Posts Tagged ‘trains’
Rail 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.”
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 2015, 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.
Christmas 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.
Train 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.
You 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.”
“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”.
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.
We all know that our train services are run badly and are expensive, so the news that rail fares have shot up three times faster than our wages have over the past five years, should come as no surprise.
New analysis shows that regulated fare prices went up by 25% between 2010 and 2015, while the average take home pay only went up by 9% in that same time. This is according to the TUC who have been crunching some numbers.
Rail minister Claire Perry says that the government has plans that would see an end to ”inflation-busting fare increases”, and the powers that be have already said that regulated train fares (in England only) will rise by no more than inflation. Perry added: “Next year’s fares will see some of the lowest increases for decades.”
Hands up if you’ll only believe that when you see it.
The unions aren’t having it, and they think that returning the railways to the public sector would see a reduction in train ticket prices. TUC secretary Frances O’Grady said too many people commuting on trains are “seriously out of pocket” thanks to price hikes: “If ministers really want to help hard-pressed commuters they need to return services to the public sector. It would allow much bigger savings to be passed onto passengers”.
Just how much do they think will be saved? Well, the TUC and rail union campaign ‘Action For Rail’ thinks that putting the trains into public ownership would see £1.5bn saved over the next five years. A lot of the money would be saved after being recouped from the money private train firms pay in dividends to shareholders.
The transport charity Campaign for Better Transport have conducted a separate report and found that, again unsurprisingly, the UK if way behind the rest of Europe when it comes to flexible train tickets.
At the moment, season ticket holders in Britain only actually save money if they use their tickets for five out of seven days. People with part-time jobs are getting done over.
“The UK government and train operators are dragging their feet, meaning many part-time workers are being priced off the railway,” said campaigner Martin Abrams.
Last-minute talks to avert a 48-hour rail strike on First Great Western services have failed, according to the RMT union. That means, services between London, the west of England and Wales will be affected, as of teatime last night.
Below, you can see a map of all the lines which fall under this area. Click on the map to enlarge.
Red lines are not expected to operate. Black lines have a limited peak service. Yellow lines have a reduced service. Green lines are normal.
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: ”The company still feel that the configuration of the new super express trains is out of their control and that it would be in their best interests to have ‘driver-only’ operations and to remove the buffet cars.”
“That position is totally unacceptable and the union is clear that the design of the new fleet of trains is a matter for First Group and that there is still time to modify the rolling stock,” he said. Last week’s ballot saw 80% of workers supporting strike action.
A FGW spokesman said: “Progress has been made, sadly not enough progress for the RMT to be able to cancel their strike at short notice.”
First Great Western - “Time restrictions on tickets have been lifted from now until the end of service today. Passengers can use tickets for any time train.”
Figures released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show that commuters feel that it is pretty futile complaining about train operators. The report shows that, despite having the most cancellations and late-running services, Southern received a fraction of the average complaints that Virgin got.
Virgin received around 24 times more complaints per passenger journey than Southern, with the pair being the most complained about. It seems that this is a particular problem in London, with the five operators getting the fewest complaints, despite the performance of the services suggesting otherwise.
David Sidebottom, passenger director of Transport Focus, said: “The weary commuter doesn’t complain any more, sadly, because the train is perpetually delayed or you can’t ever get a seat, and has given up on the system.”
Sidebottom added that longer-distance operators tend to pick up more complaints, thanks to the nature of the travel: “The impact and value of that particular journey is of a different magnitude; but the long-distance operators encourage people to complain when things go wrong – it’s what a good business does. It builds up trust. They don’t want disgruntled customers.”
“With commuter trains, these are harder things to work out and to get sorted, but you end up with the kind of things we’re seeing in the south-east at the moment. We do want commuter train operators to do more.”
First Great Western has confirmed that they expects to run the majority of London Thames Valley services, however, long distance and local rail services will be significantly reduced, if the strike action goes ahead next week.
There’s still some meetings to be had, which could stop the strike, but talks might break down. Thanks to an overtime ban on Saturday 11 July, this could mean late notice changes or possible cancellations. It’d be worth keeping up to date with everything over at firstgreatwestern.co.uk/travelupdates for all journeys you’re planning to make.
If you have tickets for the dates affected, you can chose to travel on either Wednesday 8 July or Saturday 11 July. Full refunds will be available for those of you who decide to not travel. There’ll also be compensation for Season Ticket holders for the days affected. Seat reservations, sadly, will not be honoured.
First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: ”We are pleased that we have been able to identify a number of routes and services where we can continue to offer a service. This is limited and in some areas services are significantly impacted. However we recommend customers check the website for full details next week as they may find that travel by train is unaffected.”
“This is not true in every case and we recognise that for many of our customers the RMT’s decision to ask their members to strike will cause considerable inconvenience.”
“This industrial action is about the new trains we are bringing into operation, the largest fleet upgrade on the Great Western for a generation, which will shave journey times by as much as 17 minutes, and provide the extra seating capacity we know our customers want to see. In order to be able to do this we need to operate these trains differently to the way we operate our current 40 year-old High Speed Trains. The best way to make the most of these new trains, in an efficient and safe way, is by the use of driver operation of the doors.”
“41% of RMT members who work for us voted in favour of this action and we are disappointed that our assurances over job security; the need for more, not fewer staff; and our commitment to maintaining existing pay and conditions for affected staff have not been heard.”
“All of the issues raised by the RMT have been discussed with representatives and we believe we have made some progress. We are continuing to meet and I very much hope that the RMT will not go ahead with the strike.”
This is a result of strike action from French ferry workers, and both Eurostar and Shuttle services have been stopped for the foreseeable after demonstrators caused a fire on the tracks at Calais.
Industrial action has caused all kinds of trouble and travel chaos on both sides of the Channel last week, after people decided to protest, worried about their jobs.
You may have also seen the area in the news, after migrants tried to stow away on lorries that were stuck in queues on the French side of the Channel Tunnel.
Eurostar, who run the trains from St Pancras to France and Belgium, issued a service update saying: “Eurotunnel has been closed following a fire caused by MyFerryLink demonstrators outside the tunnel.”
“Delays to Eurostar services are likely, more information to follow.”
The strike action in Calais has led to the closure of the port and suspension of ferry sailings from Dover also. All services between the Port of Dover and Calais are affected.
Of course, many trains will lack ventilation and air conditioning, but there’s more. Network Rail has imposed speed restrictions on some services, and in addition to that, they’re advising that everyone checks their journeys before travelling.
A First Great Western spokesperson said: “Network Rail has advised that, due to the anticipated exceptionally hot weather, there will be speed restrictions to protect track points in the Thames Valley region on Tuesday 30 June 2015.”
“As a result there will be no fast trains between London Paddington and Bourne End or Henley-on-Thames from 12pm until 8pm. Trains from London Paddington will terminate at Twyford for a connection with a branch line train to Henley-on-Thames, which will remain on the branch line.”
“Trains from London Paddington will terminate at Maidenhead for a connection with a branch line train to Bourne End, which will remain on the branch line.”
So what’s going on? Why does a bit of sunshine cock things up? The spokesperson continued: “As rails are made out of steel, they expand as they heat up and are subject to strong compression. This expansion has to be managed to reduce the risk of track buckling.”
“If the track does buckle, the line must be closed and the track repaired before services can resume, causing considerable disruption. Usually, these repairs can’t be done until the temperature of the rails has dropped.”
“If a section of track is judged to be at risk, we introduce local speed restrictions – slower trains exert lower forces on the track and reduce the chance of buckling.”
So there you go. Network Rail have even made a little video about it all too.
If you’re unimpressed with any delays or cancellations, then you’d be wise to check out our guide to getting refunds and compensation for train journeys.
Everyone complains about the state of the railways in Britain, so with that, the government are going to delay or cut back a number of modernisation projects planned for Network Rail, which is just wonderful, eh?
So why is this happening? Well, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says rising costs and missed targets have scuppered the £38.5bn plan, and he says that Network Rail are to blame as they should have predicted what needed to be improved, and sorted them out before they were left so late that they would take longer to fix and be more expensive to sort out.
McLoughlin said electrification work would be “paused” on the Midland mainline and on the Trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds. He added that Network Rail’s chairman, Richard Parry-Jones, would leave the group and none of the executive directors would get a bonus for the last year.
Replacing Parry-Jones will be Sir Peter Hendy, who is the current commissioner of Transport for London.
The chief executive of Network Rail, Mark Carne, told the BBC: “Over the last year, it has become obvious that the challenges of operating, maintaining and enhancing the railway are significant. I think it’s time to level with the public and say that some of these extraordinary projects that we absolutely need are going to take longer and are going to cost more than we originally thought.”
“We are going to take the summer to re-evaluate the extension of the programme – we need to do that properly with the Department for Transport and, of course, looking at the impact on trains as well.”
Does anyone fancy introducing Mr Arse and Mr Elbow to each other?
There’s going to be an investigation into Network Rail’s performance. A report concluded that the company are failing to meet their own targets on punctuality and maintenance projects, which will surprise precisely no-one who has ever used a train.
Regulators say that Network Rail’s work to sort out overhead power lines is 77% behind schedule, and in addition to that, work with signalling equipment are 63% behind schedule across the nation. As for their own punctuality targets, they’re failing those too.
The Office of Road and Rail say that reliability on busy commuter routes operated by Thameslink, Southern and ScotRail are also “below requirements”. And, to round it all off, even though Network Rail haven’t finished what they need to do, they’ve still overspent on their budget for 2014/15 by £230m.
They’re incredible aren’t they? Their balls are made from indestructible brass.
During the investigation, the ORR aims to spot the problems which are stopping Network Rail from “delivering on its commitments to passengers”. We suspect that the investigation will find that the people running the show are about as useful as a jumper made out of knives.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “There are clearly opportunities to improve following decades of underinvestment in the rail network. However, it is worth highlighting that we operate the safest passenger network in Europe.”