How little has changed ?

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Edders23, 5 Oct 2019.

  1. Edders23

    Edders23 Member

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    this 1980's documentary video popped up on you tube recently about overcrowding and fares going up. Makes an interesting comparison with today !!

     
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  3. Stigy

    Stigy Established Member

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    Exactly. A main reason why I certainly won’t entertain any of this “bring back british rail” type rubbish people like to talk about. It was bad then, it’s not great now, and if we renationalised it would be the same then. Probably worse if the Governments general reputation in this country is anything to go by.
     
  4. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    It equally illustrates the fact that privatisation hasn't delivered the land of milk and honey that we were promised.

    That said, there have been some changes - more usage - although we're still living with the failure of the industry to keep up with this growth in terms of rolling stock provision, certainly in the North.

    In spite of that, there have been some improvements 'gasp'

    The timetable change in the North of England last year is generally seen as a bit of a failure, however there have certainly been some real positives, such as later trains on some routes, with particular improvements on some formerly neglected routes such as Leeds - Morecambe.

    Around most of the country, many stations look tidier than they were (Crewe springs to mind). Conversely, since the demise of NSE, a lot of stations in the south east look more tired.

    Trains are less comfortable than they were (IMO), although the sliding door brigade will doubtless be along to contradict this. I suppose at least in those days when the juice went off, it didn't take eight hours to turn the trains back on again !

    Swings and roundabouts. The burning question is, will the industry be able to recover from its long term condition of 2-carriageitis !
     
  5. Hadders

    Hadders Fares Advisor

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    This BBC Inside Story programme from the 1990s is worth a watch.

    British Rail did some good things but anyone who thinks it was perfect or that nationalisation would solve everything is sadly misguided.

     
  6. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    How I miss real trains :(

    They might have been old, but they were no dirtier than now.
     
  7. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    Yes they were. Partly because passengers smoked on them, (and so did many of the locomotives running on the same tracks as them) plus the legacy of horse-hair stuffed seat squabs and cushions which filled with dust and windows that were opened to let brake dust - as in rusty cast iron particles, in. I regularly travelled on clas309 EMUs, probably the best EMUs in the UK at the time. The trains were as clean as could be expected, but sitting down on what looked like clean seats could put clouds of dust into the air. They were noticeably cleaner in the winter because the windows were often kept closed.
    On the other hand, the human detritus on trains (and the railway in general) is far worse, partly because of passengers bringing food, coffee, free newspapers etc., on board and then failing be bothered to dispose of it respectfully. There is rightly regular criticism here of the state of some modern trains, but it is usually misdirected at the TOC. I've yet to see TOC staff throwing rubbish around coaches and leaving half-filled coffee cups on table, - even tipping them over to spill the remaining contents for good measure, so maybe it is the just travelling public that is dirtier.
     
  8. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Smoking was probably more prevalent then, but it was everywhere. That was society - not the trains.

    Bit of cast iron break-dust - true but balanced by the benefit of having a proper opening window.

    The cushions were a bit dusty - undoubtedly, but in terms of litter and rubbish, graffiti, general grime etc, the trains were no dirtier then than now.
     
  9. LMS 4F

    LMS 4F Member

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    There is no comparison between today and the British Rail I recall when I was travelling to and from Army Camps over 50 years or so ago. Speed is in so many cases much higher and journey times reduced accordingly. Frequency of services is better and as for Sunday services don't even go there. Anyone who wants to go back to BR should be reminded of the old Chinese proverb, be careful what you wish for. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
    Of course there is room to get even better but the past isn't the place to look for it.
     
  10. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    I think, as so often, this is a case of remembering what you wish to remember, and there were many counterpoints. For example:

    - I could rock up at the ticket office and buy a SuperSaver, say Euston to Liverpool (which I did from time to time) mid-morning, and it didn't seem ruinously expensive. I didn't have to book ahead further than most people plan their lives.

    - There was always a seat, and the train wasn't mostly "reserved" for people who never turned up.

    - No 2-car sets provided for 250 passengers.

    - There was no stampede at the starting point where the train, sat there for the past hour, was only announced 10 minutes before departure.

    - If things went wrong, they were fixed much quicker.
     
    Last edited: 5 Oct 2019
  11. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    1980
    Modernisation plan DMU full of diesel fumes
    very few trains (Skipton - morecambe/Carlisle)
    Being gassed by a badly maintained Cl50 in Bristol TM.
    Trans-Pennine - hourly. Alternate Liverpool - Hull and Liverpool-Newcastle
    Tons of semaphore signalling. Yes it pretty to look at but must have had huge staffing costs
    And in many places, a general air of decay.
    But the seedlings were there. HST from Leeds to London, electric trains over Shap.
    Department for transport double guessing BR management on investment. And installing CWR was seen as investment.

    were there still gas lit stations then? Remember Halifax gas lit when i was a kid, early 1970's
     
  12. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    It may have been society that smoked, but that played into the general odour of trains at that time. Even no smoking coaches weren't exactly fresh.
    The 'benefit' of the open window was draughts, noise, and railway pollution including brake dust. Not everybody preferred travelling in a mobile sanitorium, and there were frequent conflicts between those who did and those who didn't, just like on some buses nowadays.
     
  13. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I'd still take a bit of odour and draught over the chance of being stuck in a sealed train without air conditioning, failed toilets and not starting for eight hours after a power cut because the computer programme was wrong.
     
  14. Richard Scott

    Richard Scott Member

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    Think that's an issue on many railways - nature of today's society. All powered by electronics and air conditioning seems to be an accepted modern necessity (I personally dislike it but most people don't so that's how it is) and vacuum toilets so that waste isn't deposited on the track are more likely to fail. Been on many foreign state owned trains with failed air con, stinking toilets that are locked out (been on French and German trains with no working toilets at all) and a train that decided it's going nowhere (ICE trains that will only go one way seem to be a favourite especially for a 3 hour detour around the Netherlands earlier in the year).
     
  15. Colin1501

    Colin1501 Member

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    Interesting thread. I commuted regularly by train in the BR era, from 1970 to 1982, and in the post-privatisation era from 2006 to date, and I can honestly say that the overall experience now is neither significantly better nor significantly worse than it was then. Yes - we have more modern rolling stock, more frequent services, wi-fi, etc , but most of these are simply results of technological and societal changes generally rather than changes in the structure and ownership of our railways. The oft-quoted example of hugely increased passenger numbers is largely down to a growing population and massive congestion on our road network.

    Where the private operators have really disappointed is in the area of focussing on customer needs - something they're supposed to be good at. Where are the relief trains at busy periods? How is a 4-car Voyager remotely adequate on, say, the Reading-Oxford-Birmingham axis? Where are the special trains to get London to Brighton charity cyclists back home?

    British Rail was far from perfect, but we have replaced it with something that is not really any better, but which costs the passenger and the taxpayer a lot more. Progress?
     
  16. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    In my opinion it’s defintiely better:

    There’s quite a lot more railway (lines and stations)
    Trains run across more hours of the day and week on many routes
    Trains run more frequently on many routes - in some cases significantly so
    Information is far more readily available, and to a far higher standard
    You can get much cheaper fares on long distance routes, by trading flexibility (which many people are very happy to do)
    It is, on balance, easier to get around stations and trains, particularly if you have any form of difficulty with mobility
    It is much, much safer for passengers and staff alike.

    I will caveat all the above by saying tha the will never know whether BR would have made similar strides in all the above were it not for privatisation. I suspect it would have done on most.
     
  17. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Indeed. I empathise, much like the train experience is here, or will be.
     
  18. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Outside of Scotland and Wales, there are pathetically few new railway lines.

    That is one of the great shames of privatisation that we have had an increased passenger usage, yet the increase in new passenger markets has been largely non-existant.
     
  19. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    There are good and bad things compared with the BR era.
    I commuted for two spells , totalling about 7 years, first in the steam era and again in the early 1970s.
    Never was a train cancelled due to staff shortages.
    Never was I so late that it created problems for me.
    Never was a train terminated short of destination.
    How many can say that now ?? Staff shortages now seem to be an almost everyday event.
    Peak hour restrictions were relatively simple - where they existed - and no afternoon peak restrictions outside London.
    You did not need to book weeks ahead to get an affordable fare, and you were not penalised if you got a different train to that specified on your ticket.
    Yes, there now are more frequent services on many (but not all) lines. That encouraged more traffic, but insufficient trains were allowed to meet that demand. The DfT stopped TPE from having as many trains as the "experts" said they needed, as just one example.
    As the average size of people has tended to increase, seats have got smaller, especially narrower.

    Connections were often held for a few minutes if your train was late. Nonsense like delay repay is an active deterrent to holding connections. To me, being able to reclaim some of your fare is a much worse option than having to wait nearly an hour for the next connection.
     
  20. JB_B

    JB_B Member

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    I wouldn't quibble with most of your points (and I agree with your caveat - many of them are the result of other societal and technological changes affecting all industries).

    Just on the first one ...

    "There’s quite a lot more railway (lines and stations)"

    .. could you fill that out a bit. I'd have thought that there are maybe net +4% national rail stations and - I'd guess - an even lower increase in route mileage (but I could be wrong.)
     
  21. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    There’s more new railway line been opened in England than there has been in Scotland and Wales combined since 1994... but I know you don’t like hearing this.

    Fair point, yes it’s not that much proportionally. However I suppose it’s how you define ‘more railway’. Take HS1 for example. Yes it’s only 70 odd miles of new railway, but it does a lot more (and thus creates more social and economic value) than the average 70 mile stretch of railway in the country. Similarly, the average new station will, I guess, be adding rather more value than the overall average station. (Excepting Edinburgh Gateway and East Midlands Parkway ;))

    Also, arguably, the ‘stretching’ of service hours: more early morning and late nights, plus much better Sunday services, is ‘more railway’. In my view BR wouldn’t have done this: it’s often the result of stakeholder pressure which BR was rather good at resisting.
     
  22. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Piffle - you're obviously fixating on London Overground and various tramways, than opening of the railway network in England.
     
  23. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    BR was constrained by the treasury investment limits. Governments in those days considered the public sector borrowing requirement had to be kept in limits.
    One of the drivers for all privatisations was moving investment into the private sector so the borrowing wasnt in PSBR.
    That all went wrong when railtrack failed, and network rail borrowing was seen to be public sector. But now no-one cares about PSBR.
     
  24. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    On any measure, it’s right though. Whether it be mileage of new railway constructed where there was none in (official) existence, or mileage of railway reopened to passenger service where there was none, then there’s more in England. This is for what counts as the national heavy rail network, which of course includes HS1 and the East London Line. It doesnt include the tube and light railways - if it did then the equation would be much more favourable to England.
     
  25. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Yes, High Speed 1. A route where we already had two routes to choose from to London.

    It's hardly reaching new areas. The national rail network is still almost identical to the one we had in around 1983.
     
  26. delt1c

    delt1c Established Member

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    Please could you provide route mileage and passenger usage to support your claim
     
  27. scarby

    scarby Member

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    I am not so sure about this. I read an autobiography by someone who cleaned excursion trains to the seaside at Leicester in the 1950s, I think. He wrote that the state of the trains on their return was truly awful, in some cases quite disgusting.

    I also recall appalling amounts of rubbish deposited on the tracks at some London stations in the 1980s.
     
  28. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

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    I am not sure that ‘additional lines’ to settlements that had no passenger service are the most useful measure as the great majority of significant places had kept their trains, which often now run more frequently. As it happens my personal journeys do often involve ‘new bits’ with family connections at Corby and regular forays to Huddersfield via Manchester Piccadilly and the Ordsall Chord but I don’t claim to be typical.
    However, many of my trips to and from the Hope Valley take me through places with additional tracks and platforms - Stockport, Derby, Norton Bridge, Trent Valley, Nuneaton, Rugby, Milton Keynes, Kettering-Bedford, St Pancras, Doncaster, Leeds, Euxton, Liverpool Lime Street, etc., etc.
    Frequencies have improved out of all recognition on many routes.
    And as for the old days, I suffered huge numbers of cancellations due to shortages of guards around London (both north and south of the Thames) in the 1970s and 80s. What happened then was that the timetable was cut and often cut again to match available resources.
     
  29. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Undoubtedly better salaries for drivers and guards will have done wonders for staff retention (I recall that that was a particular issue highlighted in the documentary.

    The key thing that seems to have happenned in the intervening 25 years is that the railway has produced a growth in passenger travel, but hasn't been able to deliver the rolling stock and infrastructure improvements to keep up with it (Hope valley being a goos illustration of this). In that context, I suppose it's unsurprising that the railway map in England looks depressingly similar to the one from 1983.
     
  30. farleigh

    farleigh Member

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    I preferred it before privatisation. I used to commute on the Coastway line to Brighton in the ninwties. In three years I had four trains that did not complete their journey and zero journeys where I could not find a seat. Doubt that would be the case today.
     
  31. LMS 4F

    LMS 4F Member

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    At the time I was talking about there was no such thing as a Saver or Supersaver, just singles and returns. No rail cards either.
    As to getting a seat with fewer trains ones to and from Waterloo on Fridays and Sunday's were often full and standing with fellow Squaddies from the camps on and around Salisbury Plain.
    The local DMUs on the Bletchley - Cambridge line, which replaced the steam hauled coaches, were two car. It is true they weren't often packed out because the service was that slow and infrequent no one wanted to use them.
    We will never have a railway which satisfies everyone in all aspects but it is better now in so many ways. Finally I can never recall getting my fare back for being late all those years ago, could I have a claim now?
     

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