Public Transport in your particular part of the region

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Alexia
Posts: 2966
Joined: Sat 01 Oct, 2005 17.50

Fri 18 Jul, 2014 17.15

WillPS wrote:
Critique wrote:Quick question: Why is Northern Rail so awful? I have probably only traveled with them a handful of times but I'm fairly sure one of the trains I was on recently was some sort of converted bus - it had bus bench seats and it was incredibly low quality. The connecting East Coast train, in comparison, was lovely.
You're comparing an InterCity operation with a Regional operation. It's not unlike comparing a coach service to a local bus service.

East Coast is profitable, and returns a healthy surplus to the treasury every year.

Northern is far from profitable, and takes massive subsidies to keep it going.

The muppets at the SRA (since collapsed back in to the DfT) at the time Northern's franchise was let decided that it should be a "zero growth" franchise, meaning passenger numbers would not rise over the term of the franchise and fleet investment would therefore be minimal. The franchise is now over (and Northern still have at least a year or two thanks to the Virgin cock-up in 2012) and passenger numbers are up considerably.

AAND.... the two partners in Northern, Serco (jacks of all trades, masters of none who have just won the new Caly Sleeper franchise off First) and Abellio (Dutch Railways), have, ahem, decided to "consciously uncouple" when it comes to bidding for the next Northern franchise, which may or may not include the Transpennine Express franchise, currently held by...er... First.

We got suspicious that our franchises were under threat when we got our new Reciprical Travel boxes cards which just said "other First services" as opposed to the last one which listed them all proudly.
Critique
Posts: 948
Joined: Mon 17 Aug, 2009 10.37
Location: Suffolk

Fri 18 Jul, 2014 18.32

WillPS wrote:
Critique wrote:Quick question: Why is Northern Rail so awful? I have probably only traveled with them a handful of times but I'm fairly sure one of the trains I was on recently was some sort of converted bus - it had bus bench seats and it was incredibly low quality. The connecting East Coast train, in comparison, was lovely.
You're comparing an InterCity operation with a Regional operation. It's not unlike comparing a coach service to a local bus service.

East Coast is profitable, and returns a healthy surplus to the treasury every year.

Northern is far from profitable, and takes massive subsidies to keep it going.

The muppets at the SRA (since collapsed back in to the DfT) at the time Northern's franchise was let decided that it should be a "zero growth" franchise, meaning passenger numbers would not rise over the term of the franchise and fleet investment would therefore be minimal. The franchise is now over (and Northern still have at least a year or two thanks to the Virgin cock-up in 2012) and passenger numbers are up considerably.
Whilst I now accept they aren't making a profit, I don't believe it's unfair for any rail passenger to expect reasonable continuity in regards to the quality of services. I wasn't expecting a first class service, nor did I pay for one (although of course I did buy a ticket, I'm not trivialmatters), but the quality of the outward train was well below par, lacking many amenities like tables, power sockets and even air conditioning, and using those awful bus bench seats. The return train was also, I believe, a pacer, but it did have proper train seats, and there was no wooden escape ladder on show, so there was some improvement there.

But back to the outward journey, and it wasn't like I was doing some odd rural journey that meant there was no need for it to be a particularly comfortable journey - it was a 45 minute journey into Manchester, so probably often used by commuters, who would benefit from tables, power sockets and the like. It was a busy service and I don't think it's unfair to say that it should have been better served than it was.

Whilst in the future I will probably be more understanding if the quality of a Northern train is below par, other passengers won't be, and will just see it as a very poor service, especially when you pull into a big station like Manchester and see all these nice trains from other TOCs with nice, proper chairs, tables and the like.
Beep wrote:
Critique wrote:I went to Ely the other week and the dot-matrix display kept scrolling something along the lines of 'This is a 'one' railway service to Peterborough.' It's only been six years since that brand was used (turns out it stood for 'operated by national express' and was supposed to unite the former three franchises for the area, but instead just confused people in station announcements - '7:20 one service' or the '7:21 service')
Count the amount of First Capital Disconnect trains which still peg themselves as WAGN and station Thales Matrix Boards that say WAGN/www.wagn.co.uk! Even where I work we still refer to Network SouthEast on some systems! We split things using codes BRB and LUL (not NWR and TFL respectively!)
Turns out that seeing 'one' on the dot matrix wasn't to be the only deceased TOC I would see referenced this month! I received this carrier bag in a newsagents today - why they still have them ten years on is a mystery...

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Despite being basic their branding, on the carrier bag at least, has survived quite well - I did a double take when I received it and began to wonder if Abellio had lost the franchise overnight or something!
madmusician wrote:
Critique wrote:...turns out it stood for 'operated by national express'...
Ooh! I never knew that! Presumably a backronym, as 'one' itself was chosen for its unifying status, I'd have thought...
To be fair I had previously thought that 'one' and National Express were two different franchise holders - there were no similarities between the 'one' brand and then National Express brand adopted in 2008, and I can't remember anything from the time advertising 'one' rebranding to National Express, as opposed to the TOC changing altogether.
cwathen
Posts: 1117
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

Fri 18 Jul, 2014 22.34

Critique wrote:Whilst I now accept they aren't making a profit, I don't believe it's unfair for any rail passenger to expect reasonable continuity in regards to the quality of services. I wasn't expecting a first class service, nor did I pay for one (although of course I did buy a ticket, I'm not trivialmatters), but the quality of the outward train was well below par, lacking many amenities like tables, power sockets and even air conditioning, and using those awful bus bench seats. The return train was also, I believe, a pacer, but it did have proper train seats, and there was no wooden escape ladder on show, so there was some improvement there.
Pacers are so bad because they are non-articulated vehicles - if you look at them closely you will see that each carriage has 1 wheel per corner mounted on a basic suspension, whereas all other (passenger) rail vehicles have the carriage mounted on a bogey at either end, each having 4 wheels. The lack of articulation is what causing the pacer's bumpy ride (and also that awful squeaking sound they make going round corners). The basic bench style seating was standard fit on pacers when they are new, but many have since been upgraded with better seats. IIRC Northern's class 142s still have the original seating whereas their 143s were upgraded so I would say you want out on a 142 and back on a 143. The 143 has a sleeker and more modern looking body and also a slightly better interior, which I think included a compartment for the ladder unlike the 142.

However, you must be lucky where you live then as down here most regional services lack facilities you consider to be a basic provision. Mainstays are class 150 units, which have no aircon and no power sockets. Units which used to be held by Wales & West were were refitted with decent seating and tables, but originally these units were supplied with 3 + 2 bench style seating and no tables (although the seats are much better than on a pacer) which the rest of the fleet still has.

Even on a mainline route into London which I often use - the West of England line run by South West Trains using class 159s has no power sockets in standard class.
Critique
Posts: 948
Joined: Mon 17 Aug, 2009 10.37
Location: Suffolk

Fri 18 Jul, 2014 23.16

cwathen wrote: However, you must be lucky where you live then as down here most regional services lack facilities you consider to be a basic provision. Mainstays are class 150 units, which have no aircon and no power sockets. Units which used to be held by Wales & West were were refitted with decent seating and tables, but originally these units were supplied with 3 + 2 bench style seating and no tables (although the seats are much better than on a pacer) which the rest of the fleet still has.

Even on a mainline route into London which I often use - the West of England line run by South West Trains using class 159s has no power sockets in standard class.
An amenity is a desirable or useful feature or service, and the ones are stated are in no way what I'd consider basic, but I have noticed them appearing on more trains, and the preceding East Coast service (yes it's state owned and not a regional TOC) had them, along with Wifi.

The only TOC operating out of Ipswich Station is Abellio Greater Anglia, who are, on the whole, average to poor (they were ranked very low in a survey about TOCs recently, I believe). On trains with WiFi the signal is awful and it's quite expensive, there are no plug sockets and whilst the interiors are okay they're not great. Coming back from Liverpool Street overcrowding can sometimes be horiffic (ten carriage cars but still people standing in-between carriages), and the few short regional services (like Ipswich to Felixstowe) GA operate don't get the number of carriages and frequency of services they need, particularly in the Summer, when a two carriage train is sent for the service, with about 4/5 carriages of people cramming on. Subsequently, the train guard cannot issue tickets as they cannot move down the train, so often people will innocently avoid paying a fare, GA get no revenue from the service and they subsequently don't send any more carriages as they aren't getting enough money out of it.

However, Greater Anglia are, in the end, quite good in comparison to Northern - since travelling with Northern I do have a lot more patience with Greater Anglia!
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WillPS
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Sat 19 Jul, 2014 22.14

The provision in the Greater Anglia area will always be different (superior, probably) to the provision in the North of England. The whole thing was much clearer under the days of sectorisation, when (broadly speaking) the sector dictated the level of service.

The Pacers are all in a much better condition to that they were in 5 years ago (food for thought!), but it wouldn't be sensible to spend money on them since they'll all be withdrawn in 5.5 years (unless any are bought up to DDA requirements - very expensive due to their step entrances).
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madmusician
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Joined: Mon 11 Dec, 2006 19.11
Location: Worcester, UK

Sat 19 Jul, 2014 22.47

The thing with Greater Anglia (I refuse to acknowledge the Abellio name - it's stupidly long!) is that the rolling stock is *still* assigned to the route depending on whether it was a First Great Eastern or an Anglia Railways service 10 years on! I think that the trains that run on the Norwich to London line are pretty good (these are the stock that came from Anglia Railways) - it's the ones that run from Shenfield (largely) to London (the old First Great Eastern route) that are slightly worse as there are no tables, no luggage racks and seating is harder to come by.

I must say that I think the new stock that First Great Western has just acquired is utterly fab - I had a couple of journeys from Oxford to London on one of these, and it was great - spacious, space for luggage, tables, bright, etc. Far better than the older stock that is still frequently used on that route. Still, the less said the better about FGW - I have had so many problems with their service over the last 5 years.
cwathen
Posts: 1117
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

Sun 20 Jul, 2014 20.37

The Pacers are all in a much better condition to that they were in 5 years ago (food for thought!), but it wouldn't be sensible to spend money on them since they'll all be withdrawn in 5.5 years (unless any are bought up to DDA requirements - very expensive due to their step entrances).
I don't think pacers can be made compliant - AIUI because the train is built on top of a freight wagon the step is needed, there is no way of lowering the floor inside the train. I'm now starting to have serious doubts that the DDA requirements will actually be enforced - there is so much older stock still in frontline use which is non compliant and can't readily be converted that I cannot believe it will be withdrawn as it will just result in a major reduction in the amount of available stock when it is clear that new stock just isn't coming online in anything like the quantity needed to make the 2019 withdrawal date. It's not just Pacers with their two step entrances, but HSTs with their manual doors will also have issues. And that's before you get into situations like 153s which as it stands are non-compliant because there is no wheelchair accessible toilet and it will be impossible to install one as the toilet is at the 'small cab' end of the vehicle - which means as it stands the only way to make these trains compliant is to remove the toilet altogether. I doubt very much that it will go down well with the passengers if they are told that in the interests of removing discrimination because a wheelchair user can't have a wee on a train, then neither can anyone else.

I believe that there will end up being exceptions made for vehicles which cannot be made compliant, or where compliance will come at the detriment to other passengers.
The thing with Greater Anglia (I refuse to acknowledge the Abellio name - it's stupidly long!) is that the rolling stock is *still* assigned to the route depending on whether it was a First Great Eastern or an Anglia Railways service 10 years on!
So do most routes where franchises have merged - FGW stock is still allocated pretty much exclusively according to ex-original FGW, ex-Wessex and ex-Thames Trains/FGW Link routes with no regular deviation.
I must say that I think the new stock that First Great Western has just acquired is utterly fab - I had a couple of journeys from Oxford to London on one of these, and it was great - spacious, space for luggage, tables, bright, etc. Far better than the older stock that is still frequently used on that route. Still, the less said the better about FGW - I have had so many problems with their service over the last 5 years.
That would be the Class 180 'Adelante' trains. Ironically this is stock which the original pre-2006 FGW themselves introduced and then withdrew because they thought they were crap! These trains were originally introduced in late 2002 as FGW's first attempt at a post-HST train for intercity routes out of London Paddington and saw service running the slightly shorter timed express services such as PAD-BRI and PAD-EXD (but did also run further afield too - at one time the 06:00 PLY-PAD was always operating by a 180).

FGW were not happy with the units, and within 4 or 5 years most had been sent back to the leasing company as FGW instead opted to buy additional HSTs outright. They were gone from FGW altogether by early 2009...until some of them came back a couple of years ago running the Oxford route.

To this day the waiting room at Taunton station still has outdated pictures on the wall of FGW's circa-2003 fleet to which the 180's are praised as a 'superb new fleet' which they hope will eventually take over the HSTs!
Andrew
Posts: 260
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 18.18

Sun 20 Jul, 2014 21.50

Critique wrote:Whilst I now accept they aren't making a profit, I don't believe it's unfair for any rail passenger to expect reasonable continuity in regards to the quality of services. I wasn't expecting a first class service, nor did I pay for one (although of course I did buy a ticket, I'm not trivialmatters), but the quality of the outward train was well below par, lacking many amenities like tables, power sockets and even air conditioning, and using those awful bus bench seats.
You've got high standards if you expect all that kind of stuff as standard, I'd think 90% of regional or local services don't have those features, even in areas that have newer trains.
Critique wrote:But back to the outward journey, and it wasn't like I was doing some odd rural journey that meant there was no need for it to be a particularly comfortable journey - it was a 45 minute journey into Manchester, so probably often used by commuters,
Sadly the powers that be think all services in the north are a quiet rural journey hence why Northern Rail are always firmly at the back of the queue when any new or better rolling stock comes available. They've only had 16 new trains since privatisation.

The new flagship northern electrification projects are going to be served by the trains currently used by First Capital Connect on the Thameslink service
Andrew
Posts: 260
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 18.18

Sun 20 Jul, 2014 21.53

Critique wrote: An amenity is a desirable or useful feature or service, and the ones are stated are in no way what I'd consider basic, but I have noticed them appearing on more trains, and the preceding East Coast service (yes it's state owned and not a regional TOC) had them, along with Wifi.
Being state owned is nothing to do with it, the current spec on East Coast was introduced by GNER
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Pete
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Location: Dundee

Sun 20 Jul, 2014 22.24

cwathen wrote:but HSTs with their manual doors will also have issues.
The Class 800s are due to start replacing them in 2017 so I'd have thought it'd be acceptable as they're mid way through being removed.

There are rumblings about the Mk 4 carriages that'll get punted from the ECML by the 801s being redone and pulled by a new generation of diesel locos (possibly an off the shelf Bombardier TRAXX). They can't use the Class 43s as the electrical system is incompatible.

The issue with the toilets in the sprinters is an interesting one and probs one we'll only know the answer to in five years time.



Changing tack somewhat, Labour have been making noises about essentially allowing DOR to remain as a public company that can bid for franchises on a level playing field with the others. Whilst not full nationalisation it's certainly a step away from the odd situation we have now. Opinion pls.
"He has to be larger than bacon"
cwathen
Posts: 1117
Joined: Fri 15 Aug, 2003 17.28

Mon 21 Jul, 2014 20.31

Pete wrote:The Class 800s are due to start replacing them in 2017 so I'd have thought it'd be acceptable as they're mid way through being removed.

There are rumblings about the Mk 4 carriages that'll get punted from the ECML by the 801s being redone and pulled by a new generation of diesel locos (possibly an off the shelf Bombardier TRAXX). They can't use the Class 43s as the electrical system is incompatible.
Is it definite that the HSTs are going altogether? Last I heard they will be phased out on the newly electrified sections of the GWML which means things like an HST from PAD-BRI will be a thing of the past but HSTs will still be retained for services like PAD-PLY/PGN/PNZ where the western part of the route will not be electrified? I would also have thought it would make sense to displace the rest (possibly in a 5 carriage formation) onto longer distance regional routes such as BRI-PNZ and CDF-PGN which are currently often run by a couple of 150's coupled together and are screaming out for something better on such a long journey - the displaced sprinters released could then be used to strength local services which often lack on frequency and/or capacity.

And that's only FGW services, HSTs still see heavy use on non-electrified routes by every other operator that runs them. Apart from the EMT sets which still have the original interiors and 2nd generation VP185 engines, all other HSTs underwent major refurb to include new MTU engines in the power cars in the late 2000's

It would seem a bit odd to have done the MTU programme on the Class 43s and full refits of the MK3s for only 12 years or so of further use which really isn't a long time in train terms - if they were all going to be phased out by 2020 due to DDA then you would've thought that the original Valenta engines could have undergone some sort of overhaul to make them soldier on until then?
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