Posts Tagged ‘trains’
After all that fuss about the strike that was happening on the railways this Bank Holiday weekend, with people thinking they wouldn’t be able to ride the rails to fun and sunshine (or, seeing parent and being rained on), worry no more!
The strike by various unions has been called off and suspended after Network Rail put a new pay offer on the table. Whether you think they deserve a pay-rise or not, is beside the point – you can catch trains this weekend and worry about it another time.
Meanwhile, the Tube drivers on London Underground are still to be balloted for strikes in a squabble over pay for new all-night services, but that won’t have any impact in the immediate future.
So, will all the trains be running as normal this weekend? Well, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be, but keep an eye out for announcements.
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Following the Acas talks, RMT has received a revised offer that enables us to suspend the planned industrial action while we consult in full with our Network Rail representatives.”
Southern Rail are a PR disaster at the moment. A director at the train company admitted that their trains being on time were ‘few and far between’, while one fella hates them so deeply, that they got a tattoo announcing as such, with some rather colourful language to boot.
And now, they’re only making themselves look worse as they’ve fined a bunch of customers who were forced to stand-up because the train was too crowded.
Commuters heading to London found themselves on a train that was so packed that they had to stand-up in the first class section, because their wasn’t room anywhere else. Did anyone make provisions or stop this from happening? Of course not. Southern Rail ticket inspectors were too busy doling out fines because customers didn’t have the right ticket.
Add all this to being one of the least punctual train companies in the country, coupled with some of the highest fares, and you’ll see why people think they’re a laughing stock.
Peter Boyland wrote to his MPs - Crispin Blunt and Sam Gyimah – to complain about all this, saying: ”The train was so packed in fact that the ‘revenue officers’ were unable to pass through to me to check my ticket, despite my clear proximity to them. This is a fine example of the attitude of Southern, who only seem concerned about protecting their revenue, and less about providing an acceptable level of service.”
A Southern Rail spokesperson said that these fines are just dandy, and with a straight-face, said that passengers would have been fined either £20 or twice the price of a single fare – they choose the fine by going for whichever of the two amounts is greater.
“In this instance, passengers who were issued with penalty fares were sitting in first class accommodation whilst holding standard class tickets. First class accommodation is not declassified automatically if the train is busy, but Conductors can use their discretion to declassify if it is deemed necessary,” the spokesperson told The Independent.
Refund and Compensation
If you think you’re entitled to a refund or some compensation, have a look at our guide to getting your money back. While the train wasn’t late enough to get reimbursed, the fact remains that Southern didn’t provide an adequate service and it is worth trying to dispute the fines and asking for the price of your ticket back.
Let us know how you get on.
It seems that the unions are planning on having a load of walkouts and only have to give 7-days notice for a strike, which means that everything could go, scientifically speaking, tits up for a bit. This newest strike has the backing of 60% of the members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union.
General secretary of the RMT Mick Cash said: “Our members have decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail. This is a massive mandate for action and shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security.”
“It is now down to NR to start taking this issue seriously, to understand the deep-seated grievance felt by their staff and to come forward with a renewed offer which protects pay and jobs.”
“As far as we are concerned, the one-off, non-consolidated, lump-sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running at a time when the company is generating profits of £1 billion.”
So, go buy a bicycle or a car or something.
We spoken about train compensation before on Bitterwallet, but the whole thing is still far too tricky. As the UK has a variety of different companies, that means a dizzying variation on the rules they have in place. If you’re wanting reimbursement or compo from them, any help is worthwhile.
One useful thing is that National Rail has underlying guidelines for those travelling by train. Basically, the National Rail Conditions of Carriage are the underlying conditions for all train travel and they set what compensation you’re entitled to.
If your train is delayed or late, then you’re entitled to a minimum of 20% of your single ticket or, 10% of your return. Regarding the latter, you’re entitled to 20% if both legs of your journey was late. Crucially, your train has be more than an hour late.
A lot of the train companies have different compensatory rules on this, so it is worth checking them first, as they’re likely to be more generous with payouts. Generally, train companies will pay out 50% of your ticket if your train is more than 30 minutes late. Don’t be surprised if you get vouchers, rather than money. If you’d rather have the cash, be sure to state this clearly when making your complaint.
If you’re getting a refunds for season ticket, then your compensation will be based on a calculation of the cost of your daily travel.
Your Rights in a Smartphone App
One thing you should know about is that the European Commission have an app for passengers’rights, should you need to make a complaint. If you want that, click here.
Of course, there’s exceptions. If you have a delay, a cancellation or poor service that is deemed to be outside the train’s control, then they could well tell you to sling it. What are these things? They include gas leaks, acts of terrorism, fires, things done by vandals, suicides, riots, industrial action, lines that have been closed at the request of the emergency services and… here we go… exceptionally severe weather conditions.
Now, if there’s bad weather and you want compensation, Network Rail and the train companies have to be in agreement that the weather is, indeed, exceptionally severe. Basically, that means that, if other types of transport have been affected by the weather – if they have, you don’t get any compensation. However, if other types of transport are fine, then it is worth a punt.
One trick is, if severe weather has made your train over 1 hour late, then don’t get on your train at all and claim a refund, rather than go for compensation.
Duty of Care if you’re Stranded
If you end up stranded because of your train company, you’re in business. Basically, your train company should either get you to your destination or, if that’s not possible, they should give you overnight accommodation. If they don’t, you should raise hell.
In the past two years, Network Rail has spent £1.3million on domestic flights for its staff. That might not seem like such a big deal, but consider this – the company has pledged to always travel by the cheapest means possible.
So, given that Network Rail run our tracks, you’d hope that they might see something wrong with the fact that it is more expensive to travel by train than plane.
This data was found after a Freedom of Information request, which showed that Network Rail sends its employees on 12 domestic flights every day. If staff need to travel abroad, then fine, but this shows a huge lack of confidence in their own services.
A spokesman said that the company travels by air because it is cheaper than riding the rails. They were pained to point out the amount of rail travel they pay for too: “Network Rail’s 35,000 people have to pay the going rate for all travel, be it air, rail or car. Our people are also obliged to use the cheapest method available, sometimes that means by air – around £650,000 last year – but mostly we travel by rail – almost £16million last year.”
Naturally, we thought we’d check to see if Network Rail staff get discounted rail travel and, hey presto! THEY DO! On the ‘employee benefits’ section of their site, it says that staff can “claim subsidies of up to 75% on rail and Underground season tickets”. So if travelling by air is cheaper than someone with a cheap ticket, then something is very wrong.
Of course, the main bugbear here is that train tickets are rising too high, too frequently. Some have risen by 30% in 5 years. Network Rail have also overseen numerous engineering works which have cocked-up and left the lines in chaos. If Network Rail won’t travel from London to Scotland by train, why should they expect anyone else to use their shitty service?
He reckons that train services are far too chaotic and that commuting on them is like stepping into the Wild West. He is also very unimpressed with suburban rail operators.
Grab the popcorn, Sir Hendy is going in.
He said: “On Southeastern, the trains are like the Wild West. They are shit. Awful. And then every now and then some people who look like the Gestapo get on and fine everyone they can. It doesn’t improve your day, does it?”
He added: “People hate the suburban rail service, they hate it. If you make a mistake on your Oyster card on the Tube, we’ll refund it. On South West Trains, they’ll fine you. That’s a big philosophical difference.”
He wasn’t done by a long chalk. Sir Pete also took aim at the months of disruption that commuters have seen at London Bridge station during the work being undertaken by Network Rail, which is run by former oil honcho Mark Carne.
“I take no pleasure in saying this but Network Rail is under fire. The chief exec is a nice bloke and he has this idea about the digital railway and getting the most out of the railway in the next 30 years – but no one is listening because they can’t fix London Bridge.”
Now, in Making Loads Of Promises You’ll Not Keep But You Need To Say Something In The Lead Up To A General Election news, David Cameron has promised that, if the Tories regain control of the country, rail fares will be frozen in real terms for 5 years.
The PM reckons that by extending the Retail Price Index inflation cap on regulated ticket prices until 2020, that’ll save us lot £400. That’s if you commute by train. If you drive to work, you can whistle.
This of course, is a response to Labour’s continued attacks on the coalition about the cost of living, and that most people in the UK aren’t benefiting from the economic recovery.
Cameron says: “The cost of commuting is one of the biggest household bills that hardworking families face and it is something we are determined to bear down on. It shouldn’t just be taken for granted that people across the country who get up early and come home late, spend a large amount of the money they earn travelling to and from work.”
“Because of the difficult decisions that we have taken to repair the economy, we have been able to hold down commuter fares for the past two years.”
“If elected in May, we would freeze them in real terms for the next five.”
However, the delightfully named Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, isn’t having it: “This latest stunt would still mean annual fare increases that would institutionalise the harsh reality that the British passenger pays the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out and unreliable trains.”
“The only solution is to end the rip off of rail privatisation which would allow us to free up the hundreds of millions of pounds drained off in profits to invest in services and cut fares.”
They think that commuters in the UK would see 10% cheaper rail fares by 2017, provided the trains were run by the public sector. In a study, they found that £1.5bn could be saved if lines were brought under public sector control.
Action for Rail chair and TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK has the most expensive rail fares in all of Europe.”
“If services were run by the public sector, it would make a big difference to families and hard-pressed commuters, who have suffered year after year of wage-busting fare increases under privatised rail.”
It has been reported that Transpennine, Greater Anglia, West Coast, London Midland, East Midlands, South Eastern, Wales & Borders, Great Western, South Western and Cross Country are set for contract renewals between now and 2020 and that, in shareholder dividends alone, somewhere in the region of £520m could be saved.
O’Grady added: “Money that could be spent on making journeys cheaper is instead being siphoned off into shareholders’ pockets and wasted on bidding and other franchising costs.”
You see, as usual, the train companies have decided to do a load of engineering works on the days when loads of people might actually want to use them. Naturally, that means there’s going to be huge traffic jams as well, so you might as well stay in and sulk.
So what’s going down? Well, there’ll be no Southeastern trains running to or from Charing Cross, Waterloo East or Cannon Street in That London. As well as that, there’s major works going on at Watford, which means there’ll be no Virgin or London Midland trains able to run in-and-out of Euston station between Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Virgin won’t have any trains running any further south than Milton Keynes, Rugby or Northampton and there’ll be no direct London Midland services between Euston and Hemel Hempstead, with Virgin saying that they are “strongly recommending” that passengers don’t travel between Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Trains through Manchester will also be affected as well as services in Scotland and, well, bloody everywhere. If you’re planning a journey, have a look at your routes to see which ones are going to be a pain in your backside.
The roads will be chockablock too, with traffic information givers from Inrix saying that the congestion hotspots this weekend will be in the South East and the South West of England.
If you’re travelling by road to Gatwick and Heathrow, journeys could take four times as long, so set off early if you’re going on holiday.
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.”
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.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.