Thursday, June 21, 2007

What's wrong with you people?

Ah look, a fantasy train, with eight carriages on it. Just like the train that was supposed to be the 18:30 service out of London Paddington yesterday. I bet everyone in that fantasy train has got a nice seat to sit on, the train is clean, and it leaves on time and doesn't stop inexplicably for twenty minutes outside Reading station. Unfortunately, this was not the train that made it into service last night. Instead, only five carriages were provided on this major rush hour service and you can easily imagine the kind of squeezing into the lobby that followed. Luckily, I had recently replenished my stock of badges and cards, so eased them out of my bag, trying not to elbow anyone in the face at the same time, and began to offer them around the packed lobby area. You would think I had asked each passenger if they wanted a slap in the face. A couple of nice ladies opposite me took the badges suspiciously, read them, then told me that they agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment, and put them on. Everybody else looked like I was trying to sell them a timeshare apartment on a Spanish golf complex. For goodness sake, I'm trying to campaign for a better service here, isn't that what you want? This kind of reaction is so frustrating, and leads me to believe that there are some people who'd rather moan and whinge than actually try and do something about their problems. So, don't whine, complain! Write a letter and tell the FGW customer service department what you think, otherwise I won't be the one listening when you're bellyaching yet again about how useless the service is. Okay, rant over, consider yourselves told.


Simon said...


In many ways you were lucky yesterday.

Imagine living in a land, where heavy rain and lightening cause signal problems one evening, and twelve hours later the local train company provides no services and advises you not to travel as they are not running any services.

This happened yesterday, and all intercity trains via Newport/Bristol Parkway where delayed for many hours. No buses or extra local trains for alternative routes. FGW are absolutely hopeless!

Finally, everyone will continue to experience delays at Reading station until Network Rail spend the £500M needed for two extra platforms, new signals and points. Network Rail and the government are obsessed with spending money on the Crossrail project, but spending money at Reading and BPW/BTM would be much better, and cheaper

Richard said...

Well, obviously, those people that only whine haven't had the bad experiences that we've had to justify their complaining: - not the usual delayed or cancelled train, but the real 'final straw' doozies like:

* being ousted off a train in the middle of nowhere at dark-o-clock, with no way of getting back home.

* Asking for a season ticket price, being quoted the value of a small hatchback, asking for the price again 2 days later and being quoted the value plus £600

Mamf45 said...

I think these people should address the fact that they think it is normal to pay many thousands of pounds for an appalling service.

Maybe their everyday lives are so dreadful that this is the sort of customer service they've come to expect?

As we do not have much choice but to use FGWs farce of a 'service', I would urge everyone to complain, complain and complain again !

Anonymous said...

The worst crime in England is to make a fuss. This is why we have such rubbish public services.

I'd have let you give me one

Billyo said...

Simon, I was going from Bath to Cardiff the next morning. At Bristol Temple Meads, without any fuss or delay they put us in taxis to Newport.

I know, I was shocked too.

Simon said...


Obviously, Bristol Temple Meads is much better organised than Bristol Parkway. More likely, every taxi at BPW was at BTM by 0700 after carrying the passengers stranded at BPW, by FGW, to BTM.

The finally irony today is the announcement,

So if you live in the Midlands, the government is providing an improved train service via Stagecoach, which is receiving a subsidy. Where did FGW go wrong?

Billyo said...

There's two interesting things in that statement.

Firstly they aren't really getting a subsidy. Just like FGW they are recieving money at the start and will be shovelling it back to HMG's coffers by the end. To the tune of £133M. (FGW's premium payment is only £100M.)

This bit was interesting though:

The Government will continue to limit annual rises of regulated fares in line with national policy, which is currently RPI+1%.

As with all franchises, unregulated fares will be the responsibility of the operator. In the East Midlands, Stagecoach Midland Rail Limited is expected to increase unregulated fares by an average of RPI+3.4% per annum.

The key word here is "expected". I'd imagine, like FGW, they'll struggle to raise the kind've capital the government needs; unregulated fares will go up by more like 12-15% per year and they'll slip in a regulated fare hike of around the same amount early on in the franchise too.

FGW are making a mess of running the western franchise, but they are not completely to blame. The government Rail Policy is woeful.

Simon said...


There is a major difference here.

Stagecoach is in receipt of subsidy for 4 years, of approx £130M, but then start paying the government over the next 4 years, providing a total franchise payment of approx £133M over 8 years.

FGW gets no subsidy, but pays the government £1300M over 10 years.

Each year FGW pays as much as Stagecoach will pay over 8 years.

This is not exactly fair. There is no encouragement for FGW to invest in services, just grab money to pay the government.

Billyo said...

*spays coffee over screen in horror*

How Much?

Looks like I lost a decimal point somewhere on the train....

When you put it that way it does make FGWs franchise look a touch on the ridiculous side....

Billyo said...

On the subject of sitting outside Reading, I think I may know what is causing the problem.

I was coming home from a weekend away on Sunday, when my train pulled into Reading an waited around 15 minutes before leaving. The guard announced that we had arrived at Reading on time, but our departure time was not for 15 minutes.

I read somewhere that it takes 20 minutes longer to get from Bristol to London now than it did 5 years ago, due to time-table padding, which is designed to take the strain when trains are running late, so that they can make up time and not be late at their final destination.

The flip-side of this though is that when trains are on-time they take up valuble platform space for ages.

Rather than spending £500M making new platforms at Reading station, why not just remove the time-table padding and make more efficient use of the existing platforms?

If trains stopped at Reading for only 5 minutes instead of 15, you could easily get twice as many trains through the station, and we'd all get to our destination quicker. Everybody's happy.

Simon said...

I have spent many 5-10 minutes intervals at BPW, Swindon, DPW and Reading over the past six months, waiting for trains to leave.

Prior to that, the journey was typically 15 minutes shorter, although prone to many more delays.

These delays where normally caused waiting to get into BPW or Reading stations. The number of platforms is being doubled at BPW, so that should help fix that. Reading is more of a problem. EVERY fast train from Paddington stops at Reading. That is a lot of trains.

Reading desperately needs it's two disused tracks and platforms re-opened. It needs better points on both sides of the station to allow trains to change platform at late notice, ie when a train breaks down on Platform 4,5,8 or 9. With FGW's rolling stock, this is not infrequent!