Tuesday night football at Ipswich, and probably Colchester, is a difficult and overly expensive journey, when you have to trouble out for a kick-off at 19:45 using the crowded trains of the rush hour, which charge you more for your pleasure.
Normally if I want to go to Ipswich on a Saturday, it costs me £26.25 for an Off Peak Return from Liverpool Street with a Senior Railcard. But last night, on a Tuesday it would have cost me £50.65.
But Crossrail has come into play with the takeover of the Shenfield Metro by TfL Rail, which means I can use my Freedom Pass to Shenfield for nothing. Younger people, using Oyster or contactless cards have seen a reduction in cost, which some publicity claims is 40%.
So last night, as I had to stop off at Forest Gate on the way, I took TfL Rail to Shenfield in the rush hour.
I then exited the station, had a coffee in one of several nice independent cafes around the station and then re-entered after buying a return ticket from Shenfield to Ipswich, which got me to the ground at a convenient time for the match.
It was all very civilised and for most of the way, I had a seat and was able to sit comfortably and read the paper, as most of the other passengers had departed by Witham.
And for this I paid the princely sum of £16.75, which is approximately a third of the regular price. Here’s the proof.
I shall be going this way again, especially as I have friends in Shenfield, with whom I could share a drink.
This is a substantial benefit to anybody living in London with a Freedom Pass, who needs to go to anywhere in the South Eastern portion of East Anglia.
You’ve always been able to buy tickets from the Zone 6 Boundary, but the trouble with that is Harold Wood, which isn’t as well connected as Shenfield. You also have difficulty buying these tickets on-line and usually have to go to a booking office.
If you don’t have a Freedom Pass, using contactless cards to Shenfield on TfL Rail and then using an onward ticket from Shenfield may well be cheaper for the whole journey.
Of course, if you bought your onward ticket from Shenfield before you travelled, all you would do is get off one train at Shenfield and get on another to your ultimate destination.
The only drawback is that the journey via Shenfield is slower.
Currently, Ipswich is about 70 minutes from Liverpool Street, but when the Norwich in Ninety improvements are completed, I think we could see this time reduced to 60 minutes or even less. New trains with sliding doors would help too!
Shenfield is 43 minutes from Liverpool Street at the moment, but Crossrail will reduce this by a couple of minutes. Ipswich is probably an hour past Shenfield, but Norwich in Ninety must reduce this.
The biggest change could come when Crossrail opens and there is a new East Anglian rail franchise. If I was bidding for the new franchise, I would stop a proportion of the fast London-Colchester-Ipswich-Norwich trains at Stratford, Romford or Shenfield to interface with Crossrail, so that the journeys for passengers were optimised to get as many on board as possible., to maximise my company’s profits and hopefully my bonus.
Norwich in Ninety plus Crossrail can only mean that house prices in East Anglia will continue to rise.
The big addition for me is Shenfield, as although I don’t go there often, I could use it as the station to get my train for football at Ipswich.
I would have to change trains twice, but I could still arrive on the same 13:43 train into Ipswich.
But by using TfL Rail to Shenfield and then Abellio Greater Anglia from there, my Saturday Off-Peak Return, drops from £26.25 to £16.75, which is a saving of £9.50.
Similar savings even occur for a Tuesday evening match, as the cheapest fare drops from £28.70 to £19.35. It would also appear that you just buy an Off Peak Return, which is a saving in aggravation.
I’m only working on the current timetable, but I suspect that a new Anglia franchisee in a couple of years time, might stop all of the Ipswich and Norwich trains at Shenfield for Crossrail. It will probably be quicker to go from Liverpool Street, but there will be a lot of possibilities for saving money.
I also suspect that, when Crossrail opens, then Reading, like Heathrow and Shenfield, will appear on the Freedom Pass map, so instead of going to Paddington, will I join trains to Wales and the West Country at Reading.
The biggest effect on the economy of the spreading of the Freedom Pass, will be that more and more retirees will move into the capital, thus fuelling the rise in house prices.
So perhaps the best way to spend that pension pot is to buy a place in London.
There has been a lot of anger from Ipswich Town about the lack of communication from Abellio Greater Anglia over weekend closures of the Great Eastern Main Line. This report on the BBC gives full details.
I took the 12:03 train out of Liverpool Street for Billericay. I had checked on the Internet and knew that this train gave me an arrival in Ipswich around two. But there had been a decided lack of information at Liverpool Street.
1. The staff seemed to have not been well-briefed.
2. Where were the informational posters, saying something like This way for all Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich passengers?
The consequences was that there was a lot of confusion and an elderly couple travelling to Colchester with me didn’t know whether they should get out at Shenfield or Billericay. I wonder how many passengers missed the stop at Billericay and ended up at Southend!
One thing to which I’m right to object, is that I was paying the same £25.60 for a Senior Standard Class single, that I would pay on Monday for a similar ticket on a faster train all the way to Ipswich in just over an hour. Compare this with the price of £35.45, that I typically pay for a Senior First Class Return.
Abellio Greater Anglia also provided a Class 321 train without a toilet. Or at least I couldn’t find one. Many passengers would have expected a proper train with facilities and a rather tired Class 321 wasn’t good enough.
At Billericay, the system was much better organised and I even found a toilet. But then the town is in Essex and the county knows how to live on scraps and hand-me-downs.
I can’t complain about the coach that was provided either, except that it took what seemed to be an age to get to Ipswich.
There wasn’t much chaos at Ipswich, and I was able to enter the station to get a much-needed cup of hot chocolate.
The journey had taken two hours as against a normal direct journey of just over an hour. And of course for no reduction in price.
Coming home, I decided that it was better to go the long way round via Cambridge, where I could get a snack and then a train to Tottenham Hale. At least I got a First Class seat all the way, as I had the unused return half of a ticket for the last time I went to Ipswich, when I got a lift back home.
But the train was a rather overcrowded Class 170 train, although I did have a comfortable seat in First. But judging by the number of passengers on the 17:20 train after a match with Ipswich riding high in the Championship, a three car train is not big enough.
I just missed the connecting Tottenham Hale train, so I had to wait in the cold. But I did have time for a pit-stop and to purchase a snack in the Marks and Spencer in the station.
Normally, I get home about seven, but I didn’t get home until nine.
A couple of seasons ago, my getting to Portman Road for the football was made very difficult, as virtually every match was difficult because of works on the line and it meant getting on a bus for most of the day.
So now Network Rail is sorting out the ballast on the track and from the 31st of January until the 22nd of March there will be no direct trains between London, Ipswich and Norwich at weekends.
A typical journey will now take nearly two hours, as opposed to the just over one it normally does. As that is twice, I really must get a lift up and back from somewhere.
Luckily it would appear to only be three matches; Wigan (31st Jan), Reading (21st Feb) and Brentford (7th Mar), as most in the period seem to be on Tuesday evening or we’re away at easier places to get to like Rotherham or Middlesbrough.
Tuesday night matches seem to be OK at the moment. Although, if we have extra time and penalties in the FA Cup replay on Wednesday, getting home might be tricky. As I write this there is a lot of anger on the forums complaining about no late trains after the match to Cambridge, Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
For the Norwich match on the first of March, which thankfully has a 14:05 start, it looks more feasible to go via Kings Cross and change at Cambridge.
Obviously, the ballast cleaning has to be done, but Abellio Greater Anglia could have used this disruption to fans getting to and from matches as a vehicle to show how well they can deal with adversity, instead of getting the old tired solutions out of the box.
For example, Abellio Greater Anglia have several rakes of Mark 3 coaches that run the services up the East Anglian Main Line. Could they not use a diesel locomotive to on match days run a football special either via or from Cambridge? Properly done, it might retrieve their battered reputation and encourage more people to travel by train.
But they can’t even get their information right. This was a poster at Liverpool Street on Saturday the 10th.
That is unless it’s me who’s got the wrong dates. At least they said the first of January was New Year’s Day. Although, it was a Thursday not a Wednesday.
It would be interesting to know how Norwich fans are coping during this period, as I think quite a few are dependent on using the long-distance trains to get to both home and away matches. Surely, during this interruption, they should seriously think about running direct diesel-hauled services from London to Norwich via Cambridge for all passengers. Does granny visiting Norwich really want to spend hours on a coach, when she booked a comfortable train? Especially, if it’s crammed full with angry football fans worried about missing the match or getting their onward connection in London.
Yet again, Abellio Greater Anglia have shown all the conservatism and arrogance of their Dutch masters, who managed the Fyra fiasco and introduced one of Europe’s worst ticketing systems to piss off foreign visitors.
I’m using football stadia as an example, but it could equally be any other important building, like a hospital or a museum, or any number of sporting venues.
The problem was brilliantly illustrated yesterday at Bournemouth, where I walked the obvious route to Dean Court, that I’d used twice before. But after seeing Bournemouth fans at Pokesdown station turning the other way, I thought there must be a better route. Stewards gave me directions to one, that was the other two sides of a quadrilateral, that was five minutes shorter.
A few signs are all that are needed, with perhaps a few metres of asphalt to make the walking easier.
At Ipswich, you come out of the station and you can see the ground. But there are also maps everywhere for the lost, although for visiting fans there isn’t any indication of where they should go. In this map, away fans go to the bottom right corner of the ground, which is the area of the ground you get to first as you walk up Portman Road.
Since this map was produced, the biggest improvement has been putting the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge across the river. This provides an important walking route between the south western parts of the town and the centre and the football ground.
Note that in this map, the station is indicated by the red arrow symbol, as they are in all the other maps.
There are a few groups in the Premier League and Championship that have their own stops or are less than fifteen minutes from a rail, tube, tram or metro stop.
Arsenal – This has three stations at Arsenal, Finsbury Park and Highbury and Islington.
Aston Villa – The stations are Aston and Witton
Chelsea – Take your pick from Fulham Broadway, Imperial Wharf and West Brompton
Crystal Palace – Norwood Junction is five minutes away.
Hull City – There is a walking route from Hull station.
Manchester City – Take the Metrolink to Etihad Campus.
So could the walking routes to other grounds in the top two divisions, particularly from the nearest rail station, be improved?
The walking route from Bordesley station isn’t very long or difficult, as this map shows.
But it’s just downright dangerous, as there is no pedestrian route around Bordesley Circus. I wrote about it in this post; A Pedestrian Crossing From Hell.
I have heard from Birmingham City Council, who say that something is being done.
If you look at the map, you’ll see the Camp Hill Line passing at the side of the ground. If Birmingham City are ever successful and need to rebuild the ground, if feasible planning permission should include a station at the new stadium.
It is a long term aspiration of Birmingham City Council to open this line to passenger traffic. The way the tide is turning in favour of rail, I wouldn’t bet against this happening.
I usually go to the ground by Blackburn, as I usually change trains for the area in Manchester, so that I can get a meal if I need one.
To get between the station and the ground, I normally use a bus, which isn’t as easy as it could be, as the information is rudimentary.
Mill Hill is nearer to the ground and walk-able, as this map shows.
But I think there are two problems with using Mill Hill.
To return to the station would be a walk up the hill.
But the main reason, I would not go to Mill Hill, is that I can’t get a direct train to that station from Manchester. As you have to change trains in Blackburn, I might. just as well get out there and catch a bus.
All this might change when the local lines around Cardiff are electrified, as they seem to be improving stations.
I did get lost though, so I think a few more signposts would help, as would another light-controlled crossing on Derwent Parade.
I wasn’t sorry when Leicester City got promoted, as the walk to get to the stadium is not a short one.
I think it would be helped with some better signs. I generally take the road opposite the station and aim for Welford Road, I pass the rugby ground and you can see the King Power stadium.
This map shows Nottingham station and the two Nottingham football grounds; Meadow Lane and the City Ground.
I have walked between the station and the City Ground probably a dozen times and it’s flat and not a route that has many opportunities to get lost. But as the map shows, you walk alongside a waterway and surely access to this would make the walk more pleasant. It would also help if some improvements could be implemented at both ends of the route.
One thing that I’ve never had explained to me, is why are there no plans to serve the two football grounds and the cricket ground using the Nottingham tram.
The distance isn’t great but it doesn’t appear to be signposted at all. Note that there is a canal and Wigan Pier, that could be on the route,so it could bring visitors to an area that the council is developing, into the Wigan Pier Quarter.
I know where things are in Ipswich very well, but I have no idea about the buses you get for a particular place.
Earlier in the day, a guy had asked me where he could catch a bus to the hospital. I said I didn’t know, so I pointed him in the direction of the bus station.
Whilst I was waiting for a friend to turn up for supper, I found myself on the main Tower Ramparts bus station. So I looked at this list of buses.
The hospital isn’t mentioned. There was also no-one to ask.
But then I was just walking to the football ground and then afterwards to the train. So I wasn’t bothered.
It is hidden away in the Docks and is quite difficult to find. I remember the first time I found it with my mother, after we’d come in on the bus, to look at Ipswich. We’d been looking for the town centre and had walked the wrong way from the bus station. I think we went back soon afterwards and took a bus home.
These were Metier’s buildings in the Fore Street area of Ipswich.
Note that the major building we did up, has now been converted to apartments.
This was my nickname for the Odeon cinema in Ipswich which was built in 1991.
I gave it the nickname, as I thought it would never be a success and would sink as the ill-fated liner did. According to this report from the Ipswich Star it lasted until 2005.
C and I only ever saw one film in the cinema.
It’s all very sad!