First Great Western - Transforming Travel eh?

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Techniquest

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A reason to hate First Great Western. Quoted from their website at 1521 today:

15:20 Hereford to London Paddington due 18:27
13:15 Wednesday 28 June 2006
This train will be started from Moreton-In-Marsh. It will no longer call at: Hereford, Ledbury, Colwall, Great Malvern, Malvern Link and Worcester Foregate Street. This is due to a technical fault on the train.

Note an error in that report that I noticed shortly after seeing it...Not sure? It doesn't include Worcester Shrub Hill, Pershore or Evesham in that list where it will no longer serve. I wonder if it's actually left yet, as it is currently 1524 when I write this...

In case you're interested, my reaction was "DUDE! BLOODY HELL!". That's worse by a long way than Central Trains' reputation for turning back trains ahead of their destination!

Other changes they've posted at 1524:

14:06 Penzance to London Paddington due 19:05 12:58 Wednesday 28 June 2006This train will be revised. It will additionally call at: Tiverton Parkway and Taunton.
15:00 Plymouth to London Paddington due 18:27 12:41 Wednesday 28 June 2006This train has been cancelled. This is due to an earlier train failure.
16:00 Penzance to London Paddington due 21:20 12:39 Wednesday 28 June 2006This train will be started from Truro. It will no longer call at: Penzance, St Erth, Camborne and Redruth. This is due to an earlier train failure.

Only a couple of days ago FGW turned back the arriving HST for the 1655 from Cardiff to Paddington at...Bristol Parkway. What would any passengers arriving at Cardiff for it do? If they were there early enough, they would be forced to get the 1625. If they turned up a matter of minutes before the departure time (say 1651), then they'd have to get the 1725. Which is traditionally rammed normally, I dread to think what it would have been like the other day...Turning back a HST at Newport would be slightly less unreasonable, in that there are (relatively) frequent trains to Cardiff from there. But to start back at Bristol Parkway, that's dreadful.

Didn't First promise to run trains better than this when they took over all (bar Virgin and SWT) services in the the region? If this is their idea of doing so, I'm sorry but I'd rather have National Express Group back with their TOC name of Brunel Trains. Better yet, I'd rather have the old system back, with Wessex Trains, FGWL and FGW. That worked much better than this way of doing things.

All I can say is these two sentences:

- I'm glad I'm no longer claiming to be an FGW fan

- Words fail me...
 
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devon_metro

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Blimey, has there been enginering or any faults or is it just general train failures? I havn't had a delay since the first day of First after Wessex.
 

Andrew

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Just to say that the 1520 Hereford to London Paddington is on LDB as cancelled up to and including Worcester Foregate Street (ie running from Shrub Hill). That explains the lack of cancelled stations between Worcester and Moreton-in-Marsh. It doesn't explain FGWs lack of information. Incidentally, that train is showing as No Report all the way - so it may not have run at all.

The 1406 from Penzance seems to be running fine according to LDB, that is just common sense adding in stops if a train has been cancelled. Even if it's crowded it's almost certainly better to have the passengers moving rather than at the station counting down to the delay cut-off point at which they can recieve bagloads of compensation.

The 1641 from Truro (cancelled 1600 from Penzance) is running to time so far. This could be something to do with the Penzance end power car having problems.

Every TOC has a bad day - and all this FGW stuff today isn't bad. One cancelled completely, 2 cancelled for part of their journey. That's hardly awful. They're all on the way into London when more people will be travelling in the opposite direction. Obviously it's a pain (I doubt anyone would argue otherwise - we've all been there), but it's not truly appalling. On stock problems, I guess one factor is simply that the HSTs aren't in the prime of life. And I guess one could speculate that their maintenance may be a bit patchy at the moment as the MTU programme looms for many power cars.
 

Techniquest

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A TOC should not be having this many problems, and this sort of thing IS happening on a daily basis. Late-running is one thing (I think we've all grown to expect 10 - 28 minutes of delay as a minimum now in South Wales for services from and occasionally to London), but this huge spree of turning back trains and cancelling them, this is getting old and very irritating. All of us will agree HSTs are getting old, but the maintenance of them seems to be going seriously wrong at the moment. First need to sort themselves out and fast. Central Trains have a better maintenance program it seems (I hear of hardly any CT unit failures now compared to what we used to get) compared to them.
 

1D53

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Turning back is certainly something that First do a lot of. On TPX I reckon a good 10% of trains from Windermere/York/Sheffield are turned back at Manchester Piccadilly instead of continuing to the Airport.

Its because its easy to do, saves 40 minutes and they assume noone is gonna care because there are loads of trains going there. Not fun crossing a full station with a train to catch!
 

Nick W

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Just out of interest WSXFan, what would you have done if faced with the same problem?

I personally feel that turning a proportion of trains back during a delay is a good thing, as long as some trains get to their destination. Otherwise there could be dreadful knock-on effects. A First Scotrail train could even end up being delayed.

I agree with Andrew that this is not as bad as you appear to make it seem. It might not be economically viable to maintain the valenta HSTs if they will soon have brand new MTU engines.
 

Jim

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TO BE FAIR to FGW, on the unit side (ex WSX), ALL heavy maintenece is currently done over at Canton, with disaterous effects, one night, for example, a speedo was taken out of a FGW unit & placed in a ATW unit to keep it running, thus the 3 car 158 had to be subbed for a 2 car on Portsmouth - Cardiff, causing overcrowding!
 

Sprog

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Yup, when the work goes over to SPM, and the units are being tinkered on by meeeee :king: :toothy7: , they will be alot better maintained, and thus more reliable!!
 

TicketMan

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Sprog said:
Yup, when the work goes over to SPM, and the units are being tinkered on by meeeee :king: :toothy7: , they will be alot better maintained, and thus more reliable!!
Quick lads - get yer unit haulage in now before they get 'Sprogged':toothy7:
 

Techniquest

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Damn, I've still a good few WSX units to get haulage on! Do what you like with the 158s, just leave the 150/2s working OK and 143612 too until I get haulage on them. Then do whatever you want!

I'm joking here, I know you'll fix them up mighty fine Sprog!

As for what I'd do to stop this lot of FGW problems, I'm not entirely sure as I don't have a huge deal of experience in that field, but I know I'd round on the maintenance crews to find out what was going wrong. Just because the power cars are going to get MTU 16V4000s soon does not excuse an operator to allow poorly maintained trains to run that are likely to fail en-route. I would probably offer a bonus for the crews that sorted out the rolling stock into a proper working order. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I was led to believe trains were supposed to run properly on the services they operate. If this has changed in the last few years, then I'm sorry but this is pathetic.
 

yorkie

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First are transforming the validity of the Saver ticket, and are transforming travel by making tickets more confusing :(
 

devon_metro

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Indeed Yorkie!

Yes i agree with Jim, the state of the 150s is shocking! They sound old and worn out and are not nice to travel in. Although to be fair Wessex didn't leave them in great state :lol:

TBH it would be better for some of the units to have work done at Exeter TMD as many of the units are based in the SW far closer to Exeter than Cardiff.
 

Dennis

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Anyone seen an FGW 158 with working air con in all two or three carriages recently? Observations today at Westbury suggests there aren't many at the moment.
 
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Tom

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Out of all the FGW 158s I've travelled on recently, only one 3 car unit had all HVAC units working.
 

Mojo

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Most of the units don't have working Aircon, as originally these were designed to work with CFCs. With CFCs now banned, their replacements (HCFCs) aren't as effective at heat transfer, causing problems in high temperatures.
When new, and before the ban, the 158s Aircon was very good, probably the equivalent today of the Aircon on a Pendolino.
Wales & Borders started fitting Stones water-vapour systems, and this system was stopped when they were disbanded, whether this is still functional, I am not sure, it was def working summer 2005 in at least one unit.
Scotrail fitted their 158s with Liebherr Aircon systems before summer 2005, as did SWT (159s inc.), but they didn't start until later on, by the time all of their units were complete summer was over!
 

Andrew

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WSXfan, just wondering if you have realised that there seem to be almost daily 20mph speed restrictions placed somewhere on the GWML (generally around Swindon/Didcot - though it's Chippenham today I believe). At least, that's what FGW claim on their daily email bulletin.

FGW are a company interested in making money. If a bad reputation will damage their profits, they will make an effort to improve that reputation. If the said bad repuation won't really affect their profits, why bother improving? FGW aren't here to be the best TOC - despite what they say - they're here to make money. If they make more money by cutting maintenance, turning back trains and so forth, then I personally blame the franchised railway for not incurring stiff enough penalties for such behavior. I don't have any clue about the system now - but according to Railway World back in 1998, ex-InterCity services recieved no penalties for late running or cancelled trains because "it was considered [by OPRAF] that the response of the market would either reward or penalise services standards." Well that's awful IMO. That article goes on to say that NWT (First North Western) on averaged cancelled 10% of trains on some routes into Manchester. They recieved a trivial fine of £159k (especially considering that in 2001/2 FNW recieved an extra c£50m IIRC on top of the agreed, just to reduce their losses! What a stupid system - penalise, then have to pay that penalty through increased subsidy). That's awful too.

Anyway, it's left me in little doubt that while FGW certainly aren't doing well at the moment, they aren't the only thing wrong with the railways.
 

Andrew

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Well if we're just giving updates on FGW, then today:
1532 Exeter St. Davids to Paddington Cancelled
1515 Paddington to Swansea run non-stop between Paddington and Newport (ie cancelled from Reading, Swindon and Bristol Parkway) and saved all of 8 minutes in doing that. In all honesty, there was little point in it calling at those stations - the next South Wales train probably departed a minute or so before this one.
1622 Portsmouth Harbour to Cardiff Central Cancelled
1529 Cheltenham Spa to Paddington Cancelled
1700 Plymouth to Paddington started from Newton Abbot

And from today's FGW email:
A signalling problem East of Chippenham is currently causing delays to Bristol TM bound services services from Paddington. Every effort is being made to rectify this problem as soon as possible.

Speed restrictions of 20mph have been imposed at the following locations -

1) Didcot Parkway affecting the main line from London.
2) Athelney between Castle Cary and Taunton on the West of England route affecting the lines in both directions.
FGW's website lists a points problem at Southcote (Berks&Hants (that's coming from Exeter/Plymouth/Penzance) going into Reading (+Paddington) to save anyone diving for their Rail Atlas).

FGW's update thing also lists their exceptionally late trains (another 2 or 3).

Journeycheck additionally brings about the following:
1900 Bristol Temple Meads to Paddington will be cancelled
1800 Cardiff Central to Taunton will be delayed
1530 Swansea to Paddington will be terminated at Swindon (about now)
 

Techniquest

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TBH, I think it's time someone got FGW's chief boffin in one hand, NR's chief boffin in the other and smack their heads together. Knock some sense and (proper!) co-operation into the pair. It's got to the point on several trips where you (and the fellow passengers) go 'Oh well, that train will be late, it's coming from Swansea' or 'It's going to Cardiff/Swansea, bound to be late' (and you're hardly ever wrong). The Pompey units get the same lack of trust in on-time running too.

The situation with First makes me want to put my books and pens into storage. God only knows when they will run their timetable anywhere near on-time. If there is a TSR that's going to be there for some heavy amount of time, is there any harm in actually putting a modified timetable into use? Allowing an extra couple of minutes in the journey to compensate for the slow running (although the day a HST with First runs fast at all will be a good one. Better off on DMUs on the HST runs here!) wouldn't go a miss. However, the delays are more than just a couple of minutes. 1730 HST off Newport to Swansea on Saturday, for example, arrived 26 minutes late, left 27.5 late. I'd wager on 30+ minutes of delay by the time they got beyond Cardiff. Average delay on eastbound services, even on the ones that start from Cardiff, at Newport can be anywhere between 4 and 12 minutes. I've experienced that much and worse on several occasions.

The day I make a record of a HST from London to South Wales arriving on time on any service at Newport will be very interesting. Next time I'm at Newport, I'll record all departures and arrivals, with power car information, then we'll see. I'd love to do a full 7-day report on this, but I can't afford to stay in Newport all week! A 1-day sample will do for now. Then we'll compare that M-F report with a Saturday one then one on a major event day. I would reckon on the special event day being the most reliable.

Surprisingly, even ATF are better than that, although not always!
 

matt

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I got delayed slightly coming into Reading due to the points problem although you cant really blame FGW with that. My journey from Reading to Bristol Friday and Taunton to Reading today were both good journeys
 

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Putting aside for one minute the generally poor condition of many of FGW's trains (tatty ex Wessex units, in need of a refurb HSt's and stinking of p*ss Link units), NR must take a lot of the blame for problems with FGW services.

Whereas both the ECML and WCML have had some serious money spent on them over the last fifteen or so years, there has not been any significant upgrading of main lines in the West of England / Wales for goodness knows how long. NR infrastructure failure (in my experience) does seem to be the bggest cause of delay on FGW. These delays would be more bearable though if the trains themselves and the customer service were of a higher standard.

The good news here in the west is that we can look forward to three years of weekend engineering work (bustitution and diversions) while NR get to grips with the problems.
 

Techniquest

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Only three years? Doesn't sound long that does it?:lol:

Same sort of thing in South Wales pretty much every single Sunday, services to Swansea terminated at Cardiff for engineering work. Now I'm sure that, whilst the normals would not care about too much detail on the subject, they would appreciate knowing that the disruption is for re-signalling the South Wales Main Line. These are brand new signals going in too, which will eventually replace the older ones.

Once that is done, we might have a full 7 days where services run as planned. Then we'll be treated to months of bustitution for massive track replacements probably. Or the new signalling system won't work a la Crewe to Stockport scheme.

I must say the one time where services to Swansea and West Wales ran throughout (I wasn't there to sample the route on a Sunday for the first time in ages, but I read it somewhere around the time) on a Sunday some time ago (a couple of months, can't recall when precisely), I nearly fell to the floor with shock! Very, very surprising!

Worst news about this resignalling scheme? I do believe it is not scheduled to finish until 2007. Fun-diddly-fun.
 

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I did notice a lot of the signals on the GWML looked very old. Some looked like early colour signals from the days of steam especially at Bristol Temple Meads
 

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Temple Meads resignalling is currently scheduled for 2012, although those in charge of the CUBA Joint Local Transport Plan are pressing for an early resignalling to go with their medium-term and long-term plan, which includes a half hourly service Temple M - Avonmouth, a 3rd platform and research into a 4th platform at Parkway, together with running the proposed half-hourly cross Bristol services to Yate.
 

Techniquest

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6 years does seem like a long time still to go for a re-signalling scheme at Temple Meads. Considering its major interchange station status, it should be a bit of a priority. I'd do it in 2007 once the South Wales ML is done myself, if I had the powers to make it happen.
 

Mojo

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It depends how you look at it, on one hand, there might be more major bottlenecks or important locations needing resignalling, but on the other hand you could say that the SW has been deprived of any investment for too long.
I mean, Bristol is the 6th largest city in the country,
London has trams, tube and rail
Birmingham has the metro and PTE rail
Liverpool has Merseyrail
Leeds (W. Yorks) has a PTE rail system, though I don't know the area so can't tell if it's decent
Sheffield has the tram service
Bristol, the 6th biggest has an hourly (at best) branch line service, with 3 stations with a half hourly service and 2 more with a service a little better than that. Together with that it has a worryingly high Co2 emmissions per capita attributed to transport, and the lowest average traffic speed out of any city in the UK - 8mph.
 

devon_metro

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more rubbsih from Farce Great Western

Planned Industrial Action on First Great Western services on 11, 19 and 27 July 2006


Time Reported: 1 Jul 13:08 TOC/s Affected: First Great Western Description: Planned industrial action by some members of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union has been announced, to commence between 00:01 and 23:59 on Tuesday 11 July, Wednesday 19 July, and Thursday 27 July

Negotiations are continuing to avert these strikes

Customers are recommended to check their journey details nearer the time

Also a line failure at Dawlish, Castle Cary and Severn Tunnel.

16.05 Pad-Pnz delayed
 
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