Posts Tagged ‘trains’
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.
Everyone 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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
Today’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.
News 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.”
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.”
WELL THAT’S A RELIEF! (Shhh! – Ed.)
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.
Long 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.”
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.
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?