, it wasn’t all cheery news. When it comes to people feeling that they were getting good value for money on their tickets, the score was much lower, with only 48% of people saying they were satisfied.

So while the trains and service themselves might be okay, the price of them it seems, is not.

Trains delayed because of sunlight

January 13th, 2016 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Trains delayed because of sunlightThere’s one thing that unifies all British people, and that’s complaining about trains, or at the very least, taking the piss out of them. A favourite thing to do, is to laugh (or cry) about some of the excuses that we’re given for trains being late.

We’ve heard about leaves on the line, and the wrong types of rain, but now we have a real beauty – sunlight.

Southeastern were asked about why the delays happened at Lewisham in London, and they said that it was the fault of “strong sunlight”. This was a reply on Twitter, where they said: “We had severe congestion through Lewisham due to dispatching issues as a result of strong sunlight.”

“The low winter sun has been hitting the dispatch monitor which prevents the driver from being able to see.”

Of course, we know that low, winter sun can really fry your eyeballs and it makes it difficult to drive your car when it is shining into your face, but that shouldn’t stop us from indulging in the great British pastime of laughing at train delay excuses. Of course, with this response being shared on Twitter, people were quick to pile-on.

One person said it was “the weakest excuse ever”, while another said; “”How do they go on in hot countries where they have sunshine all the time?”

A Southeastern spokesperson said: “We know that sometimes it seems that if it is not leaves on the line or snow on the track then it is some other weather issue. But actually glare this morning made it impossible for some drivers to see the full length of their train in their mirrors before leaving stations.”

“When this happens they have to get out and check to ensure everybody has got on or off their train safely before they can move. This can take a little more time but thankfully for all it doesn’t happen very often.”

Protests at rail fare hikes

January 4th, 2016 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Protests at rail fare hikesA study has shown that British train users are spending up to six times as much of their wages on railway fares, as those who use trains elsewhere in Europe. Action for Rail say that some commuters in the UK are parting with 13% of their salary on trains, while Italians are paying just 2%.

This study was put out to coincide with the protests that are taking place at a number of railway stations across the UK, where campaigners and rail workers are unhappy with the increase to fares.

The report says that it weighed-up the average salary of a worker in the UK, and found that they were spending much more of their pay packet (the aforementioned 13%) compared to 2% in Italy, 3% in Spain and 4% in Germany.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s hardly surprising that UK passengers think rail travel is bad value for money. They are shelling out far more of their income on rail fares than their counterparts in Europe. Years of failed privatisation have left us with exorbitant ticket prices, overcrowded trains and ageing infrastructure. Ministers need to wake up to this reality instead of allowing train companies to milk the system at taxpayers’ and commuters’ expense.”

Meanwhile, Mick Whelan – the general secretary of train diver union Aslef – said: “Taking the railways back into public hands is a popular policy. The vast majority of voters – Conservative included – are fed up with paying sky-high fares so the privatised train companies can take their slice. Commuters travelling into London from Kent and Sussex know their £5,000 a year season tickets would be much cheaper under public ownership.”

Goodbye to paper train tickets

December 31st, 2015 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train 287x300 Goodbye to paper train ticketsPaper train tickets look like they’re on the way out, thanks to new plans that are set to see passengers tapping in and out with their bank cards or mobile phones. And this could be a thing as soon as 2016.

Basically, you’ll be able to buy your journey online, and travel with little more than the bank card that you paid for the journey with. Shall we assume that plans are in place for people travelling who have a ticket that someone else has paid for?

The Department for Transport, banks, and train groups have held meeting to see how quickly the relevant technology can be pushed through, across the UK.

Basically, this is travelling on trains with contactless payment technology, so everyone will tap in and out like people who have been using the Tube in London have done for years.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, said this new system will “improve the experience” of travelling by rail (it won’t improve the actual trains though, will it?), saying: “The rail industry wants to respond to the needs of our customers and understands the importance of modernising train tickets so that passengers are no longer reliant on the old orange paper format.”

“We are in the early stages of exploring how passengers could pay for and store tickets on their contactless credit or debit cards as part of our wider aim to improve the experience of rail passengers and move towards smarter types of ticket.”

If this works, one good thing will be the removal of the need to use codes and the like, to print out tickets from machines in the stations. Hopefully, it’ll mean an end to stations hiding cheapest fares from customers too, but we’re not holding our breath on that score.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “Our plan for passengers is to build a 21st century railway that provides better journeys for all, and improved ticketing is a vital part of that customer experience.”

Millions to get compensation for train delays?

December 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 297x300 Millions to get compensation for train delays?The folks over at Which!!! have thrown a ‘super complaint’ at the rail industry, requesting that the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) looks at the issue of compensation and the procedures of train delays.

According to the watchdog, around 47 million passenger journeys were cancelled or significantly late in the 12 months to March. While most companies offer money for services that are delayed by at least half an hour, according to the figures from Which!!!, they state that only 34% of those may actually be able to make a claim where they get something in return.

“Current proposals to improve compensation for passengers are too far down the track,” said Which!!! honcho Richard Lloyd. ”Even if an automatic compensation system was included in all new franchises from tomorrow, it would take until at least 2025 to cover the whole network.”

“Millions of passengers are left out of pocket each year, so train companies must do more to put their passengers first and make rail refunds easier.”

What they did, was to get a number of people to act as mystery shoppers, asking basic questions to get refunds at 102 train stations. Full explanations were given in only 18% of cases, while in 63%, mystery shoppers weren’t told that they could request their compensation in non-voucher form, such as a cheque.

The ORR have issued a statement, which has said that the rail industry has taken “positive steps” toward sorting all this out, such as issuing a code of practice which aims to give clearer info to passengers wanting to get a refund. They did admit that their own research shows “passenger awareness of how and when to claim compensation is low”.

They added: “We will be assessing whether more could and should be done for passengers as we investigate this complaint.”

Of course, there is a new system where you’re supposed to be able to get automatic refunds for delayed trains, but this isn’t a system that is in place right across the board, with some train companies still employing old, confusing, and slow methods.

Something is going to have to be done about this super-complaint though – thanks to the Enterprise Act, certain bodies are now able to issue these complaints when it is deemed that the interests of consumers are being significantly harmed. With that, the ORR has to respond to the questions posed by Which!!! within 90 days.

Have a look at the Bitterwallet guide to getting compensation for your train journey.

Rail fares to rise in January 2016

December 4th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

train1 297x300 Rail fares to rise in January 2016Rail fares are going up in January 2016, by an average of 1.1%, according to the Rail Delivery Group. This rise covers all national rail fares.

While it is the smallest annual increase for a number of years, it is still an increase on a service that many people don’t think is good enough. There’ll probably be sneaky rises elsewhere too – keep an eye out for how much parking and whatnot is.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group said: “On average 97p in every pound from fares is spent on trains, staff and other running costs. With passenger numbers doubling in the last 20 years, money from fares now almost covers the railway’s day-to-day operating costs.”

“This allows government to focus its funding on building a bigger, better network when the railway is becoming increasingly important at driving economic growth, underpinning jobs, and connecting friends and families.”

“As an industry, we are working closer together to deliver better stations, more trains and improved services, and to get more out of every pound we spend.”

We’ve heard that before. Hopefully, this time, we might actually see some of those improvements without having to look too hard. Of course, over the last five years, fares have gone up by around 25%, and in that time, the whole train services don’t feel 25% better.

One of the things that we’d like to see, is a system which allows customers to easily get access to the cheapest fares for travel. Too often, more expensive tickets are sold when a cheaper one was available. We need a more flexible ticketing service.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: ”Our plan for passengers is improving journeys for everyone. It’s transforming the tickets people buy, how much they pay for them, the trains they sit on, how quickly they arrive and the stations they arrive in.”

train Network Rail sets up £4.1m passenger fund as alternative to fineNetwork Rail are setting up a £4.1 million fund, which is meant to benefit passengers, in a bid to dodge a massie fine after the terrible planning of upgrades. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) have previously said that they might hit NR with a fine of £2 million, after the nonsense that went on at London Bridge station.

The ORR found that Network Rail had “failed to engage adequately” with train operators over what could happen to passengers if they ploughed on with work. Of course, these improvement to the network meant that Southern and Govia Thameslink Railway missed a host of punctuality targets, accounting for a third of delays and almost half the cancelled and significantly-delayed services in England and Wales.

However, to sidestep the fine, the ORR has accepted an offer from NR if they create a fund for passengers on Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services. What does this fund actually do? Well, it should mean extra staff at their stations. There’ll also be improvements to information displays, and new track workers.

Of course, if they were making these improvements as it was, which caused all this mess in the first place, Network Rail have brokered themselves a sweet little deal.

NR managing director Phil Hufton said: “Passengers expect and deserve a high standard of service, and we accept that we fell short for those travelling on Southern and Thameslink services last year. Since then we have invested £11 million to improve the railway around London Bridge and elsewhere in the region, and performance has increased as a result.”

“This extra £4 million will continue the improvements we have already made and it is good news for passengers that the ORR has recognised this as a positive and practical alternative to a fine.”

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “We welcome Network Rail’s commitment to improve passenger services. The new fund will enhance the service for passengers affected by this poor performance.”

Rail chiefs have ‘lost grip’ on projects

November 20th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Rail chiefs have lost grip on projectsRail bosses are being chided this week, as MPs say that they’ve ‘lost their grip’ on the various projects on the network. They’re causing delays, overspending and generally, everyone’s worse off as a result, thanks to their actions.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair Meg Hillier said: “Network Rail has lost its grip on managing large infrastructure projects. The result is a two-fold blow to taxpayers: delays in the delivery of promised improvements, and a vastly bigger bill for delivering them.”

The PAC report has raised grave concerns about rail investment in the UK, and they want a review of the industry’s regulator. One thing that got their dander up, was the spiralling costs of the electrification of the Great Western railway line between London and South Wales. Initially, that was going to cost £1.6bn, but in 12 months, it has increased to £2.8bn. The report referred to this as “staggering and unacceptable”.

The report also said that there’s ”far too much uncertainty” over electrification of the Midland Mainline from Sheffield to Bedford, and the Manchester-York Transpennine line. Who would’ve ever predicted this would have happened, eh?

The committee have stated that the rail network’s 2014-19 investment programme could never have been delivered within agreed budgets, and that the role of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is now being questioned, and that the Department for Transport should consider the regulators future.

Hiller continued: ”It is alarming that in planning work intended to support these plans, its judgement should be so flawed. Our inquiry has found that the agreed work could never have been delivered within the agreed budget and time frame.”

“Yet Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the regulator – the Office of Rail and Road – signed up to the plans anyway. Passengers and the public are paying a heavy price and we must question whether the ORR is fit for purpose.”

Free travel for children in London from January

November 16th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

oyster swipe Free travel for children in London from JanuaryChildren in London are going to benefit from free travel on all train services in the capital.

If you live in That London and have kids who are under 11, then they’ll be able to travel for free on all services, according to Transport for London.

From January 2nd 2016, they will no longer have to cough-up money to travel on National Rail services. That’s alright isn’t it? Unless you’re the majority of children who live outside of London, clearly.

Under the current arrangements, the kids only get complimentary travel on TfL buses and trams, as well as on the Tube, DLR and London Overground when they travel with a fare-paying adult.

However, from next year, this free travel will be extended to trains after TfL said that they are committed to paying £500,000 a year to the train-operating companies to cover the cost. Great news for parents and their children – terrible news for people who hate the very sight of these little oiks and their Lynx deodorant.

Network Rail to make Christmas miserable

November 2nd, 2015 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train Network Rail to make Christmas miserableChristmas eh? You might be thinking of going seeing some loved ones, or going back to your parents for a massive feed. Well, if you can’t drive, you might have to walk, as Network Rail are all set to make travelling over the festive period pointlessly difficult.

That’s right! It is that time of the year, when Network Rail do their major engineering works! Not only that, but we’re told that it is the largest ever programme of engineering works across four key networks and lines! Right in the middle of a national holiday!

So which routes are facing disruption?

Great Western: Routes via Thames Valley, the south-west, Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect between Slough and Paddington closed on 27 and 28 December, then reduced services until January 3.

West Coast Main Line: Stafford to Crewe closed 27 and 28 December. Fewer services and diversionary route for Virgin Trains. London Midland services replaced by buses.

London to Gatwick and Brighton line: Closures between East Croydon and Redhill from 26 December to 4 January, with replacement buses for Southern and Thameslink services. No Gatwick Express.

London Liverpool Street to East Anglia: Line to Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge and Ely closed between Colchester and Marks Tey on 7-28 December, with replacement buses. Ingatestone, Southend Victoria and Southminster line closed and buses replace trains 28 and 28 December.

Southeastern Services: Disruptions to Kent lines.

The good news here is that, should you actively dislike your family, and need a decent reason to not see them over Christmas, Network Rail have just given you a get-out-of-jail-free card.

 

Automatic refunds for delayed trains

October 5th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Automatic refunds for delayed trainsTrain passengers will be automatically refunded if their train is delayed by (at least) half an hour, thanks to a new scheme called the Automatic Delay Repay (ADR). The service is being launched by Virgin Trains, but the government are looking at getting all the operators to use it.

So what’s the score? If you buy an advance ticket through an operators website or app, you’ll get money back if your train is sufficiently late. The money would be with you within three days, and you won’t have to claim for it as it’ll be automatic.

Journeys with multiple connections across different operators are not eligible under this new scheme, so if you want refunds, you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way. You can see our guide to getting compensation for a train journey, here.

Virgin are giving themselves a kick in the pants about this, as they’re the joint-second worst performing operator in England and Wales, with around 5% of their trains either late (by more than 30 minutes), cancelled or failing to make a scheduled stop in the past 12 months. As such, Virgin Trains think that they’ll be paying out an extra £2.8m under the new scheme, which in part, will be thanks to people getting refunds who previously couldn’t be bothered to do it as it all seems like a massive faff.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says: “Virgin Trains are making the most of modern technology to improve the service customers get. Our plan is to make sure passengers across the country benefit from schemes like this and we are encouraging other operators to roll out similar schemes nationwide.”

So, here’s the things that will get you a refund for the trains:

- Delays of 30-59 mins will see you getting 50% of the cost of a single ticket or the relevant portion of a return ticket.

- Delays of 60-119 mins will see you getting 100% of the cost of a single ticket or the relevant portion of a return ticket.

- Delays of 120 mins or over will see you getting 100% of the cost of a single or both portions of a return ticket.

Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895 250x300 London trains charging passengers up to four times the correct fareYou already know how to get a refund from a train company if they’ve mucked you around, thanks to our guide. We suspect there might be a few people in the suburbs of London who might be getting on it this week, after an investigation showed that they were being royally ripped off.

It looks like some rail passengers are being charged four times the amount of a correct fare for journeys across the capital. Please add a ‘train company rip off shocker – NEXT!’ comment below this article.

So what’s happening? When people are being sold ‘anytime’ tickets for travel within London, often, Oyster fares would have been hugely cheaper, say Campaign for Better Transport. They noted that Ewell West in Surrey, run by South West Trains, a passenger was asked to pay £19.50 to travel to Theobalds Grove in Hertfordshire, when an off-peak Oyster fare would have been £5.20.

There’s a number of other fares that would have been significantly cheaper if they’d been offered an Oyster fare.

Rail campaigner Martin Abrams said that, during his investigation, station staff told him passengers were receiving the inflated fares because their computers aren’t showing Oyster fares. Very convenient.

Abrams said: “The fares system in this country is hopelessly complicated, so much so that even a computer system can’t work out the cheapest fare. This problem can’t be blamed on new stations being brought into the Oyster zone as some of these stations have been in the Oyster zone since 2010.”

“This is a failure of the train operating companies, and their fares and ticketing technology needs to catch up quickly if passengers are to have any confidence that they are capable or indeed willing to sell the cheapest appropriate ticket for their journey.”

The Association of Train Operating Companies, who represents the assembled companies that run the railways, say that you should try and get a refund if you think you’ve been stung.

A spokesperson said: “The rail industry has worked with Transport for London (TfL) for many years to bring cheaper travel to train passengers using Oyster cards. This is an issue affecting a handful of stations recently added to TfL fares zones and the industry will fix this problem as quickly as possible to ensure that the correct fares are in the system.”

“People using Oyster cards to travel to these stations will have paid the correct fare. For other passengers, maps at stations and in ticket offices display information telling them they can use their Oyster card, but unfortunately it is still possible that some people could have been sold the wrong fare.

“We’d urge anyone who thinks they may have been sold the wrong fare to contact the place from which they bought it to seek a refund.”

train1 297x300 Tinder for trains, which is what youve always wantedAre you ready for a chilling combination of words? Course you are. If you’re reading Bitterwallet, there’s something clearly and certifiably wrong with you.

“Think Tinder meets Groupon… for trains.”

That was the words of Edward Byrne, co-founder and Business Director of Paystobesocial, which is a new app which lets commuters in the UK hunt out other people for train journeys, so are all looking for ticket discounts. You might think that this seems innocent enough, but any mention of Tinder makes us think of grotty photos of people’s genitals.

Of course, with train fares set to rise, this could be very useful… but y’know, you’ll have to actually be social to reap the benefits. You’ll have to talk to other humans, and you lot HATE that.

“[We are] a tech startup that loves smart-tech but wants to encourage face-to-face social interaction. The app allows you to group with other people travelling your same train journey and gives you the opportunity to save 33 percent off your ticket price there and then through the National Rail GroupSave discount of 3-9 people. So being social to get rewarded!” said Byrne.

So what do you have to do exactly? Well, the app gets you to put in the details of your journey, and then, it’ll match you up with other people making similar plans. Once there’s enough of you, the group chat function is unlocked. Then, Christ knows what’ll happen.

“We are first to market with our Tinder meets Groupon model,” says Byrne. “[Our] closest competitor I would say is Maaxi [the group finder taxi app], but again we are very different as we provide the benefit of a social hub… with the added bonus of trying to save money on off-peak train tickets by simply grouping up with others”.

Rail refunds for two minute delays?

August 18th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

train1 297x300 Rail refunds for two minute delays?A new scheme has been announced, to relieve us all of the near constant gloom regarding our trains. If your train is delayed by a couple of minutes, you will automatically be refunded, electronically.

This is an attempt to stop the rigmarole of getting refunds, and now, it is hoped you’ll get cash put straight into your account or onto your travel card. Of course, this will be a pilot scheme first, but it is an important step as it has been reported that passengers miss out on around £100m in compensation each year.

Railway minister Claire Perry, trying to distract everyone from the fact that train fares will be going up in January, said about the new refund scheme: “They can do it because of smart ticketing technology that they are rolling out - I want that to be rolled out right across the rail industry. I want passengers to not have to go through hoops to get compensation.”

The scheme is being tested on C2C services between London and Essex and will start next year.

With 9 out of 10 train passengers saying that they can’t be bothered claiming for compensation, because it is such a faff, this is encouraging news indeed.

Provided of course, the powers that be don’t balls it up.