Tag: chuff

A pasty, an ice cream, a mug of tea and a pint

Not all at the same time, I hasten to add. I took a day-trip to Looe in South East Cornwall yesterday and very enjoyable it was too. Excellent food and beautiful weather.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of the journey home. When I boarded the 16:41 Virgin Trains service from Liskeard, I noticed that the seats in half the carriage I had entered were taped-off. A little later the customer service manager came and told us the reason was that on the way down to Newquay there had been some passengers who were ‘a bunch of animals’ and had been ‘sick all over the place’. He apologised for the smell (which was hardly noticeable) and said if we wanted to move to another carriage, we could (an offer not repeated later in the journey when the train was fuller). A little inspection showed that a fair amount of vomit (and other rubbish) remained. Once home, a quick look at the timetable* showed that the train had spent most of the day (five hours) sat at Newquay. Apparently not enough time to clean the carriage — what little smell there was coming from the taped-off area was definitely of vomit without a hint of disinfectant. I appreciate that facilities at Newquay station are limited, but were a mop, brush and disinfectant not available?

It has recently been announced that Virgin Trains have lost the cross-country rail franchise to Arriva. With service like this, I doubt that many of the travelling public will be disappointed.

* Links are to pdf documents.

Customer service

Whilst travelling yesterday, I noticed three of First Great Western’s staff at Cheltenham Spa station helping elderly passengers with their luggage. I’ve not seen this level of service elsewhere for a long time, nor at such a relatively small station.

So why not elsewhere? The platforms at Cheltenham Spa station are not readily accessible to the disabled, so the Disability Discrimination Act and recommendations of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee mean that First Great Western has to provide the service, by law. Given the poor image that First Great Western has for the quality of its service, ’tis a pity they don’t seem to realise how good an impression it gives, in comparison with the installation of lifts which is, apparently, the preferred way of complying with the regulations.

Ideas above his station

Clearly, Tewkesbury is a very important place for it’s MP. I’m not sure that many in the rest of the country would share Mr Robertson’s view of its importance though.

“There’s a train only every one hour and 52 minutes,” Mr Robertson told the House of Commons. “On a lot of the trains you have to change if you want to come to London. The cost of an open return is £139. This really is a very, very poor service between a very important area of the country and London.”

Hmm… Tewkesbury, such an important town that its station in called Tewkesbury Grand Central Ashchurch.

Whilst I’ve been away

Shock, horror… very little has happened whilst I’ve been concentrating on the pain in my shoulder rather than the local news. The aforementioned Councillor Glaholm has flown his nest, influenced, in part, by a below-the-belt election letter distributed in several wards, and the response from his former nest.

I was appalled when I saw it and I could not believe that someone in the group would stoop so low, and then for them to make light of it and make out it was nothing was just outrageous. Hopefully, sometime in the near future the person responsible for the leaflet will be disciplined by the party.

The only other thing that caught my attention was the local railway company’s decision to reduce some off-peak fares. Given that off-peak trains between Swindon and Gloucester have been almost empty for years, one wonders why it has taken so long for them to reduce the fare by 48%.

The MP arriving (grumpily) at platform 1…

It seems that one of our local politicians has not quite grasped the approach his own government takes to railway privatisation. He has put down an early day motion in the house of commons

That this House notes with growing concern that despite First Great Western train services making substantial profits and introducing significant fare increases, passengers on these services have had to endure poor levels of punctuality, cuts in services and severe overcrowding; is further concerned at reports that 12 extra trains introduced by the company to alleviate the collapse of rail services in Bristol and the West of England last winter will be withdrawn by the end of this year and that this again will result in train cancellations and amount to an astonishing 20 per cent. reduction in the number of trains since First Group took over the Greater Western franchise in April 2006; believes that the interests of passengers should come before the interests of shareholders; and therefore supports the call by passenger groups and rail unions for First Great Western services to be run in the public sector.

The problems with this diagnosis are that most of those ‘substantial profits’ will have to be paid to the Treasury in hefty franchise premium payments, and the cuts in services were as directed by the Department for Transport. It’s not the interests of shareholders that are being put before those of the passengers, it is the interests of the Exchequer. Perhaps said local politician just does not like First Group. If they are making such big profits, why does he feel the need to back throwing even more public money at them? The rail company’s reaction is rightly dismissive.

Travel by First Great Website

It seems that First Great Western are very proud of their website:

The First Great Western website… has won a prestigious Award from Revolution magazine, in its Travel and Leisure category…. Says Tim Hayne: “We are delighted that www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk is achieving the recognition and acclaim it deserves, through independent assessment, as well as through the popularity with our customers.”

What is the source of the popularity of FGW’s website?

Most of the visitors to the website are seeking information about train times, want to buy tickets or check latest travel news.

(My emphasis.) Yes, people are visiting the website to find out just how late the trains are running. If only FGW were winning awards for their train service too, rather than apologising for it.

A rambling (and cycling) we can go!

Either it’s been a slow news day or there’s an election in the offing for this to be worth attention.

RAMBLERS and cyclists in Swindon should find the way forward a little clearer as they pursue their leisure activities.

In three years’ time, the council hopes that 90 per cent of the town’s footpaths and cycleways will be easy to use.

At the moment 86 per cent of the 211 miles of public rights of way in Swindon meet the Government standard.

So an extra 4% of 211 miles will be easy to use. Hmm…. If the quote in the Adver from a personage in the local branch of the Ramblers’ Association is correct

“I haven’t noticed a dramatic change over the years – perhaps the overgrown footpaths that exist do not lead anywhere in particular.”

then perhaps I won’t bother to seek out those extra eight miles.

The trains not now arriving

The BBC repeated several times today that the government will be providing 1000 extra trains which it will pay for. But read the speech that this is based on and it says no such thing. The exact words are

So in the High Level Output Specification this summer, we will specify that 1,000 new carriages should be targeted at the most congested routes to effectively tackle passenger demand.

In this way, if the price is right, I anticipate that we will significantly increase the number of carriages on the network by 2014.

The High Level Output Specification will be the government’s expectation for what the railway will deliver over the coming years. It does not mean that the government will pay for this. In fact, if you consider that most of the recently let rail franchises require the Train Operating Companies to pay the government a premium within one or two years rather than receive a subsidy, it is the passengers that will be paying for the trains, not the government. Methinks some people in the DfT and the Beeb must be feeling very dizzy at the moment.