HOGRIDER 132 PART 1 : JULY - SEPTEMBER 2011
THE SWT FRANCHISE – RECENT WINNERS AND LOSERS
£68m Unbudgeted extra subsidy Stagecoach wrested from taxpayers in the last financial year for running SWT.
£51m Latest dividend to Stagecoach founder Brian Souter.
£37m Latest dividend to Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag.
£0.5m Brian Souter’s donation to the SNP, just weeks after the party put his name forward for a knighthood.
50% New higher rate of tax which Brian Souter avoided by early payment of Stagecoach dividends.
8% Likely approximate rise in SWT season ticket rates from January 2012.
SWT: MEDIOCRE “PASSENGER OPERATOR OF THE YEAR”
THIS YEAR’S AMAZING TIME LINE
Northern Rail named “Train Operator of the Year” in the Rail Business Awards.
SWT’s position in PassengerFocus’ rankings of “satisfied” passengers for the 22 rail franchises:
Overall satisfaction: Joint 14th.
Value for money: Joint 18th
Punctuality: Joint 9th
Room to sit/stand: Joint 13th
Satisfaction with stations: Joint 16th
How delays dealt with: 17th
Among off-peak passengers, satisfaction with SWT on dealing with delays is 34%, down 16% in 4 years. Among peak passengers, the comparable score is 26%, down 16% in 2 years. These scores will reflect things like curtailing services and omitting stops (as illustrated in our Group’s daily snapshots) to boost punctuality figures at the expense of passengers. They pre-date the dreadful first week of June on SWT.
Members of SWT’s Passengers Panel carry out survey on an evening train running from Winchester in the opposite direction to the commuter flow, and present a generally rosy picture with their standard lines such as: “Even when things went wrong, there was wide recognition that it was very often not the fault of the Company.”
SWT and Network Rail heavily criticised for lack of up-to-date information and widespread inattention (except for incidents of bullying) to passengers when home-going commuters marooned on trains for up to 6 hours through theft of copper signal cable.
Stagecoach lobbyist Barry Doe uses his pages in RAIL magazine to award “subjective” scores to the train operators, putting SWT at the top and Northern Rail at second-worst, and making a gratuitous attack on the South Hampshire Rail User’s Group.
(See Appendix 2)
SWT announces that its guards and some station staff are to be issued with smart phones to facilitate provision of up-to-date information when things go wrong.
SWT announces a few largely-administrative measures, in conjunction with Network Rail, to start focusing on passengers when things go wrong.
15 September (afternoon)
SWT’s ‘Webchat Event’ reveals huge passenger dissatisfaction across a broad raft of issues, and not all questions answered.
[See Appendix 1].
15 September (evening)
SWT named “Passenger Operator of the Year” in the National Rail Awards.
New edition of RAIL magazine goes into overdrive in praise of SWT.
THE SWT THAT ORDINARY PASSENGERS RECOGNISE
SWT’s 2-hour Webchat session elicited some 140 questions (the vast majority of which were complaints) from passengers and, even then, some questions were left unanswered. Examples of points raised:
* Off-peak Waterloo-Poole trains poorly scheduled, wasting 15 minutes at Southampton and 25 minutes at Brockenhurst.
* “Utter misery” on Portsmouth line. Class 450 units provide 3rd class service. The trains are “utterly uncomfortable”. They are used on longer-distance services for which they were not designed. Many seats unoccupied because they are too narrow for people to fit. Seats have remarkably little padding and cause back pain. London-Birmingham trains vastly better than London-Portsmouth, despite comparable distances. Some passengers switching to road, now the Hindhead tunnel is open. SWT should start listening to passengers.
* Removal of the Wessex Electrics was a disaster for Portsmouth passengers.
* Given that passengers are crammed into Waterloo-Portsmouth services on the pretext of maximising seats, why have so many seats been stripped from suburban trains (the class 455 units are awful)?
* Grab poles or straps needed for standing passengers on rough riding suburban units.
* Why does SWT operate short suburban trains, causing crush-loading, at weekends? (Answer: Cheapness!)
* The Sunday London Surrey Cycle Classic race entailed closure of roads in South West London for 14 hours, yet SWT continued to run 4-coach trains on the Kingston line.
* Passenger now travels on Southern from Havant to London because SWT’s trains are so uncomfortable.
* Most of the first class seats in the 444 units face the same way.
* Overcrowding on Windsor and Reading services.
* Defective air-conditioning on Reading line trains causes misery in hot weather.
* Later service from Reading to Bracknell needed.
* Services from Reading often have incorrect or non-existent announcements.
* Trains west of Salisbury are too short on Mondays to Thursdays.
* Why are carriages from Gatwick Express idle when SWT’s rolling stock fleet is inadequate?
* Peak trains suffer substantial delays and rarely run on time. Ridiculous position, with profits put before passengers.
* One third of a passenger’s journeys are late.
* Delays in opening train doors at stations. Other operators and companies let drivers open doors as soon as trains stop. (Answer: they do, but we won’t.) When doors are opened, the warning sound is much too loud.
* Train announcements much too loud, shrill, and ear-piercing, even in the quiet carriage. London Midland’s Desiros don’t have this problem.
* 07.45 from Godalming and 17.45 from Waterloo were regularly reduced from 10 coaches to 9 with no advance warning, so more passengers standing.
* Sunday trains are excessively slow even when there is no engineering work.
* No useful information when disruption occurs; standard announcements continue, giving no idea of passengers’ best options. SWT simply not customer-focused.
* Faster service between Portsmouth and Clapham Junction needed.
* Given Souter’s £51m dividend, paid by commuters suffering overcrowded, unfit-for-purpose trains, no excuse for not maintaining or upgrading the train fleet. Couldn’t carriages actually be cleaned once in a while? – tray tables are filthy.
* Reading/Guildford/Alton/Basingstoke trains are overcrowded in the peaks, yet space is still wasted with first class accommodation.
* Whenever there is disruption, Dorking services are the first to be axed.
* Obviously-disabled people offered no assistance from guards when they have to stand.
* Hilsea has no service towards Havant on Sundays.
* 18.25 Waterloo-Alton is the first limited-stop westbound train to call at Clapham Junction for one and a half hours, yet has only 8 coaches.
* Sunday services start too late to meet the needs of day-trippers and people going to work.
* North entrance at Kingston station locked for revenue protection purposes, meaning big detour to the congested main entrance.
* Reduced hours at Templecombe ticket office.
* Congested footbridge and unsatisfactory departure display at Wimbledon.
* Deep cleaning of steps at Guildford and Aldershot stations long overdue.
* Failure to deal effectively with taxis causing congestion outside Fratton station.
* Why was passengers’ money wasted on demolishing the waiting room at Godalming, especially as the current shelter is no use in wet, windy conditions?
* Gents at Cosham locked out of use for over a year.
* Sign at Vauxhall directs passengers for the Oval cricket ground to a gate that is usually locked, including when there are cricket matches.
* When 10-car trains call at Fratton, 4 cars are left off the platform, and passengers cannot board under the canopy. Network Rail say this is entirely down to SWT.
* New shelters at Ash Vale only provide protection from vertical rainfall.
* Congestion continues at Woking due to long delay in opening new staircase. Deafening silence from SWT.
* Passengers can miss their train at Woking because there is no warning of the long walk to platform 3.
* Poor information about work at Southampton station.
* Access to Ash Vale station from Avondale Estate or North Camp station is dangerous for pedestrians; SWT needs to negotiate for a controlled road crossing.
* People get left behind at Ash Vale because passengers not advised that doors will open only on the 4 coaches furthest from the entrance.
* Footbridge at Teddington very awkward and not accessible to wheelchair users.
* Far too few spaces for cycles at Twickenham.
* Inadequate action against anti-social behaviour. Lack of toilets on Kingston loop trains and stations leads to people relieving themselves in gardens.
* Broken automatic doors at Farnborough station are making exit difficult at busy times.
* Public address system at Waterloo very poor.
* Ticket office at Havant closed on Sunday at 17.00, and ticket machines often not working on the platform where services leave for London. Level of customer service from SWT is consistently disappointing.
* Why hasn’t electronic ticketing technology been rolled out across SWT? (Answer: franchise agreement only stipulated a scheme to be introduced, not fully implemented).
* Why were fares not reduced when outer-suburban Desiro trains introduced on long-distance services? (Answer: no increase when any of the new Desiro units introduced. Interestingly, no mention that even the longer-distance Desiros were inferior to the displaced Wessex Electrics which had been introduced with successive annual fare increases).
* Since January 2010, Oyster Card has cheated a Surbiton passenger of between £2.90 and £4.80 every time he travelled. This has led to costly phone calls and 48-hour delays awaiting refund. Passenger assured that this is due to the way SWT has encoded its pricing parameters. (Answer: please ring our customer services and we’ll look into it!)
* Why should passenger pay more after travelling for 27 years in the same obsolete rolling stock? This is simply profiteering by the private sector.
* Given SWT’s huge profits, they do not need to implement big fare increases from next January.
* No tickets for return next day available before 09.00, meaning passengers pay extra for two singles. (Answer: we’re scared passengers might use ticket twice!)
* Vending machines do not sell tickets for next day travel before 15.00.
* Ticket machine at Feltham doesn’t sell off-peak tickets before the 09.30 threshold, so mad rush for tickets at 09.31.
* Given reduced ticket office hours, SWT needs to update ticket machines to make the full range of tickets available.
* Erratic ticket checking at New Malden, where staff often spend their time moaning about the pigeons or reading a paper.
* Excessive fares from Waterloo to Southampton when not returning the same day.
* No cheap fares between Aldershot and London. Same fare applies all day, and a monthly return is 10p less than two singles.
* Off-peak period returns between Ash Vale and London always dearer than day returns. (Answer: prices do vary: London-Ash Vale is cheaper in the morning than in the opposite direction!)
* No tickets available for travelling between Virginia Water and Hounslow via Clapham Junction, which saves 30 minutes compared with other routes (Answer: we’ll provide such a ticket next year, but it will cost more).
* On-line Advance tickets to Exeter via Salisbury available from Guildford and Woking, but not from Aldershot. Advance tickets not available from Salisbury.
* Revenue Protection officers are witch-hunting passengers. Passenger had paid for ticket via on-line account and had a valid reference number, but could not print the ticket at the station of departure, so was booked for not having paid. (Answer: See if we care; another passenger could have been using the ticket.)
* Staff on ticket checking at Wimbledon’s platform 5 (used for interchange) are rude, ill-trained and heavy-handed, yet passengers can leave via any other platform without a check.
* Transport Police rude and aggressive, and their behaviour generally appalling, when passengers were left on trains for hours and not given information.
* Off-peak parking at Southampton Airport Parkway starts at 16.00, even on Bank Holidays!
* Reply to e’mail complaint to SWT customer services took 20 days and was unacceptable; passenger has so far waited 17 days for reply to his follow up complaint.
* Passenger’s questions on last two webchats ignored.
Time to involve passengers in choosing the passenger operator of the year?
STAGECOACH LOBBYIST ATTACKS SOUTH HAMPSHIRE RAIL USERS’ GROUP
With the National Rail Awards imminent and Stagecoach keen to win more franchises, it was predictable that Barry Doe (who has lobbied us in the past) would slip more praise for the company into his regular articles in RAIL magazine. However, it seems a little excessive that he should have included a gratuitous attack on our Group, when he admits that his own views are subjective, and we base our views on painstaking research.
Barry’s comments in RAIL Issue 676:
“The South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group is unusual in being perhaps the only users’ group in the country that seems to exist solely to denigrate the operator. Its editor often describes me as a ‘Stagecoach Lobbyist’ – I’m unsure of the precise definition, but guess he implies payment. I am not, and never shall be, a lobbyist for anyone. I merely tell it as I see it, and find SWT excellent in every way – well, except for its on-train announcements!”
Reply from our Group’s Co-ordinator in RAIL Issue 677:
“Barry Doe comments that the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group “seems to exist solely to denigrate the operator” (RAIL 676).
We respect his right to express a personal opinion, and wonder whether it was inspired by our Group’s History of South West Trains, which formed part of our response to the DfT’s recent consultation on franchising. DfT responded that our submission “had highlighted key issues and offered thoughtful insights”.
Our history is available on www.shrug.info. It is based on substantial and wide-ranging documentary records. I suggest it provides incontrovertible evidence of a deep frustration that Ministers, local MPs, regulators, passengers and rail groups often experience in their dealings with SWT.
Barry is correct in saying that our newsletter has occasionally referred to him as a Stagecoach lobbyist. This dated from the emails he sent me in January 2006, when Stagecoach was bidding for a new franchise term.
Barry revealed that a SWT manager had asked him what they could do to “get me back on side” and wrote, for example, that he “rarely had anyone disagree with me re: SWT and many who have agreed”, and “the more I travel the country the more I see that few other TOCs match SWT’s quality.
Some of us thought this kind of thing amounted to lobbying!”
SWT STILL YEARS BEHIND SOUTHERN ON INFORMATION
Q. How, for example, do you identify the 12.30 Poole service at Southampton Central?
A. Difficult one! Since SWT’s passenger information system is too poor to cope with the ‘split platform’ (3A/3B), the train stands for about 15 minutes under a screen showing ‘GREAT MALVERN’.
Good On 24 September, the guard of the diverted dual-portion morning service from Waterloo to Exeter/Bristol walked through the train to ensure passengers were in the correct coaches.
Bad The automated announcement had already told passengers in the Bristol portion that the train was going to Exeter. Why is SWT so many years behind Southern in updating the software to give different announcements in different parts of trains? Directors’ dividends getting priority over passengers’ needs?
SWT SNUBS PORTSMOUTH COMMUTERS AGAIN
PRESS RELEASE FROM PENNY MORDAUNT MP (PORTSMOUTH NORTH)
“12 July 2011
Train improvements building steam
At a meeting with Penny Mordaunt MP today, Transport minister Norman Baker MP committed to investigate the return of 444 coaches to off-peak services on the Portsmouth-London Line, and to report on other key elements of the ongoing attempts of passengers to secure a proper service from South West Trains.
Penny Mordaunt MP said
“The response to my debate on SWT’s poor performance was overwhelmingly supportive from the public, and warily restrained from the Department for Transport. Today’s long overdue meeting at least shows that the DfT has removed its fingers from its ears. By agreeing to investigate SWT’s use of its carriage stock during off-peak hours the department accepts that if there is no overcrowding there is no case for the 450 Desiro. As passenger groups will testify, this rationale can be applied equally to peak services.
We are still building steam and I fully intend to stoke the fire until we leave the station. I will continue to push on other outstanding matters: the overall use of rolling-stock; that the money SWT saves by using 450s is not passed on to passengers; the inadequacy of 450s for mainline routes; and the imperative that minimum standards of comfort are included in future Rail Franchise Agreements.
Today’s meeting gives passengers hope that they will one day travel in comfort, and has assured the DfT that I and others will not rest until they do.”
David Habershon, founder of the No450 campaign, who also attended the meeting, said:
“Having tried for four-and-a-half years to meet the minister responsible for rail franchises, I am grateful that Penny has been able to bring to bring the incumbent to the table so quickly. We took our chance and Mr Baker can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling, and soundness of argument, on this issue.””
FOLLOW-UP NEWS FROM THE CAMPAIGN (27/7/2011)
As reported in the press, Penny Mordaunt and David Habershon had a meeting with transport minister Norman Baker and DfT officials at the Commons in July to try and resolve the issue of class 450 outer-suburban trains on the Portsmouth-Waterloo line.
Mr Baker then contacted Andy Pitt, Managing Director of SWT, asking him to review the allocation of rolling stock. The correspondence and press articles are all linked on www.no450.co.uk under Latest News. Campaigners are convinced the 45 longer-distance class 444 trains leased by SWT are sufficient to run a full service on the companies' long-distance electrified network.
Affected passengers might like to ask their MP about the outcome of Mr Baker’s meeting, and e’mail Penny Mordaunt email@example.com, congratulating her for all her efforts on behalf of passengers.
OUTRIGHT SNUB FROM SWT
The case against the current position is so overwhelming [see no450 website], that it is difficult to see how any train operator which cared at all about its passengers could live with it. Note, therefore, SWT’s reply to Question 21 in their September Webchat Event:
“I have no plans to reduce the deployment of class 450 trains on the Portsmouth line.”
POLITICAL OPINION TURNING AGAINST ETHICALLY-LIMITED, GREED-DRIVEN OPERATORS LIKE STAGECOACH?
Brian Souter, the co-founder of SWT’s parent company Stagecoach, once told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper that, “ethics are not irrelevant but some are incompatible with what we have to do, because capitalism is based on greed.” Years later, SWT literature boasted that Mr Souter was, “The tough Scots bruiser who came to dominate the UK’s bus industry by ruthlessly driving rivals off the road”. [Source: SWT’s E-motion magazine, Jan-Feb 2005]. The following may interest him:
Dr Vincent Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, complains that “Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can”. [Source: Guardian 22.9.2010]
Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, has warned future rail franchise bidders: “If you spent the last 10 years screwing us, then don’t spend too long filling out the pre-qualification form.” [Source: RAIL Issue 674]
Opposition leader Ed Miliband says: “Your living standards have been squeezed by runaway rewards at the top…… Are you on the side of the wealth creators or the asset strippers? Predators are just interested in the fast buck, taking what they can out of the business.” [Source: Labour Party Conference 27.9.2011]
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, John Denham, argues that Britain's economy depends on businesses that reject a short-term focus on profits and concentrate on adding value to society. British business now "stands at a crossroads" and could choose to eschew the "short-term pursuit of profit". [Source: Press Association 26.7.2011]
There is increasing public perception that a change of course is overdue. The latest uSwitch quality of life index ranks the UK as the worst place to live in Europe for quality of life, with the cost of living a major factor [Source: Guardian 29.9.2011]. More specifically, a report by research firm Just Economics for the RMT Union finds that lower and middle-income families are being ‘completely priced out of the rail market” [Source: Metro 27/6/2011]. This concurs with the views of Secretary of State, Philip Hammond, who has commented that the railways are now a “rich man’s toy”, and chose Virgin Trains (49% Stagecoach owned) to illustrate the point, calling the company’s fares eye-wateringly expensive.
If the SNP remains in power at Holyrood, Stagecoach can reasonably expect to get the Scotrail franchise next time. The Herald (7/8 August) reported a furious political row after Westminster revealed that founder Brian Souter’s knighthood was on the recommendation of the Scottish Government, just weeks before he underpinned his position as the SNP’s biggest donor with £500,000. As we reported in the previous issue of this newsletter, the award was announced after Stagecoach had been found to have endangered passengers’ lives with unsafe buses.
A Herald article on 16 August reported Labour MP Jim Sheridan as saying he had referred First Minister Alex Salmond for investigation under the ministerial code “because of his deception over the Brian Souter cash for honours affair”, only to find that two members of Mr Salmond’s scrutiny panel had resigned, leaving no mechanism for the First Minister to be investigated.
POOR TICKETING ARRANGEMENTS AT BASINGSTOKE
[Source: Southern Daily Echo website 21/7/2011, with our underlining]
“Outside machines are not the ticket [By Emily Roberts]
TRAIN users have faced difficulties buying tickets at Basingstoke railway station because of the poor visibility on the ticket machines which have been moved outside.
South West Trains is carrying out a major refurbishment of the front of the station, including the ticket office, which is expected to be finished at the end of the year. While the work is carried out, the ticket machines have been temporarily placed outside the station.
But some passengers have experienced difficulty viewing the screens on the self-service machines, because of sunlight outside.
Mike Pearce, from Kempshott, Basingstoke, who occasionally uses the trains to travel to Bristol on business, said: “The workforce have kindly erected a transparent screen to shelter customers from wind and rain. However, they have not taken into account the effect of the sun shining on the screens. I, and many other customers, are now finding it extremely difficult to read the display screen. I imagine that some people will find they simply cannot fathom out how the machines work.”
Mr Pearce, an actuarial technical adviser for Friends Life in Basingstoke, has emailed customer relations at South West Trains, asking for a sunscreen to be put up as a “matter of urgency.” He ordered train tickets online, but needed to use the self-service machines to collect them, and added: “I spoke to a man at the ticket office and he said they had fought hard enough just to get the cover from the weather. No matter how you hold your coat to shelter the screen, if the sun is overhead, it makes it impossible to see. I have used the machines before, but anyone who hasn’t might give up.”
Corinne O’Loughlin, group communications manager for Stagecoach Group, said there are plans to erect a canopy to protect passengers from the rain and to improve visibility of the screen, and she admitted that the company had failed to spot the potential visibility problem before the machines were moved outside. She was not able to say when the canopy will be put up.
RUDENESS AT WATERLOO
[Paul Lewis; Southern Daily Echo 24/7/2011]
“Arriving at Waterloo, I was treated to a recorded announcement from a very well spoken lady sounding a little like Joanna Lumley informing us the train had reached its final destination, thanking us for travelling with South West Trains and wishing us an enjoyable onward journey.
This was immediately followed by a live announcement from a gruff man telling us the train had stopped, get off the train immediately, the doors would be closing and locked in thirty seconds. If he’d said ‘F--- off’, his message couldn’t have been clearer. ”
SWT ACCUSED OF FLOUTING RULES ON DISCIPLINARY ACTION
>From a notice from Bob Crow to all branches, regional offices and regional councils of the RMT on 28 July:
“It has come to my attention that South West Trains managers have been initiating disciplinary action at Fact Finding meetings which therefore become the first stage of the disciplinary procedure. Under the employment legislation employees have the right to be accompanied at disciplinary meetings, however informal/investigatory meetings are not covered by this legislation and management can refuse a “request to be accompanied”.
[The case of facilities manager Ian Faletto, who removed a shopping trolley from the track at Lymington Town station and was sacked for gross misconduct, is to go before an employment tribunal on 1 November.]
FIRM FINED £30,000 FOR DAMAGING LOCAL ECOLOGY
UNDER INSTRUCTIONS FROM STAGECOACH FOUNDER
Contractors SD Cameron have been fined £30,000 for starting work commissioned by Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag to widen a burn at one of her castles. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency stopped the work after it discovered the company did not have the necessary licence.
Officials discovered 20 truckloads of stones, gravel and sand had been removed from the burn by a digger. A section measuring 144ft by 45ft had been deepened and widened between 1 and 28 July last year, putting it at risk of erosion and affecting freshwater invertebrates and other wildlife in the area. [Scotsman 4/8/2011]
SATISFACTION IN MANCHESTER
AS STAGECOACH DROPS EXPANDING TRAM NETWORK
At the end of July, Stagecoach announced, 4 years into a 10-year contract, that it was giving up operation of Manchester’s Metrolink Network. As with past threats to give up SWT if it didn’t get its own way, and the profitable sale and re-purchase of East London Buses, this illustrates yet again the company’s stark lack of commitment to its passengers and employees alike. It will now operate trams only in Sheffield, ending its position as a major tram operator. French company RATP is to take over Metrolink.
The Manchester Evening News’ bloggers were somewhat puzzled, but there was a strong element of relief that Stagecoach was going:
“YIPEEEEEEEEE, the idiots who currently run it are absolutely USELESS. I use the Tram a minimum of twice a day, and I can categorically say that MOST customers are very unhappy. The other day I got on a tram that said it was going to Victoria and it went to Piccadilly.”
“If this French company does a better job of running this than Stagecoach did, I'd be for that.”
“Stagecoach will sell any unit for the right money.”
“I think it is a great move. Stagecoach treat their employees appallingly bad, and pay very low wages. Most of Europe runs a better transport service that we British so why not let them in?”
NO FESTIVAL SPIRIT ON A STAGECOACH BUS
[From a report by Catriona Stewart on this year’s ‘T in the Park’ festival, near Kinross. Source – Herald 9/7/2011]
“A steward tells me I need to catch a bus to Daisy Gate. There’s a bus? He points to a gap in the fence and tells me to climb through it. On the other side is a dirt track and the back of some tents - no people, no signs of life - but, yes, there’s a pole with Bus Stop on a cloth sign at the top.
I wait. And wait. And eventually a miniature Stagecoach bus arrives. The bus driver is sullen, there’s a ferociously drunk man at the back, a lovely steward who does his best to help out, and me. The bus goes in a big circle round the back of all the main stages. It’s like backstage at a circus. We’re going great guns until the bus suddenly stops. It sits for 20 minutes. No one else seems bothered by this.”
ELECTRO-DIESEL CROSS COUNTRY TRAINS?
Reports indicate that Bombardier’s factory in Derby may be thrown a lifeline, with the placing of orders for the proposed electric carriage for Voyager trains, and for 130 additional carriages for Southern. Cross Country’s Voyager services from Hampshire would then have additional capacity, and could be electrically powered between Coventry and Manchester, and between Doncaster and Newcastle/Edinburgh. Southern plans to increase the length of Brighton-Southampton services from 3 coaches to 4 from December, and some 4 car trains have already appeared.
DON’T RELY ON A LIFT AT SWT STATIONS
Lift failures (in some cases prolonged and/or repeated), have recently occurred at Basingstoke, Brentford, Brockenhurst, Clapham Junction, Fareham, Farnborough, Feltham, Fratton, Havant, Kingston, London Waterloo, Portsmouth & Southsea, Richmond, Southampton Central, Staines, Surbiton, Twickenham, Weybridge and Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, the footbridge at Esher has been closed, owing to dangerous steps.
FURTHER THREAT TO TICKET OFFICES
A proposal in Sir Roy McNulty’s government-commissioned report could see scores of ticket offices closed, including at Chandlers Ford, Hedge End, Hinton Admiral, Lymington Town, Micheldever, Netley, Portchester, Romsey, Swanwick, Sway, Swaythling, Totton and Woolston. This is incredible, given the campaigns by MPs and the press in recent years to maintain or increase staffing. On SWT, no ticket office would usually mean a completely unstaffed station, with obvious implications for vandalism, cleanliness and passenger security. Interestingly, in a letter to the TUC dated 10/5/2011, McNulty admitted that, “there is no strong correlation between staff costs in the rail industry and public subsidy” (Times 6/7/2011). A Southampton resident makes the apposite comment, “The aggressive posters threatening penalty fares and prosecution for “fare evasion” had led me to believe that they wanted people to buy tickets to travel on trains. Do they or don’t they? It’s about time they made their minds up.” (Southern Daily Echo 13/9/2011)
LET THEM EAT PIE
Whilst it’s good to see parts of Southampton’s neglected central station being spruced up, the net change in the passenger facilities is that the busy travel centre has been replaced by a pasty shop. No doubt that’s good for directors’ dividends, as are the ever-grubby Gents and queue-generating closed ticket office windows.
STAGECOACH CHAIRMAN SPEAKS OUT
Early payment of Stagecoach dividends, to avoid the new 50% tax rate, was condemned by PIRC, the UK's leading independent research and advisory consultancy [Herald 22/8/2011]. Sir George Mathewson, the former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman who now chairs Stagecoach, predictably accused PIRC of “total nonsense” [Herald, 27/8/2011]. Sir George, as the Royal Bank’s ‘executive deputy chairman’, purportedly stated in March 2001 that an Â£2.5 million bonus he shared with colleagues would not “give you bragging power in a Soho wine bar”.
STAGECOACH’S CREDIT RATING DOWNGRADED TO “NEGATIVE”
The Herald of 20 August reported that International agency Fitch had revised its outlook on Stagecoach’s credit ratings from “stable” to “negative” on the back of the cash return. Fitch affirmed its long-term issuer default ratings and senior unsecured ratings for Stagecoach at BBB, but cautioned that “any disappointment in trading may put pressure on the current ratings”.
A new website, fixmytransport.com, has been set up to help people complain about problems with public transport.
‘BIG SOCIETY’ BUSES, BUT ONLY ON SMALL ISLAND?
Some of GoAhead’s Isle of Wight bus services are reportedly to be driven by volunteers as an alternative to withdrawal. Meanwhile, swingeing cuts are due to hit Hampshire in October.
LIGHT RAILWAYS Reports indicate that Transport Minister Norman Baker is commendably giving an amber light to (environmentally friendly) tramway schemes. Ironically, good progress is being made on turning part of the proposed South Hampshire route into a bus road.
A MIDDLE-OF-THE-RANGE COMMUTING WEEK ON SWT
[Sampled from Part 2 of this newsletter, which will be posted on our website]
Monday 22/08/11 05.42 Alton-Waterloo 18 MINUTES LATE and AXED between Alton and Farnham. 06.12 Reading-Waterloo AXED between Reading and Ascot. 06.12 Alton-Waterloo 5 MINUTES LATE. 06.23 Ascot-Guildford 18 MINUTES LATE. 06.28 Aldershot-Waterloo 9 MINUTES LATE. 07.30 Aldershot-Waterloo 13 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 08.02 Woking-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK; all intermediate stops before Surbiton AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 08.17 Woking-Waterloo 20 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 08.20 Guildford-Waterloo 13 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. DUFF STOCK on the 08.47 Woking-Waterloo; Walton-on-Thames, Hersham and Esher stops AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 09.23 Waterloo-Alton 13 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 09.28/10.28 Waterloo-Windsor 22 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK; all intermediate stops before Staines, except Clapham Junction and Richmond, AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 09.33 Waterloo-Guildford 20 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK; all intermediate stops before Surbiton and after Effingham Junction AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 09.53 Waterloo-Alton 30 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK; all intermediate stops before Woking AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 10.26 Exeter-Waterloo FULL AND STANDING from Feniton. 13.26 Exeter-Waterloo 13 MINUTES LATE. 15.26 Exeter-Waterloo 11 MINUTES LATE. 15.51 Bristol-Waterloo AXED DUE TO NO CREW IN PLACE. 16.41 Shepperton-Waterloo 6 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Teddington AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 16.45 Portsmouth-Waterloo 19 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK; all intermediate stops after Haslemere, except Guildford, AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 17.13 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 10 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 18.27 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 10 MINUTES LATE. 18.31 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 20 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Teddington AXED. 18.43 Waterloo-Shepperton 19 MINUTES LATE. 19.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth 9 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 21.07 Waterloo-Brentford-Waterloo AXED DUE TO DUFF STOCK.
Tuesday 23/08/11 08.37 Guildford-Waterloo REDUCED TO 4 COACHES DUE TO DUFF STOCK. Person hit by train at Norbiton: 12.57 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 112 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Twickenham AXED. 14.27/14.33/14.57 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo AXED. 15.03 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo AXED between Waterloo and Strawberry Hill. 15.33 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops before Richmond AXED. 15.35 Waterloo-Weymouth 15 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 16.07 Waterloo-Brentford-Waterloo REDUCED TO 4 COACHES. DELAYS OF UP TO 10 MINUTES on evening peak suburban main line services DUE TO DUFF TRAIN. 16.57/18.31 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo REDUCED TO 4 COACHES. 17.24 Waterloo-Dorking 10 MINUTES LATE DUE TO NO CREW IN PLACE. 17.45 Waterloo-Havant 20 MINUTES LATE AND REDUCED TO 5 COACHES DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 18.20 Waterloo-Exeter FULL AND STANDING from Clapham Junction. 18.23 Waterloo-Basingstoke 20 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 21.33 Weybridge-Waterloo 28 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK; all intermediate stops after Staines AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE.
Wednesday 24/08/11 10.41 Shepperton-Waterloo 20 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Teddington AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 12.22 Waterloo-Weybridge 15 MINUTES LATE. 12.33 Weybridge-Waterloo 12 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Barnes AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 12.50 Waterloo-Reading 10 MINUTES LATE. 12.53 Windsor-Waterloo 14 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Barnes AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 15.26 Exeter-Waterloo 30 MINUTES LATE; passengers DUMPED at Salisbury. Passengers on the 15.41 Shepperton-Waterloo DUMPED at Wimbledon DUE TO DUFF TRAIN. 16.15 Waterloo-Brentford-Waterloo 5 MINUTES LATE DUE TO DUFF STOCK. 16.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth 12 MINUTES LATE. 16.31 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE. 17.03 Woking-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE. 17.05 Dorking-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE. 17.10 Chessington-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE. 18.00 Waterloo-Epsom 10 MINUTES LATE. 18.27 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo 12 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Barnes AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 18.39 Waterloo-Guildford 10 MINUTES LATE. 18.42 Waterloo-Shepperton 10 MINUTES LATE. 19.00 Waterloo-Portsmouth 10 MINUTES LATE. 19.24 Basingstoke-Havant AXED between Basingstoke and Winchester DUE TO NO STOCK IN PLACE. 19.23 Ascot-Guildford 30 MINUTES LATE; Ash and Wanborough stops AXED. 19.30 Guildford-Ascot 24 MINUTES LATE. 20.00 Guildford-Ascot 20 MINUTES LATE. Person hit by train: 19.39 Haslemere-Waterloo 60 MINUTES LATE. 20.00 Waterloo-Portsmouth 60 MINUTES LATE. 20.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 20.45 Portsmouth-Waterloo DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 20.45 Waterloo-Portsmouth DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 21.18 Portsmouth-Waterloo DIVERTED via Eastleigh. Passengers on the 21.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth DUMPED at Haslemere. 21.45 Portsmouth-Waterloo DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 22.00 Waterloo-Portsmouth DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 22.18 Portsmouth-Waterloo DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 22.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 22.59 Havant-Fareham AXED. 23.19 Portsmouth-Guildford AXED.
Thursday 25/08/11 05.43 Portsmouth-Waterloo REDUCED TO 8 COACHES. 06.28 Aldershot-Waterloo AXED. 06.53 Ascot-Guildford AXED between Ascot and Aldershot. 06.55 Portsmouth-Waterloo REDUCED TO 8 COACHES. 07.00 Aldershot-Waterloo 14 MINUTES LATE. 07.07 Woking-Waterloo AXED. 07.10 Haslemere-Waterloo AXED between Haslemere and Guildford. 07.14 Alton-Waterloo REDUCED TO 8 COACHES. 07.24 Basingstoke-Waterloo REDUCED TO 8 COACHES. 07.30 Aldershot-Waterloo 13 MINUTES LATE. 07.53 Waterloo-Alton 14 MINUTES LATE. 08.02 Woking-Waterloo AXED. 08.37 Waterloo-Reading 17 MINUTES LATE. 08.39 Waterloo-Poole REDUCED TO 8 COACHES. 09.15 Portsmouth-Waterloo DIVERTED via Eastleigh. 09.18 Portsmouth-Waterloo 31 MINUTES LATE. 09.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth REDUCED TO 8 COACHES. 09.45 Portsmouth-Waterloo 11 MINUTES LATE. 15.03 Weymouth-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE. 15.50 Poole-Waterloo 11 MINUTES LATE. 16.09 Waterloo-Portsmouth 10 MINUTES LATE. 16.15 Waterloo-Brentford-Waterloo 15 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Barnes AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 16.20 Waterloo-Reading 16 MINUTES LATE. 16.28 Waterloo-Windsor 13 MINUTES LATE. 16.35 Waterloo-Reading 10 MINUTES LATE. 16.50 Waterloo-Woking REDUCED TO 4 COACHES. 17.02 Waterloo-Guildford 10 MINUTES LATE. 18.05 Dorking-Waterloo 11 MINUTES LATE. 18.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth 38 MINUTES LATE; passengers DUMPED at Fratton. 19.00 Waterloo-Epsom AXED between Waterloo and Raynes Park. 19.09 Waterloo-Guildford AXED between Waterloo and Raynes Park. All intermediate stops, after Woking, of the 19.24 Basingstoke-Waterloo AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE. 20.18 Portsmouth-Waterloo AXED between Portsmouth and Fratton. 20.30 Portsmouth-Waterloo 30 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops after Havant, except Guildford, AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE.
Friday 26/08/11 Tree on line: 05.15 Salisbury-Waterloo DIVERTED via Southampton and 15 MINUTES LATE; 05.15 Yeovil-Waterloo DIVERTED via Southampton and 15 MINUTES LATE; 05.43 Salisbury-Waterloo DIVERTED via Southampton and 23 MINUTES LATE; 05.50 Yeovil-Waterloo DIVERTED via Southampton and 30 MINUTES LATE. 05.42 Alton-Waterloo 10 MINUTES LATE; all intermediate stops, after Woking, AXED DUE TO OPERATIONAL CONVENIENCE.
As always, thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contact us. Without your support and input, this newsletter would not be possible.
The newsletter is produced in good faith, based on reports and information from many individuals and sources including information identified from press and website research. Contributions are always welcome. We aim for accuracy at all times, because our good reputation depends on it. We do not use material which could be offensive or which appears unlikely to be correct.
* To Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, for her efforts on behalf of passengers who suffer dreadful long-distance journeys on SWT’s class 450 trains.
* Steve Brine, MP for Winchester, for his efforts on behalf of constituents who suffered dreadful journey experiences on SWT in the first week of June.