SOUTH HAMPSHIRE RAIL USERS’ GROUP NEWSLETTER
ISSUE 129 (SEPTEMBER - DECEMBER 2010) PART 1
We were saddened to learn of the death from cancer, in October, of Councillor Alan Shotter from Marchwood. Alan was an energetic champion of rail users as a longstanding member of the now defunct Southern Rail Users Consultative Committee. He was noted for his robust but good-humoured approach to his work, and will be greatly missed.
THE SMALL SOCIETY
HOW THE STAGECOACH NEST IS BEING LINED
£263m/£52.8m Sum Stagecoach received from selling the East London Bus Group to Macquarie four years ago, and sum it paid to buy it back.
43% Increase in Stagecoach’s half-year profits, which have risen to 108.7m.
6.5% Average fare increase on SWT from January 2011 – the largest on any of the London & South East franchises except South Eastern (where higher fares are allowed following the introduction of high speed services)
7.1% Rise in annual season ticket rate from Southampton Central to Waterloo. (DfT has allowed operators to average the ceiling for increasing regulated fares. A study by Private Eye gives rise to concern that some operators may be profiteering by applying higher increases for more-popular journeys and lower increases for less- popular ones. Increasing profits in this way is against the rules).
£70m-£100m Estimated value of unbudgeted extra revenue support Stagecoach will wrest from taxpayers for South West Trains, despite saving millions of pounds by stripping valued customer service facilities such as travel centres.
10.36% Real terms increase in the price of season and other regulated tickets that operators can apply from January 2011 to January 2014.
20,000,000 Annual number of dissatisfied SWT passengers (based on the NRS).
£340m Spare money Stagecoach reportedly has available for acquisitions.
£250m/£400m Value of Stagecoach Chief Executive Brian Souter’s private family investments in 2007 and 2010. His sister owns two castles and conducted a costly and high-profile lawsuit which was seen as seriously undermining the Scottish Executive’s Right to Roam legislation.
Mr Souter apparently considers he can now afford to tell the truth about his early days in charge of SWT. Railnews (December 2010) quotes him as saying: “When we first took over South West Trains in 1996, we treated it like a bus company. Our reduction in the number of drivers and the resulting disruption scared us skinny, and after that we backed away from widescale economies.”
This is rather different from SWT’s tenth anniversary press release, when they were bidding for a third franchise term: “When we took over in 1996 the first few years were by far the hardest, but we put our heart and soul into delivering a railway to be proud of”.
However the reference to “backing away from widescale economies” hardly squares with the more recent past, which has seen busy travel centres closed, comfortable long-distance rolling stock taken off lease, ticket office hours severely reduced, huge increases in station parking charges, and honest passengers treated like criminals in order to boost penalty fare revenue.
SWT OMITS STOPS WITHOUT TELLING PASSENGERS
[Source: Kingston Area Travellers Association]
“On Friday 1st Oct an 81-year-old KATA member attempted to catch a train from Teddington to Richmond at 11:50. Although it was 20 minutes late, the platform indicator showed a normal stopping pattern as did the on-train display but after stopping at Twickenham it ran non-stop to Clapham Junction!
A complaint to SWT eluded the usual gobbledegook and claimed that ‘the displays were amended’ but, after KATA questioned this, could only say ‘they assumed they had been amended’! Moreover, SWT could not give a time for the alteration which beggared the question how was it that it took SWT some 25 minutes to speed up the train on a half-hourly service?
All this was forwarded to TravelWatch who got the same jallop from SWT but did obtain £10 in rail vouchers. STAGECOACH are as hopeless as when they took over in 1996 and things can only get worse.”
SWT TAXI FIASCO
On Tuesday 7/12/2010 at half past midnight, and in a temperature of minus 1C, SWT made passengers wait outside Eastleigh station for over 30 minutes for taxis replacing a train that was cancelled because it got stuck on the wrong side of engineering work.
The taxis in question came from Portsmouth instead of Southampton, despite Southampton being much closer. The train crew were asked why they had to come from Portsmouth instead of Southampton, and replied that they were coming from Portsmouth.
A passenger who wrote to SWT, got a reply purportedly from their Head of Customer Service, saying:
“I have followed up on your question concerning taxi provision at Eastleigh station for terminating services. I have now got access to the taxi contract and can assure you that the Eastleigh area stations are definitely covered by Streamline based in Southampton. I believe that the confusion may have arisen because the train crew on this particular service are Fratton based and they would need to contact their own depot in order for the onward transport to be booked, but it would certainly be provided from Southampton.
I am sorry that you feel the wait was too long but no doubt we are entering the taxi company's busiest period and the number required has no doubt stretched their resources.”
The passenger then replied:
“So the next question is why do the Fratton crew NOT listen to the passengers, when I told them to ask for taxis from Southampton as I used to travel from Southampton and knew that you had taxi account for that station? Please can you advise on that, because your answer doesn't explain why the long wait, and hence I paid out of my own pocket to get home because of the confusion that DID occur and not MAY have occurred.
I await your response on this as my question is NOT resolved as the service offered around this 00.30 service is less than perfect unlike your ability to bully passengers for tickets (see my other complaints you have logged).”
DESPITE SO MUCH BULLYING OF PASSENGERS ON SWT (AS WE REPORTED IN RESPONDING TO THE DfT’S CONSULTATION ON PENALTY FARES), AT OTHER TIMES THE COMPANY MAKES NO EFFORT TO COLLECT FARES
On Sunday 12 December, a couple from Totton took part in their usual Ramblers Christmas walk from Brockenhurst. This time there was no bustitution and the journey itself was on time both ways. (They still remembered the fiasco in 2009 when the substitute bus failed to turn up.)
However, this time they were in danger of getting a free ride. The ticket machine at Totton was switched off and the guard on the train was unable to issue tickets as he had no machine! They were honest enough to buy tickets at Brockenhurst, but this episode demonstrates how the passenger is not always at fault when travelling without a ticket (despite numerous reports in the Southern Daily Echo of passengers being fined £175 a time for boarding a train without a ticket).
INFORMATION YOU DON’T NEED,
The closure of travel centres across SWT, along with reduced ticket office hours, has made it much more difficult for passengers to get information, leading to fare overpayments, probably on a huge scale.
Yet no expense has been spared in providing information at Wightlink’s Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, ferry terminal. SWT has provided a live information screen for Brockenhurst train departures. Journey times mean you’ve no chance of catching any, or most, of the departures displayed. And, in any case, you probably wouldn’t want to get the departures from Brockenhurst back to Lymington Pier, unless you were trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records for rail/ferry season ticket mileage. No doubt the screen will have won SWT some industry award for outstanding innovation.
SWT FORCED TO REDUCE FURTHER TICKET OFFICE CUTS
>From Passenger Focus, 13.09.2010:
“Passenger Focus has declared the Government’s decision to keep South West Train’s (SWT) ticket offices open a win for passengers. The independent passenger watchdog objected to changes to SWT ticket office opening hours at Barnes, Berrylands, Christchurch, Farncombe, Strawberry Hill and Virginia Water as more than 12 tickets are sold an hour. The Secretary of State for Transport has now rejected many of SWT proposals, forcing the company to open offices longer and maintain some Sunday trading.
Passenger Focus said it now had to look at the Department for Transport’s (DFT) decision in detail to see the extent of cuts allowed. However, Passenger Focus’s initial analysis shows that the DfT has significantly reduced the number of hours that SWT is permitted to close its outlets.
Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said: “This is great news for passengers. The Government has listened to passengers who tell us time and again that they need staff at the station for security, journey advice and ticket sales.”
Passenger Focus said it was disappointed for those passengers that will be affected by ticket office opening hour cuts with some facilities closing for the entire weekend and early in the afternoon during weekdays. However, Smith welcomed the Government’s decision to scale back SWT proposals.
Jocelyn Pearson, Passenger Focus manager, said: “Passengers tell us staff at the station is crucial. While many passengers like using ticket machines, our research found too many passengers prefer to queue to speak to staff to ensure they’re buying the right ticket for their journey. Ticket vending machines are important, but while they don’t offer all ticket types, clearly display ticket restrictions or provide passengers with advice to ensure they are buying the cheapest fares, there will be a need for ticket office staff. We welcome the Government’s careful consideration of passengers’ concerns and needs when making this very important decision.” ”
SWT FORCED TO ALLOW OYSTER TOP-UPS
[Source: Evening Standard 15/11/2010]
“THE only train company in London that refused to allow passengers to top up their Oyster cards has changed its policy after government pressure.
South West Trains, which operates services into Waterloo, is to adapt its ticket machines to allow the smartcards to be loaded with extra cash or new travelcards from next May. The move will cover all 44 of its stations in Hounslow, Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Wandsworth and came after Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly, exposed the fact that it was the only train company in the capital refusing to sell Oyster products.”
SURREY RAIL USER REPORTS FURTHER ON THE DISGRACEFUL TICKET SERVICE AT GUILDFORD
“Unfortunately the (brief) improvements seen at Guildford station appear to have been short-lived. In the past week, the queueing standards have not been met once during AM and PM times when I have been at the station (for a period of time between 10:50-12:30/16:30-20:20). The shortest off-peak queue was recorded as 5 minutes 48 seconds and the longest off-peak queue was timed as 19 minutes and 20 seconds. Both are considerably longer than the 'matter of seconds' SWT have recently claimed in response to the time passengers can expect to wait when the queueing standards have been exceeded. It is also of significance I believe that the Guildford Park ticket office remains closed at all times in the morning despite the advertised opening hours of until midday.
In addition to the recent station ticket office closures that I have communicated to Passenger Focus, this week Haslemere station was closed at 13:42 and 16:20 on Tuesday 19th. Passengers were being prevented from accessing the station without a ticket although I heard a member of revenue/gateline staff at the station informing two passengers that they could not sell them a ticket that was unavailable from the ticket machines. They left the station and they were not offered the opportunity to buy their ticket on the train or at their destination station.
In the past I have measured queueing times covertly. However, staff have now observed me standing at the station for longer periods of time with my stopwatch and on Friday 22nd I was subjected to an unpleasant response from two members of staff at 16:40. One, I believe to be the Station Manager became aggressive in their manner and told me to leave the station immediately. When I refused they said they would call the police. I was confident that I was not committing an offence by observing the times passengers were waiting to buy a ticket. The Manager stood directly in front of me, presumably to intimidate me, while saying I was breaking the law by taking photos (I had not taken photos at this time). I explained that I was simply timing the queue and they said they would call the 'BTP'.
Within approximately five minutes two PCSO's/Travelsafe Officers asked me what I was doing and they said that it had been reported that I was causing a disturbance. After a discussion with the Officers it was agreed that I was not committing an offence and I would not be asked to leave the station.
There are some worrying issues that I wish to reiterate. Passengers are prevented from buying a ticket on board a train when they cannot buy their ticket from the machine and the ticket office is closed or where queueing standards are not being met. I have recorded evidence of where no measures have been undertaken to address queues building up at the station. This is contrary to the agreement the company has with the DfT with regards to penalty fares and the provision of ticket buying facilities. Where problems arise at the ticket halls the barriers remain closed and passengers are denied entry to the station, most recently this was observed at Guildford on Friday 22nd at 13:50 when the Duty Manager refused to open the barriers.
On board staff are not made aware of problems at stations and this includes guards and revenue staff. During the past week I spoke to a revenue inspector issuing a penalty fare on the train and they initially refused to acknowledge that the queueing standards existed. This is common practice, and on 21st October at 20:00 the member of gateline staff said that they had never heard of the queueing standards and they could not open the barriers despite passengers waiting in excess of 19 minutes. One ticket window was open and no measures were taken to reduce the length of the queue.
The question this raises is, who has the authority to permit access to the platforms where the passenger cannot buy a ticket from the ticket machines and where inadequate ticket office facilities exist? On the 21st at 20:00 I timed the queue. One passenger was taking a long time to buy a ticket and this is not unusual as travel centres across the SWT region have been removed, such as at Guildford.
Passengers were understandably getting impatient and I felt sorry for the woman taking some time at the ticket office and beckoned for a member of staff, who I believe to be the Station Manager, to look at the queue for himself. He looked at me and walked away. Not once was any attempt made to manage the queue while I was at the station and some passengers claimed that they had missed three trains and that they had been waiting for 30 minutes. I too have observed queues of around this length at Guildford, Woking and Waterloo. Perhaps SWT can release CCTV footage of the station at around this time? I should add that some of the passengers waiting required tickets that were not available from the machines (such as those who were travelling as a group).
I will continue to monitor the queues this week at Guildford and I hope not to be subjected to any harassment or intimidation. If I am, I will be making an official complaint to SWT. I have not done so in the past as I do not wish to cause trouble for individual members of staff. However, the behaviour of two of the three Managers at Guildford station is unacceptable. I am still awaiting an explanation as to an incident at Guildford station on 21/07/2010.
I am requesting clarification on whether station staff outside of the ticket office can advise passengers on the best ticket for their needs. I have twice heard staff recommending potentially more expensive tickets from the ticket machines (such as two singles rather than an open return on 22/10/10). According to the ATOC website; 'Train companies are under an obligation to sell passengers the most appropriate ticket for their journey'. Does this only apply to passengers using the ticket office? Can staff outside of the office advise the purchase of a ticket that is more convenient without informing the customer if would be cheaper to wait in the queue? What is also worrying is that passengers are sometimes taken from the queue before their requirements have been clearly ascertained and they are directed to a ticket machine. I have noted that sometimes the passengers rejoin the queue after they have been asked what ticket they require.
The lack of regulation is allowing operators such as SWT to abuse passengers. They have a total disregard in meeting their obligations; and why not? They face no competition and no effective regulation. What a disgraceful situation for people to face. The company have held the franchise since privatisation and yet whenever identified problems are made public (such as confusing ticket machines) they are always in the process of addressing these concerns. Why, for example, are the most expensive tickets always available even when the period has been reached when cheaper fares apply for the remainder of the day?
They have had more than enough time to put effective measures in place to ensure their franchise commitments are met. They know their periods of increased demand and yet, unlike other retailers, they allow queues to build up of over 20 minutes. Worst still, they constantly bombard people with warnings about having a valid ticket and they ignore their obligations with regards to penalty fares and ticketing provision. Meanwhile, people can travel later in the evening with no intention of buying a ticket as SWT have made a 'commercial decision' not to man ticket barriers at even their most busy of stations. I have attached an article that was published in SWT's Emotion magazine prior to their franchise being extended. It is worth noting that the company have said on many occasions since this time that their policy on penalty fares has not changed. Why therefore where permit to travel machines removed?”
REPORT FOR 25/10/2010
“The reaction of the Station Manager [at Guildford] indicates that clearly the company do not wish people to time the queues for themselves.
Woking 13:45 – 8 people in the queue and 1 ticket window open. Queueing times exceeded 10 minutes.
Farnborough Main ticket office closed at 15:59. Ticket barriers were still in operation and the member of gate-line staff did not appear to be assisting passengers requiring a ticket.
Weybridge ticket office closed at 18:27.
I wonder who/if anyone knows how much of the time SWT ticket offices are closed when they should be open. Revenue staff and guards do not appear to be informed.”
STAGECOACH’S BRUTAL FARES ENFORCEMENT CONTINUES TO ATTRACT CONDEMNATION
A 19-year-old care worker has won her appeal against a fine and costs totalling £115 for not paying for a £1.70 train ticket between Southampton Parkway and Eastleigh.
She bought a return ticket from Parkway to Fareham but got a lift back. She then travelled from Parkway to Eastleigh and was told on the train she did not need another ticket. She was then issued with a penalty fare notice at Eastleigh station.
Her ‘offence’ was clearly spurious. She had paid for a return journey which she did not make between Fareham and Eastleigh, and which she made in the wrong direction between Parkway and Eastleigh.
[Source: Southern Daily Echo 11.10.2010]
Comments from the Echo’s Blog:
* “South West Trains are one of the nastiest, pettiest, most litigious companies around and I can just imagine them intimidating a 19 year old girl for a £1.70 fare. I hope Brian Souter has to pay the prosecution costs out of his own pocket.” [Wickham Man, Fareham]
* “What a waste of public money and time by South West Trains taking this to court, and a teenager too. What happened to the days of the person on the ticket barrier applying common sense and saying "I'll let you off this time"? The teenager concerned is working, in a community role (care work - not something most people will do) and she was trying to do the right thing by asking if it was OK. Even if she wasn't, and she was just hoping to get away with not paying part of the fare because of her travel plans changing, I'm sure we've all done similar things in the past, whether in teenage years or as adults. Taking this teenager to court has probably done more damage by changing her attitudes to people/the system and causing her a lot of stress. Get a life, South West Trains, and if money's so tight stop offering the Megatrain fares that make the trains crowded for the rest of us paying full whack!” [Poppy22, Southampton]
“POPULATED WITH OUT-OF-TOUCH IDIOTS” – RAIL editor Nigel Harris’ view, in Issue 654, of how companies (like Stagecoach’s SWT) will be seen for fining passengers for alighting short of the destination to which they have booked, because of spurious ticketing rules.
RAIL ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BRANCH CRITICISES NETWORK RAIL / SOUTH WEST TRAINS CONTROL CENTRE
Following the horrific derailment at Gillingham Tunnel on 28/11/2009, passengers had to wait almost 4 hours before being able to continue their journey. The RAIB found that this was due to poor decision making by the NR/SWT Control Centre at Waterloo. Controllers at the Centre have been reminded that, if a rescue train is needed to evacuate passengers from an incident site, suitable train(s) should be kept available until there is sufficient information to reach a final decision on the means of evacuation.
Given the poor ratings which SWT routinely scores in the National Rail Surveys for how they deal with delays, this is unlikely to surprise regular passengers. The Centre was supposed to provide a more robust service, but it appears only to do so by axing stops and terminating trains short of destination – the “dumped / stranded passenger syndrome” which SWT’s customers so often suffer.
There was a further horrific accident on 5 November, when a cement mixer lorry crashed on to the fourth carriage of the 15.05 Guildford-Waterloo at Oxshott. Two people reportedly suffered serious injuries and a further six suffered lesser injuries. One passenger later told Sky News everyone had been left stranded on the train. Services through Oxshott did not recommence until 8 November.
MORE NEGATIVE PR FOR STAGECOACH EAST MIDLANDS
[From RAIL, Issue 656] “Today I decided to visit Nottingham station, to take photographs for my National Diploma in photography. I had no problem on arrival at the station – I explained my intentions to barrier staff and they allowed me through provided I went to see the station supervisor on Platform 3.
On meeting him, he turned out to be quite possibly the rudest member of railway staff I have ever come across. When I asked for permission to take pictures of trains, and possibly the signal gantry over Platforms 3 and 4, he said: “You’re not taking any photographs of the building.”
When I asked why I wasn’t allowed to photograph the buildings, he replied that this is what terrorists do. He continued that I was not entitled to take photographs if members of staff or the public were in them.
I left the office highly offended, and unable to complete a lot of my work, which involved the architecture of the buildings.
East Midlands Trains is entitled to take videos of me and everyone else through CCTV (which I understand is a useful crime fighting tool), but I am apparently not allowed to include people as part of my work (some of the staff were good-humoured, asking me if they could get in the pictures I was taking).
Surely, accusing innocent photographers of being terror suspects is very negative PR?
(Miles William, Nottingham)”
VIRGIN WEST COAST [49% STAGECOACH-OWNED] IN DISPUTE WITH DfT AND TREATING PEOPLE LIKE CATTLE
Virgin West Coast has been unsuccessful in pressing DfT for an extension of its franchise in return for introducing additional Pendolino carriages. At the same time it has reduced the ‘off-peak’ periods during which cheaper tickets are available. The net result is severe overcrowding.
The following article in the Evening Standard of 12/11/2010 clearly implies that passengers are being held hostage:
“PASSENGERS at Euston say they are being treated like “a herd of cattle” after staff put them in metal pens to prevent a stampede across platforms.
Virgin Rail says it has been forced to introduce the crowd control system on Friday nights to stop riots caused by the sheer volume of travellers. Passengers must queue in the pens until staff say they can board. Those with reservations are allowed on first, and other travellers must wait until spare seats become available.
Frustrated commuters called it “daft”. Jamie Doward, 37, said: “The queues are packed and it’s dangerous. There aren’t enough trains so we end up queuing even longer for the next one. All the while trains leave with empty spaces in first class — it makes no sense.”
Jim Wilson, 35, said: “It’s a fiasco. I pay good money for my ticket but we’re herded around like a pack of cattle.””
LOCAL TIMETABLE CHANGES FROM 12 DECEMBER 2010
[Our last issue – particularly the hard copy - contained some minor inaccuracies because website information was just coming on-line, and some was subsequently modified or, in the case of Cross Country, was slightly different from the draft timetable issued to stakeholders. Updated information on the more significant changes is below; we cannot take responsibility for omissions or inaccuracies.]
CROSS COUNTRY IMPROVEMENTS
Cross Country has introduced the best ever service in Hampshire. The following additional trains run to/from Hampshire on Mondays-Fridays.
06:33 from Birmingham (serving Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport and Southampton Central)
06:15 from Leeds (serving Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport and Southampton Central)
07.23 and 09.35 from Newcastle (serving Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport and Southampton Central)
11.27 from Newcastle (serving Basingstoke, Winchester and Southampton Central)
13.34 from Newcastle (serving Basingstoke and Southampton Central, and apparently routed via Andover)
08.01 Winchester-Newcastle (also serving Basingstoke).
09.46 Southampton Central-Newcastle (also serving Southampton Airport and Basingstoke)
11.46 Southampton Central-Newcastle (also serving Southampton Airport, Winchester and Basingstoke)
13.46 Southampton Central-Edinburgh (also serving Basingstoke)
15.47 Southampton Central-Newcastle (also serving Basingstoke)
17.46 Southampton Central-York (also serving Winchester and Basingstoke)
On Saturdays, the additional services are broadly similar. However, all trains serve Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport and Southampton Central. Northbound trains leave Southampton Central at 7.47; 09.47; 11.47; 13.47; 15.47 and 17.47. The existing token Newcastle train at 06.53 is retained. This means that Hampshire has a remarkable service of 23 trains to the Midlands/North/Scotland.
Sunday service levels stay the same. However, there are periods of significant change owing to engineering work. In particular, from 20 February to 27 March, trains run to the North East and Scotland instead of Manchester, and call at Lichfield City, a station not normally served by long-distance services.
Southern is now running hourly Sunday trains between Brighton and Southampton Central. Services depart from Brighton at 07.50 and hourly to 20.50, with an earlier service at 07.29 from Littlehampton. Departures from Southampton Central are at 07.29 and hourly to 21.30. Departure times vary by a minute or two in this direction, and trains at 08.27, 19.30 and 20.29 serve Southampton Airport and Eastleigh instead of Swanwick, because of pathing conflicts with First Great Western services. Southern trains also leave Southampton Central at 22.15 and 22.52 for Littlehampton.
The new services are excellent news, and finally draw a line under the days when passengers between Southampton and Brighton needed to travel via Fratton. Southern hopes to lengthen Brighton-Southampton services to 4 coaches from December 2011.
The Monday to Friday Brighton-Southampton timetable is little changed, with the expected diversion of Brighton-Southampton trains to serve Southampton Airport suspended. However, the services already routed via Eastleigh (14.26 Southampton Central-Brighton and 15.33 Brighton-Southampton Central) call additionally at Southampton Airport.
The problem seems to be that a diverted Brighton-Southampton service, along with the Waterloo-Poole and additional Cross Country trains, is seen as straining operations in the Southampton area. It presumably arises because SWT introduced time-costly Farnborough and Fleet stops into the Waterloo-Poole services, contrary to the DfT’s Service Level Commitment. This is the same non-compliance which added 25 minutes to the standard-hour journey time from Waterloo to Totton (fourth largest town between Southampton and Weymouth) and doubled the journey time from Totton to New Milton and Christchurch.
On Saturdays, several trains do run Brighton – Eastleigh - Southampton Airport - Southampton Central – Brighton. This enables Southampton Airport passengers to travel direct to and from the Airport (FROM Brighton via Eastleigh, and TO Brighton via Southampton). Trains from Brighton routed in this fashion are at: 05.27; 06.33; 08.33; 10.33; 14.33; 16.33; 18.33. The 14.26 from Southampton to Brighton runs via Southampton Airport and Eastleigh as on Mondays-Fridays. The former 21.23 Southampton-Barnham is retimed to 21.33, and runs fast to Swanwick.
GREAT WESTERN PROVIDES EARLIER SERVICE TO TORBAY, PLYMOUTH AND CORNWALL
On Mondays-Fridays, the 06.00 Portsmouth Harbour-Cardiff (Southampton Central depart 06.46) gives access to a new 08.26 from Westbury to Taunton, Exeter St David’s, Newton Abbot, Torre, Torquay and Paignton (10.17). A connection from Exeter and Newton Abbot serves most stations to Plymouth (10.41) and Penzance (12.42). Passengers off the 06.00 would just miss these services by travelling from Salisbury to Exeter by SWT.
In addition, the former 06.51 Portsmouth Harbour-Cardiff is accelerated, starting at 07.05 (as on Saturdays) and the 12.26 Southampton Central-Worcester Foregate Street extends to Great Malvern.
On Sundays the 11.08 Brighton-Cardiff ceases to call at Avoncliff and Freshford.
SOUTH WEST TRAINS: USUAL TOKEN CHANGE AND LYMINGTON SERVICE REVISED
SWT usually introduces a token mainline change. Last year one service from Havant to Waterloo started back from Fareham. This year, the Saturday 06.28 Poole-Waterloo starts back from Wareham, but the 06.53 from Wareham starts from Poole.
The Brockenhurst-Lymington Pier service is amended because the half-hourly frequency did not permit connections with the less-regular ferry service which Wightlink has introduced. On Mondays to Fridays, after the 09.29 service from Brockenhurst, there is no train until 10.12. The service then runs half-hourly until 18.12; then at 18.48 and half-hourly until the last service at 22.18. Saturday services are half-hourly from 06.12, with services after 21.12 leaving at 21.48 and 22.18. Sunday services are unchanged.
The weekday changes mean that the branch services generally connect at Brockenhurst with both of the hourly semi-fast trains to and from London, the non-stop Cross Country services to and from Bournemouth, and the all-stations services to and from Poole. In addition the early morning services from Southampton to Weymouth have slightly amended timings to provide Lymington connections.
The SWT representative claimed at a New Forest Transport Forum in January 2010 that the operator was looking to accelerate the Waterloo-Poole services to maintain connections for Lymington, but it has simply shaved around two minutes (depending on the hour) between Basingstoke and Southampton Central, increasing their dwell times, and hence congestion, at the latter.
This lethargy means that connections between the New Forest District’s biggest towns of Totton and Lymington will now be much worse. The average speed of the standard-hour journey time from Totton to Lymington crashes to 20mph, almost as slow as Totton to New Milton, which was the result of SWT ignoring the Government’s Service Level Commitment. Fortunately, the 60,000 residents of Totton and the Waterside must by now have come to expect such rubbish from Stagecoach. Another town where Stagecoach has ignored the Service Level Commitment is Eastleigh. A reasonable journey time from Eastleigh to Lymington will now require two changes!
DON’T RELY ON A LIFT
Complaints that the new lifts at Fareham were available only when there were staff at the station was followed, in November, by advice that the new lifts at Havant were out of use because engineers were ‘sourcing spare parts’. This was promptly followed by advice that the lift at Southampton Central’s platform 4 was out of use while spare parts were being sourced. Then, at the beginning of December, the lifts at Wimbledon’s platforms 5 and 6 were out of use while spare parts were sourced. At the end of the month, parts were being sourced for Weybridge. Time to keep a few spare components at hand?
SWT GUARD ASKS TO SEE QUEEN’S TICKET
BBC TV reported on 5 November that a SWT guard had asked the Queen for her ticket when she travelled to Portsmouth for the de-commissioning of the Ark Royal aircraft carrier. Presumably the guard was dealt with before Her Majesty was threatened with a stay in one of her prisons.
It seems to be Stagecoach policy to challenge passengers at every opportunity, presumably to intimidate. Interesting conversation recently between a passenger and ticket inspector at the main barriers at Southampton Central: Passenger shows his Southern Daysave ticket. [Ticket inspector, accusingly] “Not working, Sir?” [Passenger] “These tickets don’t work barriers anywhere.” [Ticket inspector] “That’s correct, Sir.”
TRANSPORT SECRETARY OVERPAYS SOUTH WEST TRAINS
A mistake by the Secretary of State for Transport has made him realise what passengers have been telling governments for years - that rail fares and their conditions are too complicated to understand.
In October, Phillip Hammond bought an Anytime fare for a journey but later discovered that he could have made the same journey using an off-peak ticket. Having been caught out by the 'system' he has promised to make fares easier to understand.
He said "I discovered that I paid far more than I needed to for a journey back from Southampton because, stupidly, I understood off-peak to be based on the time you travel, but it's based on the time you arrive in London. "I did not know that you could get a cheaper fare on a train that arrives in London after a certain time."
[Source: Railway Magazine]
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that, if people pay the correct fares for their journeys, there could be a huge loss of revenue on SWT.
ELECTRO-DIESEL OPERATION TO RETURN?
Bombardier Transportation is leading a bid to build electric motor coaches for Voyager and Meridian trains. This could mean Manchester-Bournemouth trains being electrically operated north of Coventry. Southampton-Newcastle/Edinburgh trains could be electrically operated north of Doncaster. Electro-diesel locomotives with both diesel and electric capacity used to work on the Channel Islands boat trains between Waterloo and Weymouth Quay.
NETWORK RAIL IMPROVEMENTS AT WATERLOO
Network Rail is to build a 220 metre glass-fronted balcony, at first floor level, against the buildings at the back of Waterloo’s concourse. This will give access to new shops and restaurants. Existing shops will be removed. The change is intended to ease congestion for people switching to Waterloo East and should be completed in time for the Olympics.
NEW NATIONAL RAIL TIMETABLE
The new timetable (12/10/10 - 21/05/11), in theory a bargain at £16 for 3,264 pages, retains many of the shortcomings of the previous edition. Most pages have returned to a legible font size. However, a few tables, such as those for the West Coast Main Line, Humberside, and the South Wales Valley Lines haven’t. Only a few tables give final destinations. Some trains are in the wrong order and some are simply missing.
Following the withdrawal of all services on route X5 after 31/12/2010, there is now no public transport link between Southampton and Ringwood. Paradoxically, restoration of a train service between Ringwood, Southampton and beyond was recently suggested by the Association of Train Operating Companies.
We understand that Wilts & Dorset are ceasing to operate their 56 and 56A routes (Southampton-Lymington) as from 27/02/2011. Services would be replaced by a new Bluestar service 6 which would generally operate every 30 minutes throughout the day and, as far as we understand, would follow the 56A route via Foxhills and Rushington. The last bus from Southampton would be at 18.45. There would also be a Sunday service, operated every two hours with one bus, with the last service from Southampton at 18.35. The majority of services would serve Lymington but some would start and stop at Lyndhurst. We do no have access to the whole timetable yet.
DfT’s CONSULTATION ON FRANCHISING
Our Group’s response to the Consultation was submitted in October. It will be posted on our website. We were grateful for confirmation that it would be considered by the Minister, and that the Appendix on South West Trains would also go to the Department’s SWT franchise manager.