The Anonymous Widower

Do A Lot Of Other Cities Need An Overground?

This article on the MayprWatch web site is entitled London Overground Celebrates Ten Years Of Transforming Rail Travel In The Capital.

The principles behind the Overground are simple.

  • Bring run-down suburban railways under local control.
  • Clean everything like crazy.
  • Run four trains per hour on all routes.
  • Introduce contactless ticketing with Oyster and bank cards.
  • Have lots of visible well-trained staff.
  • Upgrade stations and step-free access, when money allows.
  • Increase train length to match passenger numbers.
  • Allow disabled passengers to just turn up and get the assistance they need.
  • Add lots of passenger information.

The principles certainly appear to have worked. This is from the MayorWatch article.

This investment, which started under Mr Livingstone and was continued by his successor Boris Johnson, has helped the London Overground become one of the UK’s most successful rail services, with independently measured passenger satisfaction scores routinely above 80%.

Since launch, more than a billion passenger journeys have been made on the network which now serves 23 of the Capital’s boroughs as well as southern Hertfordshire.

The investment is continuing.

  • In 2018, new Class 710 trains will replace the thirty-year-old Class 315 trains on West Anglia routes to Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town.
  • In 2018, the newly-electrified Gospel Oak to Barking Line will change over to four-car Class 710 trains to double capacity.
  • In 2018, Friday and Saturday night services will start on the East London Line.
  • By 2020, service frequencies on the circular North, East, South and West London Lines will have increased to decrease the overcrowding.
  • In 2021, the Gospel Oak to Barking Line Extension to Barking Riverside will open to serve ten thousand new homes.
  • In 2026, the North London Line will join the big party at Old Oak Common station, when HS2 opens.
  • Could the West London Orbital be the next project?
  • Transport for London would love to get their hands on the Northern City Line. This proposal is supported by many Londoners, polticians and rail professionals like Chris Gibb.

So long as passengers turn up, we will see increasing amounts of orange on London’s Rail and Tube Map.

Celebrating Ten Years

To celebrate ten years, London Overground have released a map showing attractions that are accessible from the Overground.

The Overground could become a tourist attraction in its own right.

  • No special ticket required – Just touch in and out!
  • Many of the attractions served by the Overground are affordable or free.
  • Trains have a frequency of at least four trains per hour.
  • Stations generally have good directions to local attractions.

In addition, Overground trains have better views from the windows than Underground trains.

The Overground Has Certainly Been A Success

When I moved to Dalston in 2010, the Overground had just opened to four station within walking distance; Canonbury, Dalston Junction, Dalston Kingsland and Haggerston.

New three-car Class 378 trains ran to Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross, Richmond, Stratford and West Croydon, every fifteen or so minutes.

Now the trains have grown to five-cars and there is an extra route across South London to Clapham Junction to complete the circlke around Central London.

Passenger numbers have grown with the capacity and the railways have transformed Hackney and Dalston in particular.

Other Overgrounds In The UK

Several cities in the UK have their own local rail networks that are heavily used for commuting, leisure, shopping and tourism.

I’ve rode on systems in Birm,ingham, Glasgow and Liverpool, but none of these railways is as easy to use and as travel information-rich as the London Overground.

Not one of the UK’s local networks for instance, allow ticketing by using a contactless bank or credit card.

But then, with only a couple of exceptions, European networks are no better than the abysmal norm!

Contactless Ticketing

I believe that every local rail or Metro network, should support ticketing using contactless bank or credit cards.

  • There is no need to buy a ticket or a special electronic travel card.
  • A maximum daily, weekly or monthly cap can be applied.
  • \Entry and exit at stations is quick and easy.

I also feel that cities that don’t go this route will lose out, as tourists will go elsewhere.

Network Maps

New Metros in Europe and the rest of the world, shameslessly copy the features of London’s iconic Tube map for one of their networks. But often for various reasons, they position them high-up and make it that you need to be over six foot tall to read them.

Every network, should have a large map, that is at least the size of London’s with the stations laid out in an easy-to-read format, that can be read by anybody from an eleven-year-old child to an eighty-yrear-old with failing eyesight, sitting in a wheelchair.

London’s maps aren’t perfect, but they are a good start!

Merseyrail

I know the Merseyrail network well and it probably comes closest to the London Overground in terms of operation.

But, in terms of Marketing, I don’t think it does is best to sell itself to visitors.

Birmingham

Is a big change about to happen in Birmingham?

This article in the Railway Gazette is entitled West Midlands Trains Announces London Northwestern Brand.

This is also said about services in Birmingham.

Services operating around Birmingham are to use the West Midlands Combined Authority’s West Midlands Railway branding, with a view to facilitating the possible future devolution of responsibility for these services from the national Department for Transport to the authority.

So will Birmingham improve its local rail offering?

It’s certainly going to have new trains and an expanded service, so will they add the following.

  • Contasctless bank card ticketing.
  • A route pattern and map, that is understandable to non-Brummies.
  • Dedicated local platforms at New Street station.
  • More visible staff on the platforms.
  • More information.

The bare bones are there, but they need a lot more flesh!

Conclusion

The world needs to develop more Overground networks as London has done!

 

 

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Do The Addresses Of Train Operating Companies Put People Off Writing?

I write the odd letter of complaint or praise to various companies, although I can’t remember writing one to a train operating company for some time.

I have a feeling it might have been to London Overground about something, but I do remember a reply, but what it was about, I have no idea.

In going through Chris Gibbs report on Govia Thameslink Railway, I asked myself, where their customer support is situated.

The page is comprehensive with the postal address being in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire.

So if you were complaining or praising something would you think that this disconnected address is in some anonymous Call Centre in Leicestershire and not bother?

I checked a few other companies.

  • Chiltern – Banbury
  • East Midlands Trains – Derby
  • Greater Anglia – Norwich
  • London Overground – Swiss Cottage

Incidentally, Great Western don’t say, but the address is Freepost GWR Customer Support.

I think the GWR approach is probably the most professional, as it means they can put the customer support in the most convenient place and if they should move it, the post will still get through.

 

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

IKEA Make A Mistake

For my kitchen, I need one of these sink cabinets numbered 901.049.37

The cabinet and the front were delivered as three items.

  • TINGSRYD drawer front 60×20 wood effect black 402.056.79
  • TINGSRYD door 60×60 wood effect black 702.056.68
  • ME base cb f b-in oven/sink 60x60x80 wood eff bl 202.055.43

But I thought I ordered one with a drawer.

As the order was split down by a computer, the computer got it wrong.

But then I’ve always had trouble with IKEA’s computer system, as I wrote about in Infuriating IKEA.

These pictures show the current state of the unfinished cabinet.

I’ve e-mailed their customer service and not had a reply.

Incidentally, I can’t find a 60×60 drawer front on their web site.

A drilling tempolate would do, so I could modify the door myself.

But unfortunately with the holes, I have no idea, where to put them!

Has anybody got any suggestions?

August 20, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Deutsche Bahn’s Idea Of Customer Service

To get back from Leipzig, I had two choices.

  • I could go to Munich and spend the night in a hotel I know by the station and come home in the morning.
  • Or I could go back in one day.

As I had bought a flexible Eurostar ticket for Friday in the early evening, I was thinking about the direct option.

But on Thursday night, I decided to buy my tickets for Brussels with a change at Frankfurt Airport, as I was offered a good value ticket in First Class with reserved seats, for less than it would have cost in Second.

It was probably just as well I bougth the ticket, given what happened in Munich on Friday night.

I ended up with a bundle of tickets on three A4 sheets of paper.

Germany's Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Germany’s Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Compare that with my tickets to Liverpool tomorrow.

The UK's Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

The UK’s Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Just two cards for my wallet with one up and one back.

I should also say, that to buy the German ticket, I had to queue up in a Ticket Office, as the ticket machine wasn’t allowed to sell me the ticket I wanted. Queuing included having to get a compulsory number from a machine, despite the fact there was only a few people waiting.

In the morning, the train left at 06:31, so as I was in First Class, I thought I’d go to the DB Lounge.

DSCN9406

But as you can see it wasn’t open. Surely, if trains are running, the lounges should be open.

On the first train, I saw the steward once and didn’t get so much as a complimentary glass of water.

But judging by the emptiness of First Class, it doesn’t appeal to most passengers.

From Frankfurt Airport to Brussels, the second train had more passengers, but I did have to buy myself a Coke.

You get much better service on Chiltern Trains in Standard Class.

And who owns Chiltern?

 

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Disappointing Cologne

Cologne and its station disappointed me.

I was hungry and the hotel wasn’t exactly brimming with gluten-free food options. Or guests for that matter.

In fact, the whole city centre was dead.

Was everybody tucked up in bed watching the vEurovision Song Contest or because of the attacks in the city centre in the New Year, does everybody not go there any more.

In the end, I got supper in an Argentinian steak house, where the food was a lot better than the service.

In the morning, I didn’t have a ticket, so I arrived at the station a bit early, only to find that the machines didn’t seem to see the ticket I wanted and the ticket office wasn’t open.

It was a repeat of the customer service of the night before.

There are a couple of things to note in the pictures.

  • I had to go through all the rigmarole of getting a number to buy a ticket.
  • I had masses of paper for my ticket compared to what I get in the UK.
  • Comfortable seats were thin on the ground.
  • There was a smoking area on the platform.
  • Lots of trains seemed to be locomotive-hauled.

Eventually, I arrived in Brussels with plenty of time to spare.

But surely the biggest disappointment about Cologne is why the Germans haven’t developed it as a gateway for Cross-Channel passengers.

Consider.

  • Cologne has very good connections to major German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, which are much better than those from Brussels or Paris.
  • A lot of visitors to Germany from the UK, may be going to Cologne anyway, so why force them to change trains in Brussels?
  • According to the Demographics of Cologne, the city has around a million inhabitants and is in a region of three million.
  • Cologne is about the same size as Birmingham, Glasgow or Liverpool/Manchester, so it could probably sustain a direct service.
  • If you need to waste an hour or so in Cologne, whilst changing trains, you are by the cathedral and the Rhine.
  • Cologne to London by train must be around four hours, which must be very competitive with flying.
  • A Sleeper train between London and Cologne would probably work. I’d use it!

I think the Germans can’t be bothered, as they’d have more passengers to cater for, who knew about customer service.

I know there’s the problem of Customs and Immigration, but if Deutsche Bahn were serious about running a service, I’m sure the problems are solvable.

I’ve been through small airports where excellent, efficient and probably very thorough systems had been setup to encourage traffic.

The problem could of course be the UK Border Force, who in my experience don’t seem to be the best in the world.

But then, the world needs to develop fast, efficient, automatic border checks, that I’m certain if we got right, would actually discourage illegal immigration.

As it is, we set up such weak checks, that they encourage criminals to encourage and fleece, those that might want to come to countries, where work might be available.

 

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Overground Customer Service At Work

You may ask, what this London Overground Customer Service Agent is doing on his knees at Hackney Downs station.

Overground Customer Service At Work

Overground Customer Service At Work

He’d spotted a raised man-hole cover and was taking a photograph to report it. He’d put a one pence coin by the hole.

A Raised Man-Hole Cover

A Raised Man-Hole Cover

Apparently, that is the standard for a hole being too big.

That is a very good practical way of measuring it.

 

June 3, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

A Problem At Barking Station

Yesterday, I had a small problem at Barking station, about getting my train back to the centre.

This is what I wrote to London Underground.

I visited Barking and had arrived on an H&C. So when I went back, the signs directed me to the sane platform, but there was no information there and no trains. So in the end I gave up and walked to the Westbound District Line platform, where I found a distressed elderly lady looking for a train to Paddington. Eventually, I shepherded her on a District Line train and I found a H&C at West Ham. The lady went off to try her luck on the Jubilee Line.

Not only was there no signs to the H&C and no trains, but there were no staff on the platform directing people to the trains that were running.

It wasn’t the standard I usually get at Dalston Junction or Barbican say!

It is very unusual that this happens on the Underground.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Service From Hackney

A week or so ago, I ran out of Visitor Parking Vouchers. Normally, I go over to the Council Offices in Hackney, as I’ve tried to buy them on-line a couple of times and I’ve not been successful.

So this time, last Friday, I filled in the form in the book of vouchers and posted it off with a cheque.

I was just about getting worried this morning about what had happened, especially as the cheque hadn’t been cleared.

Then the vouchers were hand delivered to my house at about nine o’clock in a hand-written envelope.

So all’s well that ends well!

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Are Small Energy Companies Struggling?

I’ve just read this article on Blue and Green Tomorrow entitle ‘Unprecedented’ growth forces small energy suppliers to battle customer service issues. The first paragraph summarises the article well.

While dissatisfied energy customers are turning their back on the ‘big six’ suppliers, smaller firms are increasing their number of customers, but their exponential growth is also leading to higher complaints.

I have no current customer services issues with Ovo, who I switched to in December. Although earlier, I did have some issues with their login system.

I would expect that just like any new industry, these small energy companies will have customer service issues in their infancy, as more customers join before the staff are recruited and trained to deal with any problems.

May 24, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

In DB Style From Berlin To Heidelberg

I’d always wanted to go to Heidelberg, as it was probably the first German town, of which I knew the name. This was because I spent so much time from the age of about six watching one or other of my father’s Original Heidelberg printing machines. One is shown in this post. My simple job, was to call him, if the machines dropped any paper, which is a letterpress printer’s worst nightmare, as then other shets follow and paper goes everywhere, often damaging the intricately set type.

There is no museum in the town, but I just had to go.

So I bought an extremely expensive ticket at €215 for the journey, expecting a bit of DB TLC in First.

All I got was one cup of coffee which I had to pay €2.50 for.

My €2.50 Cup Of Coffee

My €2.50 Cup Of Coffee

But I suppose the seat was comfortable and I had most of the carriage to myself.

At least on my journey from Berlin to Warsaw, which is about the same distance, I paid only €79 and got a free cup of coffee and some biscuits that weren’t gluten-free.

As Berlin to Heidelberg is virtually the same distance as London to Edinburgh, I looked up the fares on the Scottish route.  Today it would be £208, but tomorrow it would be £120.  On the other hand for the German trip for say next Thursday, it will still be €215.

There is also one big difference in the UK, in that anybody, even Germans, over 60 can purchase for £30 a Senior Railcard, which reduces the prices I’ve shown by a third. And you can buy that at a ticket office, when you take your first journey. I did try to see if I could buy a DB Card, but the lady at the ticket office didn’t want to sell me one and didn’t have good English.

But the biggest difference between East Coast or Virgin and DB, is that on many long distance journeys you get snacks and endless tea and coffee thrown in with the ticket.

I have had customer service problems with Deutsche Barn in the past, most notably at Osnabruck.

No wonder the train was empty for most of the way!

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment