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More mixed messaging on the railway

Tuesday 20th July 2021

I made six train journeys on Saturday and experienced more mixed messaging leaving me wondering whether our Government controlled railways along with the train companies really are interested in attracting passengers back on board particularly following yesterday’s withdrawal of Covid restrictions.

During the early months of the pandemic messaging was all about not using public transport. “Avoid public transport” was the official Government line and we all did. In huge numbers, “to protect the NHS and save lives”. Passenger numbers fell to an almost unmeasurable 4% in April 2020. Trains were running pretty much empty up and down the country needing billions in subsidy. Timetables were reduced, in some cases by about 50%, but services had to be maintained to provide transport for “essential workers”.

Alarmed at the scale of the herculean task of attracting passengers back when activity opened up again last summer we started receiving messages railways were perfectly safe with RSSB even telling us you only had a 1 in 11,000 chance of catching Covid on a train.

Fast forward through the Autumn and Spring 2021 lockdowns to the situation applicable from yesterday, hailed by the right wing media as ‘Freedom Day’, and passenger numbers have already recovered to almost 50% with mask wearing, in my experience, already on the wane especially among teenagers and young adults, who ironically are at the biggest risk of spreading and catching the virus due to being largely unvaccinated.

At the same time we’re in the midst of a new ‘pingdemic’ with the NHS app assiduously telling millions of people they must isolate with its consequential devastating impact on staff availability and service reliability.

Take Saturday for example, when I travelled to Huddersfield and Denby Dale for the day.

In what’s becoming almost a regular feature of weekend rail travel on the Brighton Main Line, three of the four trains between Hassocks and London Victoria/London Bridge between 06:30 and 07:30 were cancelled. That’s worse than the reduced service for the 4% of travellers during lockdown 1.

How are the “essential workers” supposed to get to work now? I understand 400 of the 7,300 staff employed by GTR are currently self isolating at the moment which can’t be helping, but weekend unreliability is not a new problem. It’s endemic in many parts of the network. I understand the entire Cumbrian line was shut down on a recent Saturday.

London Underground is suffering a similar staff shortage especially at weekends which taken with engineering works is decimating the network. Yet again on Saturday there was no service at all on the Metropolitan Line due to a shortage of control room staff as a consequence of lockdown and social distancing restrictions impacting training over the past year. But how is this enabling those “essential workers” get to work now?

Saturday’s Underground status

Then I had to endure the complete farce that is LNER’s current service offering and its ludicrous policy of compulsory seat reservations. I booked my ticket on the 08:33 from Kings Cross to Leeds last Tuesday being allocated a seat in coach B. The next day, Wednesday, I received an email to advise the train formation would now be different so “seat reservations will not apply”. The same thing happened to me on the same journey a few weeks ago too.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise as that journey is now allocated to a diagram worked by a Class 91 and Mark 4 set of coaches rather than an Azuma. I read about this regular occurrence in a rail magazine a while ago so it should be well known to LNER’s computer and makes you wonder why the company is causing unnecessary confusion and distress to its customers?

All the more so on Saturday because as passengers were boarding at Kings Cross there was a look of bewilderment on the faces of everyone walking up to the front end of the train with their seat reservations in hand in search of a missing coach A who’d obviously not seen and read Wednesday’s update. They ended up wandering into coach B wondering what to do.

Meanwhile Train Manager Charlotte was introducing herself over the PA telling us about all the usual introductory stuff including what tickets you couldn’t use on the train (“those marked Thameslink, Great Northern, Grand Central and Hull Trains” – such a welcoming way to greet us all) and explaining there was “no coach K due to a mechanical issue so could passengers use coach L or coach M instead” but no mention of the missing coach A and insisted in a forceful tone “you must sit in your designated reserved seat”.

It wasn’t much good telling that to the puzzled passengers displaced from coach A who were wandering up and down coach B trying to second guess which seats might not be reserved by passengers yet to board at Stevenage and Grantham – where we went through the same debacle as more distressed coach A passengers boarded.

Was it beyond LNER’s organisational ability to have a member of staff posted by coach B on the platform reassuring passengers what to do in what must be a regular occurrence? Yes, it seems so.

This isn’t just a one off experience. This is happening nine times every day in each direction. Currently departures to Leeds from Kings Cross at 08:33, 10:03, 10:33, 14:03, 16:03, 17:03, 19:33, 21:33 are all scheduled for a Class 91/Mark 4 as well as the 23:00 to York. That’s a lot of bewildered passengers.

I took a walk through the train after we’d left Grantham and saw just how illogical the computer allocated seat reservations system is seemingly having no regard to sensible spacing for social distancing. There were just 14 passengers in coach D with 30 in coach F and of course Coach B was doing heavy lifting due to the missing coach A with 36 passengers. Coaches C and E each had 18. After Doncaster and Wakefield it was every boarding passenger for themselves as it’s quite clear from the body language none of them have bothered with seat reservations for their local journeys to Leeds making a complete mockery of not only the whole policy but the company too. Quite why managing director David Horne keeps spouting out the defence LNER’s “research shows customers are satisfied with the system” is beyond me. It’s quite clear the real world is saying different.

And just one more LNER anecdote to finish this tirade: yesterday, I travelled from Kings Cross to Leeds with a friend, and as we had separate tickets and were inevitably allocated seats in different coaches, I used LNER’s online seat reservation system on Sunday evening (remember “you can reserve seats up to five minutes before departure”) to reserve two seats together specifying a preference for a table and forward facing. I was given two seats together in coach A airline style and backward facing. What is it with LNER’s software? Is it deliberately using “Computer says No” whatever the request? In the event coach A had four spare unreserved tables FOR THE ENTIRE JOURNEY. So we took a chance and sat at one.

This is not the way to encourage passengers. Can you imagine a family trying to make a journey and being faced with such a ridiculous situation?

Back to last Saturday’s trip, and from Leeds I took TransPennine Express across to Huddersfield; always a busy route, especially on a summer Saturday morning so I was full of dread when I heard the platform announcement that the 11:07 train originating in Hull and bound for Manchester would be formed of three, yes three, coaches. What are TPE thinking of putting out a three coach train on a journey like that? I’ve lost count of how many new trains the company have introduced over the last year or so – they even boasted about the roll out on one of those ‘fly on the wall’ Channel 5 documentary series last year yet here we are, a ‘packed to the gunnels’ train on the eve of ‘Freedom Day’.

Luckily quite a contingent got off at Leeds but there was also a platform full waiting to board. I decided to go to the rear of the train only to be met with a Bakerloo Line Underground train style ‘No Entry’ notice insisting the rear section with twelve seats was “Train crew only”. Except no train crew were using it. Fortunately they were in the cabs.

Meanwhile the equivalent space at the other end of that coach was almost full of passengers.

And the bit in the middle was busy too.

I tweeted a photograph of this on Saturday which set off quite a dialogue between TPE staff justifying their need for an isolated area from passengers in case they have to travel passenger between stations during their duty and others who pointed out the nonsensical nature of leaving seats out of bounds on already busy trains.

I didn’t join in that exchange but was alarmed to receive official news from the TPE Twitter people that this arrangement will “remain in place” from 19th July. They also reckon “aisle seats … will become available”. Erm, they obviously haven’t seen what’s been happening in the real world already then.

My point about this is one of principle; I acknowledge it’s only 12 seats out of commission but if trains are safe for passengers to travel in – as the RSSB and train operators keep telling us – then why aren’t they safe for rail staff too? Why do rail staff need special treatment not available to members of the public? It creates a very poor impression and sublimely implies trains are not safe.

One argument is that staff are at work so more stringent ‘Health & Safety At Work’ Act rules apply for them than to passengers who are not at work. That sounds a very ‘jobsworth’ argument to me. What about those “essential workers” in hospitals using the trains to get to work who were our top priority in Spring 2020? What are they supposed to do now?

It’s muddled mixed messaging.

The Train Manager sat in splendid isolation in the rear cab for the journey – where you’d think there would also be a socially distanced “aisle” type seat for any other crew member needing to travel “on the cushions”.

Then on my Northern operated two coach Class 150 from Denby Dale to Sheffield it was another extreme with an energetic Guard rushing up and down the busy train selling tickets to boarding passengers as well as having to keep darting back to the rear of the train to open and close the doors at each station.

It made me wonder how it can be that a TPE member of staff can’t even sit among passengers while travelling as a passenger but a Northern one can sell tickets to passengers and deal with their queries and questions up and down a crowded train.

I felt sorry for him, not least because I was taken aback at just how poor mask wearing was among passengers boarding in Barnsley and travelling to stations down to Sheffield. He never let up in trying to get to everyone to sell a ticket even though about at least half a dozen escaped his clutches.

Next my East Midlands Railway train from Sheffield to St Pancras had a small number of passengers occupying the first class areas where I’d treated myself to a ride south thanks to a bargain advanced purchase on the EMR website last week. Our tickets were impressively checked by the ‘hostess’ as she served us a hot drink and minuscule packet of Pretzels almost immediately on leaving Sheffield.

I noticed the woman sitting across the gangway from me had a standard class ticket but offered to pay the weekend upgrade (EMR thankfully haven’t joined the scam that is SeatFrog) and was advised by the ‘hostess’ the Train Manager would have to sell that to her and he’d be around soon. He wasn’t, He never appeared and neither did we get another drink on the 2 hour journey.

Finally, from St Pancras it was back home on Thameslink to Hassocks and luckily the journey I caught wasn’t cancelled. This was an uneventful journey until East Croydon when three unmasked young adults joined the rear declassified first class section and started booming out music to the whole rear end of the train from a portable sound system.

Which brought an interesting contrasting day of mixed messaging experiences to an end. If I wasn’t a dedicated ‘bus and train user’ I’d be seriously thinking of taking the car next time.

The railways have got a long way to go if they’re intent on attracting passengers back. Some consistency in messaging might help. As would mandating mask wearing.

Roger French

BusAndTrainUser View All

I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.

29 thoughts on “More mixed messaging on the railway Leave a comment

  1. Sadly, this is typical of ‘out of touch’ management who have no concept of the real world. You obviously allowed plenty of time to reach King’s Cross for your LNER service or the whole itinerary would have collapsed like a pack of cards. Less experienced travellers would, with justification, be put off using the train again.
    Hopefully, rail management will read Roger’s post and drag themselves out of cloud cuckoo land into the real world being experienced by passengers – their customers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with John, but would bet that his hope will be in vain: managers appear to exist in a fantasy world of their own construction – impermeable to criticism and to thoughts that are not their own.

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  2. I travelled back from Hove on Sunday and Southern was in a right state – with short-notice cancellations due to power failures, signal failures, delayed previous trains, or crew shortages (depending on who was doing the announcement). On the plus side, it looked like as many trains as possible were being turned out as 12 car formations.

    Many of the delays seemed to be caused by shockingly poor dispatch procedures. It took ten minutes to empty out a cancelled train at East Croydon because rather than go coach-by-coach they left all the doors open for the length of the train, meaning that newly arrived passengers on the platform were constantly boarding previously emptied parts of the train.

    The result was of course trains which were full to standing capacity by late afternoon, even before the big rush back from the coast started early evening. Fortunately, almost every passenger I spotted was still wearing a mask.

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  3. LNER launches Seat Sure as lockdown restrictions are eased in England (20th July)

    David Horne, LNER Managing Director, said: “We’ve been working hard throughout the pandemic to design new ways of making journeys by train – which is the most sustainable method of long-distance travel – as accessible, enjoyable and appealing as possible.

    “We’ve made booking tickets and travelling with LNER even smarter and introduced new products that make the whole experience of rail travel even more enjoyable. …..

    …. “Seat Sure allows us to avoid overcrowding, which we know is important for our customers, whilst helping us manage planned disruption by making data more readily available for people travelling or planning to travel with us.”

    https://www.railadvent.co.uk/2021/07/lner-launches-seat-sure-as-lockdown-restrictions-are-eased-in-england.html

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charlotte, if you are reading this, please add the word ‘please’ to your vocabulary. It makes so much difference. And this applies to all other ‘Charlotte’s.

    Thank you.

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  5. Another very clear message from Roger regarding the appalling mess of the railway system. Why do the railway bosses not take note of the extremely valuable free information he provides? The vast majority of the public have no idea of what is going on behind the scenes and this probably suits the railway hierarchy who no doubt would like to keep their incompetence hidden from sight. It is only thanks to the efforts of Roger and his numerous colleagues that such valuable information is made public. I think Roger should be offered a high profile position such as a correspondent with a major newspaper in order to produce a weekly update on his findings that can be read by anyone without a Twitter account

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    • Railway bosses don’t take note because they don’t run the railway. The DfT do, and we all know how customer focused they aren’t.

      Never mind, it’ll all be wonderful when GBR take over!

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  6. LNER compulsory seat reservation system. Why do the on-board, at seat screens never work. Surely a pre-requisite for such a system. As for reserving seats up to five minutes prior to departure, how does this work? How is the data uploaded to the onboard information system? It obviously isn’t judging by all those blank screens.
    I made a journey between Newcastle and Edinburgh the day after the England v Scotland game at Euro 2021 only to find my reserved seat about to be occupied by a just released from the police cells (Scottish) football fan who boarded in front of me. When I challenged him it was me who was requested to ” ******* chill out pal”. Even anti-social distancing wasn’t possible.

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  7. All Northern’s on-station ticket machines were out of use at the weekend due to back-office problems, so ticket issuing was down to the enthusiasm or otherwise of train guards.

    With nothing to go anywhere for, and EMR local services reputed to be operating at random, I hadn’t been on a train since October, but I had an invitation to Birmingham on Saturday and Bamford, in the Hope Valley, on Sunday. So I went to Derby station on Wednesday to restart my railcard. I asked the (EMR) booking clerk “What’s the situation with Cross-Country as their website shows all their trains on Saturday morning as sold out”. “Oh” she replied, “they aren’t selling many advances but we’ve been told to sell as many as we can on the day.” “What about next week?” “Don’t know, we haven’t been briefed yet”.

    Real Time Trains told me on Saturday that the 9.10 was a 5 car Voyager rather than a 170, so I caught that. It came in with only one door unlocked, as it had just called at a short platform, but the guard then announced that all the train was available so please spread out. So I moved to a nearly empty coach. From Tamworth it was quite busy, the booked 2 car 170 would have been very cosy.

    I intended to catch the 17.49 back, which was the same Voyager. This time it had an empty first class coach, two full standard and two locked out of use. So I waited for the 18.03 to Edinburgh, which was a double Voyager with the rear unit unreserved, so I had a comfortable ride in a 20% full coach.

    Sunday morning was another double Voyager, but was the opposite way round so I got in the reserved unit without realising. Only window seats and couples/groups reserved. I sat in an empty seat “Reserved from Birmingham to York”. As you would hope on a sunny Sunday, Northern ran all the Hope Valley stoppers and the 195s I used were blissfully cool and comfortably, but not excessively, full. Sheffield’s screens announced no service on the less-scenic line to Leeds via Moorthorpe due to crew with Covid, with no replacement bus. I went home on a not very busy EMR Meridian.

    Every train I caught was on time, and the air conditioning was working, so I had a good weekend, particularly thanks to XC putting formations on Real Time Trains. But if I had believed their website I would have used my car both days.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “The railways have got a long way to go if they’re intent on attracting passengers back”.
    Pre-pandemic the railways were struggling to cope with the numbers travelling on many routes, and we’re already carrying standing loads on inter-urban and suburban trains off-peak as all the shopping and boozing crowds celebrate their fweedum.
    Just because InterCity TOCs have priced themselves out of the market doesn’t mean the rest of the railway is the same.

    Mind you, I never did understand why so many commentators have this apparently never-ending love-in going on with GNER/VTEC/EC/LNER. Ever since privatisation they’ve treated their customers appallingly (although GNER fawned over 1st class while being obnoxious in STD), yet to listen to people you’d think they were amazing. I really don’t get it.

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  9. Your blog confirms that train travel at present is much as I thought it would be. So, now we’re at step 4 of the “so called” roadmap and with new virus infections spiralling upwards (even though double jabbed), it’s the car for long journeys and maybe the bus for short journeys, until the public health crisis is under control. No way by train for me under the farcical conditions you have described.

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  10. I must say that despite others negative experiences, I am yet to have any issues with train travel myself since the first lockdown – I have been on some fairly busy trains but nothing cancelled or even majorly delayed, most staff are friendly and most passengers are following the law (although the percent who aren’t is increasing).
    As for LNER, all of their trains I have been on have been very busy so it would seem they are doing just fine – makes you wonder how no private company could run this route when GWR, whose trains I have been finding to be much emptier, has been run by first for many years.

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  11. I caught the 1920 Weymouth to Waterloo train last night (the penultimate train through to London). At Dorchester South we were held due to a signal failure between Wool and Poole. After about 20 mins the guard announced the train was terminating and returning to Weymouth, and that everyone should use the help point on the station to arrange onward travel. There were 55 people on the train, and his idea of each person or group queuing up to use the one help point was clearly ludicrous, especially as it was taking an age to be answered each time. There was clearly no need for the train to return to Weymouth so soon, so why on earth could the guard not find out where people wanted to go, and pass this on to control ? Anyway, as I said, it was taking ages to get an answer from the help point, and the people answering did not seem to understand no trains were running. Added to that you kept being cut off and next time someone different answered, so had to go through the whole proceedure again. With the help of someone else, I decided the best way was to find out where people needed to go to, so we compiled a list, and eventually got through to someone who sounded sensible and took the details down, but then never said what the plan was and just cut us off. Someone with a young baby used the help point to call the police as she was getting very worried about getting home, and although concerned, said there was nothing they could do. After about an hour, I luckily got through to the same lady who we gave the list of people’s destinations to, and asked for an update, she said they were struggling to find any available taxis (despite several on the rank at Dorchester, they could not use, seems they can only use taxis they have an account with, which in this case is in Bournemouth), but said there would be a bus service from Weymouth to Poole. Asked what people would do at Poole, which I know is also unstaffed, she said we could get a train to London. I had to point out that the last train to London had already departed, which she had clearly not thought about, she then cut us off. By then about half the passengers had phoned for lifts, paid for their own taxis, or gone to stay with local friends, leaving just the long distance people left. One girl had got a quote for a minibus to London, but needed all 10 London people to make it viable (even then would have been £55 each), but most were not prepared, or able, to pay that much (would SWR have refunded it?). I looked up hotels in Dorchester, but every one was full, and was struggling to find any in Weymouth either. I found a staff phone marked ‘control’ and got a friendly chap, but guess he worked for network rail, as said he was aware a bus from Weymouth to Poole was leaving at 2030. If this had run, it did not call into Dorchester South.
    At about 2130, two hours after we had got there, a taxi arrived saying he was going to Poole and Southampton. It was too full for me to get into, but soon after another one arrived for Bournemouth. Knowing Bournemouth had staff, I thought the best idea was to get there first, but could not persuade the other passengers that this was a good idea. So I had the taxi to myself to Bournemouth, where the station supervisor immediately found me a different taxi to Waterloo (again on my own), costing them £312. At least I got home (albeit having missed the last tube), but I do wonder if the people still waiting at Dorchester got their taxis.

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  12. We all know that the railway industry live in their own insular little world with absolutely no thoughts of cost control.

    Taxi fares shelled out like this are common practice, even their own traincrew transport costs ridiculous amounts. I heard during last year that all traincrew had to have at least a 16 seater to themselves as a car (taxi) wasn’t deemed covid secure enough. I know of at least one coach operator which has a fleet of Yutong midicoaches still servicing this demand, each carrying a single member of traincrew between locations.

    Another fact which annoyed me no end was the rail industry’s refusal to furlough any staff. A commercial guard around here is on £39k basic, yet they were paid full wage and for 60% of the time last year they were on home standby, where I believe the accepted practice was to turn your phone off so as to be uncontactable. Scandalous.

    I continue to commute each day to my essential worker job, and use two or 3 different operators. None are very good. One who I use for the first leg of my return trip most days has failed to operate it 4 times over the last 8 weekdays, either blaming train faults, infrastructure issues or no crew.

    Last night I worked late and just about found a train home at 2045. The last two trains from a large city back to their base 40 plus miles distant were both cancelled. Although I have to say that operator is at least advertising something near to a full pre Covid service, and has done since last July.

    The third operator who I use have singularly failed throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of key workers, with the ‘service’ covering a shorter dayspan, their claim to be running 70% or 90% of normal service presumably being justified by using 10 or 12 car trains on journeys which are normally only 4 car so the ‘mileage’ the stock is covering may be 90% but the crew requirement and actual number of services is closer to 40 or 50%. If and when they are required to run anything like a full service again goodness knows what state they will be in. They are already losing service for no crew, presumably no helped by outdated staffing practices and the aforementioned not answering the phone despite being paid mentality.

    I have to wonder what level of service the bus industry would provide if we had railway levels of cash. One of those operators listed above only have 8 guard duties a day at their local base, but there are 14 rostered shifts. 6 spares for 8 duties. 75% spare coverage. Unbelievable to any bus industry onlooker.

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    • “the rail industry’s refusal to furlough any staff”
      It wasn’t the rail industry which refused to furlough staff. The DfT instructed franchisees not to do so.
      It surprises me that so many people seem to believe that the train companies have control over what they do given the amount of publicity there has been about DfT’s constant micromanagement and utter incompetence.

      “I heard during last year that all traincrew had to have at least a 16 seater”
      Don’t know where you heard that, but as far as most train companies are concerned it’s utter bull.
      There was a requirement imposed on the industry to use seven-seaters to guarantee the 2 metre separation between people that HM government decreed, but that only applied if there were no screens between the taxi driver and the passenger, so black cabs were always acceptable and ordinary cars became acceptable as soon as screens were fitted.
      Yes, only one passenger was allowed in each taxi, but that applied whether it was a taxi for staff or a taxi for a paying customer.

      “outdated staffing practices”
      I’ve been told I’ve got outdated staffing practices throughout my career, generally by people outside the industry who either believe everything they read in the Daily Mail or who don’t like concepts such as 12 hours rest between shifts and don’t seem to realise that those things were imposed on the railway by the safety regulators of the day after people died in nasty accidents. When they find out the truth, they tend to be rather surprised.

      As an example, though: there are no hours regulations or RTA breaks for traincrews. The only limits on shift lengths and consecutive days worked are the guidelines of the Hidden recommendations which were brought in after a lot of people died in the Clapham accident, and which the railway industry really didn’t want to comply with. Even when I started two years after Clapham it was normal to work 12 hours minimum every day, 13 days in 14 (and the 14th day off was only so you could return first thing in the morning on Monday).
      So instead of regulations we have “outdated staffing practices” which are negotiated between employers and union reps.

      “75% spare coverage. Unbelievable to any bus industry onlooker.”
      75% is utterly excessive by rail industry standards too, so I suspect the number of staff at that depot predates a reduction in turns and the company has chosen to carry the extra staff temporarily.
      It’s not that unusual to carry staff; I’ve worked at depots which have 50% more shifts in the summer than in the winter, but the way the railway operates and the training requirements for safety critical staff mean it’s more hassle than it’s worth to employ seasonal staff, so in the winter the depot appears to be massively overstaffed. Every so often a new set of managers will turn up, look at the winter operations, assume the depot is overstaffed, ask for volunteers for early retirement or redundancy (which are always oversubscribed, which in itself should always suggest things aren’t as rosy as they’re presented), and then discover the next year that they can’t run the summer service as they have nowhere near enough staff. And then you have staff carried while work is being reallocated around depots or companies by the DfT; a colleague has just moved companies to a depot which has taken on 50% more staff at the instruction of the DfT, all of whom will be carried (in the form of spare turns) until such time as the DfT signs off on the transfer of a route from another TOC. That depot may end up having more spare turns than running turns until the transfer happens, which is ridiculous – but it’s the natural result of the DfT’s requirements.

      I believe that the bus industry also doesn’t have some of the frankly excessive “safety” requirements which the railway has, particularly in terms of safety critical staff’s competence and health.
      As a driver, at my current employer I’m taken off driving duties for a full day’s assessment every two months, with a hard time limit on each one meaning that if I’m not assessed in time my licence is effectively suspended (my previous employer had the same general regime but handled it differently and it was only the two-yearly competence renewal which had the hard time limit). And the company is short of qualified assessors, so…
      Any incident, however small, is an automatic suspension from working pending investigation. For a guard that would mean, for example, unlocking the train doors at the wrong face of a bay platform even if both faces are permitted for use by passengers (imagine a bus driver being taken off driving for dropping off at the wrong stand in a bus station!).
      For a minor driver incident, well, I was taken off driving for over a week after sliding one door past the end of a platform despite the black box download confirming that one vehicle of the train had developed a fault so wasn’t braking effectively and the investigators clearing me of responsibility the same day; it was a week before someone senior in the hierarchy could be bothered to confirm that I was allowed to drive again.
      Being prescribed medication by my GP means I’m taken off driving duties until the company’s occupation health contractor can be bothered to answer the email asking if I’m still allowed to drive (my record is 14 days off driving waiting for an increase in blood pressure medication to be approved by them, which is ridiculous).
      And so on and so forth.

      Put bluntly: it’s not the terms and conditions of the staff, outdated or not, that are the problem on the railway. It’s the whole darn setup.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Venturer makes good points. It is high time that this nonsense stopped. We seem to be back in the 1970s with a strong union effectively taking the mickey out of the taxpayer.

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    • Which union is that? The RMT, which has membership lower than 50% in each grade it supposedly represents and loses almost every dispute it gets into? ASLEF, which has rolled over and purred every time it’s been offered a few pence extra in every dispute and negotiation for the past 20 years regardless of the wishes of its members? TSSA, who are and have always been utterly irrelevant? Unite, who most people aren’t even aware have members on the railway?

      Do enlighten us.
      With the truth, please, not whatever rubbish you read in the Daily Mail.

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      • Well, the disruption caused to commuter services in the South-east comes to mind – an RMT dispute, I believe. My information coming from someone living in Guildford, who needed to get into the City to work. He spoke of people losing their jobs, or having to move house to somewhere with a more reliable service. I don’t read the Daily Mail.

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  14. I enjoyed my first all line rover last week. On all trains there were seats for all Monday to Friday although all my reserved seats were backwards with a window if you were lucky.
    Saturday was different LNER from Leeds to Peterborourgh was almost full with nearly all seats reserved. Something to do with some rugby games I think. Plenty of people waiting at Peterborough for the 09.45 to Norwich which was a 2 car 156. On leaving Peterborough there were seats beside other passengers including myself but excess passengers preferred to stand in the vestibules all crammed together. Lucky it was a 156 so all windows open and train well ventilated. No problems going into London but arrival at Paddington found our train cancelled and told to join the Swansea train as far as Reading. On arrival advised to go to platform 7 but this was later changed to platform 11. Our train finally arrived and after a 20 minute wait while the driver had his break we left 52 late.
    An excellent week with only the one late train.

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  15. There is a definite whiff of a return to a 1970s regard on how passengers are regarded in the air now. A discussion on Twitter highlighted train carriages with large areas taped off to allow the occasional staff member to occupy when travelling to or from work, or when “on the cushions”. This was defended as being essential to provide a safe area for staff. So I asked if passengers could be given “safe spaces” too? The response was “Passengers can choose whether to travel or not, but staff don’t have the choice”. The mentality says it all.

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    • Back to railways being run for the benefit of the staff. Time to review the taxpayers’ contribution to this scenario.

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  16. Coming through Victoria NR Station this evening a poster suggested it is a good idea to wear a mask as a courtesy to other passengers (not the exact wording). Yet on my Southern train home there were more than one recorded announcement that “you must wear a face mask”. On a fairly empty evening train it makes sense to follow the latest government advice – it is not necessary to wear a face mask. But how does this compare with recent clubbers; football; tennis; golf; racing fans? Anyone involved in clubbing or sport is different to anyone who does not share these hobbies.

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