Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And so, we meet

Good news, it looks as though I am to be granted an interview with a senior FGW manager in the next few days, so I will be looking at all your comments and putting together some questions.
If you have a burning question you'd like to ask, please let me know by adding a comment below, and if it's a good one, I'll put it on the list.
I'd also be interested to know your views on the following. My friend rang me, furious, on Bank Holiday Monday, saying she'd been unable to get to work. The Reading Festivalgoers were arriving at the station en masse, and because of health and safety concerns, all entrances to the station were closed. Only a few people were being admitted at a time. My friend went to the side entrance of the station, explained that she was a season-ticket holder trying to get to work, and asked to be let into the station. She was told she'd have to join the gigantic queue of tent-carrying welly-wearers and take her chances. She gave up and went home.
Now, should she have been allowed into the station? Or shouldn't she be given special treatment just because she's a season ticket holder?
My view is that the Reading Festival happens every year, and that perhaps there should be some provision to help get those extra people home, maybe some buses or extra trains, or at least some way of letting everyone else go about their normal business rather than bringing the whole thing to a standstill. I'd be interested to know your views.


Simon said...

FGW should always lay on extra provision for special events, whether Reading Festical or a Rugby World Cup event in Cardiff. It should be part of their franchise agreement.

Good questions to ask FGW would be,

- Information, how long will we have to wait for accurate information to be provided when there is a problem. I'm tired of FGW blaming Network Rail, FGW should know where their trains, what order they are in and how long it will take to a station. It is really annoying to arrive at a station with a few minutes to spare, and then watch the notice board time keep changing and train order change.
- Punctuality, when will it get better? Is the answer to this when the government agrees to to spend money on Reading station?
- Reliability, why do so many trains suffer from mechanical reliability and staff shortages. Yesterday three trains in 45 minutes (15:40 Cheltenham, 16:15 Bristol Parkway and 16:25 Bristol Temple Meads) where cancelled due to mechanical and crew problems.
- Capacity, what does FGW plan to do, and when, to increase peak capacity into London
- Has FGW considered off peak season tickets to try and spread the passenger load through the day?

Anonymous said...

You can run extra trains. but there is only so much room in Reading station. Hence the crowd control which has been in use for at least the last 10 years I have been using Reading.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely she should have been given priority. I suppose that they were not very geared up for season tickets being a bank holiday but that really is no excuse. I would be interested to know what happened to people who had seat reservations up to edinburgh etc.

graham said...

It *is* very frustrating when regular customers have to experience a service which is not only below par, but is also below what would normally be acceptable .... but it's not the first time that the railway has put special event attendees ahead of their regular customers. I could mention the Glastonbury festival, the loss of local trains between Swindon and Westbury while it's on, and the fact that the extra trains provided ALL pass through Melksham without stopping ....

JP said...

The lack of information is certainly a big one. FGW often leave me clueless as to what is going on, and given that they apparently have a control office with Network Rail it should be a lot better. If they genuinely don't know the staff should a) say so and b) make an effort to find out, rather than fobbing me off with some excuse.

The Turbo trains is another thing I'd like to see raised. I can't fit in the seats, and at 6'2" this is not an unreasonable expectation. I'm not the only one who thinks like this, and FGW should know that the number of seats is only a good statistic if they are seats designed for proper people.

Capacity of course is an important consideration. Why are Portsmouth-Cardiff trains so often (overcrowded) 2 car trains? Lack of units can't be the occasional (almost empty) 5 car train turns up through Bath from Weymouth or Westbury.

Finally - and this might not be FGW's problem - some of the fare anomalies need sorting out. It'd be nice to see a reduction during engineering work when journey times are lengthened and one often has to endure the bus. FGW couldn't give a damn when I pointed out that to avoid a bus link, I'd gone via Reading with my disabled friend and ended up paying more.

Lee Fletcher said...

Could you possibly ask the following questions :

1) Between 2004/2005 - 2005/2006 , the number of passengers using Newquay and St Ives stations dropped sharply. Are FGW confident that this trend will be reversed in 2006/2007?

2) What stopping patterns would FGW like to see on the Barnstaple line in the future?

Anonymous said...

I know that you will hate me for saying this (and I'd be intersted to hear opposite viewpoints), but I am not sure why season ticket holders should neccessarily take presidence over ocassional users. they might say that as regular commuters they are the railways best customers and should be looked after well because of this, but the fact remains that season ticket holders and commuters are subsidised by other other rail users and tax payers. Season tcikets are often extremely heavily discounted (£160 for a Bath-London weekly season versus £120 for an open return) and the reason that the railways need tax payer subsidy is that expensive trains and tracks are needed to transport commuters at peak times and during the rest of the day those assets are underutilised.

Of course you could argue that commuter journeys are more important because they are people going to work to earn money but people travelling to the Reading festival are spending money which is also needed by the national economy.

I don't think givening any one group priority over any other group is helpful so I think that FGW were absolutely right to make everyone wait in teh same line.

Anonymous said...

The reson why season ticket holders should get priority is that they are not allowed to make seat reservations. Therefore even if they know a service will be busy they will not be able to reserve a seat. It always used to be the case that even on compulsory reservation trains season ticket holders were allowed on for that reason !

Simon said...

FGW, and its customers, are NOT subsidised by the government. They pay a franchise payment to the government of over £1.2 billion.

The cost quoted for a season ticket for Bath to London for a week (£160) is intersting. I pay that for Bristol PW to Reading and it is a shorter journey. The cost of season tickets is not related to the open return price but the standard return price. Travel after 09:00, or on a weekend and the return fair will be closer to £40.

Finally, as a season ticket I expect nothing above any other passenger; reliable service, seat available and clean.

Anonymous said...

While it isn't related to delays and such, I'd like to know when FGW will make more disabled-friendly provisions. Specifically, they have a provision stating that you can't bring a mobility scooter aboard unless you can carry it aboard. That would have to be an extremely small scooter if a disabled person could carry it, and one that probably would be useless on the high curbs and bumpy sidewalks in many areas. Why can't FGW follow Virgin's example and list a specific size, weight and type (3-wheeled) of scooter that users can ride aboard, rather than just saying none can be driven aboard? And FGW, just like Virgin, makes the disabled book a day in advance (because you're not allowed to be spontaneous if you're disabled). But since you do have to book a specific train coming and going a day in advance, this means there will be no problems with more disabled people on scooters or wheelchairs trying to get on one train than there is space for (an unlikely situation, but something I'm afraid FGW would argue).

Insider said...

To the anonymous poster about disability provision. People with disabilities are more than welcome to be spontaneous and there is no requirement to book a day in advance. However, if they require assistance with their journey, we like to know a day in advance so that we can ensure that we have a member of staff ready to assist them, which is fair I think. If we are not given this notice, we cannot guarentee to provide assistance because staff are busy people, although we will always try and help where we can.

Funnily enough, the issue of disabilty scooters is an oft debated one within the company. Some scooters are still petrol driven, not many these days, but some. They are not allowed on the trains because they are a safety hazard.

The vast majority of scooters have a poor turning cicle which makes them unsuitable for use on a train. You may think that this is irrelevant, but trust me, you can't get the scooter down an aisle so it has to turn to leave the train, and vestibules aren't that big.

There are maximum dimensions for wheelchairs tat we allow on the train. They can be found in our Disabled Person's Protection Policy, although I can't remember what they aree of the top of my head. You don't find many scooters that meet those dimensions.

Insider said...

Oh, and season ticket holders: Yes you can make seat reservations, in blocks if you really want to. Call 08457 000 125 and select option 2 followed by the option for Business Support and they'll do it for you.

Billyo said...

I don't know if mine was lost in the post, but I finally have my Demonstration permission. It's Today ar 12:45 outside the DfT if you're around and want to join the McDemo team.

Sorry for the late notice.

Bodoph said...

I also was refused entry through a side entrance but this was after listening to the pompous g*t who had organised the debacle congratulate himself to a fellow employee on "how well it was all going". When I expressed my displeasure at having to join the muddy welly brigade I was told "well at least it's only once a year". So the hell what if it is! What sort of screwed up excuse for doing a poor management job is that? Clearly this man's previous job was running a hotdog stand.

Ollie said...

No matter how much it may be disliked, I would have to say a queuing system has to be the fairest way to deal with large crowds.

It may be an inconvenience, but you all want to leave Reading, no-one should get priority.

Queuing is the fairest and best way imo.

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