Posts Tagged ‘trains’

Network rail Network Rail posts profits of £1bn but is still always lateThere may be some plastic cups of warm cava being drunk at the Network Rail offices tonight, as it announces a profit of £1bn.

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.

train The trains are going to get better, according to Network RailLong 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.”

Which! airport train service is the worst?

February 25th, 2014 4 Comments By Lucy Sweet

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.

gatwick express 300x300 Which! airport train service is the worst?

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?

What do you hate most about public transport?

February 25th, 2014 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 What do you hate most about public transport?Public transport eh? A wonderful thing and occasionally, hellish beyond belief. Concerning the latter, a survey has been conducted to see what we all hate most about riding the train or sitting on a bus.

With any luck, those dreadful annoying humans that cause such grievances will read this and realise how annoying they are.

It’s not going to happen is it?

Topping the list of annoying habits, people who try and jump on a train before everyone has got off have swatted aside all other bugbears. Other actions which grate us all include the scum who hog seats with their bags, the gits who read over your shoulder and those who sit in a reserved seat without a ticket. That last one doesn’t seem like a big deal if you’ve got the nerve to tell them to sling it. What’s wrong with you soft arses?

Other irritants included those who loudly talk on their mobile, people who get off with each other and those who still have their keypad tones on. The latter, in fairness, should be thrown off the train. While it is moving. Then there’s drunk passengers, children and people who eat smelly food, too.

Gareth Woodhouse from said: ‘’Sometimes we can get a bit wrapped up in our own journeys or have a lot on our minds and it can make us less considerate of those around us. The ability to put up with things that annoy us is quite a British trait but it’s inevitable that certain behaviours test our patience more than others. Clearly those who can’t wait for the train to clear before boarding or people hogging seats can rile us but with a little more consideration and some common sense train travel can be comfortable and efficient for everyone.’’

Here are the top annoying habits:

1) People forcing themselves on when others are still getting off
2) Smelling bad
3) Drunken behaviour
4) People playing ringtones/music through speakers
5) Others kicking the back of your seat constantly
6) Parents not controlling their children, even when they’re grabbing at your face
7) People who don’t give up their seat for others who need it more
8) Playing music too loudly over headphones
9) Eating noisily
10) Putting feet on seats

For the rest of the list, click over the jump

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you know how to apply for a rail refund?

February 21st, 2014 3 Comments By Lucy Sweet

Most of us have no idea what our rights are when it comes to applying for a refund after a cancelled or delayed train journey. Do we get compensation? Is it worth bothering to fill in a million forms only to be given a £5 voucher for your next soul-destroying adventure?

train 287x300 Do you know how to apply for a rail refund?

A report from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found that 75% of us know ‘not very much at all’ about the refund process or what compensation – if any – we’re entitled to. It also found that 74% of passengers felt that train companies do bugger all to provide information about compensation.

Passengers suggested a poster campaign and more prominently displayed information about compensation on websites, somewhat naively thinking that the rail companies might have our best interests at heart. At the moment, half of the 1000 passengers surveyed said they wouldn’t know where to find information on compensation even if they looked for it.

The ORR are now planning to develop a code of practice on clearer and more freely available information about rail compensation by the end of 2014, saying that passengers are ‘at the heart’ of the rail industry and are ‘crucial to its growth.’

Whether that will make rail companies treat us more like human beings rather than doomed pigs on the way to the abbatoir remains to be seen. But you never know – furious customers demanding compensation might be just the ticket to get trains running on time.

Which!!! have conducted their third annual train satisfaction survey and it is pretty obvious what the outcome is, considering that our train services are pretty lousy and, more pertinently, everyone loves moaning about trains.

The results showed that we have a very low level of satisfaction with most of the train companies. Which!!! came up with a score for each operator based on overall satisfaction and whether or not those polled would recommend it to a friend.

11 of the 19 companies looked at had a score of 50% or lower. Merseyrail trounced the opposition with a score of 70%, subsequently becoming the first train company to be a Which!!! Recommended Provider.

Here is a graphic containing the results.

2014 Magazine train satisfaction table best and worst 401x500 Which!!! announce that everyones not happy with the trains

They survey also found:

  • Nearly one in five (16%) of all passengers experienced a delay on their last journey (this rose to 26% for commuters)
  • One in five (21%) of commuters said they were likely to have stood on their last journey
  • One in ten (11%) said toilets were not in good working order – this rose to 20% for London Midland Trains, 19% for Southeastern and 17% on First Capital Connect
  • One in ten passengers (11%) told us they had cause to complain about the last journey they had taken, but three-quarters (75%) didn’t officially complain. Of those who did complain, more than half (55%) were dissatisfied with how it was handled.

Which!!! are now encouraging you lot to formally complain to train operators and share your findings with them on their website, so they can present their own findings to the train companies also.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s disappointing to see some train companies consistently falling down on the basics of customer service, with dirty and overcrowded carriages and toilets that don’t work. Seven rail franchises end in the next two years and we want to see passengers’ experiences put right at the heart of the tender process so companies respond to consumer expectations and can be held to account if they don’t.”

Have a look at the dedicated Which!!! site where you can gripe about trains by clicking here.

New trains made from British Siemens

January 29th, 2014 17 Comments By Mof Gimmers

New trains are going to appear on British tracks, but a stir was caused after a load of foreign manufacturers started bidding for the jobs. Just how many jobs are going to be generated for British workers? Well, that’s the question on the lips of a director at German giant Siemens.

See, the Government (less arsed about British jobs) awarded Siemens a £1.5bn contract to build 1,140 train carriages and, noticing the uproar, the Germans stated that they would create 2,000 jobs in the UK with this work.

And this is what they’ll be building. By the looks of it, an old train with a shell on top.

siemens 700 thameslink train  482 New trains made from British Siemens

Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of rail systems for Siemens, said: “There is definitely a big push to look at what you can do to help regenerate the economy. Going forward, that focus is going to be on even more. If you look at what London Underground and Crossrail have done, they are all trying to demonstrate the spend in the UK market.”

The new Thameslink carriages (due 2016) are being built in Germany but many components are being sourced from the UK.

Rail minister, Stephen Hammond, unveiled the new train and took a swipe at Europe in the process, saying that no-one can guarantee big contracts like this can stay in the UK thanks to European procurement laws.

Still, doesn’t matter because no-one will be able to afford train tickets soon, so they should probably spend the money on fixing the roads for us all to drive on instead.

[Yes, the headline doesn't quite work, but  we were determined to crowbar in something that sounded like a train was made from spunk]

Should first class train travel be scrapped?

January 2nd, 2014 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 Should first class train travel be scrapped?The Government are toying with the idea of scrapping first class train travel on routes that are busiest for commuters. Train companies won’t lose out on money because they’ll be given money to provide the extra seats.

Of course, a lot of train companies open up first class when they’re overcrowded, but that hinges on whether first class is empty or not. Now, it seems, certain routes won’t open up the front carriages up to wealthy people in the first instance, thereby ensuring that there’ll be more room for the proles going to work.

With rail fares in the UK rising by an average 3.1%, something needs sorting out because people can’t be expected to pay more for a service that is getting increasingly worse. The Government have promised to cap fares as train ticket inflation is greater than wage increases, but the 3.1% rise is for regulated fares only (including season tickets) while increase on unregulated fares (off-peak leisure tickets) are not capped.

The Department for Transport state that these increases are paying for the £38bn of investment in the rail network over the next five years, even though a decade of price hikes has shown little for us so far, leaving us with the most expensive trains in Europe and a cruddy service to boot.

A lot of UK commuters, according to campaigners, are coughing up almost 15% of their salary towards a season ticket, compared with less than 5% in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, just to get to work and back.

At least the commute will see the people who normally sit in the posh seats suffering with the rest of us. Hopefully then, when they’re crammed in a carriage with everyone else, something might change for the better… provided they’re not the only people who can actually afford train tickets.

Free WiFi on First Great Western trains

December 12th, 2013 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train 287x300 Free WiFi on First Great Western trainsFirst Great Western have announced that 53 of their high-speed trains will have free WiFi for passengers from June 2014. It’ll take a while because the company have to equip the trains with the relevant equipment.

FGW did a deal with Nomad Digital which means the partnership will roll out the free WiFi across the rail operator’s fleet.

The company’s free WiFi trials of its class 180 trains have been well received said FGW’s Managing Director Mark Hopwood: “I am delighted that we are able to extend this free service, and within the next year all High Speed and Sleeper fleet customers will be able to read their emails, browse the web, or simply catch up with friends while on the move.”

This comes on the back of Virgin Media offering free WiFito commuters on the London Underground, while Sky’s ‘Cloud’ offers WiFi at the stations of the London Overground. If this keeps up, all the train operators will have to follow suit, if only through professional jealousy.

Here’s hoping. It is about time we got something back for the ridiculous price rises in tickets.

Respite on train tickets prices in 2014

October 9th, 2013 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Respite on train tickets prices in 2014The Government have announced that they’re curbing train operators’ ability to increase ticket prices in 2014. Thus far, rail companies have been able to slap on an additional 5% to fares, provided the average rise of regulated fares is maintained at 1% above inflation. However, that will now be limited to 2%.

It isn’t a decrease, but it is better than a kick in the arse.

The rise in the new year will be based on the July 2013 RPI inflation rate, which means the old flexible system has gone, and thereby ending tickets going up by eye-watering amounts (some season tickets could have gone up by nearly 10% under the old rules).

This review was published today by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who said: ”By capping fares we are protecting passengers from large rises at a time when family incomes are already being squeezed. We will need to wait for the rail industry to calculate individual ticket prices for next year, but this cap could save some commuters as much as £200 a year.”

The review also looks at a potential end to paper tickets, flexible season tickets and a code of conduct for train companies in the hope that they’ll actually give passengers some confidence that they are getting the best deal for their journey.

McLoughlin added: “Today is just the start of a Government-wide programme to help hardworking people and reduce the cost of living. The Government will be announcing a range of initiatives to help put money back in people’s pockets over the next few weeks. Alongside this, the Government is investing over £16bn to transform our rail network, which will make sure we can respond to increasing passenger demand and drive forward economic growth that will help strengthen our economy.”

Flexible rail cards to be rolled-out

September 17th, 2013 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

fast train 300x199 Flexible rail cards to be rolled outNew railcards are going to be offered to those mad enough to ride the rails, similar to the Oyster card system, which only charges for journeys made.

These new ‘flexible’ cards will be trialled next year, according to Rail Minister Norman Baker.

This is particularly good news for part-time workers who will no longer have to pay for a five day service when they’re working less. In addition to this, the scheme may also include discounted tickets for those travelling in quieter periods of rush hours (the ‘shoulder period’).

Baker said: “Millions of people no longer work traditional 9 to 5. Flexible ticketing must reflect that. It will give passengers a better deal by reducing the money they spend on fares and will spread demand across the network by encouraging them to take less busy services”.

“Under this pilot we will look at how we can give them a better deal and also reward those commuters who avoid the busiest rush hour services.”

Rail worker saves life; gets suspended

September 6th, 2013 9 Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Rail worker saves life; gets suspendedAlan Chittock, who works for Southend Central Rail Station, saved a disabled woman from train tracks shortly before a train was due to arrive, which makes him a bit of a hero right? Wrong. His bosses think quite the opposite and have suspended him for ‘breaching safety rules’.

Chittock’s employer, C2C, said he’d not followed the correct procedures for an incident of this nature and a spokesman said: “We have strict rules regarding the safety procedure for the quickest way of stopping trains in an emergency. An employee has been suspended while our investigation into this incident continues.”

Chittock’s sister told the Mirror that he was “upset” and had been told not to say anything until the investigation concludes.

RMT union general secretary Bob Crow said: “Clearly it is a travesty of justice that a member of staff has ended up threatened with disciplinary action for helping avoid a potential tragedy at Southend and RMT is calling on the company to recognise the strength of feeling this case has generated amongst both staff and the public.”

“RMT is representing our member and will do all that we can to ensure that he is returned to work as soon as possible with no stain on his record and a recognition that station-based rail staff play a crucial role in ensuring public safety.”

traintrack 300x225 Darling thinks HS2 will wreck the rest of the rail networkFormer chancellor, Alistair Darling, reckons that spending £70 billion on one railway line could well have “catastrophic” consequences for the rest of the network and that he doesn’t support the HS2 project because it seems “foolish”.

If you can’t remember the news, the Government are planning on having trains travelling between 8 out of Britain’s 10 largest cities, travelling at speeds of 225mph.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Darling warned that if HS2 goes ahead, there will be no money for “maintaining and upgrading existing lines.” He said: “What has changed my mind is principally the cost because it’s gone from £30billion to £50billion and recent reports suggest it might even be as high as £70billion.”

“My principal concern is that if you spend this money on this one railway line then we will not have the money on maintaining and upgrading existing lines, such as the East Coast line, the line to Bristol, the commuter lines and so on and my experience as Transport Secretary is if you do not spend money on upgrading and improving the track and the trains, then eventually things will start falling apart, as they did in the mid 1990s. And that would be catastrophic.”

“We’re spending a lot of money on something that still isn’t finalised and I’ll also question whether or not we’ll get the gains claimed for it.”

train1 297x300 First Great Western say sorry for dreadful serviceFirst Great Western have wrung their hands and said sorry after hundreds of passengers were stranded in a broken-down train for nearly six hours.

Apparently, there were just under 500 people on the Penzance to Paddington service when it stalled near Pewsey, Wiltshire, with passengers complaining that they were being ‘treated like cattle’ and that the journey was ‘horrific’.

The train was at a standstill for five hours and 40 minutes, meaning that people who should’ve been home for their tea didn’t get in until 10.15pm.

A passenger told the BBC: “They ran out of food pretty quickly. They ran out of food the first or second hour into the breakdown and then water – I think they were giving out water to children and the elderly but that was about it.”

Another grumbler added: “The train was overcrowded before it even broke down. There was probably 20 or 30 people in each carriage who couldn’t sit down.”

First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood said there was “no doubt it wasn’t a good experience in any shape or form last night. Clearly what I need to do is say sorry. We are sorry. We need to investigate what’s gone on and we need to learn some lessons quickly from this. It took a lot longer to find the fault than we wanted.”

He added that everyone affected would get a refund and “appropriate compensation”.

Network Rail have put out a video which shows how dangerous train stations can be when you’ve had too much to drink. In places, it is rather funny, which diminishes the message somewhat.

This new safety campaign wants to highlight that more than 1,600 people have been hurt in Network Rail stations in the past year, with many of them caused by dirty booze.

You can watch a man in a kilt fail to kick a pigeon and a hilarious fella have an awful time with an escalator.

British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther said: “Somewhat inevitably, drinking alcohol can impair people’s judgment and co-ordination.”

“Encouraging passengers to be more aware of their surroundings, particularly when they have had a drink, and to be alert to the inherent dangers that exist in stations will, we hope, reduce avoidable slips and falls across the network.”

So don’t die. And be funny while you do it.