Seen around

This month’s pot pourri of observational miscellany from recent travels.

Not First

Greater Anglia has invested in an impressive new fleet of trains including the rather nice Class 745 which offer first class seats on the Norwich to Liverpool Street service. A problem arises when one of these trains is unavailable and substituted by one of the same class but as used on the Stansted Express which aren’t fitted with first class, nor tables.

It happened to me one day last week and I was given a little printed card by the Train Manager with details of the journey and a reference number “to claim your refund for the difference in fare” involving going online and scanning the card and ticket with a completed form to GA’s customer service team.

I had a dilemma about doing this, as the advanced first class fare I bought online from GA’s website the day before travel for only £19.80 (with Railcard) was actually around £3 cheaper than the standard class advanced fare, so I was a bit worried I might get surcharged rather than refunded.

But I’m always up for a ticket reimbursement challenge so submitted my form and attachments as instructed only to receive a reply saying I needed to upload an image of my “defaced ticket” before “a refund of the difference between our Standard and First-Class fare for the affected leg of the journey” can be made.

The instructions hadn’t included anything about defacing the ticket and bearing in mind it’s a one-off advanced journey specific ticket, this seems just an unnecessary bureaucratic requirement. Anyway, I duly complied and by return received confirmation I was entitled to a refund of £4.95 and it would be paid into my bank account in “up to 14 working days” which just goes to show it’s always worth pursuing these things, even if there seems to be no logic to how refunds are worked out or advanced tickets are priced.

GWR fail again

Meanwhile over at GWR I haven’t received such speedy responses, which sadly is all too typical of the (contracted out) customer service function at that company; GWR don’t want to deal directly with passengers. I claimed a refund for the tickets I was unable to use on Saturday 2nd October (and the days either side) for my trip to Cornwall that weekend, when I had to resort to driving to Truro due to the rail strike. I filled in a claim form online in advance of the date of travel on 22nd September receiving an acknowledgement that day. After 10 days, on 2nd October, I received another auto-generated email expressing “apologies for the delay in processing your claim that we received on Thu, 22 Sep 2022. We are currently experiencing high volumes of claims which is preventing us from assessing your claim as quickly as usual.”

On 10th October ‘GWR Customer Support’ emailed me “to be able to assess a claim fully we need complete ticket information. Unfortunately, the ticket image you provided was not cut in half. We will re-evaluate your claim if you can submit a new claim, providing an image clearly showing your ticket cut in half.” which I did the same day receiving an acknowledgement by return. After 11 days, yesterday, I received another auto-generated email expressing “apologies for the delay in processing your claim that we received on Mon, 10 Oct 2022. We are currently experiencing high volumes of claims which is preventing us from assessing your claim as quickly as usual.”

I’ll update you on how this progresses in next month’s ‘Seen around’.

I found North Greenwich’s information and assistance window open

It’s not often you find anyone sitting behind the “speak here” glass screens at Information and Assistance points in TfL’s bus stations, but on a recent visit to North Greenwich I did just that. Which was a nice surprise.

Swish new next departure signs

My eye was caught by the ‘next train’ sign photographed below at Shepherd’s Bush Overground station which shows details of the next four trains in both directions together with an indication of expected capacity. (My photograph doesn’t do justice to it, I think the wonky lines are to do with the digital nature of the screen – you don’t see them in practice).

The one thing it does is show the number of minutes before the next departures rather than the actual time which resulted in an interesting debate with my friend Geoff, who I was with, as to how helpful this is.

Welcome aboard

I see buses on TfL routes now have a bright red ‘Welcome’ notice fixed to cab doors. Nice to see a more positive welcome than the previous more officious messages.

Nottingham station’s foyer display

It’s always a pleasure to visit Nottingham by train and see the great displays in the foyer about onward travel by bus but I was a bit surprised on my recent trip to see the leaflet racks are now in the outside hall some distance from the real time departure screens.

It seemed to work better when everything was together. And also, next time I hope there will be an improved selection of timetable leaflets including Nottingham City Transport’s and TrentBarton’s networks,

Newark’s bus station

I was impressed with the layout, airiness and cleanliness of Newark’s bus station on a recent visit …

… and all the more so for its manned information window.

Digital displays

Travelling out of High Wycombe towards Wycombe Marsh and Loudwater I spotted this timetable display on a bus stop which looks like it’s a digital display. I couldn’t really see from the bus but it looks worth investigating further to see if this is something that might be a useful development for the future.

Promoting rail travel

It’s always good to see promotion of branded railway lines – often the work of active Community Rail Partnerships who have the benefit of funding from the DfT and train companies. These posters were spotted on Ely station platform. If only a similar concept – Community Bus Partnerships existed.

Adrian Shooter CBE

It’s very fitting to see the statue recently unveiled at Marylebone railway station of industry legend Adrian Shooter renowned for his inspirational leadership of Chiltern Railways until his retirement in 2011.

Extremes of smartphone etiquette

On my recent journey on TfL’s route 123 I was impressed by the courtesy shown by the couple in the front nearside seat who occupied themselves on the long journey from Ilford to Tottenham High Road by listening to music on a smartphone through sharing the earphones, while the woman in the offside seat to the right had a conversation with her friend on loudspeaker so we could all get annoyed by having to hear it on full volume. Why do people do that?

Arterio’s sidelined in sidings

If you go to South Western Railway’s website there’s a page telling you all about “our brand-new fleet of 90 trains set to transform travel on our reading, Windsor and West London suburban routes”. The Arterio fleet built by Bombardier in Derby has involved “investing a massive £1 billion in a new fleet of trains which offer more capacity, quicker journey times and better reliability and punctuality for our customers.”

The only trouble is, they were originally due to start running in 2019 but were “unveiled in August 2020 during a special event at Wimbledon depot” and since then have been stuck in sidings including some at Clapham Junction where they tease SWR’s passengers who can see them from the over-bridge while being crammed into old rolling stock which should have been replaced by now. There’s no official explanation of the continued delay at introducing the trains into service, but that’s the rail industry for you.

Luggage

Passengers carrying hordes of luggage are a big issue on rail these days. The invention of suitcases with wheels changed the dynamics some years ago. I’ve seen people wheeling four large suitcases (two with each hand) as well as having other bags around their shoulders and balanced on top of the suitcases.

The National Conditions of Carriage for Luggage state “you may take a single item of hand luggage that must be capable of being held in your lap if required, plus up to 2 items of luggage each not exceeding 30 x 70 x 90 cm in size.” Lumo’s conditions limit passengers to just one large item. It wasn’t clear whether the woman below, spotted at Victoria Underground station, was continuing her journey by train!

EMR’s train wash

Why is it whenever I travel with east Midlands railway the train exteriors are absolutely filthy? This has being going on for years. The first photographs here are from 2020…

…. but my journeys since then, including this week were just as bad. Does the company not want its passengers to see out of the window? Has it not got a train washing machine?

Sun visor annoyance

While travelling from Mallaig to Fort William in the early morning a few weeks ago we were heading directly into the sun as it rose in the east so the Shiel Buses’ driver of the high floor bus/coach obviously lowered the sun visor to protect his eyes.

The only snag with this is, it blocks out the forward view for all passengers. It would be good if manufacturers could come up with a solution to this – couldn’t the top part be translucent?

Crazy excuse for train delays

Another bizarre station announcement at Hassocks station the other day. “Passengers are advised this train may be delayed after Burgess Hill due to a problem under investigation between Horsham and Three Bridges”, which for those unfamiliar with Southern railway geography is a complete nonsense. Burgess Hill is the station immediately north of Hassocks and further north on the Brighton Main Line comes Three Bridges with Horsham located south west of that on another line altogether (the Arun Valley line). Whatever the “investigation” into the “problem” came up with it wouldn’t impact my London bound train from Hassocks. Yet more irrelevant ‘noise’.

And to finish off, here are this month’s Seen Around Awards

Dirty Bus Shelter of the Year Award

There are dirty bus shelters and there are dirty bus shelters. This one spotted between Soham and Ely could do with a bit of a clean before winter sets in.

Award for the Most Imaginative Bus Stop Name

Stagecoach have named bus stops on their routes in Cambridgeshire with many using names of roads, pubs or other landmarks to identify the location. Perhaps no-one was quite sure what the name of this church is to include on the bus stop plate.

Most Interesting Real Time Display To Film Award

This real time display on a totem alongside Cambridge bus station has bus information on both sides…

… by destination in a random order…

… with absolutely no logic to the presentation at all, but a member of the local bird population has left its mark, and watch out for a YouTube video featuring it.

And finally for those who like a ride on a vintage bus, I spotted this in Biggleswade yesterday advertising a commemorative service running half hourly on Sunday week (30th) to mark the end of an era when Stagecoach end their involvement in routes 72/73 between the town and Bedford via Sandy.

But the good news is local family owned Grant Palmer are taking over the route and have already got posters up all along the route reassuring passengers it will continue and the new timetable is available online and will also be available in printed leaflets.

Well done Thomas from Grant Palmer.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThS with occasional Su Specials including tomorrow … 10 takeaways from young managers

37 thoughts on “Seen around

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  1. Thanks for another interesting blog.

    Your item ‘Most imaginative bus stop name’ made me think of a story I heard: while driving around rural Virginia (where there are no country buses) my friend stopped at a village store, to ask where he was. The answer was ‘Mendota’; he replied (accurately, but somewhat rudely) ‘But you haven’t got a sign saying ‘Mendota’. The woman drew herself up to her full height and said ‘Well we all know it’s Mendota’. I guess that everyone in the village you passed through knows which church it is…

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  2. In 1969, travelling up to Cambridge from Highams Park (1st abolished in 1941) with a large trunk (allowance 112 lbs 2nd, 150lb 1st) as we all did in those car-scarce days, I had to buy a first-class ticket, as the cost of the extra fare was smaller than the excess luggage charge. Though entitled to 1st my whole working life, I never used it; I think first is an awful anachronism, and merely panders to snobbery, whilst messing up seat availability. Shame, I think, on GA for providing it on the Norwiches, but good on them for abolishing it everywhere else!

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  3. It now appears that most of the routes being proposed to be withdrawn in Cambridgeshire are having replacement services provided

    The 915 though is not listed but strangely on the Herts Interlink site when you look at the timetable it refers to it as being suspended from the 30th of October and also mentions a service 26 as a partial replacement. I have found no timetable though for this service 26

    I can only assume that at least a partial replacement for the 915 is being worked on
    I would have thought if that is the case trying to get Stagecoach to continue the 915 service for a week or two would have been sensible. As it is passengers using this service are being left in the dark and will also be left without a service for a few weeks assuming a replacement service actually happens
    A lot of the problem seems to be the current process for cancelling services is not really adequate for councils to go through a tendering process and organise replacement services. It is something that needs to be looked at

    One option for the 915 would be to cut out the tour of Royston it does other buses could cover that. It would probably need the loop it does to serve Foxton cut out as well that would cut the journey time from 1.11m to around about 45 minutes

    There seems to be no real need for bus companies to give the minimum notice currently required. There ought as well to be proper publicity of proposed bus cuts as at present there is next to no notice if any at all given to passengers

    https://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/news/updated-combined-authority-board-approves-outcomes-of-tendering-process-for-withdrawn-bus-services/

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    1. The problems for the 915 are not just too few passengers, but less the bureaucracy than no-one has the spare resources, and traversing two authorities. At last they’ve co-operated, but what a struggle!

      At last it looks like it’ll stop the duplication with the local sponsored 16 in Royston and go two hourly. It hasn’t the passengers to support anything more, and presumably a single bus, as in fairness the former longstanding Stagecoach East manager pointed out several years ago, before the more recent desperate, and unsuccessful attempts to increase patronage. A lesson for us all.
      Not least the Cambridgeshire Mayor and his cronies with their wilder fantasies.
      A least a (small) bouquet to Herts public transport officer whose patience, relationship-building and commonsense paid off. Less of this competitive nonsense. A drowning man doesn’t need a swimming race.

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      1. Stagecoach are altering the Cambridge to Haverhill service. the service remains every half hour but all services now run as a 13

        Stagecoach in a somewhat strange move are going to operate an hourly service in Haverhill

        A concern has to be reliability when they are operating a service so remote from their nearest garage

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      2. Service 915 represented an early attempt by Stagecoach (and its predecessors) at integrated transport. It inevitably clashed with Herts Fortress Interlink, in a battle reminescent of Sheriff P. Coltrane’s Dukes of Hazard. I fought the Council and the Council won. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
        In a battle between politics and the passengers there can only be one winner. The Mayor lost against the old order in this case. He needs to learn fast.
        The result is a defeat for modal shift, in favour of Herts, public transport only where necessary, and the same link for Cambridge as for the other Herts towns. Good politics, but is it what the passengers want? Who cares?

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  4. According to the poster you show, the Biggleswade special bus service is on 30th October, not tomorrow as you say, which is the 23rd?

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  5. Morons on public transport? They’ve seen stars doing that on Love Island and think that that is the way you use a mobile. Of course, those telly people do it that way because the sound technician has to get both sides of the conversation and they are too cheap to buy a wire to connect to the phone, so the actor has to yell into the phone so we all have to get it too.

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    1. There was all that fuss about radiation a few years back, too; I suspect that also has something to do with it.
      “Yeah, but I saw on Facebook that if you put the phone by your ear it’ll kill you…”
      It’s amazing what idiocy people believe.

      It’s always tempting to make a note of people’s credit card details and address when they read them out openly on public transport, then use those details to order them something expensive and pointless with a gift message of “You really shouldn’t give your credit card details out on buses or trains!”

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  6. Welcome aboard > About time too that was changed to be something short and simple

    Digital displays > that is indeed an e-ink display being used. Quite a good little invention and can be adapted for static timetables and also real-time and other communications output. Our mutual friend in Harrogate I believe has one or two. Also I think GNE may have trialed them.

    Swish new next departure signs > that at Shepherds Bush spotted it the last time I was on the WLL, is provided by Blackbox (blackbox-co.com) whom have provided the replacement of CIS to GA/WMT/ScotRail – it’s an interesting debate about ‘countdown’ version actual time. I suspect the TfL specification may have had something to do with it. Where there’s a frequent Metro train service of 10 and also have other TOC services then should be actual times – which flip to ‘Approaching’ / ‘Arrived’ as the trains are arriving / arrived – especially you are looking for a specific train.

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  7. Good luck with your GWR refund. It took me the best part of the year to get one following a train cancellation rendered my journey pointless. I’d purchased tickets online including Bristol PlusBus. Initial online claim was ignored. On querying that I was told I had to fill in a paper form and post it with tickets! They only refunded the PlusBus element. Every time I queried this by email a new reference number was allocated. The reply each time was that they were editing for their third party payments partner to respond. In the end a quick phone call with my credit card company resulted in an instant refund.

    Later GWR sent a letter of apology and a rail warrant redeemable within 12 months. Covid lock downs put paid to using it. Haven’t been on a train since.

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  8. Roger really does need to move with the times. There is no such thing as Smartphone etiquette. In fact you would get laughed off the bus in Brum at the very least. Personally when having a phone conversation on the bus I always conduct it via speakerphone – Doesn’t everyone?

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      1. You obviously don’t use West Midlands Travels Birmingham City Network daily then perhaps its might now be time to wake up and join the real world here in the 2nd City.

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      2. I’m fortunate enough never to have faced an emergency requiring me to be rude enough to use a mobile phone in a social setting.
        Maybe some of us spend our lives lurching from one crisis to the next? I find there are other, more interesting, things to do in life. Perhaps we should try it?

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  9. I’d suggest that the Shooter monument be relocated to one of the many parkways that he opened rather than at station that actually serves people rather than cars?

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    1. Personally as someone who regularly uses Chiltern Railways the tribute to Mr Shooter is most fitting as his legacy in still evident today. I can’t remember the last time a Chiltern train was late and the Warwick Parkway is very well used. Do you actually use Chiltern Trains we can’t fault them at my local station; Rowley Regis; I can’t understand why anyone would criticise them it’s about only thing Arriva have never managed to muck up.

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  10. Yes it is a shame about the timetable display at Nottingham it’s not rocket science to keep it well stocked,perhaps it’s secretly making its way to the exit to visit Broadmarsh Bus Station down the road lol.
    Oh for the days when you could call a bus station for timetables and they would be dispatched free of charge or with a /S.A.E/and / or Postal Order and be returned with a complimentary slip promptly
    Nowadays it’s much more difficult to obtain hard copy timetables although it seems that they are more accessible from non transport websites than transport ones
    Is it time to put away my rose tinted spectacles ?

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  11. My office window looks out over the Etches Park washer. You’d be hard pushed to see the difference when a train has been through the washer. I only assume all the investment is going into the depot re-build for the Aurora’s and it’s a case of making do with the current setup until the brave new world.

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  12. In regards to the Nottingham rail station timetables – I was there today, the NCT rack was fully stocked, and there was also a TrentBarton rack, it was directly opposite, so off to the right in your photo. There was also a NET tram rack with their printed timetable over that side as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the update Andrew.
      Would this model be to much to expect to be replicated around the country before it’s only online ?

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  13. Is there an award for the longest diversion caused by not being able to get on a bus, well 2 buses actually. Travelled back to Sheffield from Chatsworth the long way late afternoon today as couldn’t get on the 4.52pm due to far too many people trying to get on. Travelled via Matlock (missed the X17), Bakewell (massive queue for the 218 again, which included many left behind by the 4.52 who travelled there instead) and Chesterfield to avoid not being able to board the 218 at Bakewell. Please could you do a report on the weekend 218 services as apparently overcrowding and people left behind happens a lot, for example last weekend one of the last buses left 22 behind at Chatsworth!

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  14. You are right to commend the provision of onward bus information at Nottingham station. It’s far better than I have seen anywhere else.

    Unfortunately this is rather undermined by the map of the “Nottingham Station area” being inaccurate and two years out-of-date. Collin Street (running left-to-right across the top of the map) was closed to all traffic permanently in August 2020 as part of the redevelopment of the Broadmarsh shopping centre and bus station. The road marked as Collin Street on the right-hand side of the map has never been Collin Street; it’s Middle Hill. Canal Street is now a two-way road for buses and cycles.

    The bus stops on Collin Street have been replaced by stops on Canal Street. The open space north-east of Carrington Street / Canal Street (I can’t read what’s printed on the map) was the site of the Broadmarsh bus station, an unpleasant place with a multi-storey car park above. The bus station was closed in July 2017 and the bus station and car park were subsequently demolished. A new car park opened at the eastern end of the site in December 2021, with a new bus station following this year. National Express coaches started using it from June and most local TrentBarton bus routes from late September / early October.

    The Broadmarsh shopping centre (at the top of the map) is closed. Demolition started, then the operators of the centre went into administration in summer 2020. Further comment is inappropriate here, as that’s nothing to do with ‘buses or trains.

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  15. In my previous life as a train driver I regularly used to encounter a bold as brass guy with a huge pile of sound equipment and speakers on sack-trucks waiting at Kidbrooke station to board, no doubt on his way to do a gig!! …

    Of course most of south london is in the staff-less “travel free” zone so there is nobody to ever challenge any of these Herberts who take liberties with the luggage rules (or indeed any of the other conditions of travel, for that matter)

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  16. Roger’s local operator, Metrobus, also serves a few vaguely named stops. The 281 & 291 stop at “Petrol Station” on their way out of Crawley. I think there are others, but that one certainly sticks in the mind.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a very ordinary bus stop in Cardiff near a major road junctoon called “Interchange”.

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  17. Back to basics. I’d go back to the question where we started over 50 years ago. Does public transport have any future apart from leisure travel? No, still seems to be the answer, clearer than ever; as evidenced every time by this blog. Can we though afford to subsidise leisure, (like eat out to help out, or its in-laws, ride out to help out, so beloved of Roger and those of his ilk) however electorally popular among its (minority) beneficiaries?

    Buses Back Better is coming to mean mean reduced frequencies, service and route cuts and reduced operating hours, in order to survive; and will have to be making do with what we’ve got, not buying expensive toys or ego trips. Management games, and LTAs, are a waste of time, and money. What is needed beyond the basic road traffic laws which apply to everyone? We may have got rid of paper timetables, but behind the scenes (and sometimes front of house) replaced them with every other bit of digital paperwork we can think of.
    In modern parlance, it’s unsustainable. Or in Anglo-Saxon, just plain nuts.

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    1. One final thought. With the halved frequencies, service and route cuts, and reduced operating hours, all of which we have locally, do we have better bus services? Unequivocally, yes. For a start we aren’t so continually struggling to make ends meet. And we rely on random cascades and keeping 20 year old vehicles in service instead of buying the latest new toy. What’s the problem, except for armchair enthusiasts? Real life isn’t a cartoon. Children need to grow up. We don’t have a sugar daddy.

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    2. I am not sure what you mean by leisure travel as in most cases there are no evening services and no Sunday services and even Saturday services are increasingly being axed so the bus is of little use for leisure travel and what little is left at these times is far too infrequent to be of any real use

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  18. Except in the mets, in my experience most leisure use ceases by 9pm or earlier. Even car use drops off dramatically.

    There might be signs of a marginal increase in Sunday daytime use, but sat pm looks in decline, and the evening curfew becoming earlier, perhaps due to the decline in commuting?

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  19. A problem may be that buses seem to have given up on attracting passengers in many cases, but what realistically could they do?

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  20. Think I can explain the GA refund. There are 13 different advance fares for both first and standard. Presumably the cheaper tiers of standard were either never available or sold out for the train you caught but first was still available. This explains the anomaly of first being cheaper than standard.

    The refund will almost certainly be calculated against the equivalent price tier for standard class regardless of availablity. Taking actual availability into account would be incredibly complex to administer given it changes all the time as people book.

    Liked by 1 person

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