Sunday, 31 December 2006

On Christmas holiday - only FGW alerts to write about

Some service canx due to train shortages. No other problems reported. Please check journey times with Nat Rail.
Cancellations: West 1541 & 1740 Weston-Filton. 1640 Filton-Weston. No further major problems.

Service cancellations due to train shortages. Please check journey times with Nat Rail.
Cancellations: Southampton-Westb, 1542 Weston-Bristol, 1640 Ply-Penz, 1706 Westb-Sou, 1605 and 1705 Oxf-Pad.
1605 Oxford-Paddington reinstated.

Friday, 22 December 2006

Second week - Thursday 22 December

Last day for a week! :-)

Went for the 0642 today and all was well until we got to Swindon. The 0718 was 'delayed' and anyone who commutes by train know that this spells doom. It's so bad that they cannot admit to how many minutes late it is! So we jumped on the 0724 and arrived at Swindon for 0740, with a pleasant amount of minutes to wait until the 0754. I am glad DT did not catch the 0612 and tried to get the 0726 from Didcot as the 0726 was cancelled.

Left work at 1300 to catch the 1321. I know it's a daft idea as there is only a 5 min connection time, but if that one's is cancelled I can get to Swindon, where they have comfy seats....

The 1321 left 2 mins late and arrived at Didcot at 1338. Yippee, I thought, I can make the connection today. But as I neared the display screen on platform 1, that familiar glowing blue line surrounded the words Bristol Temple Meads. Poohey, it's cancelled. Apparently, it was due to a broken rail in the Southall area.

OK, that means a wait until the 1356 to Swansea, which will take me to Swindon (comfy seats) and then on to another train, which will go to Bath (but bypasses Didcot). As DW says 'Just keep moving'.

I had 14 mins to wait at Didcot so I thought I'd put it to good use: find station manager ask for help with connecting trains. I carried my 10kg Brompton back over to platform 2 to speak with the station manager and she was her usual nice self. She's been very helpful to us in the past and always smiles. I explained the problem, she said she have a think and try to see what she could do. It was nice talking to her, it's a shame her staff aren't as nice.

Back over the platform 1 and who should I see but Didcot-Steve. Steve does Bath-Didcot every day. We had a mini chuckle of the state of the trains today (I also saw him this morning), and then we got on to the heaving 1356 to Swindon.

At Swindon we were told that the 1426 was delayed by 1o mins (at least they could admit it this time though!), so we waited, and chuckled some more. Eventaully, the train arrived and we got on and found some seats. Journey took a bit longer than normal as, the train manager explained 'we have a technical problem with the front power car, so we'll be going slower at 95 mph'. (Not at 125 I guess?)

Arrived into Bath at 1510 - in time for some Xmas shopping.


Journey to work/meeting punctuality: 78%, 7/9
Journey home punctuality: 78%, 7/9


FGW alerts:
0710 BRI-PAD cancelled. Minor delays on all services into PAD before 0700 due to overrun engineering works in Acton area.
Cancelled: 1522 Pad-Oxford, 1635 Cheltenham-Pad, 1638 Oxford-PAd, 1705 Oxford-Pad.
No further major probs.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Second week - Thursday 21 December

Not a good start. Got up at 0500 as I wanted to get into work early as there's sheds of work to do, but the bloody 0612 is cancelled! Will have to wait here until 0630 so I can catch the 0642. I am glad DT has gone to Sicily already, otherwise he'd be very annoyed this morning. Have just emailed my MP in the hope that we can get some help. The system seems to be falling apart: not enough drivers, broken trains, broken points, empty trains on some lines and overcrowded trains on others.

So got on the 0642, but due to a technical problem (how many technical problems can there be?), there were no hot drinks available on the train. Finally got to Didcot and met Brenda - Brenda had had to drive to Oxford twice this week: once because she could not trust the trains to get her to an important meeting one morning and the second as she could not trust them to get her home safely late one night. It is shocking to think that we pay for our season tickets, but to be doubly sure of getting somewhere for a certain time, you have to resort to driving your car.
For days we have been observing that the sliding soors made an unbearable noise, so today Brenda plucked up the courage to tell the Didcot staff about it. We did not get a postive response though and he didn't seem too fussed when we pointed out that his replies, 'they have always made that noise', 'nobody has complained about them before', didn't do much for customer service. If you're listening FGW, the phone number for the door repair company is 01264 350616. It's on a sticker next to the doors. May be one day I'll ring them myself.

Left work at 1700 to catch the 1721 OXF-DID train. As usual the Oxford driver was not really concerned with the timetable and decided to leave 3 mins late. This was a bit owrrying as this is an advertised connecting train with only a 5 min connection time. So, just my luck that once the train got the Didcot, and about 20 of us legged it to platform 1, the DID-BTM train pulled out. We were late by 1 minute. A member of the dispatch team, CT, said that he could not hold the train for us. However, we have spoken to his station manager and she will if possible. It's only a minute!!!! It's Christmas, come on , give us a small present!

So I had to wait from 1742 until 1841 for the next train to BTM. And I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but Didcot has its own climate. The other morning it was snowing, it was very pretty, but nowhere else had snow. My clever husband pointed out that the moisture from the cooling towers were to blame!


Journey to work/meeting punctuality: 75%, 6/8
Journey home punctuality: 87.5%, 7/8


FGW alerts:
20 December:
1500 Plymouth-Pad cancelled. No further notified problems.
1721 Oxford-Paddington cancelled. With apologies.

21 December:
The 0600 BristolTM to Padd & 0815 Pad to Cardiff are cancelled. The 0602 Salisbury to Cardiff will start from Warminster.
The 0817 Plymouth to Par has been cancelled.
Full advertised service. No problems reported.
1630Pad-Oxford and 1821 Oxford -PAD both cancelled. Train crew resourcing problems.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Second week - Tuesday 19 December

Back on the 0707 today due to a late night and the work's Xmas do. The train turned up OK, and when I go tto Didcot I was in luck as the 0754 DID-OXF was delayed until 0815, so I got into work 10 mins early. Had to wait at Didcot for about 20 mins though, but spent the time marvelling at the progress of the 'refurbishment'. The radiator is now purple and so is the windon sill. The sliding doors are stuck open: not sure if this is good or bad as they made a terrible sound opening and closing. The dribbles down the window have gone too. Still lots of people standing around though as there aren't enough seats.

Had to work late today. Tried to catch the 1806 but it was cancelled. Got on the 1821. I spoke to one of the 'long-coated men' at Oxford in the hope that they could ring Didcot and hold the train for us so that we can make the connection (FGW allow 5 mins for this connection!). Basically, he wasn't interested. I have to say that we are disappointed with the attitude of the Oxford station staff. The chaps on the gate who check the tickets are very nice and one of them even says hello, but the 'long-coated men' are not that nice or cheerful. The Didcot station manager, on the other hand, is extremely friendly and helpful.

Anyway, back to the journey. Met Brenda on the platform, which was great as I hadn't seen her for ages and it was nice to have a chat. We sensibly decided that if we got the connection great, if not we could have a beer from the Spar shop, so we couldn't lose really!

Made the connection, but the train was heaving, again. We got seats though.

When train pulled into Bath station I chatted to the very nice train manager. He said that we should have had a 'proper' train and that's why we were overcrowded. Apparently, there was a technical problem with the original train, and he was unsure about whether to run the Adelante or cancel the service. I told him that I was glad he ran it as we always like to get home in the evening. FGW train managers deserve a medal, they must put up with so much abuse. It's nice to see some of them still have a sense of humour and talk to the customers.


Journey to work/meeting punctuality: 86%, 6/7 (I might have to stop winging soon!)
Journey home punctuality: 100%, 7/7


FGW alerts:
0645 Hereford-PAD starting 0742 Worcs due to earlier mech problems. 0730 Carmarthen-PAD starting 0830 SWA; buses Carmarthen-SWA.
Services cancelled: 0540 Chelt-PAD, 0834 BRI-SWIN, 0952 SWI-Chelt, 0604 PNZ-Newton Abbot, 0902 N'ton Abbot-Plymouth.
Full advertised service. No problems reported.


DT: Morning Max! Hope commutes going well. I am at Swindon and guess what, my train has been cancelled!

Second week - Monday 18 December

It was our Division's Xmas do this evening, so I caught 0707 train as I knew I'd been staying late before we went to the pub. All went OK, and I bumped into DW so the 30 mins wait in Didcot was not so bad. DW took a picture of the display screen showing that all but 1 train was going to London. It's nice to know there's balance in the rail system and that there is 1 other place in the universe other than London. He also took a picture of all the people standing, as there aren't enough seats.

Journey home was OK. 2153 from Oxford made its connection, although I did have to wait for 30 mins so I would hope that this connection would work! I spent my time walking up and down Platform 1 admiring the new plant pots. Do you know, they each cost £29.99 and there is four of them. How many cushions for cold metal seats could one buy for £120? I'll work that out anohter night. Other interesting observations: toilets were locked up 'Due to vandalism toilets will be locked at 2100'. Not sure if they were locking up the toilets just in case they were vandalised or if they had been vandalised. They certainly worked when I used them.

The prize for most annoying annoucement (even more annoying than ' we are sorry, but the XXX is delayed by 30 mins', 'we are very sorry, but the XX is delayed by 45 mins, or 'Please do not feed the pigeons', yes we did hear that announcement once!) was 'FGW train company wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year'. (After I have paid off my credit card for my annual season ticket, it will not be so prosperous.) grrrrrr.

Lastly, a reassuring annoucement on the train while we stopped at Chippenham: 'Chippenham is unstaffed. Please close the doors behind you.'


Journey to work/meeting punctuality: 83% (starting to look like the figures of a professionally run train company!), 4/6
Journey home punctuality: 100%, 6/6


FGW alerts:
Cancelled services: 0710 BRI-PAD, 0701 P'smouth-Brighton, 0702 W'bury-Cheltenham. The 0857 Brighton-BRI will start at W'bury. The 0600 Cheltenham-PAD will stop additionally at Didcot this morning. (Do you think they are feeling a bit guilty?)
Cancellations: 1552 Swindon-Cheltenham, 1706 Westbury-Southampton. No further notified problems.


DT: What a shambles! On the way to Reading our train was unable to stop at Didcot due to technical problems! Let's hope brakes work by the time it gets to London!

Day 5 - Day Out to London, Friday 15 December

For those of you who have been following this blog, I first have to apologise for the delay in posting Friday's news. I temporarily came to a grinding halt...sounds familiar? You'll be glad to hear that I have not had any technical difficulties; my driver is not sick; I do not have a rear car power failure; and the last time I looked, my points were working.

I bit of a reprieve from the usual today, a day out to London. I was starting to worry, again, that there'd be nothing to say, but far from it! The excitement started before I had even boarded the train. My season ticket took me from Bath to Didcot, but then I needed another ticket to take me from Didcot to London. However, according to the nice chappy at Didcot ticket office, I should really catch a train from Bath that actually stopped at Didcot. 'mmm, that means that my choices were severely reduced. OK, how about I get a ticket from Swindon to London?', I asked. 'That'll be £90', he said. '£90? How much from Didcot?', I asked, '£40', he said. 'Blimey', I said, 'I think I'll get on a train that stops at Didcot'.

So let's analyse this.
Swindon-London, 64 mins, £90 = £1.34 per minute on train
Didcot-London, 47 mins, £40 = £0.85 per minute on train

Why is this? If you know why, could you let me know?

Back to the journey. Train arrived, got there OK. Journey back uneventful apart from noticing that on my return train, which didn't stop at Didcot, only 22 seats of the 40 in my half of the carriage were occupied. Strange that: usually the trains I get on from Didcot are heaving and it's standing room only. Let me know if I have got this wrong, but does that mean that trains that do not stop at Didcot have lots of seats as not as many people are on them, and trains that stop at Didcot are very busy AND OBVIOUSLY POPULAR, with loads of people on them?


Journey to work/meeting punctuality: 60% (steady on!)
Journey home punctuality: 100%


FGW alerts:
0710 BRI and 0534 GMV services to PAD are affected by mech. fault, 0600 SWA to PAD service calling additionally at DID.
0710 BRI to PAD cancelled due to earlier mech fault. 0651 WSMto PAD retimed to start at BRI as a result. (They really don't like these people from Somerset, do they?)
Full advertised service. (but then...)
We are expecting some short notice cancellations to services this evening. Please check our website for details.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Day 4 Thursday 14 December - we're geting there!

I was beginning to worry about what I was going to write about today. It was as if I had been transported back to last week, a time when the trains ran to timetable.

I got on the 0642 from Bath (on time), it arrived in Swindon (on time), I only had to hang around Platform 1 for about 10 mins, then I got on the 0718 (on time), and it arrive in Didcot (on time), then I only had to hang around another 10 mins before the 0754 showed up (early!). I arrived into Oxford on time. Amazing.

Brenda - I saw you today, on the 0755 into Didcot, peering out through one of the windows hoping that the 0754 was delayed so you could make the connection - but instead it left the platform and sat there for 2 mins taunting you all. This is a classic demonstration of how the train system is not integrated - even within one franchise! The 0754 from the Bristol/Bath/Chippenham/Swindon missed a potential connecting service by 1 min, so those passengers have to hang around Didcot for 30 mins for another service.


Journey home was good too. Caught the 1621 from Oxford (on time ish), caught the 1656 from Didcot to Swindon (on time), got off at Swindon and back on the 1726 to Bath (on time).

The best bit of the journey was David T and I putting the 3 or 4 acedemic degrees we have between us to good use: we usually have 1 can of Kronenbourg each on the way home on a Thurs and/or Fri night (depending on how bad a day we've had). Well, what were we going to do now we had to get off the frist train after 20 mins - we didn't want to be carrying a can of beer around with the potential for spilling some of it! The genius plan, which I think was David's, was to share 1 can between Didcot and Swindon, and then open the other between Swindon and Bath. Sorted.

We were also treated to the luxury of being in Standard Class but sitting in a First Class carriage. What a treat. They are nice wide seats but they are awfully hard.


Journey to work punctuality: 50 % (whopping!)
Journey home punctuality: 100 % (even better with beer)


FGW alerts:
0644 WEY-CDF will start Westbury, road transport from WEY. (Good job they own the bus company as well, eh? Otherwise the season ticket might be even more expensive.)
0710 BRI-PAD is cancelled this morning
1830 PAD-BRI TM cancelled. Temporary shortage of rolling stock. Apologies.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Wednesday 13 December - day 3!

Due to having attended a works bash last night, and the poor record of the 0642 I thought that it was not worth going for that service and resolved to catch the 0707.

All went well, in fact very well. I got into work 30 mins early! This was because the 0754 from Didcot was delayed and I managed to hop on that. I also met up with some of the other mad people who do this journey - they were not so pleased, however. One person had caught the 0612 from Bath, hoping to arrive in Oxford at 0730, however, his Didcot-Oxford service had been cancelled (due to lack of a drive?) and he'd had to wait for the 0754. He was not happy.

I thought I do some experimentation and catch the 1620 from Oxford. This meant catching 3 trains (a Didcot change and a Swindon change), but there was only a 18 mins wait in Didcot, as opposed to the 35mins wait if you go for the 1653 service.

All went well until we go to Swindon, where we were met by a huge crowd of commuters who had been waiting for 30 mins for the 1656 service. This train left at Swindon at 1726. I was not too unhappy as this is when my connecting service was supposed to have left, but what was strange is that the train pulled up without anyone on it. Apparently, it had started from Swindon as, I quote 'there was no one being able to work train from London Paddington'.

Excellent - so we have fewer trains, the ones that are running are knackered, the points system keeps breaking down, drivers go off sick and are not replaced, and we're running out of buffet cars.


Journey to work punctuality: 33% (over 3 journeys, a huge improvement)
Journey home punctuality: 100% (thank God it works this way!)


FGW alerts:
Services between Truro and Falmouth replaced by bus transport due to signal failure. All other services to run as scheduled.
1721 Oxford-PAD cancelled. Currently no further problems.

Tuesday 12 December - day 2 of new timetable

I thought I'd give the 0642 another go, surely it was just teething problems yesterday?

The 0642 arrived in Bath on time, but at Wootten Bassett we stopped. Eventually, we were told that there had been a points failure. Time was ticking. We were then told that there was point failure (again) and we'd be there for another 10 mins. Within 3 mins we had actually started to move. Yippee - well, not really. The dealy had meant that I had missed my connections again!

As train did not stop at Didcot, I had to get off the train at Swindon and wait for one that did. Of course, if the 0642 did stop at Didcot, I would have made the connecting train to Oxford.

I got on the 0736 from Swindon (which actually arrived at 0743) and was lucky to get a seat. There were people standing in the aisles and vestibule areas - and we pay for this? What brought me closer to tears was the fact that this was the 0707 from Bath. oh well, I suppose all this jumping on and off trains with a large work bag and a 10kg folding bike will be keeping me fit!

Apparently, this service was delayed due to a failure in the rear power car and also there was no buffet car. (Apparently, they are removing the buffet cars from the HST services and replacing them with...more seats?, nothing. Can it be true?)

Anyway, arrived at Didcot at 0759 so missed my connecting service. At Didcot I stood next to a badly painted radiator - is this what they call 'refurbishment'?

Got into work 30 mins late. Final thought - perhaps I ought to send FGW my mobile phone bill as it's costing me a fortune having to phone work every day to let them know that I will be in, and that I am just delayed by the trains.


Journey home OK cos I'd been to a works Xmas bash and I did not notice the 20 min wait at Didcot. There also some amusing drunk people dressed in sombreros and ponchos.


Journey to work punctuality: 0%
Journey home punctuality: 100%


FGW alerts:
Full advertised service (apparently)

Monday 11 December - start of new FGW timetable

Well, here it is. The first day of the NEw FGW timetable. Its aim is to improve punctuality, which is what we commuters apparently want. This is true, but we would also like some trains: the new timetable has reduced the number of trains I can catch to work. Crazy, eh?

oh well, I am sure it will be fine. Fewer trains must mean that they will turn up on time so that the 3 trains (and thus 2 connections) I have to make to travel the 70 miles from Bath to Oxford will work. (It used to be only 2 trains and 1 connection, but for some reason trains don't stop at Didcot as often.)

So, I am going for the 0642 train today. It is 12 mins earlier than the train that I caught under the old timetable and it will get me to Oxford 5 mins later, but at least it will get me to work before 0830. Or will it?

It wasn't a good start to the new timetable. The 0642 did not arrive until 0700 'due to technical problems', so there go the connections I needed to make at Swindon and Didcot. I'll be 30 mins late for work.

In the end I caught the 0707, which did stop at Didcot, although I did have to wait for 25 mins at Didcot and it did get me into work 30 mins late.

The best bit of the journey was listening to the confused train manager apologising to the very annoyed '0712' commuters that 'the printed timetable does not reflect the running times ' and 'I've been speaking to some people in Swindon and they say that the timetable is being reprinted, in the meantime ...[long pause]... turn up 5 mins before you usually do'.

It seems that the wrong version of the timetable was sent to the printers and the timetable that FGW had been proudly announcing to us for the past 2 weeks was, in fact, incorrect. The 0712 does not exist anymore, but the 0707 does.

Anyway, I arrived into Didcot at 0807 and had to wait in a drafty waiting area (of course it was packed), listening to the scraping sliding doors, until 0825.


The journey home was OK. I left 8 mins later than I did under the old timetable, but having to wait at Didcot for 35 mins for my connection, I arrived at home 30 mins later than under the old timetable.


Getting to work punctuality: 0%
Getting home punctuality: 100%

FGW alerts (not a good start):
Services cancelled: 0702 BRI-Southhampton, 0604 BRI-Weymouth, 0630 CDF-P'smouth, 0617 Westbury-PAD.
1602 Cheltenham-Taunton will start from BTM. No other problems. (Unless you are travelling from Taunton and it's then a bloody bit problem.)

Texts received:
DT: 'what a shambles! I arrived in Bath yesterday half an hour late! Today almost missed both connections by a few minutes! What about you? One positive thing was advised at Swindon priority was our train coming in which is why it waited'