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How do we sort our trains?

Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by Gigabit, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. Gigabit


    Joined: Apr 9, 2012

    Posts: 11,776

    It’s pretty clear to me the trains in this country are a total embarrassment and a disaster for commuters. For the country that invented the train and used to lead the way, this should be a real source of shame.

    It seems to me that privatisation has not resolved the issues it was intended to solve. Those being ticket prices, punctuality and overall reliability of the service. It is quite difficult to compare these directly but the sense I get that is for the cost, the service is nowhere where it should be. Were it as cheap as in the rest of Europe, I think most people would be more accepting but for the cost it should be world-class. Punctuality is extremely poor and in-fact “on time” is within 15 minutes whereas in day Switzerland it is within 5 minutes. I don’t get the sense privatisation has improved any of these things at all.

    So rather than just the usual “nationalise it”, what does SC think for how we actually solve this problem? As it cannot go on like this.
  2. StriderX


    Joined: Mar 18, 2008

    Posts: 20,406

    Isn't the issue that they are basically covered by the government for any fault anyway? They have no reason to improve as the government is waiting in the wings to save face, it may be slightly better value for money, but it would appear that especially with the East Coast line... that it's a farce too far.

    How the government can honestly sit there and defend themselves when they let Stagecoach/Virgin get away with a horrible contract costing us billions, and then to nationalise it anyway... the histrionics...

    The issue seems to be that they were never "privatised" at all.
  3. Bug One


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 9,598

    Location: Sandwich, Kent

    I think the problem with trains is actually wider than that.

    I say because my experience of using trains has mostly been excellent - because I catch trains to go to places other than commute to London during peak time.

    So I would argue the problem is that too many people are being forced to commute into London (instead of live there) because houses in London are now so expensive that only 'investors' can afford to buy them - and London requires a lot of people to work there - and will pay accordingly (much more than the surrounding areas) to try to get them in.
  4. Gigabit


    Joined: Apr 9, 2012

    Posts: 11,776

    Technically the East Coast Main Line TOC (the line being run by Network Rail which is Government-owned) hasn’t been nationalised. It is being run by an “operator of last resort” which is still a private consortium.

    It was truly publicly ran until it was re-contracted and ran better before it was. So the reason for contracting it seems to be purely down to ideology. This is what I am trying to get away from here, I would like to hear actual solutions.
  5. billysielu


    Joined: Aug 9, 2009

    Posts: 11,423

    Location: Oxfordshire

    Price is determined by supply and demand. Supply is fixed, demand is increasing, so price is increasing.

    Punctuality and reliability are symptoms of a service at capacity. So how do we add capacity?

    A track can only hold so many trains, and a train can only hold so many people.
    There are more people -> So we need more trains -> But to do that we need more tracks.
    Nobody is building tracks. /sadface

    But there is a genuine choice. Do we want to be transporting people via trains, or do we want to come up with something else?

    The main problem with trains is their top speed is limited because the track isn't straight and they have to keep stopping at stations.

    I think there's scope for high speed train lines to be built, in straight lines of course, from between the most popular destinations, with no stops.

    I also agree on comments about the cost of housing forcing people to commute, but I don't think we can wait for a fix to that problem before we do anything about trains, so I focus on trains for now.
  6. Nasher


    Joined: Nov 22, 2006

    Posts: 13,174

    The government props them up and guarantees a service, so they might as well go back in to public ownership.

    Privatizing has never really saved us money, with anything. They'll cut public sector workers and save 2 million, but spend 6 million from another pot contracting the work out. Because they are now having to fund shareholders and greedy CEOs etc.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  7. Dolph

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 46,960

    Location: Plymouth

    Let's just throw in some reality before we get too far into it.


    This is not to say that there aren't improvements that can and should be made. We need more rail capacity, we need proper segregation of express lines from other traffic, we need modern rolling stock and so on, but it is important to start with a realistic assessment in order to identify what needs to be done.
  8. PlacidCasual


    Joined: May 13, 2003

    Posts: 5,922

    Agree entirely, the problem is the necessity to commute in the first place. Too many of the best paying jobs are too congregated in too few over crowded cities. The regional strategy hasn’t worked in my lifetime. Personally I would like the 7 English regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to get identical devolution settlements and create competition between the regions and spread the wealth of the economy wider geographically. The UK train network does a good job given how many miles exist in such close proximity and the volume of traffic. There is no technological or management magic bullet, we need to reduce the demand.
  9. Gigabit


    Joined: Apr 9, 2012

    Posts: 11,776

    Perhaps something akin to what they do in Germany - where they give money to communities that aren't the capital?
  10. b0rn2sk8


    Joined: Mar 9, 2003

    Posts: 4,513

    Cheque book basically.

    big improvements to east > west links - north > south are far superior
    add more lines to separate 'express' and 'stopping' trains
    straighten lines and remove bottleneck junctions to increase speed
    electrify every line - diesel trains are just rank
    more reliable signalling system
    new rolling stock
    get rid of drivers - computers don't strike, speed, need breaks or phone in sick
    extend the tube to have large 'park and ride' on every major line/trunk road into London/M25 and then replicate in every major city.
    add 'express' tube lines from outer London to inner London.

    The majority of the above basically requires network rail to bulldoze most of that's there already, lots of houses and other buildings and rebuild in a more efficient way. Basically it isn't going to happen.
  11. Gigabit


    Joined: Apr 9, 2012

    Posts: 11,776

    Oh dear.

  12. FortuitousFluke


    Joined: Jul 7, 2011

    Posts: 3,583

    Location: Cambridgeshire

    Direct HS train line from Cambourne in Cambridgeshire to London Bridge. That's me sorted so sod the rest of you.

    I travel from St Neots to London every day and now that the reliability of the service has improved post the implementation of "super good happy fun time table that everyone is going to love" the main issue is really over crowding. The other comments are spot on though, their are too few lines covering the high traffic portions of the network which means overcrowded trains as they lack the space for additional carriages/services, and far less slack in the system leading to knock on delays.

    On the other end of the spectrum you have rural services that are under-utilised and therefore loss making, but which provide a lifeline service for the people who do use them.

    I'd say in terms of physical resource we need a coherent nationwide plan in terms of infrastructure development, and this probably needs to be enacted as part of a wider infrastructure and transportation review, effectively how do we want people to travel, what do we need to do to facilitate that?

    In addition to this moving jobs out of London or encouraging flexible working would help the situation, do you need to be in work 9-5? Could the business operate with 20% of its workforce adopting off peak hours? Do you even need your staff in the office everyday of the week? In this day and age we really should be looking for creative solution that don't just rely on increasing capacity every time there's a jump in passenger numbers.
  13. krooton


    Joined: May 9, 2004

    Posts: 25,186

    Location: Leafy outskirts of London

    Speaking as a filthy Londoner, it would be a huge help if they could develop an M25-esque rail line (like the Circle Line, but further out), but as each quadrant of Greater London is run by a different operator, it will never happen.

    Many people are forced to go in to London, only to go back out again, which causes extra congestation.

    I live in North London, work in Surrey, I have to go through Central even though I don't work there.
    When we move I will have to catch a train in towards London (on the heavily congested Southern services) only to change at Clapham Junction to go back out again. I don't want to clog up the commute of those going in to London to work in London, but I have no choice short of getting a car,
  14. SpartaK


    Joined: Jun 19, 2009

    Posts: 4,363

    Location: London

    Copy the Japanese, problem solved.
  15. Semple


    Joined: Mar 5, 2010

    Posts: 5,525

    Whilst i don't commute on trains anymore, i've done so for many years, so feel i have an experienced opinion to add.

    I'll try not to bias the dreadful journeys with those that have run well, but when the trains run well on a normal day (with no special events sports/music etc) they generally run well.

    The biggest problem is when one of the below factors is involved, the train service generally falls flat on its arse.
    - Weather (hot and cold)
    - Local events (sports/music)
    - Track issues (signal issues)
    - Train issues (faulty train)
    - Staff issues (shortages of drivers)

    For the majority of the above, they are out of the control of a train company, which then lead to overcrowding of other services and further frustrating passengers.

    But the one thing that will wind any commuter up is lack of information/being kept up-to-date. Whether this is at a station and trying to figure out which train you need to get on, or whether you're stuck on the train in the middle of nowhere due to an obstruction on the line.

    The TOC's i'm most familiar with are GWR and CrossCountry. The problems with both i've noticed are very different.

    The GWR high speed services which run from London out to Wales, the trains themselves were generally very good (these typically have 7-8 std class carriages). Catching these in peak times, it was extremely rare to not have a seat, and in most cases uncommon not to have a set of two seats to yourself, so overcrowding was a rarity. This particular route is let down time and time again by the ageing infrastructure, and most delays/cancellations were the result of signalling problems. There was also a section near Chipping Sodbury that was notorious for flooding (the track sat perhaps 10-15 meters below the adjacent fields, which meant the rain would run off onto the tracks) but they've implemented a number of flood defences to stop this happening.

    The XC services which ran from Bristol upto Manchester i tended to have more problems with (perhaps longer journey meant this was inevitable). XC only run 3 std class carriages, and overcrowding was a regular problem. The voyagers typically seat 70 people per carriage, and i kid you not, leaving Birmingham New Street about 18:30, would result in additional 70-100 people standing right through the carriage. In fact you could always tell how overcrowded it was as XC run a trolley service that they walk through the carriages with, and they always had to abandon this around the midland stations.

    The other thing i wish TOC's/Network Rail would stop doing, and that's being overly optimistic with their journey times. They're shooting themselves in the foot with this optimism as that's what's causing passengers to complain when trains are running late. For the GWR high speed service, they regularly used to give 1 minute at the station, and that's for current passengers to get off, new passengers to get on (plus anyone require the disability ramp), and then for the guards to check all the doors. This never took a minute or less, which meant they were always trying to catch up on time. XC have the service from Bristol to Manchester at 2h59m, it was a very rare occasion that it ever took 3 hours, and was typically anywhere from 10mins to 30 mins late. I would much rather they were over-generous with their timings and said it was actually 3h15m from BRI-MAN, if it means sitting at a station for a couple of minutes while being ahead of schedule, then that's fine.

    Summing up:
    - Replace the ageing signalling equipment (repairs don't hold up long enough - flogging a dead horse etc)
    - Force TOC's to run with a minimal number of carriages (on high speed lines) if they want to operate during peak schedules
    - Do a better job of keeping passengers up-to-date with train delays

    I won't bother mentioning costs, as whilst yes, the tickets are insanely expensive. I would bet most commuters would be fine paying the extortionate prices if they had a service to show for it - which means a guaranteed seat, and trains being punctual.
  16. andicole0


    Joined: Sep 12, 2005

    Posts: 6,030

    Location: Robertsbridge

    Convert the tracks to tarmac and only allow buses on them which can overtake when necessary.
    Maybe lay some sort of inductive power for electric buses.
  17. ron3003

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 25, 2006

    Posts: 1,500

    Location: Skegness

    LOL. Does the word sprinter ring any bells ;)
  18. b0rn2sk8


    Joined: Mar 9, 2003

    Posts: 4,513

    It’s probably easier and cheaper to take people off the trains by making housing affordable where it is needed and diversify the jobs market outside of London to make it more attractive.
  19. The Running Man


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 33,208

    Location: block 16, cell 12

    Let's get this right. In London you have plentiful trains. They are frequently on time and are oversupplief on many routes. Every time I go and catch the st pancreas to city Thames link fifor r instance there are often 10+ carriages on the train. Often carrying 2-3 carriages worth of people.

    Now compare this to Manchester to Leeds trains where there are frequently 2 or 3 carriages carrying about 6 carriages worth of people. The trains are often late, cancelled etc.

    Then consider the 'inbetween' stops such as castelton or moston which are about 8 and 16 minutes away from Manchester and on the mcr to Leeds route. Often trains coming from Leeds are full by the time they get to moston or castelton so no.one can get on. Or are delayed or cancelled.

    Basically in the south you have over silly of traivs and carriages and on the north we have nowt.
  20. Semple


    Joined: Mar 5, 2010

    Posts: 5,525

    Glad to see someone else agreeing with the point i made.