HOGRIDER 148 (JULY-SEPTEMBER 2015)
This newsletter contains recent evidence-based reports, research, analysis and discussion from the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group [SHRUG]. Word and HTML versions will be posted on our website [www.shrug.info].
Our Group meets Arriva to discuss aspirations for the SWT franchise
Surrey County Council refers our response to Network Rail's Wessex Route Study to their Crossrail II consultants [A reprint of the response is towards the end of this newsletter]
Group's History of South West Trains under Stagecoach [update] SWT - the epitome of 'unkind' Britain
Stagecoach buses: Death comes to Coventry after years of safety failures
SWT's Passengers Panel - without transparency it looks like manipulation
'Cowboy Country' driving: passengers routinely imprisoned on SWT trains
SWT's Customer Update: If this is particularly exciting news, what would less exciting news be like?
Mainline SWT timetable changes from 13.12.2015 - update
Revenue issues on SWT: Shocking tweets, further reduction of experienced ticket office staff, and obfuscation about void days
Stagecoach railways in the press
Great Western Railway considering future form of Portsmouth-Cardiff services
Twitter illustrates why belief in SWT was described before the London Assembly as being "at an all-time low" and communication as "appalling"
Complementary evidence of the "all-time low" from individual experience
Rapacious revenue protection, but ticket vending facilities can be lacking even at major SWT stations
[Reprint for reference] SHRUG response to Network Rail's Wessex Route Study
Information documents on www.shrug.info
Our Group meets Arriva to discuss aspirations for the SWT franchise
Members of our group had a very friendly and positive meeting with Arriva's Stakeholder Manager during September. Representatives from Surrey and East Dorset, as well as from South Hampshire, attended. We convened at Totton station where Stagecoach's neglect is self-evident.
Surrey County Council refers our response to Network Rail's Wessex Route Study to their Crossrail II consultants
BBC TV South reported during July that Surrey County Council sees economic advantages in extending Crossrail II services to Guildford and Woking. We sent them a copy of our response to Network Rail's Wessex Route Study, in which we proposed the same thing for strategic passenger flow reasons. We are delighted that they then forwarded the document to their consultants. Our response to the Study is included in this issue for reference.
Group's History of South West Trains under Stagecoach
Following the substantial update of our 15,000 word, evidenced-based work earlier this year, an autumn update with minor changes will be placed on our website shortly. We are grateful to Railfuture for promoting the document by adding a direct link in the August issue of their newsletter.
SWT - the epitome of 'unkind' Britain
Accelerating the return of the railways to the public sector is particularly associated with the Labour Party, which wants a 'kinder Britain', but has much wider public support. Yet two contrary myths persist:
(1) That the growth in passenger traffic reflects the benefits of privatisation. There is no evidence to support this. Northern Ireland's public sector railway has seen comparable growth and modernisation would have continued irrespective of privatisation. Does anyone imagine that the railways would have stopped developing if BR had continued? That didn't happen in the bus industry. London, Cardiff and Edinburgh all have excellent regulated or public sector bus networks. Outside the capitals, buses are generally in serious decline. In South Hampshire the major operators compete on the honeypot routes while smaller operators scramble for the crumbs, with survival of the fittest. Complaints about services proliferate in the local press.
(2) That Passengers don't care who runs their trains as long as the service is convenient and affordable. Even PassengerFocus subscribes to this view, but the proviso is highly significant. John Prescott and Robert McLoughlin have both stated that users should have a say in who runs their trains, but their is little evidence that this happens in any meaningful or adequate sense. Note, for example, South West Trains' Passengers Panel becoming a more covert body.
As our History of SWT illustrates, passengers would overwhelmingly prefer anyone but Stagecoach in charge, yet the company gains favour by re-writing history at each franchise renewal, so that profiteering by expunging quality and treating passengers with contempt translates into glossy brochures entitled 'Building on Success'. The only success is the founders' billion pound fortune.
SWT's lax performance targets have been missed over a whole year. Trains are cancelled at the drop of a hat despite overcrowding levels which would be illegal for the carriage of animals. Stops are missed or trains taken out of service in a desperate attempt to boost performance, often at such short notice that passengers are carried way beyond their destinations. The economy is therefore undermined as the workforce becomes less reliable. Secure stations mean Great Western Railway services not serving Cosham when SWT leaves the station unstaffed. Some success to build on?
In the words of John Betjeman, SWT isn't fit for humans now, and any regular traveller would need to be pretty heartless to think otherwise. Twitter exposes numerous incidents of the abusive, rude, rapacious or indifferent treatment of passengers. Sometimes the responses amount to 'tough' and at other times to ' this shouldn't have happened' but nothing changes because there is no middle management to tackle issues generically and drive up standards. And when the Stagecoach Chairman considers that mental health is a proper subject for carefully crafted jokes in public speeches, why should anyone think there is any will to improve?
Two examples which say it all:
Towards the end of September, a passenger complained that his sixteen year old daughter had been left with no money for her college lunch. She bought her ticket from SWT at Staines and went on to the platform, but then went back to help a friend use the ticket machine. She was prevented from going on to the platform again until she bought another ticket.
On 2nd October, five young teenage girls boarded Thameslink's 15.32 Brighton-Southampton service to go to Swanwick. This was the one service of the day which travels via Eastleigh and so misses Swanwick. The guard simply let them stay on the train and have almost an hour's free ride before getting off at Swanwick on the return journey.
The Stagecoach Chairman believes that greed is a necessity of capitalism. It needn't be, but it is one of the deadly sins. Anyone with an ounce of humanity should be fervently hoping that the SWT franchise goes to a kinder operator.
Stagecoach buses: Death comes to Coventry after years of safety failures
Contrary to Stagecoach's standard line, safety appears not always to take priority over profit. The company was found guilty of “dramatic and worrying” safety breaches, with incidents of wheels falling off buses “risking death and injury and also damage to property”. An engine fire and eight incidents of wheel losses on Stagecoach buses between May 2009 and January 2010 resulted in Stagecoach Perth, Stagecoach Glasgow and Stagecoach Fife receiving formal warnings. Stagecoach Strathtay, which covers large areas of Perth, Aberdeen and Dundee, was banned from expanding its services for four months [Source: The Herald Scotland 1.3.2011 and VOSA website].
Stagecoach bus fires are now endemic in Britain, with some 9 in 2011; 11 in 2012; 10 in 2013; and 10 in 2014. Early in 2015 a horrified motorist flagged down a blazing bus with school students on board [Source: Scottish News 13.1.2015]. One of the incidents occurred on a fast guided busway in Cambridgeshire [Source: Cambridge News 6.6.2013]. In Cheltenham, a shaking bus driver was told to continue his journey, leaving local residents to clear up the debris from the bus shelter he had smashed [Source: Gloucestershire Echo 16.7.2012]. A 15-year-old girl was left on a hard shoulder for 40 minutes, with no travel information, after a bus driver smelled burning rubber [Source: The Herald (Scotland) 14.5.2014]. A bus demolished part of a home in Harold Wood [Source: Evening Standard 22.7.2014]. Nine people were injured when a bus smashed into a house in Liverpool, and the roof of a double-decker was sliced off in Birkenhead [Source: Liverpool Echo 3.10.2014 and Guardian website 7.12.2014].
Two incidents involving buses jeopardised the safety of rail passengers. A bus smashed through level crossing gates in Devon 15 seconds before a high speed train passed [Source: BBC website October 2012]. Another caused chaos when it smashed through level crossing gates in Canterbury [Source: Canterbury Times 7.3.2013].
Various other incidents illustrate failure to operate a duty of care. A 60-year-old wheelchair user who fell asleep during his bus journey was found by a cleaner in a Manchester bus depot at 02.50 [Source: BBC News Manchester]. An 89 year old great grandmother had to have a foot amputated after a bus ran over it as she was boarding. The driver was convicted of careless driving for failing to apply the handbrake, but neither he nor Stagecoach bothered to offer an apology [Source: The Citizen, Gloucester 7.6.2013]. Bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, part-owned by Mr Souter, was fined £50,000 in September 2012 for a safety offence, while Stagecoach Yorkshire was fined for an accident in which a bus dropped on a garage apprentice [Source: Private Eye 1305].
In Illinois a Stagecoach Megabus crashed into an overbridge support, with one young woman killed, and 38 passengers taken to hospital, five of them by helicopter [Source: Associated Press August 2012]. The US Department of Transportation has warned prospective passengers that Megabus Northeast scores 75% for unsafe driving – it’s worse than three quarters of all comparable firms. In addition, there have been a number of lawsuits [at least one alleging corner-cutting with safety to maximise profits] following the deaths of 4 passengers in a Megabus incident near Syracuse [Source: Private Eye 1305].
We cannot pre-judge the cause of the Coventry bus disaster on 3 October 2015, but eye-witness reports inevitably suggest that the bus, driven by a 77-year-old who has said the crash was "beyond anyone's imagination", was out of control. A taxi driver opined that it was travelling at 50-60mph. Superintendent Paul Keasey stated: "I've been on the force 22 years and it's one of the worst things I've seen. When I got the call my heart sank" [Source: Daily Mirror 5.10.2015]. We may have missed something, but we have not seen any report in which Stagecoach expressed sorrow or condolences. Summary from the BBC's website:
"An eight-year-old boy and a woman thought to be in her 70s have died after a double-decker bus crashed into a supermarket in Coventry city centre, West Midlands Police have said. The boy, a passenger on the top deck of the bus, and the woman, a pedestrian, both died at the scene. A nine-year-old girl is also seriously ill in hospital, while six others, including the bus driver, were hurt.
The bus collided with stationary cars before hitting the Sainsbury's store. Police have not commented on what caused the crash, which happened in Trinity Street at about 18:00 BST on Saturday. A number of people were trapped on the bus's top deck, police added. A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said the nine-year-old girl had injuries to her face, head and right leg and suspected chest, abdominal and pelvic injuries. She remains in a critical but stable condition at Birmingham Children's Hospital.
Five people were treated at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire - the bus driver, a man in his 50s, with neck and shoulder injuries; a man in his 20s with a broken arm; a man with a minor leg injury; a woman in her 60s with leg and arm injuries, and a man with a minor injury. Another person was treated at the scene. All but one of the five have been discharged from hospital.
Stagecoach Midlands said the bus was on the X18 service from Coventry to Leamington. Road closures were put in place after the crash while police carried out investigations but have now been lifted. Police Supt Paul Keasey said: "We hope to carry out a swift investigation and I would like to thank people who have already come forward who witnessed the collision. This is a busy area of Coventry city centre and we hope to keep disruption to a minimum as our investigation continues; no-one has been arrested at this stage."
Witness Maneer Fiaz told the BBC he had heard a loud bang and then saw people running towards the scene. "Everyone was just screaming and there were two kids trapped at the top of the vehicle," he said. "It was just absolute chaos."
Another witness, Anand Basi, said: "People on the bottom deck seemed to be able to get out of the emergency door. But people on the top deck seemed to be trapped... It was chaos, everybody moving around, shouting, screaming, crying." He added that the crash had taken place on a straight stretch of road and there appeared to be no obvious reason why the bus "skidded out of control".
A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that earlier this evening a bus mounted the pavement in Trinity Place, stopping when it made contact with the store. We can confirm that we have no colleagues injured. We are working on the ground with the emergency services." The spokeswoman confirmed the store had been open at the time of the crash but was unable to say whether any customers had been injured."
Other recent incidents
Bus fires are generally rare and the number affecting Stagecoach buses appears increasingly disproportionate. The majority of fires occur when passengers are on board, and there are some horrific internet video clips of conflagrations on the internet.
(1) A57 closed after Stagecoach double decker bus catches fire near Lincoln (The Lincolnite 30.7.2015)
"A section of the A57 Gainsborough Road in Saxilby near Lincoln is closed after a double decker bus caught fire. The fire on the Stagecoach bus started in the engine compartment, and the vehicle was not in service at the time... [Usual Stagecoach line about safety being their absolute priority]...
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue were alerted to the fire at 3.51pm and two fire engines were initially called to attendance with a hose reel and two breathing apparatus. Lincolnshire Police said that the road will be closed while emergency services deal with the blaze near to the Pulse and Cocktails store. Motorists are being advised to avoid the area at the time of writing."
(2) Dramatic scenes as Stagecoach driver's bus catches fire on busy Gloucestershire Road (South West Business News 21.8.2015)
"A bus driver had to flee his burning vehicle when fire broke out on a main road in Gloucestershire just before the rush hour began. The double decker Stagecoach bus was being driven towards Cirencester on the A417 when the driver saw smoking coming from the vehicle at about 6.30am yesterday. He pulled over and left the vehicle and then called the fire service as the back of the bus burst into flames, to the shock of other passing motorists.
No passengers were on the vehicle, which caught fire between Daglingworth and Haresbush on the busy road linking Cheltenham to Cirencester and Swindon. It was not in service and was travelling between depots at the time and was not scheduled to be used yesterday... [Usual Stagecoach line about safety being their absolute priority]...
The fire caused long delays on the A417 towards Cirencester with police telling motorists to avoid the area early in the morning. Delays of up to half an hour were reported during the rush hour and further delays were reported throughout the day. Police said one lane of the road would remain closed for the most of Thursday.
A spokesman from Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service said: “One fire engine from Cirencester and another from Cheltenham East station attended the incident with a total of 10 fire fighters. Crews used a jet to extinguish the double decker bus, Highways and police also attended the incident to assist with traffic control and clear the carriageway."
Commuters took to Twitter and Facebook after the fire, which caused queues of up to a mile. Karen Goard said: “I normally go this way to work but am off today so thanking my lucky stars that a) no one was hurt and b) I'm not stuck there!” Shelly Jennings said: “Awful, looks like an engine fire.” "
SWT's Passengers Panel - without transparency it looks like manipulation
>From SWT's website: "The Passengers’ Panel is a unique forum consisting of volunteer South West Trains passengers. It is totally independent and, most importantly of all, its voice is heard at the highest level within South West Trains. Sir Alan Greengross, the Panel’s Chairman, regularly attends South West Trains Board Meetings in order to apprise the Board of Passengers' views."
The Panel's website has been quiescent for over a year. SWT's autumn 'Customer Update' reports that eight new members have been recruited. From the accompanying picture, this represents well over half the membership. Recruitment was advertised on Twitter. Only season ticket holders could apply, and those chosen would receive free seasons.
What this appears to mean is that the voices of panellists receiving the hefty perk of free season tickets will always prevail. History suggests that they will be going through the familiar drill of acknowledging that the vast majority of passengers (confirmed as about 30% in SWT's own poll following the last franchise award) want Stagecoach to keep the franchise, and it's not all Stagecoach's fault when things go wrong.
Until a new website appears, the Panel can be contacted only through SWT's notoriously slow and unhelpful customer services team, which seems an odd way of guaranteeing the Panel's independence. As Mr Souter himself said: "Ethics are not irrelevant but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed."
Here's the view of Shelley Atlas, who chairs the Brighton Line Commuters Group, in RAIL Issue 781: "We are hoping things go well with the new GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) franchise - we believe they want to work with us". Rather different from SWT's remote Passengers Panel.
Here's the opinion of Stagecoach lobbyist Barry Doe, whose website is sponsored by Stagecoach, in the same issue of RAIL: "How I desperately hope Govia does not win (and thus ruin) the South West Trains franchise in 2017". Hasn't he noticed that Stagecoach has ruined it already? Just ask Portsmouth's MPs, Council, business representatives and passengers, or the local MP and residents of Totton, the fourth largest town between Southampton and Weymouth.
We understand that SWT failed to obtain a two-year extension of its current franchise because it would not sign up to customer service quality initiatives. The Times of 18.9.2015 reported that DfT wanted future contracts to include penalties for overcrowding, rude staff and squalid toilets. It's clear from SWT's Twitter that this could have huge financial implications for Stagecoach.
As for Mr Doe, he has always argued that he genuinely admires South West Trains. This would carry more weight if he explained why he considered loss of full catering on London-Ipswich-Norwich trains a disaster, but never mentions the limited catering facilities on Stagecoach's line from London to Southampton and Bournemouth, where he lives. So far he has made no comment about the contentious catering limitations proposed for First Group's new Great Western trains. First Group is another company which sponsors his website.
'Cowboy Country' driving: passengers routinely imprisoned on SWT trains
Of all Stagecoach's self-interested, anti-passenger initiatives, perhaps the one which causes most anger is the practice of omitting scheduled stops when a train is en route, and not bothering whether passengers know. This has to be seen in the context of SWT's failure to meet all four (lax) performance targets over 52 weeks, and the approach of re-franchising.
It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the sooner a passenger-focused company takes over the franchise, the happier passengers will be. It was almost 20 years ago that the High Court refused to block the World in Action's programme 'Cowboy Country' about Stagecoach's business practices.
Examples for July-September from Twitter:
* Hundreds of passengers on 18.05 Waterloo-Aldershot carried past destination when guard announced all stops before Staines cancelled after the train left Waterloo. Even Twitter staff hadn't been told of the change.
* Passenger from Waterloo to Vauxhall was an hour late for work after being carried through to Motspur Park without notice. [SWT's response: the change may not have been displayed due to the short notice of the alteration.]
* Doors were not opened at Brentford on morning peak service.
* Guard surrounded by a 'hundred' angry passengers carried from Waterloo to Teddington when intermediate stops omitted without notice.
* Train left Waterloo two thirds empty, yet Surbiton stop omitted without notice.
* Reading train missed all stops after Ascot, so passengers for stations such as Bracknell got home very late. [SWT's response: last minute alterations can be made to recover the service.]
* Train from Waterloo omitted Feltham and passengers had to travel back from Staines.
* Announcements on Waterloo train stopped after Egham, so passengers unaware all stops after Twickenham to be omitted.
* Doors on the 01.05 from Waterloo were not opened at Winchester, and passengers left to get taxis home from Eastleigh.
* Some passengers wasted over an hour when their train ran fast from Godalming to Waterloo.
* Crowd of angry passengers found themselves at Shepperton when all stops after Fulwell omitted without announcements.
* Surbiton passengers taken to Woking when stop removed without notice, and guard could not be found.
* Passengers trapped when doors not opened at London Road, Guildford.
* Train missed Chertsey without notice.
* Train went to wrong platform at Barnes and missed stops without notice.
* Passengers carried through to Feltham when missed stops not announced.
* 17.20 from Waterloo ran fast from Ascot because it was running 8 minutes. No announcement and passengers carried through to Reading.
* After mumbled, inaudible announcement a train ran non-stop to Waterloo.
* Guard announced train stopping at Raynes Park, but it didn't. [SWT's response: Apologies for this - we have had some congestion on the network this morning resulting in this train alteration.]
* 17.12 from Weybridge missed its Clapham Junction stop and passengers carried through to Waterloo.
* 18.11 from Surbiton missed Wimbledon and Earlsfield. Passenger taken through to Waterloo for the second time in two weeks. Never an explanation.
* Passenger taken on to Reading after train ran fast from Ascot.
Comparable poor behaviour: Stagecoach East Midlands misses Sheffield stop and resists compensation
Stagecoach's East Midlands franchise features in Private Eye No. 1401: "When an Eye reader tried to catch a Liverpool-Norwich train from Sheffield in July, the station screens showed it being 20 minutes late, then suddenly "cancelled". Stagecoach-owned East Midlands Trains later refused compensation because "independently audited" monitoring proved the train reached Norwich on time. When the reader suggested the train had omitted Sheffield to get back on schedule, EMT quietly paid up.
Sure enough, the Recent Train Times website confirms there's no record of when the train left Sheffield station that day. What matters most to Stagecoach is that trains, not passengers are punctual; delayed Stagecoach trains have skipped rural stops in Surrey and Hampshire for years. Now the independent auditors apparently don't mind Stagecoach omitting even a city-region of 1.8m people to aid its official punctuality figures."
SWT's Customer Update: If this is particularly exciting news, what would less exciting news be like?
Tim Shoveller's introduction to SWT's autumn 'Customer Update' states: "The coming few months are going to be particularly exciting and I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what is happening".
The first exciting news is the World Rugby Cup matches at Twickenham. On the ten match days passengers not attending the match should consider working flexibly, staggering working hours to travel earlier, consider taking annual leave, or walking or cycling where possible. A Twitter reply confirms there will be no compensation for season ticket holders.
The next exciting news is that 108 refurbished carriages are all expected to be delivered by early next year. That's not much more than a year late. Also exciting is Network Rail's rebuilding of Waterloo International to take SWT services. Great, as it's barely 8 years ago that the final Eurostar service departed. Finally, 1,400 more of SWT's extortionate station car parking spaces are to be provided.
Mainline SWT timetable changes from 13.12.2015 - update
This information is as we understand the position, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. Note that the most innovative prospective changes (See Issue 146 of this newsletter), involving through summer Saturday trains between Waterloo and Swanage, and Waterloo and Weymouth via Salisbury have apparently been abandoned. No changes to mainline services are now in prospect from May 2016.
Contrary to previous reports, SWT's services between Salisbury and Bristol will continue. Extraordinarily, however, the much-trumpeted additional services around Yeovil will not now start until afternoon, which greatly reduces their usefulness. Better to have boosted connectivity by restoring through portions between the South Coast and West Country?
Nevertheless, expect much hype. Twitter has already pictured some Bruton headmasters welcoming the new direct services between Bruton and Waterloo. The first train of the day will get them to London at the early hour of 19.50. Useful for taking youngsters to see the night life perhaps? Q.104 of SWT's September Webchat states that the morning trains were abandoned following stakeholder feedback. Sounds very consultative, but probably just means the services were vetoed by Network Rail or their paths were required by the Great Western Railway.
05.20 Southampton Central to Waterloo additional service, calling Southampton Airport Parkway, Eastleigh, Winchester, Micheldever, Basingstoke, Woking and Waterloo.
07.03 Waterloo to Weymouth additional service, calling Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport Parkway, Southampton Central, Totton, Brockenhurst, then all stations.
06.12 Waterloo to Weymouth ceases to call Beaulieu Road, then after Brockenhurst runs non-stop to Bournemouth and terminates at Branksome.
06.30 Waterloo to Weymouth calls additionally at Beaulieu Road.
09.13 Poole to Southampton Central axed between Poole and Branksome.
18.39 Waterloo to Poole will be increased in length to 8-cars, and at Basingstoke the rear 4-cars will replace the 19.24 Basingstoke to Havant via Eastleigh, starting later at 19.35 and only going as far as Fareham.
14.44 and 15.44 Southampton Central to Portsmouth & Southsea are extended to Portsmouth Harbour. 16.38 Portsmouth & Southsea to Southampton Central will start from Portsmouth Harbour at 16.33. 16.55 Portsmouth & Southsea to Eastleigh is axed. Additional service from Portsmouth Harbour to Eastleigh at 17.49. These changes restore the number of direct Southampton-Portsmouth Harbour services to their level before the recent cuts.
07.45 Waterloo to Portsmouth & Southsea will divide at Guildford; the front portion will run as currently and terminate at Haslemere. The rear portion will depart at 08.43 (after 08.00 from Waterloo has departed), and call Farncombe, Godalming, Haslemere and then as per current train to Portsmouth.
08.24 Portsmouth & Southsea to Waterloo. This service will be formed of four coaches instead of eight as far as Guildford. After Haslemere (depart 09.15) it will cease to call at Godalming and Farncombe; these stops will be covered by a 09.09 Haslemere additional service which will operate ahead and call at Godalming 09.19, Farncombe 09.22 and Guildford arrive 09.27, where both trains combine and depart at 09.34 as currently.
15.45 Waterloo to Portsmouth & Southsea is extended to Portsmouth Harbour arriving 17.49.
18.24 Portsmouth & Southsea to Waterloo is revised to start from Portsmouth Harbour at 18.19.
12.50 Waterloo to Salisbury extended to Yeovil Pen Mill via Westbury.
1350/1550 Waterloo to Gillingham extended to Yeovil Pen Mill.
1618 Gillingham to Waterloo starts from Yeovil Pen Mill.
16.30/18.33/21.30 Yeovil Pen Mill-Yeovil Junction additional services.
16.36 Exeter St David's-Honiton additional service.
16.48 Yeovil Junction additional service via Yeovil Pen Mill and Westbury to Salisbury, where it attaches to the 16.24 Exeter St David's-Waterloo, which loses its Whimple and Feniton stops.
1650/1750 Waterloo to Yeovil Junction become 'figure of 6' services, continuing back to Salisbury via Yeovil Pen Mill and Westbury.
17.07 Honiton-Exeter St David's additional service.
1850 Waterloo to Salisbury extended to Yeovil Pen Mill.
It is proposed to operate the current Waterloo - Poole / Portsmouth Harbour services, which split at Eastleigh, as separate trains between Waterloo and Eastleigh during the evening. The stopping pattern will be :
Hourly from 15.50: Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour, calling at Clapham Junction, Woking, Farnborough, Basingstoke, Micheldever, Winchester, Shawford, Eastleigh and all stations. Hourly from 16.05: Waterloo to Poole with the same stopping pattern as currently.
In the opposite direction, a similar pattern will start with the 14.55 from Poole and 15.17 from Portsmouth Harbour.
16.21/17.21 Gillingham-Waterloo additional services.
17.45/18.45/19.45/20.45 Waterloo-Salisbury additional services calling only at Clapham Junction. Very disappointing for Andover, particularly given the growth of Tidworth and increasing numbers of military staff stationed in the area. Presumably the objective is to avoid the need for replacement bus services when the trains are diverted via Southampton. 18.52 Salisbury-Waterloo additional service.
Revenue issues on SWT: Shocking tweets, further reduction of experienced ticket office staff, and obfuscation about void days
Two fascinating Twitter conversations on 3.9.2015:
(1) Commuter: "Ticket machine broken again at Wraysbury station. Please inform revenue people only one machine there and guard does not have machine on 7.32 going into Victoria.
SWT response: Victoria is a South Eastern station. I Would advise buying a ticket at Clapham Junction to avoid complications.
Commuter: How do I get out? Also, this delays me again - have a photo of the machine, please can you report machine?
SWT response: If you want to show revenue protection at Victoria this tweet, they may or may not accept it.
(2) Commuter: Basingstoke ticket office issued my tickets for wrong week! Now I have to pay £66 again and wait for refund as you can't transfer!
SWT: Morning Laura, apologies for the mishap, I completely understand as this happened to me once. It's to do with the process.
Reduction of experienced ticket office staff
Getting a ticket too often results in long delays for SWT passengers. At unstaffed stations this arises from long queues at customer-unfriendly ticket vending machines, and at major stations from booking office staff having long conversations with people who would previously have sought advice at the travel centres which Stagecoach has closed to boost profits.
With the advent of re-franchising, Stagecoach is clearly keen to create 'good news stories' which don't amount to very much. Here's a gem:
"New customer ambassadors will deliver a more personalised service for customers by offering more face-to-face proactive advice at stations. The 100 customer ambassadors will be located on station concourses to help with any customer queries and to offer expert advice to help passengers buy the right ticket to suit their needs. All customer ambassadors will be trained to NVQ Customer Service Level 2 and will have access to smart technology to help customers."
"The company has also pledged to roll out around 170 new easy-to-use ticket machines at stations across the network. More than half of the new ticket machines will provide a 24/7 video link allowing customers to talk directly to a member of staff at a new dedicated state-of-the-art video customer contact centre in Basingstoke. This is the biggest initiative of its kind in the country."
Sounds positive so far, but read on: "The new customer service initiatives, which involve consultation with trade unions, are expected to be introduced early next year. It is planned that as many of the new customer ambassador and customer contact centre roles as possible will be filled by existing South West Trains ticket office employees."
So the fantastic initiative apparently amounts to staff telling passengers how to use machines rather than selling tickets.
Obfuscation on Void Days: Would you believe the Government wants a fairer compensation scheme for delayed passengers?
Twitter conversations on 2.9.2015:
SWT: Have you been delayed by over 60 minutes this morning? Please see here http://ow.ly/RG32h and speak to us here http://ow.ly/RG33R
First caller: Can you confirm that for those travelling on the Portsmouth Direct line, today will be a void period day?
SWT: Void Period days are announced at the month's end, unfortunately I am unable to advise until this time.
Second caller: Void day requires management sign off = there hasn't been one since January, even for 6 May and early August.
First caller: The whole concept seems utterly farcical if its based on a subjective management decision.
Second caller: There's an objective arm (often satisfied) and a subjective arm (never - this *wasn't* void). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3070138/Rail-passengers-forced-crowd-toilets- overcrowded-trains-signal-failures-cause-severe-delays-London.html … You need both objective and subjective to have a void. And I have had £18 void on £16,000 season tickets.
First caller: Done some digging and the mainline criteria appears to be >50% of trains being delayed by >40 minutes
Second caller: Yep, that's the one. But I wrote to them and they said management can still have to review and approve.
First caller: It's a long way from being transparent given that they don't publish the info. FoI application maybe?
Second caller: Good idea - they can't withhold data used for determining clause under a contract so should provide.
Stagecoach railways in the press
SWT caused considerable anger by suspending its £20 special offer tickets on the day of the VJ celebrations. The following letters, in the Evening Standard of 19.8.2015 and 20.8.2015 respectively, are some of the more mild responses:
"I was horrified to hear that South West Trains withdrew its special fares for the families and veterans travelling to London for the VJ Day celebrations. It penalised passengers and offered a lame excuse about "overcrowding" and safety. How low can SWT stoop? Susan Weaver."
"I was horrified to hear that South West Trains withdrew its special fares for veterans and their families travelling to London for the VJ Day celebrations - thus penalising them with the very lame excuse about "overcrowding and safety" . Does this mean those who survived Japanese prison camps and the Burma railway might not survive South West Trains? Michael Jay."
Two basic points: (1) we are not aware of Thameslink (Southern) withdrawing their normal off-peak Daysave tickets, which are cheaper than SWT's special offer; and (2) it should have been a simple matter to plan for a few extra trains at a weekend. Mr Jay's question is very pertinent. Remember how quadriplegic Geoff Holt made a solo, unaided 2,700 mile crossing of the Atlantic but came to grief trying to get from Ryde Pier Head to Ryde Esplanade by South West Trains?
Letter in the Standard of 16.9.2015: "Your article highlighted the probable overcrowding on South West Trains during the Rugby World Cup [September 14] but this is hardly a new issue. Rugby fans heading to Twickenham have for years been ill-served by the company's apparent unwillingness to provide extra capacity on big match days. It has known about this tournament for seven or eight years, so it should have planned for this. Richard Nemeth." [Addendum: A man suffered head and leg injuries after falling in front of a train at Twickenham on the opening night.]
Meanwhile, a letter in the Evening Standard of 2.9.2015 reveals how the Stagecoach (90%) East Coast franchise is being trashed to SWT levels: "Jeremy Corbyn's plan to bring the railways back under government control should he become Labour leader is a genuine vote-winner for all of us fated to use the East Coast Main Line. After the route was run down by private operator GNER we enjoyed excellent service under the management of the state-run East Coast trains. Ludicrously, legislation barred this organisation from bidding to continue to operate, and the franchise has been handed to Virgin and Stagecoach. Travelling last weekend, only 23 weeks after the takeover, there were multiple lavatories out of order on trains both north- and southbound. At least GNER took three to four years to reach that stage. Kate Calvert."
Passengers are expected to pay huge amounts for this trash service. Letter in RAIL issue 782: "I recently looked at booking a rail journey south from Edinburgh to Eastbourne. I was booking at the end of July for an end of August date and was shocked to find that the cheapest return rail fare, even with a Two Together railcard, was almost £100 more expensive than the return air fare to Gatwick. The reality is that Virgin [Comment: Stagecoach 90%] Trains East Coast may have a monopoly on the rails from Edinburgh to London, but competition obviously exists from numerous airlines. Alliance's open access bid for its new Great North Eastern service to London must surely be welcomed, as this would bring increased competition to the route, most likely increasing rail's share of the market, provided the fares are competitive. The premium of £100 on a cross-border trip means that I am presently choosing to fly. This also means that Virgin Trains East Coast is already losing my possible income to another provider. Colin Symes, Edinburgh."
In addition to the East Coast issues, there have been some huge fare increases on the Virgin (51%) / Stagecoach (49%) West Coast franchise. From 6 September, fare reductions on peak services for holders of Young Persons, Disabled Persons, and Senior railcards ended. The Evening Standard of 1.9.2015 reported the case of a person who travels from Rugby to London having to pay £86 a day instead of £27. Christian Wolmar in RAIL issue 782 reports that the change could mean a London-Liverpool fare increasing from £54 to £204.
Daily Mail article to which a tweeter refers in the previous article of this newsletter:
Travelling toilet class: Rail passengers forced to crowd into lavatories on overcrowded trains as signal failures cause severe delays in London
* Delays, diversions and cancellations on South West Trains services
* Platforms overcrowded and commuters stuck on trains for two hours
* One packed service so full that passengers had to stand in the toilet
* Network Rail confirms about 90 trains were cancelled and 400 delayed
Conditions on Britain’s 'third-world' rail services reached a shameful new low today as rush-hour passengers were forced to travel ‘toilet class’ to avoid the crush after chaos on one of the nation’s busiest commuter lines.
Thousands of angry South West Trains passengers were caught up in overcrowded trains as services were delayed, cancelled and halted on the tracks because of two sets of signalling failures that caused gridlock for scores of peak-time trains.
Journeys of under half an hour were more than trebled to an hour and a half – with some travellers stuck for three hours on another day of rush-hour travel misery.
Passengers were squeezed into trains in 'sardine-like conditions'. But on at least one packed train, commuters were forced to stand in the toilet because it was so full.
Passenger Helena Unwin-Golding, 25, who had to stand in the toilet on a train, tweeted: ‘I'm now crushed on to a train - standing in the toilets with other commuters. Fantastic.’ Earlier she had written: ‘Absolute chaos at Woking, where my train from Worplesdon has just been dumped.’
And tennis entrepreneur David Lloyd was also among those caught up in the farce, missing a vital business meeting in London. He vowed to MailOnline: ’I’ll never travel by train again.’
Eyewitnesses and angry passengers spoke of ‘cattle class’ and ‘third world’ conditions on the trains but complained that they had now descended to ‘toilet class’ as services went down the pan.
The signalling fiasco meant seven platforms at Waterloo were out of action, causing gridlock further back on the tracks as stranded trains queued up to get in.
Network Rail apologised for the ‘significant disruption’ which had ‘a major impact on our passengers.’ But the knock-on effect meant that delays on South West Trains carried on beyond noon. The timing of the chaos, on the eve of the General Election, was the talk of stranded passengers.
The delays, diversions and cancellations caused chaos to South West Trains services, which were hit by signal failures at Surbiton in south-west London and at Waterloo station in central London. Platforms at Surbiton and Woking in Surrey were massively overcrowded as many were asked to get off their delayed trains – which were promptly cancelled mid-service - to catch others behind.
Mr Lloyd, 67, of Oxshott, Surrey, who runs a chain of tennis centres, told MailOnline: ‘It’s absolutely disgraceful. Unbelievable. I usually drive into London. I have got a very important meeting with the bank. It’s a big business deal. My meeting started 45 minutes ago. They’ve had to go on without me. It’s a very big deal. I’m never getting a train again.’
Project manager Lee Blofield, 36, heading into London from Basingstoke, was first ‘kicked off’ the train at Woking and then again at Surbiton as an hour’s journey trebled to three hours. He arrived at Waterloo at 9.30am - two hours late. ’It’s been horrific, absolutely terrible’, he said, adding: ‘The train was absolutely packed. It was also galling to see empty trains flying past into Waterloo.'
Another commuter, healthcare communications consultant Anna Gray, told MailOnline: ‘I stood at Esher for 55 minutes before being able to board a train. Two 12 carriage trains were cancelled - the next showed as delayed but never showed. The National Rail app showed it never left its original station - then two eight carriage trains came. It’s appalling. It was very uncomfortable. And to pay the prices they charge makes it worse. The train I eventually boarded took 40 minutes to get to Waterloo - a journey that should take 21 minutes. Just not good enough. I was 90 minutes late to work. I can't just get that time back. The train operators appear totally inept and do not understand that the people they are transporting are losing time, and therefore money and that disrupts the economy.’
And pharmaceutical executive Debra Montagu caught a 7.30am train from Farnborough, but was turfed off at Surbiton to catch another train - on which she had to stand. She said: ’It’s appalling. It was very uncomfortable. And to pay the prices they charge.'
Passenger Lucy Vose said she left her house at 6.30am and was still nowhere near work after 9am.
Another SWT customer, Daniel Green, said his normal 48-minute journey to Waterloo had taken two hours 34 minutes. Caroline Harrison wrote: ‘How can you subject people to this? Yet more signal failures, people rammed in like cattle. Sort it out!’
And Katie Harrison tweeted: ‘If you like surprises, travel with SWT this morning. You'll probably be able to get a train but who knows where it'll end up?'
Natalie Taylor wrote: ‘I could walk to London faster than SWT are going to get me there today.' Today's problems followed a power failure yesterday which affected services run by the Southern train company.
Last week thousands of trains passengers endured ‘a total meltdown’ as rush-hour services through Britain’s busiest rail junction at Clapham Junction descended into chaos after a damaged electric rail left commuters stranded on trains for more than five hours.
There have also been repeated crowd problems at London Bridge. And Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has been under fire since the fiasco endured by 115,000 passengers at Christmas when the key East Coast mainline was crippled by overrunning engineering works north of London.
Rail watchdogs condemned the latest fiasco as ‘one too many incidents of passengers stuck in crowded carriages for hours’. David Sidebottom, passenger director of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘Delays are annoying and frustrating for passengers whenever they happen, but many may feel that this is one too many incidents of passengers stuck in crowded carriages for hours. We encourage any passenger delayed by 30 minutes or more to claim compensation. Send a clear message to the rail industry and make sure your voice is heard.’
A South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance spokesman said: ‘Signalling problems at Waterloo and Surbiton have caused significant disruption to our services this morning. This has had a major impact on our passengers and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused. The problem at Surbiton meant all trains towards London had to travel slower than usual, while platforms eight to 14 were not available at Waterloo. Both issues have now been resolved and we are working hard to recover our normal train services as quickly as possible.’ He added: ‘Passengers travelling on some of our services have faced some very unpleasant journeys as a result of today's problems and we are very sorry for the disruption. Extra staff were brought in to the most crowded stations to help passengers. Information updates were also provided by our staff, through display screens and on social media. London Waterloo is Britain's busiest station, with trains arriving and departing nearly every minute at peak times. Today's problems have meant far fewer trains being able to run to accommodate a large number of passengers at one of the busiest times of the day’.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: ‘The so-called "deep alliance" pilot scheme between SWT and Network Rail was supposed to be a model for the future but has turned out to be a total and unmitigated failure which has unleashed misery for passengers on a routine basis. The daily chaos on rail and Tube has reached unprecedented levels as thousands of extra passengers are thrown at an under-resourced, under-capacity system where cuts and private profit are the order of the day.'
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the disruption caused by signalling problems on the network this morning. We look to the South West Trains–Network Rail Alliance to ensure normal service is resumed as quickly as possible, and that passengers are made aware of their right to compensation.’
And a Network Rail spokesman said: ‘Approximately 90 trains were cancelled and 400 delayed. The longest delay was 71 minutes. The signalling problems were resolved at 7.37am and the points failure at Waterloo, at 8.41am. Services were subject to residual delays but are now running as normal.’
Season ticket holder and public relations executive Richard Tanner was trying to get from his home in Vauxhall to his office in Kingston-upon-Thames. He said: ‘We felt like caged animals, and even worse, it was heavily delayed. It got incredibly hot. It was made worse because people struggled to remove their jackets due to being so tightly packed in. Then the doors malfunctioned. Even worse than that, it costs us all thousands of pounds a year.’ He added: ‘This was not a one-off unfortunately. I sold my car in October last year thinking the train would be easier. But my morning train to work has arrived on time on just a few occasions up to the end of the year – and it’s not improved much since either.’
Network Rail and South West Trains said the longest delay was suffered by passengers on the 7.44am from Claygate in Surrey, which arrived at Waterloo station at 9.24am - 71 minutes after its scheduled arrival of 8.13am.
More than 220 million passengers travel each year on South West trains. The firm said it was investing £300million investment in over 250 additional carriages, track and signalling improvements, and more and longer platforms.
Great Western Railway considering future form of Portsmouth-Cardiff services
In our previous newsletter, we noted that: "New 4-coach trains were recently planned for the Portsmouth-Cardiff services. The plan was abandoned as 5-car units could be formed from stock released by electrification in the Thames Valley, which is already well under way. These trains have been well maintained by First Group, but have 2+3 aside seating which is unsuitable for a long-distance route. The issue now is less whether the seating will be improved than whether the electrification delays in the North will mean that the trains will be more urgently needed elsewhere."
Modern Railways (August 2015 edition) has since reported that DfT has asked First Group to consider the Portsmouth-Cardiff service. This is on the basis that it has remained hourly for many years while comparable routes have increased in frequency. It is recognised that the route serves a range of markets and neither the current trains nor the Thames Valley trains entirely fit passengers' needs. First has undertaken to look and see if some other solution is possible for the route. Shortened High Speed Trains or Wessex Electrics with diesel motors fitted perhaps?
The former Strategic Rail Authority's Strategic Plan of January 2002 identified the need for a half-hourly service, seven days a week, between Southampton and Bristol, with an expected completion date of 2005-06. It may be that we will get an expanded timetable as well as different rolling stock. Since Network Rail's Wessex Route Study found no problem with introducing an hourly Brighton-Bristol service, an additional service between Portsmouth and Bristol would seem straightforward though, beyond Bristol, Severn tunnel capacity is always an issue.
County Councillor David Harrison continues to press the case for restoration of passenger train services to the Southampton-Totton-Hythe line [Southern Daily Echo, 30.7.2015].
The case seems overwhelming given that the combined population of Totton, Hythe and the surrounding area is in the region of 60,000. Totton on its own is the fourth largest intermediate town on the Southampton-Weymouth main line, and Hythe is not much smaller.
In the five years to 2007, passenger entries and exits at Totton increased by 118,000 (71.7%). South West Trains then killed the growth by reducing the regular service from five trains an hour to just two, which are exceptionally slow. The line from Totton to Hythe is still used by a few non-passenger trains.
Environmentally, the Southampton-Hythe route also scores well, given severe congestion on the parallel road, and the illegal levels of road traffic emissions on the section from Southampton to Totton via the container terminals. Business leaders are pressing for Southampton's 'traffic woes' to be prioritised for action [Southern Daily Echo, 28.7.2015].
The proposed Southampton-Hythe local rail service would seem to score less well in terms of direct journey opportunities, because it would compete with bus services and a ferry. However, by the end of the year First Group should have drawn conclusions about use of the experimental electric mains/battery train which is being trialled in East Anglia. The idea would be to run electric trains beyond the wires between Newbury and Bedwyn, and between live rail sections on the Reading-Gatwick route.
Such a train would seem ideal for the Hythe line where there has been residential development close to the track: no wires, no third rail, no diesel motors, and the possibility of running trains from Hythe to Portsmouth [countering the estuarial gap] or attaching Hythe portions to London services at Southampton or Eastleigh, providing an extended Cross-Hants route between Hythe, Southampton Airport, Eastleigh, Winchester, Basingstoke and beyond.
Twitter illustrates why belief in SWT was described before the London Assembly as being "at an all-time low" and communication as "appalling"
SWT’s Twitter scripts provide information, apologise endlessly, and refer people to Customer Services who, if they are lucky, will send an often unhelpful reply weeks later. Passengers hate the rip-offs, problems with trains and stations, information deficit and errors, cancelled stops, not getting replies from Customer Services, and the rudeness and aggression of some members of staff. Disabled people may be refused assistance or even told to seek help from other passengers. It must all be pretty depressing for decent members of staff as well. What is particularly noticeable on Twitter is the virtual absence of any promise to improve the treatment of passengers. The standard reply to the more serious complaints is that they will be looked into. Then the same sort of thing happens again. This is because there is no middle management to tackle the chaos in a holistic way.
We have collected a substantial range of complaints for the July-September 2015 quarter. Some of the issues raised are below. These just scrape the surface, as there are reckoned to be well over 50,000 negative tweets to SWT annually [Source: RAIL Issue 776], but hopefully they give a flavour of SWT's disastrous performance. When Anne Milton MP complained that it was irritating and hot to cycle really fast for a train only to find it cancelled, she got a confusing response which tried to claim it hadn't been cancelled.
* Innumerable complaints about delays and unhelpful replies.
* Passenger waiting 3 ½ months for refund despite telephone calls and e'mails.
* Passenger who complained in May about difficulty in getting through to customer services still awaiting a reply on 27 July, and phone lines constantly busy.
* Customer relations rarely reply within the target 20-day timescale.
* Passenger found SWT's customer service the worst ever encountered.
* Passenger waiting two months for a reply despite complaining about the delay on Twitter. [SWT's response: Sorry for the delay in replying to you. We have been dealing with a high volume of correspondence.]
Disabled and vulnerable people
* Various general complaints about disgusting service.
* Regular commuter pressured to book assistance in advance by member of staff despite ramp being at hand.
* Complaint that SWT should be able to provide turn-up-and-go like TfL.
* Passenger who uses rail all the time considers SWT the worst operator in terms of its relations with disabled passengers.
* Guard ignored and pushed aside a disabled person complaining that nobody would give up a priority seat.
* Deaf person reported line closed through Guildford; screens showing normal service; even hearing passengers finding the public address inaudible, and no staff to help with information. Was told to use a Help point, which didn't provide for deaf people.
* Booked assistance didn't turn up.
* Person left in tears at Waterloo after train switched platforms and person booked to assist was not told.
* Pregnant woman waiting 95 minutes for a response from SWT when stuck owing to disruption.
* Guard of Reading-Waterloo train twice closed doors on elderly passenger.
* Train doors closed at Putney on elderly pensioners and a woman with baby after a last-minute platform change.
* Complaint about lift at Worcester Park being out of use for weeks, denying passenger access. [SWT's response: I believe we're waiting for some spare parts and it may not be working for some time.]
* Passenger travelling from Teddington to Waterloo booked assistance the previous day but was kept waiting for 20 minutes.
* Passenger's booked assistance didn't turn up at Clapham Junction so he got stuck in the door trying to get off with bags.
* Disabled toilet on the 12.27 from Clapham Junction to Exeter was absolutely disgusting.
* Complaint about elderly stepfather being left without the wheelchair ramp he'd requested.
* Passengers travelling on a carer and disabled ticket were wrongly told it wasn't valid. Problem was staff ignorance of SWT's own rules.
* Passenger witnessed some very interesting customer service with disabled people at Clapham Junction. Disgraceful confusion as there were no staff on the platform to let people know that doors open only in the front five carriages.
* Four ticket inspectors questioned someone with learning difficulties at Surbiton station.
* Innumerable complaints about endemic failures.
* Passenger couldn't find information about delays during major disruption on SWT's main line.
* Successive failures to provide information about cancellations at Ashford.
* Passengers on stationary train for 30 minutes without information.
* SWT never finishes Twitter dialogues about impacts on passengers from delays.
* Salisbury train announced as delayed at Eastleigh but it had already left unannounced.
* Station and train staff gave conflicting information on whether a Dorking train would make its scheduled Motspur Park stop.
* Train delayed 20 minutes with no announcement.
* Major disruption, and guard told passengers to get bus from Woking to Haslemere during disruption. Passengers furious after alighting at Woking and being told buses starting from Guildford and they should get there by train, changing at Aldershot. Platform staff called guard 'an idiot'.
* Passengers given three different reasons for delays.
* Thirty-five minute delay at Waterloo and further delay at Woking, all without explanation.
* Long delays at Waterloo and passengers not told which trains were leaving first.
* 10.34 Aldershot train cancelled without apology or reason. Passenger just told to go via Guildford.
* SWT advertised the wrong platform and nobody was told until a minute before departure.
* No reason given for delay at Chiswick. Passenger waited 20 minutes for the 16.47 which was then cancelled at the last minute, leaving him to wait an hour for the next train.
* Passenger stuck on train for an hour because staff were late, and then 'disgusting' announcement made.
* Rubbish customer service at Waterloo. Passenger asked two women on the platform for advice as to where the next train to Wandsworth was going from, and got told to check the boards.
* Lots of passengers told to leave the 15.42 Waterloo-Basingstoke at 15.49, but no explanation given. Passenger tried to confirm the next train and asked why an announcement wasn't made. Staff said he had more important things to do. After passenger said he only asked to confirm people were on the right train, he said he wasn't going to answer the question and rudely turned his back.
* Passenger waiting at Hampton Wick for the delayed 14.00 train with 3-year-old twins, and no information. [SWT's response: Sorry for the delay- this train has been diverted due to a points problem at Waterloo. Are you now on the next train?]
* Information on arrivals board at Vauxhall is all over the place.
* Passenger told at Wimbledon his train was now starting from Raynes Park, but when he got there he was told it was cancelled.
* Innumerable complaints about innumerable failures.
* Peak train reduced to 4 coaches and ran fast to Waterloo, making people late for work.
* Stopping train rescheduled to miss all stops between Guildford and Haslemere; passengers told to go to Haslemere and travel back.
* Morning peak train left Waterloo early and passengers left behind. [SWT's response: "We're aware and looking into it."]
* Train departed early and following one delayed.
* Passengers stranded on train outside Clapham Junction for almost an hour.
* Last connection not held for passengers who had been delayed on a faulty train.
* Trains from Weybridge depart as passengers off Ascot line services run to catch them.
* Basingstoke service failed to stop at Hook.[SWT's response: We will be investigating this.]
* Passenger already delayed three hours by disruption.
* Passenger asked why 17.50 Waterloo-Reading missing only the Clapham Junction stop. [SWT's remarkably circuitous response: It's been cancelled only at Clapham Junction due to a train fault I'm afraid.] Passenger: How can it have a fault that stops it from going to one station?! [SWT's response: The fault has resulted in the train being short formed, so stopping at Clapham Junction would lead to dangerous over-crowding.]
* Train left Ewell West early as passenger running in the rain with several bags to catch it.
* Doors closed at Putney and train departed 30 seconds early.
* Passenger trying to get from Winchester to Woking sat on train for two hours until it terminated at Basingstoke.
* Passenger scraped and bruised at Byfleet & New Haw when guard closed doors on him.
* Waterloo train missed Ewell West stop when only 3 minutes late, with no reason given in the announcement. [SWT's response: There was a broken down train in front of it. With only two minutes between trains nearer Waterloo, we're worried about what it may delay when it gets beyond Raynes Park.]
* 1030 Waterloo-Portsmouth service took two hours and then terminated at Fratton.
* Passenger waiting over an hour because of disruption, yet trains running past non-stop.
* Passenger asked why the 08:03 from Weybridge left early. [SWT's response: Sorry this happened. We're looking into this now.]
* 08.05 from Norbiton cancelled and simply disappeared from screen. [SWT's response: This was cancelled due to congestion. Very sorry. Had it run it would've caused more delays to services this morning.]
* Passenger waited 20 minutes at Richmond for Windsor train and guard closed doors while he was looking for a carriage with room to board.
* Empty train ran through Surbiton non-stop while over 200 people were waiting for a train which had only 4 coaches. Passenger missed all his connections and unable to get home.
* After passengers alighted from crowded train, the guard closed the doors and left behind people intending to board.
* Passenger asked if it is common practice not to give people time to board. [SWT's response: Doors must close 30 seconds prior to departure, to prevent delays building up.] Passenger then asked: So even if there is an orderly queue of people waiting to get on at the doors, it's common practice to close them anyway? [SWT's response: If possible, guards will try their best to ensure people get their train.] Passenger's comeback: So closing the doors ON people with absolutely NO warning is the right solution? [SWT's response: We close doors 30 seconds prior to departure times.] Passenger: Well actually it was running three minutes late. Perhaps if you don't pick ANYONE up you'll be able to run a decent service? [SWT's response: Sorry you were delayed this evening.] Passenger: So it's better to run on time, but without the passengers. Great logic. [SWT then replied that trains run to a tight timetable which, unsurprisingly given the ever more lax timetables, brought the passenger's response that the comment was "genuinely hilarious".]
* Request to hold the 17.42 Brockenhurst-Lymington branch train just two minutes for a connection was abruptly refused.
* Opening day of World Rugby Tournament and SWT failed to provide trains in full operational condition. Person injured by a train at Twickenham and nobody seemed to be in charge. Passenger took 4 hours to get home to South East London with his wife.
* Driver forgot to stop at Wimbledon. [SWT's response: Sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. Unfortunately the train did forget to stop but no signals were passed.]
* Train terminated early with no explanation and station manager on the platform just shrugged. [SWT's response: Really sorry for this. Unfortunately the guard was left at Clapham Junction and as a result the train had to terminate.]
* Redbridge stop missed from a Romsey train because train crew were late.
* Passenger missed Teddington train because of last-minute platform alteration.
* Passenger kicked off at Barnes on last two commutes home.
* Deciding to change route or miss stations costing commuter an hour a day.
* Guildford-Waterloo train left a whole minute early leaving people waiting for the next.
* Train left at 19.07 instead of 19.10. Passenger now late for the start of a charity event.
* A crowd of already inconvenienced football supporters dumped at Hounslow through fast running.
* 18.34 departed Epsom at 18.32.
* Woman with a valid Megatrain ticket left her identification (NUS card) at home during house move. Guard had her name on his list but made her pay £40 for a full price ticket.
* Monthly ticket from SWT is £651 but £619 from Great Western. [SWT's response: "It's up to the other operator if they want to charge a lower price on this ticket.]
* Passenger unable to obtain ticket at station was told to get one on the train. He was rudely told he couldn't, fined, and had the legitimacy of his driver's licence questioned.
* Passengers charged a penalty fare for standing in the first class section of a severely overcrowded train.
* Passenger who was charged twice at a station told he couldn't apply for a refund until he obtained a bank statement.
* Passenger in distress because of a family emergency charged £45 for travelling 30 minutes ahead of booked train.
* Windsor lines blocked by signalling problems but SWT refused to pay for taxis.
* Two passengers who paid £50 to get to London found they were unable to complete their journey. After 22 tweets and 95 minutes asking how to get home they received no apology and were denied a refund. Second tweeter commented "They are just so obnoxious. They charged us £66 for an honest mistake."
* Passengers fined for getting off at Eastleigh instead of continuing to Southampton.
* Tickets for next day travel not available from machines until 15.00, and then only at Anytime fares.
* Sign at station car park showed £4 charge on public holidays when parking was actually free.
* Ryde-Portsmouth Hovercraft suspended and passenger with Megatrain ticket asked if he could use a later train. [SWT's response: I'm afraid you have to get the advertised train with those types of tickets. You could ask Hovertravel if they can request you to travel on another train, but there's not much else we can do I'm afraid.]
* Passenger couldn't find guard and asked if he could buy ticket at destination. [SWT's response: Guards are usually located in the centre of the cab, you may get penalty fared.]
* Passenger whose card hadn't tapped in was made to alight to tap in again and then fined £20.
* Person's partner picked up his Network Railcard in error and was made to buy a new ticket. Staff wrote "check ID" on the pass.
* Passenger charged £10 for a replacement season ticket after being assured the ticket office had the original safe for him to collect.
* London-Axminster off-peak return for two adults and two children with Family and Friends Railcard increased from £119 in the morning to £173.60 in the afternoon.
Replacement buses and taxis
* Reading train departed just as bus arrived at Egham, but Waterloo service held.
* Guard took rail ticket and issued replacement bus ticket, even though bus covering only part of journey.
* Passenger charged for tickets on three buses even though acceptance of rail tickets supposed to be in place.
* Bus to New Malden tried to go under a low bridge and then went 3 miles off route.
* Replacement bus failed to turn up at Ewell West.
* No indication of replacement bus service arrangements at Earley.
* Replacement bus service stopped at Motspur Park but passengers not allowed to board because of overcrowding. Service clearly inadequate.
* The 12:03 bus from Winchfield to Farnborough left 5 minutes early, delaying passengers by an hour.
* Replacement bus from Wimbledon to Epsom being navigated by a group of youngsters because driver didn't know the route.
* Passenger found he couldn't get a ticket on the bus. The driver tried to send him away after he had waited 55 minutes.
* Passenger missed connecting train because bus driver got lost. No apologies and no managers around to help.
* Unbelievable mess. Driver didn't know route, and relied on satnav. Missed out Tisbury, so people stuck.
* Passenger at Bournemouth was advised to get bus to Southampton Airport Parkway for train to Lancing, but should have been directed to Southampton Central. Now stranded at Parkway, and staff trying to close waiting room and locking toilets.
* Both staff and departure boards said bus was at 08.02, but it never arrived.
* Bus replacement didn't get passengers to Southampton Parkway in time to catch the connecting 14:27 train to Waterloo.
* 21:12 bus from Gillingham to Salisbury left 10 minutes early. Passenger driven to Salisbury to avoid not getting home until 00:15.
* Lost property officer grouchy on phone and just told passenger to ring back the next day, even though loss had occurred previous day.
* Passengers who tried to complain at Waterloo about delays met with total indifference.
* Guard on crammed Weymouth train fed up with management.
* Driver with window open watched passenger in flip-flops rush for train but guard closed door in her face.
* Passenger threatened with police because he was running for train and they wanted to inspect his valid ticket more closely.
* Guards increasingly leaving door control panels open.
* Security firm at Earlsfield treat passengers badly. One shouted in a passenger's face to stand behind yellow line when passenger already doing so.
* Staff on train referred to passengers as 'morons' in front of other passengers.
* Guard yelled and held family back until passenger tapped in and out.
* Passenger amazed at 'terrible' service from 'horrible' staff at Waterloo.
* Passenger complained of meeting one of the rudest and most unhelpful members of staff ever.
* Booking clerk at Poole refused to sell railcard and said closing in half a minute.
* Passenger wonders whether SWT thinks it odd that there are daily complaints of staff rudeness, including sexism and swearing, to passengers.
* Passenger considers that closing doors on boarding passengers is assault. [SWT's response: It's at the Guard's discretion if they allow last minute passengers.]
* Train left Raynes Park for Waterloo just as another train taken out of service; guard of departing train gave a sarcastic laugh and waved.
* Fourteen passengers who had been unable to buy tickets were told by the guard of a Guildford train to go away or risk a fine.
* Passenger who asked on Twitter whether he could board at a different station with his ticket was told: "It should be fine, I would recommend letting the guard know, they are not all ogres."
* Guard made a woman get off at Winchester to buy an extension ticket to Southampton Airport.
* Woman in ticket office at Fleet told passenger he could upgrade on the train; guard refused and issued a penalty warning.
* Passenger told guard two passengers were snorting drugs and she replied she couldn't baby them.
* Customer assistant at Wimbledon used offensive language in earshot of passengers.
* Member of staff at Winchester so rude that passenger used a ticket machine instead.
* Woman with small baby trapped in train door at Feltham and guard wouldn't help.
* Staff insulted passenger's wife while he was sitting on the floor from Clapham Junction to Basingstoke.
* Passenger tried to hand in a child's toy from train and staff said he didn't want it and walked off.
* Passenger searching for ticket; guard asked: "Are you looking for your invisible train ticket?"
* Horribly rude ticket inspector, and employees taking up 1st class seats leaving no space for paying customers.
* Guard on 07.38 from Farncombe shut doors on passenger he could see clearly, who was lugging two big bags and trying to board.
* Passengers couldn't get on train because those already on board wouldn't move down carriage. Staff took no notice and left them behind.
* Woman who works in the Esher ticket office on Sunday has an attitude problem. The rudeness, every time, is unacceptable.
* Revenue staff too busy being unpleasant to people to speak to passenger asking for urgent directions. Help provided only when passenger spoke to fourth member of staff.
* Guard ignored drunk and abusive person on train from Southampton to Waterloo. [So much for secure trains. SWT's response was: Sorry for this unpleasant experience - on occasions our staff may chose not to intervene for their own personal safety.]
* Guard pushed passenger back from an open door and yelled that he wasn't getting on. Passenger now late and angry.
* Guard saw passenger walking towards the doors, looked him straight in the eye and closed them. He was shocked and furious.
* Staff need to be taught some manners. Passenger asked for help on platform 9 at Clapham Junction. Staff held his hand up to stop him and walked off.
* Guard on the 09.26 Wokingham-Waterloo tried to close the door on passenger's baby buggy.
* Guard rude to passenger and his girlfriend after they had rushed to catch train. Charged full fare and passenger's Network Card confiscated.
* Conductor wouldn't wait 30 seconds for passenger's wife to get their two small children on board.
* Passenger's partner had a racist experience on a SWT service and staff just rude instead of assisting her.
* Woman at Waterloo trying to work out the Tube map. Member of staff said: "Maybe learn to read a map". Passenger offered to tweet a confirmatory video.
* Passenger stopped from photographing train going into shed at Clapham Junction, contrary to policy.
* Staff rude to passenger when season ticket refused to work the gates at Havant.
* Passenger asked guard about delay and he said he had no clue, and couldn't really be more disinterested. Connection left Weybridge just as the train arrived. This happens far to often despite the connection having nine minutes spare at Virginia Water.
* Passenger had to get an extension to his ticket at Clapham Junction and was immediately assumed to be a fare dodger by the SWT supervisor at the barrier.
* Staff at Waterloo rude to passenger because his ticket was broken.
* Passengers at Richmond missed the first train because the station's doors were locked.
* Both the main toilets at Bracknell out of use and disabled toilet inaccessible.
* Three-year-old child hit in the face by barrier at Bournemouth and staff took no notice.
* Lifts at Staines already out of use for three days. [SWT's response: I believe we're waiting for parts.]
* Clocks at Waterloo have a discrepancy of 30 seconds.
* Two-year-old poster shows connecting buses which no longer run.
* Passenger complained about no toilet paper at Windsor, and toilets promptly shut.
* Disabled toilet at Wokingham locked.
* Sign at Earlsfield entrance says platform 1 for Wimbledon, but trains leaving from platform three.
* Petersfield affected by serious disruption, so staff locked up and departed.
* Toilets at Clapham Junction are filthy and stink.
* Guard opened train doors while train at a halt outside Wimbledon station.
* Child hurt his head when barrier at Waterloo closed on him.
* Toilets at Farnborough closed long before official time of 20.40.
* Passenger marooned with pram at Worcester Park because lift out of use.
* Cancellations, so staff locked up Petersfield station and left passengers to fend for themselves at 16.00.
* Stoneleigh station waiting room always locked. [Passenger-focused SWT's response: Sorry for this - we'll get it opened up. We have cover staff at this station at the moment who may be unfamiliar with the opening hours.
* Toilets at Southampton Central always dirty, with months of grime.
* Esher station a real mess. Overflowing bins and rubbish all down the platform. Lots of flies.
* Footbridge at Bentley station is dangerous for people in high heels.
* Lift at Earlsfield station out of order for five days.
* No gents toilet working at Woking. Filthy, with blocked sink and no toilet paper.
Ticket offices and machines
* Chandlers Ford ticket office closed and ticket machine out of use, with no advice or explanation.
* SWT doesn't take account of how difficult ticket machines can be for elderly people. [Remarkable SWT response: We are working to introduce a facility where customers can get help with ticket machines through a video link system.]
* Passenger missed train because he couldn't obtain pre-booked ticket from the machine. [SWT response: Ticket machines are out of order due to a national shortage of tickets.]
* Booking clerk took so long to exchange wrong ticket issued by ticket machine that passengers missed their train. She then snapped that they shouldn't use machines if they don't know how to use them.
* Passenger threatening legal action after guard very rude in front of other passengers and claimed £4,000 season ticket illegible.
* Ticket machine at Clapham Junction charged passenger despite showing that the transaction was not approved.
* Passenger had to hammer ticket machine to get it to work.
* Machine printed single instead of return ticket and booking office closed.
* Many passengers left behind at Fratton because of difficulty obtaining tickets.
* Passengers queuing at Waterloo 22 minutes to get ticket.
* Ticket office at rear of Guildford station closed on a Monday morning due to staff shortage. Queue half way down the road.
* Bracknell station closed an hour early and passenger needed a ticket plus bus for following morning. [SWT's response: Unfortunately, unless you visit an alternative ticket office you will not be able to buy the ticket for tomorrow.]
* Display on the card reader on ticket machine outside Eastleigh station not working properly, and hard to read.
* Innumerable complaints about unsuitable stock, short trains, filthy or non-existent toilets, failed or non-existent air conditioning, and rules about carriage of bikes ignored. The lack of emergency ventilation on SWT's bargain-basement Desiro trains particularly frequent.
* People overcome by heat on stranded train with failed air conditioning.
* Train left Waterloo boiling hot and filthy.
* Passenger on hot Hounslow train could hear the ventilation system but feel nothing. [SWT's response: That's most likely due to there being too many people on the train, so the air conditioning can't cope.]
* Heating on when external temperature is 24 degrees.
* No air conditioning when external temperature 30 degrees.
* Vomit clearly left overnight in train at Windsor. Passenger suggests SWT should check their trains rather than leave passengers to report problems. [SWT response: We clean as many coaches as we can overnight, and concentrate on the worst ones. We also employ cleaners at some turnaround stations.]
* Exeter train filthy, especially the toilet.
* Disabled toilet broken and dirty on 09.05 Waterloo-Weymouth and 14.20 Weymouth-Waterloo.
* Hot air bellowing out on evening peak train in heatwave and no opening windows.
* Two small children needing toilet on Reading train; door jammed on one toilet and effluent overflowing from the other.
* Shepperton train filthy, with litter and vomit on seating.
* No forewarning of lack of toilets on Reading train.
* 17.50 and 18.20 trains to Reading both reduced to 4 carriages.
* Door to internal driving cab left unlocked.
* Train packed during Tube strike; first class empty but guard threatening fines.
* Exeter-Waterloo train and its toilets in disgusting condition.
* Not a single toilet working on the 8 carriage 23.48 from Waterloo.
* Train missed Chertsey stop because of door fault.
* Passenger paid £45 and had to sit on the floor from Waterloo to Southampton; disgusted and won't be travelling with SWT for a long time.
* Toilets on Windsor train were an insult. One out of use and the other in a disgusting state with no soap or water.
* Passenger stood from Salisbury to Waterloo on the 15.27 Sunday train; no room for Andover passengers to board.
* Complaint that reduced service and short trains combine to make weekend travel on SWT horrible.
* Passenger on the 22.08 Surbiton-Waterloo was soaked when he flushed the toilet and its contents gushed over him. He spoke to the guard who thought it was funny.
* All four toilets out of use on the 20.37 Waterloo-Alton/Basingstoke.
* Guard of the suffocating 8-coach 17.32 from Waterloo called out for medical assistance while train held at Surbiton.
Tweets which summarise SWT
* Do you guys get bonuses per delayed train or something? Absolutely ridiculous how bad your service is.
* Just shocking contempt to have services pass and ignore those waiting, and no counter service to get a refund.
* Your guard is doing the best he can to sort out the chaos on the train caused by your incompetence.
* Love the excuse they don't wait for passengers so they can reduce the late time/poor service to other passengers...
* Every single time I go on a SWT service it's 4 coaches instead of the scheduled 8. Absolute joke of a company.
* Missed connection at Weybridge after 5-minute delay equals 30-minute delay in getting home. Reduce your fares or improve the service.
* Another morning of overcrowding at Kingston due to SWT cancellations policy, are you hand-cranking the signal?
* You're going to hospitalise someone, if you haven't already. Your carriages are dangerously hot and cramped. NO VENTILATION?
* You are really unreliable these days and not worth my money but your route is a monopoly.
* Ever since SWT made wifi require login, it's been wholly worthless. Registration form simply doesn't work.
* Which will come first, new compensation policy, review of the cycle policy or the breaking of the monopoly that you operate?
* Shocking week for SWT. [SWT's response: Sorry for a manic week, hopefully next week will be better.] Manic? You surely mean one of shambolic, pathetic, appalling, laughable, useless, terrible, rip off?
* This is a joke of a service. Thanks for not replying to my tweets earlier, really helpful.
* SWT need to seriously sort out your services and customer service.
* Worst train service ever ... One and a half hours late already ... Company treat passengers like dirt.
* What levels of incompetence are you aiming for?
* Why is Mr Shoveller so afraid to stand up and be accountable to the travelling public... Your customers?
* I have to get to work on time and you recovering your service is not looked upon as a reasonable excuse.
* Too many issues today with trains... Sort it out guys!!!
* How can I raise a formal complaint as this is getting way beyond acceptable? Please can I ask one of you directors to take a 4 coach train out of Waterloo at peak time! £400/month and service is terrible!!
* Thank you for the tweets and your apology, you spend your days apologising for poor service.
* Yet again you have failed to provide a service because of your incompetence to maintain your rolling stock. You are just rubbish!
* Stagecoach should lose their franchise. Abusing the fact that they have a captive audience.
* Been kicked off 4 trains now with misinformation by staff. Your poor staff are getting it in the neck.
* Your trains are consistently late, cancelled and over capacity, how will you cope with Rugby World Cup? I have to travel with you every day. The service in last few years has become considerably worse.
* Why another train cancelled? Just a shambles frankly.
* The most miserable, rude staff on my train right now (Waterloo-Exeter); customer service training definitely needed!
* So we suffer not only late crowded and cancelled trains but pay more. Doesn't really seem fair to me.
* The complete lack of any useful assistance was the more frustrating thing. A confused chimp would've been more effective.
* Found the guard, no catering on board, explained that I'm going to pass out and still no way I can get water. He also didn't mention we would be stopped at the next station for 10 minutes.
* You have no answer as to what you can do to compensate me for this terrible service. Why not? Or is this what £4,500 buys from SWT?
* Your whole company's one big joke!
* You are a complete disgrace. 17.14 cancelled; 17.29 14 minutes late and then doesn't call at Clapham Junction. I've swiped my oyster. Refund?
* Why do you bother with toilets on your trains? This is one of your so-called "refurbished" ones. Tourists must be so impressed.
* Very bad service from Clapham Junction to Exeter. Lot of people and not seats. High price, low quality.
* Your trains and toilets are a disgrace.
* Please reinstate cancelled services on Reading line. I'll wait for the new trains. Service appalling today. Two months of this?
* 17.15 Clapham Junction-Aldershot cancelled for next 2 months minimum - many of us had no idea- Suggest you address how you communicate.
* Not being clear about altered delayed trains means we've lost 30 minutes of our life which we've paid for.
Complementary evidence of the all-time low from individual experience
[Body of letter from Jeremy Varns of Guildford to Anne Milton MP]
"I have tried to keep my comments as brief as possible with regards to Mr Shoveller's previous response (in 2014) as he clearly values his time more than my own. I note that the number of times Mr Shoveller thinks I have communicated with SWT including on those occasions through your office is in fact incorrect.
Given the lamentable failure of this company to provide anything close to its advertised timetable during the past year, I would specially ask Anne if she could find out how much SWT have received in compensation from Network Rail in 2014 and how much compensation in total has been passed on to passengers for delays during this time.
The amount of profit generated by South West Trains is not made publicly available despite the fact Stagecoach is a publicly listed company. Could Anne please ask Mr Shoveller how much profit Stagecoach made last year running the South West Trains division? The amount shown on a newspaper website is nowhere close to the 2.4% margin they claim to make.
I would also like to know if the Department for Transport measure the performance of South West Trains based on the company's own misleading information which is shown on Journey Check or whether they have a separate source of reliable data. Ticket offices are frequently closed during advertised opening times, short formations and cancelled trains also appear to be increasingly omitted from the Journey Check facility.
It might be helpful if the following concerns I raise could be addressed individually rather than with standard copy and paste responses from the train company. I also hope that Anne could directly answer my final point which is directed towards the government finding a solution to the constraints of the current system, especially given that many franchises including SWT are due for re-negotiation in the next few years.
Misleading punctuality statistics
Despite operating a timetable that is in many cases slower than in the 1960s, SWT still need to manipulate statistics to give the impression they are providing a reliable service. In the past 12 months I have kept a record of every single service that I have boarded and whether or not it has departed within 60 seconds of the advertised departure time. It is worth highlighting the fact that I travel at different times of the day using up to 104 SWT services each month. These are the actual on-time statistics of services I have used:
July 46%; August 52%; September 48%; October 40%; November 43%; December 31%; January 39%; February 26%; March 44%; April 53%; May 57%; June 48%.
As is evident, there is a very significant discrepancy between South West Trains punctuality statistics currently shown as 93.1% (SWT website on 12/07/15) and the experiences of myself and many other passengers. The current system for measuring performance is completely inadequate. As far back as 1999, Transport Focus conceded the limitations of the current system and said they would be initiating work to record timings at intermediate stations rather at just the destination where there is additional timetable padding. Why is this yet to happen some six years later?
Passengers still experience poor and in many cases non-existent train running information despite Stagecoach holding the SWT franchise for almost 20 years. Many of the information screens at Guildford including on the London bound platform 5 were not working for over 11 weeks earlier in the year. Frequently the screens at the main station entrance are out of use (for 18 days so far this year). Useless announcements such as that played at Woking on 01/07/15 at 17:12, 17:15 and 17:18 include the following; 'Basingstoke bound trains are unable to stop'. This was the entirety of the announcement which unhelpfully did not include details of which station(s) services were unable to stop. On the same date, the 17:16 Yeovil service was 14 minutes late without a single explanation as to the reason why at Woking or on board this service.
Every single day in the past week (and 9 times in total) I have missed my connection either outbound and/or return at Woking due to a late running service from Guildford or Basingstoke, most recently on 9th July. On this date, the train from Basingstoke was 15 minutes late with no explanation provided either at the station or on the train. There were, however, three announcements in the time I was waiting, advising people to carry a bottle of water in the hot weather. Can we expected such ridiculous announcements in the place of train running information during the winter month advising people to carry hot beverages with them to keep warm (with of course a warning about the dangers of carrying hot liquids and burning one's mouth).
Trains leaving Micheldever unhelpfully continue to play a message about short platforms AFTER the train has left the station (Winchester bound). When a customer recently pointed this out to a guard, a SWT/Network Rail Manager jumped up out of a seat and called him a f***ing p***k. Charming. I only know they were a railway employee as when I left the train at Eastleigh (where this person also alighted) I saw part of their name badge with the SWT/Network Rail logo.
Specific examples of SWT showing a disregard for its passengers 10th July 2015
I have almost one hundred pages on the notebook of my phone detailing the company's wholly inadequate service during the past year, but I will highlight the most recent example based on my experiences on 10th July.
I missed my connection at Woking again due to a late running train from Guildford (15 minutes behind schedule). I was delayed by 22 minutes in total on my outward journey to Basingstoke. No explanation was provided at Guildford other than an automated message stating that the train was delayed by 15 minutes. The 14:16 Gillingham service from Woking was reported as 'delayed' when in fact it had been cancelled for all stations from London to as far as Salisbury.
During the same day, I travelled earlier than normal in the evening and observed no information on the National Enquiries website regarding delays of around 30 minutes. This information was shown on Journey Check but 'only' 22 suburban services were detailed. Approximately two thirds of late running trains were omitted from Journey Check completely – these were non-suburban services that had departed Waterloo 20-30+ minutes late. Why was this information not provided? Do passengers not need to know? What is the point of Journey Check if it only includes limited information selected by SWT?
On average, Basingstoke ticket office is closed between 20:00 and 21:00 at least twice a week and yet this is never shown on Journey Check. The most recent example was on 11th July at 20:20. How long does a station ticket office need to be closed for before passengers are warned? This is especially important as the company operate an aggressive revenue protection programme before 10pm and stations should be staffed during advertised opening hours. Not everyone wants to use the ticket machines, especially if they feel they are not going to be offered the best selection of fares. What about people with limited dexterity, the elderly who may not be confident in using modern technology, or tourists whom I frequently see being overcharged at the ticket machines?
Not only do SWT operate some of the highest fares in the world for commuter and long-distance services, they take every opportunity to overcharge at the ticket machines. This is a problem which appears to have grown since the company over-bid for the current franchise and sacked hundreds of front-line staff including people working in the ticket offices. I would ask Anne, since the abolition of the Strategic Rail Authority, who is now responsible for making sure passengers are not overcharged at stations? I stop people on an almost daily basis selecting a more expensive ticket that they require, usually for London bound services outside of the peak period. Overcharging at the ticket machines is one area that consumer group 'Which?' has identified many times, yet politicians appear to completely ignore the problem. Why? I would also like to know why in the past month I have seen the following stations with ticket offices closed during advertised opening hours: Guildford, Woking, Basingstoke, Farnham, Petersfield, Portsmouth Harbour, Farnborough Main (on 6 occasions), Fleet and Weybridge. In every instance I have accessed Journey Check and there has been no mention of the ticket office closures, which again appears to undermine the usefulness of the Journey Check facility. Are the performance measures of this franchise based on this inaccurate information or does the DfT have a separate stream of more reliable data?
Here are some examples of Stagecoach's exploitative pricing on the railways. Alton-Winchester £23.40 (£1.30 per mile and only alternative public transport option is Stagecoach buses), Southampton Central – Bournemouth £13.20 (41p per mile SWT or 23p using a faster Cross Country service), Basingstoke – Waterloo £22.20 (45p per mile), Guildford – Salisbury £29.00 (43p per mile), Petersfield – Shawford £18.90 (86p per mile).
Considering that over two thirds of all car journeys are under 5 miles, you would have thought rail travel for short distances would be encouraged to reduce car dependency, especially in outer-London areas where other public transport options are limited. These are the costs per mile of a selection of short journeys with fares set by SWT; Walton-on-Thames – Weybridge £1.27 (per mile), Esher – Claygate £1.79, Cobham – Esher £1.10, Worplesdon – Brookwood £1.13.
The AA estimates a cost of running a car to be 35p per mile including fuel, insurance, tax and depreciation. How are the government, who previously claimed to be the greenest ever, going to encourage more sustainable transport with fares set so high? Was privatisation not supposed to lower the costs of rail travel?
Weekend tickets still not received for Gold Card renewal in 2013
I have now contacted SWT on five occasions to get the free weekend tickets I am due following the renewal of my Gold Card in 2013. Twice I have been informed that they were 'in the post' including once on the Gold Card helpline before my details had even been provided. If SWT have evidence that they posted me the tickets, perhaps this could provided along with any proof of postage. I received tickets for the current year (2014-2015) and I will be photocopying the final ticket following validation and reusing this 6 times. I will also keep a copy of all correspondence to show staff if I am challenged, and I will obtain a bridge pass at Guildford in order to enter the station.
Mr Shoveller continues to claim that the company he leads has not been cutting the length of off-peak train services and then makes reference to additional peak service formations. The reduction in off-peak capacity was widely reported in the media following Stagecoach's successful bid for SWT in 2007. This information is still available for people to view on the BBC's website. On 1st July this year, which happened to be the hottest July day ever recorded in the UK, South West Trains were operating 33 short formation services during the evening peak. On the following day, 22 services originating from London Waterloo were running short during the evening peak. This is unacceptable and it happens on a daily basis. Already services are operating over-capacity and this is before rolling stock is taken out of service. I think most passengers would rather have working air-conditioning on train services rather than be told to carry bottles of water. In the past two days I have boarded 3 trains where there was no working air-conditioning and this was on services where the windows could not be opened. Is it too much to ask for working air-conditioning Mr Shoveller?
It continues to be commonplace to see trains full and standing late in the evening and at weekends when there are fewer overall services running. Why are short formations being used in these instances? Carriages are clearly not being cleaned, so why are they parked up at Clapham and other depots and not being used? Perhaps this is one of the many 'constraints' of the current franchise? In other words, a cost saving measure to reduce leasing charges and to boost profits.
Transport Focus survey
I will add that without exception, all of my concerns had been raised by other passengers online. A recent Passenger Focus 'Best in Class' survey for SE operators (already below average compared to the rest of the UK) shows that SWT are astonishingly bottom of the table for: the upkeep/repair of stations, cleanliness of stations, availability of staff and seating at stations, frequency of trains; joint bottom for the speed of journeys and security at stations; and second from bottom for on-board toilet facilities. Just about the only thing SWT score highly on is for the multiple retail brands (almost all run by Select Service Partner) which now occupy travel centres and waiting areas which were ripped out of stations across the network.
The most recent Transport Focus Passenger Survey shows SWT placed 21st (from 23 operators) for value for money, joint 20th for there being sufficient room to sit or stand and 18th for reliability. The most recent Which? survey found satisfaction with SWT was rated 15th from 19 operators. This is for a train company who should know its customers well seeing as they have held the franchise since 1996 and yet they are languishing at, or close to, the bottom of most performance measures. Passengers deserve better and its about time more politicians started standing up for hard-pressed commuters rather than let this farce continue. The only thing SWT can claim credit for is how well they are able to manipulate statistics.
Failures in Security
Security is a real concern for many passengers and yet this is causally brushed off by Mr Shoveller as something 'that has been addressed many times'. Well no, it hasn’t and nor I have I seen any improvement in security at Basingstoke, Guildford or Woking stations in the past year.
I witness anti-social behaviour every weekend without exception yet all the barriers are opened at or before 10pm. I often fail to see a member of SWT staff or Travel Safe Officer on any platform at Guildford or Woking, and it now appears to be necessary for the regular police to provide security on behalf of the company with the taxpayer footing the bill.
In the past 30 days I have witnessed the following incidents on a Friday or Saturday evening; male youths throwing themselves at carriage windows where women were sitting on a Weymouth bound train (Woking), two physical altercations (both Guildford), drug dealing (Guildford), males urinating in public (Guildford and Basingstoke – at Basingstoke all of the toilet facilities were closed and/or out of order), fare evasion (Basingstoke, Woking, Guildford), sexual harassment (on board a train between Woking and Guildford), begging within a compulsory ticket area (Guildford and Basingstoke), trespass on the train tracks (Guildford and Woking), smoking on platforms (Basingstoke and Guildford), threats of violence (Guildford, Woking), criminal damage (Basingstoke).
During the incident at Woking where males were harassing women on the train, I was informed by station staff that if the train had been held at the platform, a fine would have been issued to SWT and therefore passenger safety is clearly less important than a financial penalty. It is apparent that no lessons have been learnt from the fatality at Guildford two years ago where a train was permitted to leave the station while a fight was taking place and the passenger ended up on the train tracks. No station staff were present during this event and I have seen no security measures put in place following this tragic and preventable incident.
Despite declining service levels and higher fares, passenger numbers have risen on popular routes because there is no direct competition for commuter services. Privatisation of the railways has been a failed experiment; it's phoney capitalism which only benefits the few. Stagecoach are the worst; they slash bus services when they are denied subsidy and asset strip SWT in the name of profits. Common sense is needed now more than ever rather than another round of pointless re-franchising. One glimmer of hope for passengers is that Stagecoach are not going to be given an automatic extension to the current SWT franchise. This suggests that they are finding it hard to place a value on a franchise which has seen chronic underinvestment and asset stripping under their stewardship, while on the other hand claiming the franchise will only make 'minimal profits' between 2017 and 2019. Regulation is all but non-existent.
Presumably the success of the railways as claimed by some politicians is reflected in the fact that over 29,000 people die each year in the UK because of air pollution mostly caused by road traffic and air quality in many parts of the UK frequently exceeds legal limits. I would strongly argue that the railways are a massively underused resource that if properly funded and not run for profit would be doing much, much better than at present.
London Overground is currently the only example of how to properly run a railway within the constraints of the current system. Passenger growth isn't limited by inadequate rolling stock or excessive fare increases and all income is invested back into the system. In the short term commuters need an expansion of the TfL controlled Overground service to include all SWT suburban services and I would push for this to include services as far as Woking and Guildford. It is a disgrace that many people who want to use the trains cannot afford to do so due to the failures of the current system and the profiteering train companies.
SWT Passenger Charter – completely worthless
"We strive to operate to our published timetable, with every train leaving and arriving on time"
You are doing an extremely poor job, even considering your company spares no amount of passenger inconvenience to ensuring fines to the company are minimised. Stops are frequently omitted, journeys start and finish nowhere near their advertised points. If it's too hot, cold, windy, snowy, wet, or indeed too 'busy' this promise becomes completely worthless.
"We always sell you the most suitable ticket for your journey"
This is a straightforward lie. The company push people towards the ticket machines knowing there's a chance they will pay more than they need to. Passenger groups, the DfT and politicians know this and yet they have spectacularly failed to stop this blatant abuse.
"We have a guard on every train"
It depends if by Guard you mean a commercial Guard or someone who opens and closes doors as there is a distinction. In any case, I suspect this 'promise' won't be around for much longer.
"We clean the inside of each train at least every three hours"
This is completely untrue. The train carpets are filthy and they stink, especially when its raining outside and people walk on them with wet feet. Most people recognise the difference between 'cleaning' and 'tidying'. I can assure Mr Shoveller that the trains are most certainly not cleaned every 3 hours. Who are you trying to kid?
"We will be honest and straightforward in our communications with you"
Any adjective which is the opposite of straightforward would apply in this instance.
"In times of disruption, when we know what's happening, you'll know. If we don't know, we'll tell you that too"
Your company fail to fulfil this 'promise' every time there is disruption. A quick look on social media substantiates my claim that this and your other 'promises' might as well be written on quicksand.
I would ask Anne, would she be able to afford using the privatised railways to get to and from work if she was paid the minimum wage and her travel expenses came out of her £7 per hour pay? Do cleaners and carers not need to travel by train? How should they travel to work, by bicycle? Why do we pay significantly more to use the trains in this country than others around Europe?
The Conservative Party's argument for privatisation was that running costs would fall and competition would improve services while lowering fares. The complete opposite has happened, and if the government is serious about increasing social mobility and making work pay, then the railways need to be run for the many and not the few.
Guildford station 27.9.2015
Chaos at Guildford at 16:20 due to over-running engineering works. Not unheard of, especially on a Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. Despite this, all SWT replacement buses had stopped over one hour earlier as planned. FGW buses were continuing to run because of the disruption. The information screens on platforms were not working and there were only limited live announcements over the PA system. Everyone for Woking, Waterloo and everywhere in-between on the mainline were told to board a single formation service which would be diverted via London Road (Guildford). This announcement was made by a member of staff on platform 3 shouting over the top of the usual pre-recorded nonsense (use of rollerblades is illegal etc, etc). Train pulled in to platform 3 full and was standing all the way to Surbiton where a platform full of people attempted to board the already overcrowded service.
The Sunday service is getting worse and worse with absolutely no improvements to the timetable and only 4 or 5 coach services in use. Saving money on leasing costs appears to be of more importance to SWT than encouraging use of the trains especially off-peak during the daytimes and at weekends. Meanwhile congestion on our roads continues to increase with pollution levels in Guildford recently recorded as being dangerous to human health.
Ticket office Guildford
SWT should be ashamed of the squalid conditions at this 'flagship' station. Six years ago, after the travel centre was ripped out, the company promised to provide seating for passengers in the main ticket hall entrance. SWT was made aware of the fact that passengers, including those with limited mobility, were being expected to stand in line for prolonged periods of time despite the TOC's obligations to serve people within the queuing standards of 3 or 5 minutes. There are two rusty, filthy benches located along the front entrance, nowhere near the ticket office queue and this is the entirety of the seating provision. Paint is peeling off the seats and there is frequently a strong smell of urine around this area. I have also seen drug dealing and begging taking place. If you look upwards when entering the station, years or neglect is evident with dust, dirt and spider's webs all hanging off the ceiling. Even the plastic plants have changed colour due to a build-up of dirt and UV damage.
Queues at Guildford are once again getting longer due to inadequate staffing levels. During the afternoon of 25th September I counted 17 people queuing and a waiting time of 16 minutes – significantly longer than the regulation 3 minutes during off-peak times. Only two of 5 windows open and no further positions were opened despite the increasing numbers of passengers. I tweeted this information and SWT said that it was due to the station being busy with university students! Students starting the new academic year of course happens every 12 months and has done so for the company’s 19 years of operating SWT, yet once again they show a total disregard in meeting their obligations. There’s only one thing that matters to Stagecoach SWT – it's to make as much money as possible.
Wrong time railway
Much has been made about the importance of running a ‘right time railway’ – ‘it's what our customers expect and deserve’ the company claims. Well, I have been logging every departure I have used in the past 18 months and August saw a performance of this operator of 41% and September (with one day to go) has seen on-time departures of 35%. Why does this matter? Firstly, the company claims to have run 88.8% of trains on time during August with a annual percentage of 87.3 of services run ‘on time’. How they can get away with such nonsense is beyond belief. Secondly, fines issued to the company in an attempt to improve the service are now so meaningless that there is no genuine incentive to run to the timetable. There is excessive slack on most routes, resulting in the possibility that a train can run at least 20 minutes late at one point of the journey resulting in a significant delay to passengers a missed connections, while the train was recorded as being on-time at the destination – the point where the train is timed and if it's within 5 or 10 minutes of schedule; again this works in the TOC’s favour. Everyone’s journey is slower to allow for this padding and the government and Department for Transport can claim that privatisation has ‘revolutionised’ performance. It's all a big con I'm afraid. And of course, if there’s any possibility that a delayed service can make up a few minutes in the chance it might arrive within the 5 minute ‘on time’ measure, the company will omit stops with or without informing passengers further maximising disruption to the majority of people.
Rapacious revenue protection, but ticket vending facilities can be lacking even at major SWT stations
SWT ticket offices advertised as closed during opening hours, in many cases repeatedly (July-September):
Addlestone, Alton, Andover, Ash Vale, Ashford, Bagshot, Bedhampton, Bitterne, Botley, Branksome, Brockenhurst, Christchurch, Cosham, Crewkerne, Datchet, Dorchester, Earley, Eastleigh, Esher, Feniton, Fleet, Fulwell, Grateley, Hamworthy, Haslemere, Havant, Hedge End, Hersham, Hinton Admiral, Hounslow, Liss, Liphook, Lymington Town, Martins Heron, Netley, New Milton, Norbiton, North Sheen, Overton, Parkstone, Petersfield, Pokesdown, Portsmouth & Southsea, Portsmouth Harbour, Queenstown Road, St Denys, Salisbury, Shepperton, Sherborne, Sholing, Southampton Airport, Strawberry Hill, Sunbury, Surbiton, Swanwick, Sway, Teddington, Templecombe, Tisbury, Totton, Upper Halliford, Vauxhall, Virginia Water, Walton-on-Thames, Wanborough, Wareham, West Byfleet, Weybridge, Weymouth, Whitton, Windsor, Winnersh, Woking, Wool, Woolston, Wraysbury, Yeovil Junction.
Ticket machines advertised as failed, in many cases repeatedly (July-September):
Addlestone, Aldershot, Andover, Ash Vale, Ashford, Ashurst, Axminster, Bagshot, Basingstoke, Beaulieu Road, Bedhampton, Bookham, Botley, Brentford, Brockenhurst, Chertsey, Chessington South, Claygate, Cosham, Crewkerne, Dorchester, Ewell West, Feniton, Grateley, Guildford, Hampton, Hampton Wick, Hamworthy, Hedge End, Hersham, Hilsea, Kew Bridge, London Road Guildford, Martins Heron, Netley, North Sheen, Oxshott, Parkstone, Petersfield, Pokesdown, Portchester, Queenstown Road, Redbridge, Rowlands Castle, St Denys, Shawford, Shepperton, Sherborne, Sholing, Southampton Airport, Sway, Sunbury, Sunningdale, Sunnymeads, Templecombe, Tisbury, Totton, Upwey, Whitton, Windsor, Woolston, Worplesdon, Wraysbury, Yeovil Junction.
Disabled people beware: Lifts advertised as out of use at the following stations (July-September):
Out-of-use station lifts can make it especially difficult for disabled people to obtain tickets or travel, especially as repairs can involve long delays awaiting spare parts. This problem has been advertised for Aldershot, Alton, Axminster, Bracknell, Brentford, Clapham Junction, Earlsfield, Eastleigh, Fareham, Farnborough, Fratton, Haslemere, Havant, Kingston, London Waterloo, Portsmouth & Southsea, Putney, Richmond, Southampton Central, Staines, Vauxhall, Weybridge, Wimbledon, Winchester, Woking, Wokingham, Worcester Park.
Electric Spine now at least a decade away The Government has announced that the Midland and TransPennine electrification schemes will be delayed by three years, so not complete until 2022. The Electric Spine between Southampton, Coventry and beyond is not even mentioned, so is unlikely to happen until around 2025, if at all.
Southern ends on-board catering The Govia Thameslink Railway, including Southern, withdrew buffet trolleys from all its services from July. This will affect Hampshire only marginally, as the coastal services to Littlehampton and Brighton never had trolleys, and they were available on Victoria services only north of Horsham.
No New Milton-Bournemouth trains at Christmas Trains services will be withdrawn between New Milton and Bournemouth during the Christmas/New Year period to allow maintenance work on the Christchurch river bridges. Many trains will terminate at / start from Southampton or Brockenhurst rather than New Milton.
SWT threats tamed by DfT SWT has been replacing its penalty fares posters with cross-company, DfT sanctioned, ones. The old posters referred to a penalty fare and/or prosecution. The new posters just refer to a penalty fare.
New livery for SWT's diesel trains SWT has started applying a new livery to its diesel units. The doors are yellow instead of orange, which provides higher visibility. More interesting is the addition of a sharks' teeth motif towards the carriage ends - comment seems superfluous.
All-electric service to Lymington Monday-Friday trains on the Lymington branch are due to switch to electric operation from the May 2016 timetable. Weekend trains are already operated by electric stock.
SHRUG response to Network Rail's Wessex Route Study
"I attach a response on behalf of the South Hampshire Rail Users' Group. We are grateful for the opportunity to comment.
The proposals are commendably detailed and will no doubt be subject to further development over time. We have therefore arranged our comments under broad headings, and hope they will be helpful.
* Wessex is increasingly populous, a driver of the national economy, and one of the most heavily-trafficked sectors of the national rail network. Investment should be proportionate for economic, environmental, health and social reasons.
* Crossrail 2 raises issues about passenger flows around Waterloo and when there is disruption in the suburban area.
* It is doubtful whether some of the other proposed infrastructure improvements are sufficient to sustain the suggested level of traffic increases, particularly around Southampton and Portsmouth, and between Basingstoke and Reading.
* Illustrative timetables showing how communities outside the London suburban area would be affected by service development options would be helpful.
* The Southampton area could benefit from a local 'metro' service of the kind being developed for Bristol.
* There are far-reaching benefits from maximising the movement of containers by rail.
* Rolling stock should be fit for purpose, and simply cramming passengers to increase profits when fares are often uncompetitive should not be an option.
* Poor passenger satisfaction scorings could result in future governments diverting investment to road-building programmes or being distracted by previously discredited ideas such as converting commuter rail routes to intensively-operated busways.
Need for a strategic vision
The demand for commuting to London already outstrips capacity. The inevitable overcrowding can only be exacerbated by the rate of house-building in the area. Much of this is concentrated along the already overcrowded routes between Waterloo, Portsmouth and Southampton. There appears to be a lack of joined-up thinking which allows blocks of new flats, advertised as commuter-friendly, to mushroom close to severely overstretched rail services at places such as Basingstoke and Woking. Dense populations mean good profits for house builders and rail operators, but ever greater discomfort for commuters. In addition, the recent revival of the nineteen sixties' concept of merging Southampton and Portsmouth into a Solent City is likely to increase the market for local transport within that area as well as for commuting to London.
Southampton is the second largest container port in Britain, and its success has strategic importance nationally as well as locally. Creditably, the proportion of container movements in the area which travels by rail has increased to some 36 per cent. However, the area around the container terminals is seriously affected by road traffic congestion and pollution. The latter has been monitored and health warnings issued at times of greatest risk. As with passenger traffic, the case for investment in rail freight seems clear-cut. Movement of containers by rail should be maximised.
Passenger capacity in the suburban area
Commuters pay considerable sums to travel to work in London yet often have to stand for an hour or longer even when the service is fully operated, which it virtually never has been in the past year. In addition, it is extraordinary that SWT is allowed to design for more severe overcrowding (4 standing passengers per square metre) than other train operators. In conjunction these factors have social consequences (impact on health and family life) and economic consequences (a tired work force).
Part of the capacity shortfall is hidden in statistics. It is clear that punctuality is abysmal. For the 4 weeks to 6 December 2014, SWT mainline punctuality was just 77.6%, with a moving annual average of 87.1%, against the charter standard of 89%. For suburban services, punctuality was 80.4%, with a moving annual average of 89.5%, against the charter standard of 92%. The proportion of scheduled trains actually operated is purportedly within charter standards. However, our monitoring of live running data shows that, every month, up to around 1,000 SWT services haven't been running their full route or making all scheduled stops, and the loss of capacity through short formations has been equating to some 200-400 full-length trains.
Basing passenger satisfaction solely on the NRPS data is misleading, since passengers are asked to rate the journey they have just made. This has no relevance for commuters who need a satisfactory journey every day. There is also little point in making comparisons with the ratings of other operators. SWT consistently performs poorly and it is no consolation to its passengers if some of their counterparts on other networks are marginally even less satisfied.
Whether or not the service is fully operated at a particular time, delays are endemic, leading to an unreliable workforce and lost working hours. In total the social and economic costs of performance shortcomings in the Wessex area must be enormous. It would be useful if these could be quantified both for illustrative purposes and to strengthen the case for investment even more.
Capacity enhancements - general
The options for infrastructure enhancements such as additional tracks and a Woking flyover (discussed for decades) are clearly essential to meet passenger growth. Additional turn-back facilities can be useful for increasing services over parts of routes with particularly high passenger demand, but can disadvantage passengers by encouraging operators to turn back delayed trains short of their scheduled destinations. For example, the revised layout through Havant station was presented as making services more reliable, but seems only to facilitate turning back trains before they reach Portsmouth, worsening reliability for the dumped passengers.
Capacity enhancements - Crossrail 2
Crossrail 2 would obviously help to address capacity issues, both across central London and by diverting some SWT suburban branch services away from Waterloo. Two strategic considerations appear paramount:
(1) Huge numbers of passengers change at Clapham Junction between Victoria and Waterloo services. Crossrail 2 would increase the proportion of trains heading to or through Victoria and decrease the proportion heading to Waterloo. This raises issues about capacity between Clapham Junction and Waterloo, particularly given the regeneration of the South Bank and ease of transferring by foot between Waterloo and the southern entrance to Blackfriars station for Thameslink services towards Bedford, Peterborough and Cambridge.
(2) The concentration of services between New Malden/Raynes Park and Waterloo means that any major incident on this section can lead to SWT services collapsing over a wide area, with additional adverse, social and economic consequences. This contrasts, for example, with services through Croydon, which head to Victoria, London Bridge and Thameslink's London stations; and with services through Dartford which have three separate routes to Cannon Street and Charing Cross.
Suppose the Crossrail 2 tunnels could extend to west of New Malden, with Crossrail trains taking over services to Hampton Court, Woking, and Guildford via Hinchley Wood. This would he
lp meet both the strategic considerations outlined above: (1) Clapham Junction should be left with capacity to accommodate stops by mainline peak SWT trains, which are a longstanding major commuter aspiration. This in turn would increase capacity between Clapham Junction and Waterloo by removing the need for many commuters to travel to or from Waterloo on mainline services and then retrace their journeys on suburban trains.
(2) When there is major disruption on the New Malden-Waterloo section, long-distance trains are often turned at Guildford or Woking or diverted over the circuitous route via Staines. The latter option would appear virtually impossible to operate after the introduction of additional scheduled services through Staines. However, with the Crossrail service pattern outlined above, passengers could switch to Crossrail services at Woking or Guildford, whilst the Hampton Court Crossrail services would be left with capacity for passengers from Surbiton and stations eastwards.
The proposal for further deployment of carriages with 2+3 seating on long-distance main line services to help address capacity shortfall on suburban services is shocking. Fifty years ago, BR introduced the prototype XP64 carriage which was designed on ergonomic principles for passenger comfort and has influenced the design of long-distance carriages ever since. At a recent meeting with Haslemere rail users, the current rail minister accepted that the outer-suburban units operating between Waterloo and Portsmouth were not designed for that route and one of her officials undertook to raise the issue in the context of the extension of the SWT franchise from 2017 to 2019. However, history suggests that there will be no satisfactory outcome under the current operator. There are other means of increasing capacity, such as converting first class coaches to standard class, and reducing off-peak fares to increase incentives to travel outside the peak. When the current SWT franchise was awarded, the government announcement "expected" reduced season ticket fares in the shoulder peak. This was ignored in the quest for increased profits.
Double-decker trains also merit consideration. However, these are always considered to need longer station dwell times for loading and unloading. Twitter regularly exposes an already unacceptable situation on SWT whereby doors are shut in the faces of boarding, and even alighting, commuters to allow trains to depart punctually. Double-decker trains would therefore seem more suited to outer-suburban limited-stop services. Some routes, such as Waterloo-Basingstoke, have no tunnels, though there are some lesser impediments such as an aqueduct.
The proposed AC electrification of the lines from Basingstoke to Salisbury via both Andover and Salisbury is welcome for environmental reasons, including eradication of diesel trains under the Waterloo roof.
With longer, electric, trains operating between Waterloo and Salisbury, the less-populous Salisbury-Exeter route would presumably retain diesel operation long-term. This could be advantageous in terms of connectivity. The West Country now has no direct services to anywhere south of the Salisbury-Waterloo route. Some journeys, such as Bournemouth-Plymouth are remarkably circuitous or involve multiple changes. The routes west of Salisbury might therefore be served by a raft of services between Brighton/Portsmouth/Bournemouth, via Southampton and Salisbury, to Bristol/Cardiff/Plymouth (potentially via Okehampton if that route is reinstated), so that most journeys in that regional axis could be made with no more than one change of train.
The longstanding idea of running Weymouth-Bristol services in and out of Yeovil Junction, providing connections with Salisbury-Exeter line services also appears worthy of further consideration, since it could create a rail hub for a wide rural area.
Turning to freight, it is clearly sensible to have two electrified routes available between the Southampton container terminals and Basingstoke, but there appears to be no alternative route available between Basingstoke and Reading. Are the freight operators expected to maintain their modern fleets of diesel locomotives just for when Basingstoke-Reading is closed through train or infrastructure failures or for routine engineering work, or could Network Rail provide a small contingency diesel fleet? The alternatives might be dual-voltage electric locomotives operating via Chertsey and Kew, providing the live rail could provide sufficient power, or early infill electrification between Salisbury and Chippenham/Bath. The latter would also enable electric passenger train operation between the South Coast and Bristol/Cardiff.
Traffic from Fawley is already negligible as oil is now transferred by pipeline.
Clarity of outcomes
The clarity of the projected medium and long-term outcomes is noticeably uneven. Residents in the London suburban area can expect improved capacity and reasonable service levels in any event. Outside this area, choice of infrastructure enhancements and timetable options could have widely varying effects and rail users cannot guess how far particular options might meet their travel needs. For example, how would "high-speed" services to Bournemouth impact on the remainder of the passenger network? It would therefore be useful to append some illustrative hourly service patterns based on a range of assumptions.
This problem can be illustrated historically. The final British Rail timetable had weekday departures from Waterloo to Southampton every 20 minutes, the three services per hour taking 69, 79 and 84 minutes. Current times are 74, 77 and 93 minutes. Although one of the three trains is now two minutes faster, this involved removing a stop at the important town of Eastleigh, a focus for prospective further housing developments. A similar service pattern on the Waterloo-Portsmouth route had trains taking 81, 85 and 98 minutes. They now take 88, 92 and 119 minutes. The current impoverished services appear to be a by-product of re-organising the SWT mainline timetable to provide a 15-minute shuttle from Waterloo to serve the significant first class market at Haslemere.
>From the 2007 timetable, the standard-hour service at Totton, the fourth largest town between Southampton and Weymouth, was cut by 60%. The 'standard-hour' journey time from Waterloo to Totton increased by 25 minutes, and from Totton to New Milton and Christchurch it roughly doubled. Data from the Office of Rail Regulation show that entries and exits at Totton station increased by almost 118,000 (71.7%) in the five years before the change, more than at any other station between Southampton and Weymouth except Bournemouth, Poole and Brockenhurst. In the following five years it broadly stagnated while growth continued apace elsewhere. It is vital to avoid wasting resources on such unattractive and disadvantageous scheduling if rail use is to be maximised.
Short-term timetable development outside the suburban area
Long-distance timetable development needs to take better account of demographic change. South Hampshire, in particular, is becoming increasingly suburbanised. For many decades there has been a tendency for residents to move out of the established urban areas to medium-sized population centres such as Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford, Hedge End, Fareham, Totton and New Milton. At the same time, the larger towns and cities are seeing big influxes both of students and of workers from other EU member states. There is also a trend towards constructing luxury accommodation within city centres.
Overall, therefore, the demand for rail travel in the region is, and is likely to remain, considerable but neither concentrated nor uniform. Faster inter-urban journeys have been achieved in the past and should be restored and improved even further, though not beyond a point where other significant markets are neglected or disadvantaged.
As the study confirms, there is already a serious capacity deficit in the region. To a considerable extent this arises from failure or delay in implementing objectives identified in the Strategic Rail Authority's Strategic Plan of January 2002. Such objectives included:
* Longer platforms developed at Waterloo and 60 other stations between 2002 and 2005 to accommodate 10-car trains. This was purported to have been agreed between the SRA and SWT, so was presumably delayed when the second SWT franchise was reduced from twenty years to just three through unacceptable performance. The operator's promises of 'gold plating' of track in the London area where the infrastructure, and hence the service, now collapses day after day similarly disappeared. There is at a last a programme to bring in second-hand carriages to provide longer trains, but even that is running a year late.
* The west bay (formerly platform 5) at Southampton Central to be returned to use in 2004-05.
* A half-hourly service seven days a week between Portsmouth Harbour and Bristol Temple Meads by 2005-06.
* Infrastructure changes at Worthing Central to allow fast trains to overtake slow trains (potentially facilitating the acceleration and increase of services from Brighton to Hampshire and beyond).
In addition, the original specification for the current SWT franchise included electrification of the down loop west of Totton station, which would have afforded greater flexibility in timetable planning.
Quite apart from the capacity deficit on Waterloo commuter services, the Southampton-Portsmouth area desperately needs a more attractive pattern of passenger services now. A report commissioned by the previous Minister for Portsmouth identified rail connectivity in the Solent area as a prime aspiration, yet no proposals evolved, and timetables which improved incrementally during half a century of post-steam operation now appear set in stone.
Given past delays and current shortcomings, some quick wins, alongside longer-term objectives, are highly desirable. A few suggestions:
* Longer trains on the Portsmouth Harbour-Cardiff Central service which can suffer from severe overcrowding. A new fleet of four-car units was in prospect a few years ago but never materialised. Proposals to convert the class 442 Wessex Electric trains to diesel sets with class 43 power cars could provide an economic solution.
* Just one train unit is required to allow the Southampton-Newcastle service to increase from two-hourly to hourly (the trains already run as far south as Reading). These trains have an advantage over the Bournemouth-Manchester service in that they provide good 'same-platform' connections to and from Portsmouth Harbour at Winchester. If necessary, a few additional container trains might be diverted via Westbury to provide the paths.
* Other possible deployments for diesel Wessex Electrics, or stock displaced by electrification schemes, might be more Brighton-Bristol trains (as proposed in the current study) or Bournemouth-Bristol services (Great Western was reportedly given running rights from Southampton Central to Poole from 2017) allowing Bournemouth passengers to travel to the West Country with a single change at Salisbury or Westbury.
* Southern's Victoria-Gatwick Airport-Southampton service could be restored through to Bournemouth, one of Britain's few resorts of international status. The SRA cut the service back from Bournemouth to Southampton (causing further congestion at Southampton Central during turnarounds), despite proven demand for the through service, in order to help SWT gain an acceptable level of performance.
* The routeing of Brighton-Southampton services via Southampton Airport should be regular instead of token, given that some 20% of airport users reportedly come from that geographical axis.
* The Portsmouth-Southampton line currently has about the worst inter-urban service in the South East, with fast and stopping services arriving and departing at Portsmouth a few minutes apart in each hour. It is hard to believe that an additional hourly service could not be incorporated. Observation suggests that passenger traffic on Southern train services from Southampton is heavily concentrated on Havant, Chichester and Gatwick, so an additional Southampton-Portsmouth hourly service would seem to deserve priority over more Brighton-Bristol through services. In addition, both the Botley and Netley routes already accommodate extra trains during planned and ad hoc diversions arising from infrastructure failures or maintenance, suggesting that there is already available capacity.
* Stopping services between Southampton and Bournemouth could be served by portions off faster services to/from Waterloo as currently happens in the commuting peak. This would provide a much more attractive service than the ludicrously slow Waterloo-Poole off-peak service, with its long layovers at Southampton Central and Brockenhurst.
* Some minor changes are urgently needed, such as closing the gap in Southampton-Eastleigh services between 07.38 and 08.35 on Mondays to Fridays. Imagine the outcry if such a poor service ran between Brighton and Worthing.
Government needs to modify the franchising regime so that passenger train operators (four in the case of southern Hampshire) meet periodically to develop optimum timetable patterns in relation to public aspirations. The current lethargy poses risks for the rail industry, particularly on SWT with its abysmal passenger satisfaction scoring on the value for money of its tickets. Already, one think-tank has raised the old chestnut of converting railways to busways. The danger is not that this is ever likely to materialise on any big scale - the hurdles are enormous - but that a future government may feel obliged to undertake a root-and-branch review of transport expenditure, slowing down the investment which the railways need. In addition, improvements to the road network will mean rail has to become more attractive to maintain demand.
2043 passenger service specification
The Wessex Route Study's proposals for operation through Southampton Airport Parkway (3-5 trains per hour to Waterloo; an hourly service to both Manchester and Hull; an hourly service to Paddington via Heathrow; the Salisbury-Romsey local service; plus 4 freight trains) is ambitious, even with the proposed lengths of extra track.
The Government's strategies for airports are not yet final, but in principle the proposed direct service to Heathrow would be a particularly welcome enhancement. There are also possibilities of providing better connectivity with Stansted via either Crossrail or Crossrail 2.
It is unclear why the current two-hourly weekday service between Southampton and Newcastle (with a token daily extension to Edinburgh) via Doncaster and York would be replaced by an hourly service to Hull. Is there evidence to support the case for concentrating services on Hull, when York / Newcastle / Edinburgh are all major rail hubs and high-demand destinations and Hull is a terminus?
Some Cross Country services have already had their journey times extended by one hour through re-routeing via Newcastle instead of Preston to protect revenue on the West Coast franchise. Has re-routeing Southampton trains off the East Coast main line at Doncaster been conceived simply to protect revenue on the East Coast franchise?
The total of four freight trains, two Cross Country trains, two local services and one Paddington via Heathrow train every hour between Basingstoke and Reading looks unrealistic, even with a flyover at Basingstoke. These services will mix with Paddington services from Newbury and the West of England at Reading West, creating a substantial bottleneck. A further flyover at Reading West or additional tracks look highly desirable, and probably essential.
Rather oddly, proposals for services on the regional route through Fareham, Southampton and Salisbury appear much more detailed than those for the main line, yet more-intensive timetabling in the area as a whole would suggest that all services will need to mesh very tightly.
Portsmouth and Southampton - grasping the nettle on capacity
The proposed capacity improvements, such as additional tracks and flyovers, are clearly essential for realising the level of growth anticipated in the Study. An expanded Southampton Central station would also help operationally. In any case, this station is in a very poor state and generally has poor facilities relative to its importance.
That said, the current congestion, conflicting movements and delays in the Southampton and Portsmouth areas suggest that, notwithstanding such enhancements, the very substantial increase in passenger services envisaged in the Study needs something more radical.
In addition, what about further potential growth in freight traffic, given that container ships are getting ever larger? Health and environmental considerations suggest that every container which can travel reasonably economically by rail from Southampton should do so, further increasing capacity pressures.
Portsmouth suffers not only from rail congestion, but can be cut off from the national network for extensive periods by a single train failure. What is needed is a 4-track railway southwards from the triangular junction east of Cosham station, so that trains via Fareham can access Portsmouth & Southsea station independently of trains via Havant. Ideally the 4-tracks should extend through to Portsmouth Harbour station, given the ferry links to Gosport (Britain's largest rail-less town) and the Isle of Wight.
Proposals for service increases in the Southampton area seem to be based on funnelling a train through Southampton tunnel every three minutes. Given the mix of trains, stopping patterns and junctions around the city, this seems unrealistic. Southampton needs a 4-track railway westwards from Central station to Redbridge to facilitate the movement of container trains alongside the wide range of passenger services. Ideally, it needs a direct tunnel eastwards from Central station to Woolston. This would usefully shorten the route to Portsmouth via Netley. A rail line crossing the River Itchen to Woolston was discussed in the nineteen seventies when the Itchen road bridge was built, while abandoned proposals to convert the Netley line to rapid transport would have seen trams actually crossing the bridge. With a shortened route, the Woolston-St Denys line could be abandoned, or retained as a link to Northam train depot (use comparable with the old St Enoch approach lines in Glasgow).
Portsmouth already has reasonable services at local stations, but this radical expansion of capacity at Southampton could facilitate operation of a limited metro service such as is being developed in the Bristol area, covering such population centres as Romsey, Winchester, Fareham, Totton and Hythe."
Information documents on www.shrug.info
The following papers are available as stand-alone items on our website:
Group's updated History of South West Trains under Stagecoach With over 170 source references, this records, through the voices and observations of many, including Ministers and other Members of Parliament, how ethically-limited Stagecoach, with its founders as major shareholders, quickly undermined performance and expunged quality through stripping assets; abruptly dismissed critics in terms which avoided the truth; gained a second franchise, at huge expense to taxpayers, to clear up the mess it had created, delaying investment in capacity for a decade; and then gained a third franchise by offering an unrealistic premium; reduced or removed every remaining vestige of quality; and further boosted profits by wrong-footing and intimidating honest members of the public at every opportunity.
Group's response to Network Rail's Wessex Route Study This focuses on strategic issues around handling traffic flows from Wessex in the London area; infrastructure and capacity issues between Basingstoke and Reading, and in the Portsmouth and Southampton areas; and the need for illustrative timetables to show the overall effects for passengers of timetable options.
Group's response to DfT's consultation on the Rail Penalty Fares Appeals Process This welcomes the initiative to provide a measure of protection against Train Operating Companies' unreasonable treatment of passengers, but illustrates why much more is needed in order to counteract, for example, the extraordinary rapacity of greed-driven Stagecoach.
Outline of the development of diesel and electric train services from Southampton This illustrates how passengers' widely-held preference for journeys avoiding a change of trains was gradually met by service development, and how many of the gains were reversed in the course of franchise reshaping - a rarely discussed disadvantage of franchising.
Acknowledgements / Contact details
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.
Address for correspondence: Denis Fryer, 19 Fontwell Close, Calmore, Southampton, SO40 2TN (email@example.com).