Saturday 4th June 2022
It’s a week since I completed my spring time seven-day All Line Rover. Here are a few random reflections on my week long travels around the country with apologies to Twitter followers who may already have read much of the following from last week.
1. Checks on first class abusers on Thameslink and Southern are nowhere near effective enough. Although I saw Thameslink revenue inspectors on two early morning London bound journeys south of East Croydon (which included the need to call for British Transport Police assistance when we arrived at East Croydon to deal with a passenger refusing to be constructively responsive) far too many other journeys are unchecked and therefore first class is pretty much universally abused especially north of East Croydon and through ‘the core’. I’d be very annoyed if I was a regular commuter paying sky high first class ticket prices only to find all seats taken by chancers.
2. Weekends are definitely the busiest days of the week for train travel. My two busiest journeys during the seven days’ travels were firstly the 08:48 LNER Kings Cross to Edinburgh on Sunday morning (full and standing) despite further journeys at 08:52 and 09:00 and secondly the 10:11 TransPennine Express Sheffield to Manchester Piccadilly journey on Saturday morning with crammed standing throughout the six coach train. The previous EMR journey had been cancelled from Sheffield which didn’t help but it would have still been busy. But still weekends are the go to time for disruption caused by necessary ‘improvement works’.
3. Manchester Piccadilly’s platforms 13 and 14 were heaving at 11:20 on Saturday morning with departing trains to Blackpool North and Liverpool Lime Street (Northern) and Glasgow Central (TPE) very busy. As a tweeter responded the priorities of the DfT are woeful when the Ordsall Chord was built at huge expense yet now only used by one train an hour but there are still no plans to increase capacity on the Castlefield corridor other than to reduce the number of trains and thereby increase the over crowding per train.
4. Industrial action by both RMT (impacting TPE) and ASLEF (impacting ScotRail) is causing more aggravation for passengers especially at weekends. ScotRail have responded with significantly reduced timetables from Monday 23rd May but was unable to implement this on Sunday 29th resulting in more last minute cancellations. This is doing nothing to install confidence in passengers returning to the railway.
5. Aside from TransPennine Express’s very comfortable seats in first class across its new Nova branded fleets (glimpsed in the above photo), Greater Anglia’s Class 745 have very comfortable seats to travel on, especially in first class. The higgledy piggledy nature of the seat layout still strikes me as odd but I do like the seating. I only travelled as far as Ipswich from Liverpool Street last week but would have given anything for that seat from Kings Cross to Edinburgh.
6. Birmingham New Street had £700 million spent on enlarging and revamping the upper concourse a few years ago and more recently has tried to make it easier for passengers to navigate through the station by highlighting colour coded zones, but it’s still confusing especially for passengers changing trains who unknowingly take the escalator up from the ‘A’ end of the platforms wanting to change from a platform numbered 1 to 5 to any numbered 6 to 12 having to pass through two gate lines as well as a walk round an obstacle course to reach the other platform.
Whereas if using the ‘B’ end of the platform passengers can avoid this by staying beyond the gateline as you change platforms. Note platform 4 is divided into three segments – A, B and C with B and C using the same escalators and stairs.
This diagram below aims to explain the layout and I think after getting lost a few times I’ve now finally understood how to navigate the station – always use the B end to change platforms.
7. Only one on board ticket checker asked to see my Senior Railcard throughout the seven days of travels. The ticket didn’t work any gate line barriers so I gave up and found most staff just waved me through without looking closely at what the ticket was. It was fun to try and use it at Tottenham Court Road (as well as the other new Elizabeth line stations).
8. Timekeeping of trains I travelled on was very good throughout the week. The only exceptions were Sunday’s late running and cancellations between Edinburgh and Dundee commented on in Thursday’s blog and late running by GWR of almost half an hour between Yeovil Pen Mill and Weymouth on Friday late morning.
9. I saw extremes of good and bad presentation of bus information when venturing outside stations. Good would include Carlisle where Stagecoach have long provided a supply of its timetable book for The Lakes in the foyer ….
…..as well as Ipswich where Suffolk Ciunty Council have installed clear timetables and maps in the bus shelters immediately outside the station ….
… and bad would be the displays outside Stafford station which were either out of date, skew whiff or missing completely….
…. and Yeovil Pen Mill where the Bus Link (to the town centre and Yeovil Junction station) is advertised on the bus stop flag but the timetable displayed below it shows the service no longer runs to Pen Mill. (Although I understand this will change shortly).
Also confusing was Gunnislake where one timetable case in the station car park had a correct timetable for route 118 (although the Dartmoor Explorer timetable was annoyingly crooked) …
… while another bus stop by the road alongside the station was displaying an incorrect out of date timetable for route 118.
But a shout out to First Wessex which has finally got its kiosk installed on Weymouth seafront with an excellent display of an attractive timetable and brochure/map showing those operators up who still can’t get the hang of the idea of attracting passengers.
And it’s good to see Weymouth station being renovated with restored platform canopies and an improved frontage where buses will be able to call right outside the station.
10. I always enjoy a ride on Devon and Cornwall’s branch lines and I managed to fit in three on this year’s Rover including Exmouth to Exeter ….
…. Plymouth to Gunnislake …..
…. and Liskeard to Looe.
All were as delightful and enchanting as ever.
11. The Dirtiest trains of the Week Award as usual goes to East Midlands Railway who just don’t seem to take train exterior cleanliness seriously at all. Every time I travel on their trains it’s always the same. At least this time the windows weren’t too bad and I could see out. In the winter it’s a different story.
13. The trend to relocate ticket offices further away from station entrances is continuing. Following Newcastle which holds the record as the furthest distance you can possibly locate a ticket office to cause maximum inconvenience for passengers (which I’ve highlighted in previous blogs) I came across Ipswich last week where Greater Anglia have opened a new ticket office to the extreme left of the station building replacing the previous site right inside the centre by the gateline.
No doubt a commercial retail outlet will shortly be opening in the old location making sandwich purchasing more important than rail tickets.
14. Some train companies have improved their on board Wi-Fi offer with all now doing away with the rather outdated and penny pinching policy of charging for use, but initially I thought Northern were back in the stingy club by only offering 15 minutes of “free Wi-Fi” but thanks to Twitter it’s been pointed out that the “free Wi-Fi” lasts for “15 minutes” unless you register with all your details whereupon the “free Wi-Fi” continues, otherwise it ceases. Not sure why they use the word “free” in the screen on that basis.
15. Catering facilities on trains vary greatly from company to company but there’s too much to cover on the subject here, so tomorrow’s blog will cater for that. Meantime here’s a taster…
Blogging timetable: TThSSu