The Anonymous Widower

I Have Just Setup My July Tax Payment

I received my Self Assessment Statement yesterday and have just setup the payment on-line.

My father didn’t do any Government printing, as he said, that they always wanted very small type and at fifty, his eyes weren’t up to it.

I find in checking the account to pay the money, that the form is still confusing and I need to get my magnifying glass out.

  • There would also appear nowhere to print a large format version of the instructions.
  • Or details in another language for that matter!
  • There is a help web-address at the bottom. In very small type. It should be in an easy-read twelve point type.

HMRC can do better!

But they don’t care, as if you put in the wrong amount, it’s your fault not theirs.

 

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Finance | , , , | Leave a comment

InterCity Quality For Rural Routes

The title of this post is a quote from the Managing Director of Greater Anglia; Jamie Burles about the Class 755 trains in this article on Rail Magazine.

This is the complete paragraph.

Burles said of the Class 755s: “These will be the most reliable regional train in the UK by a country mile – they had better be. They will be InterCity quality for rural routes, and will exceed expectations.”

Initially, the Class 755 trains will be deployed between Norwich and Great Yarmouth stations.

  • It is 18.4 miles long
  • There are four intermediate stations.
  • Trains currently take thirty-three minutes.

It is certainly not your traditional InterCity route and it only runs at a maximum frequency of two trains per hour (tph).

Consider.

  • Norwich is a City of over 140,000.
  • Great Yarmouth is a town of 40,000.
  • There are lots of business and leisure reasons to travel between the two.
  • The A47 road between the two is totally inadequate.

Greater Anglia are purchasing a fleet of 38 trains with a total of 138 carriages to replace 27 trains with a total of 58 carriages.

  • This is a forty percent increase in the number of trains.
  • This is nearly two and a half times as many carriages.
  • The average number of carriages per train is raised from 2.1 to 3.6.

That is a massive increase in train capacity.

I don’t believe that Greater Anglia will park these trains in a siding, but use them to increase frequencies.

  • Will the 100 mph operating speed of the trains allow a round trip between Norwich and Great Yarmouth to be done in after an hour?
  • Will the frequency be increased to up to four tph?

If this can be arranged then Greater Anglia could need as few as four trains to run a Turn-Up-and-Go service between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

How many passengers would that attract to the route?

Comparing Three-Car Class 755 And Class 170 Trains.

Some three-car Class 170 trains were bought some years ago, to run services between London and Great Yarmouth.

In recent years, they have become the mainstay of Greater Anglia’s regional routes.

  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Ipswich and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Cambridge

All three routes are currently run at a frequency of one tph.

These trains have the following specification.

  • 100 mph operation
  • Two-class layout.
  • Between 100 and 200 seats.

They have proven to be a  capable train for the routes and appear to have been driving increasing traffic levels.

It should also be noted that other operators use these trains on routes including.

  • Birmingham and Stansted Airport
  • Cleethorpes and Manchester Airport
  • Cardiff and Nottingham

I think it is true to say that Class 170 trains are 100 mph trains for running on InterCity routes that can’t justify a full-size train like a bi-mode Class 802 train.

Some operators will also be running five-car Class 802 trains on routes that have been run in the past or still are run by Class 170 trains.

The Class 755 trains are 100 mph trains, which Greater Anglia are using in two sizes.

  • Class 755/3 train – three cars with 167 seats
  • Class 755/4 train – four cars with 229 seats

The longer trains will probably be used on Greater Anglia’s longer regional routes.

  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted Airport via Cambridge
  • Liverpool Street ans Lowestoft via Ipswich

Note that the last three routes are electrified for nearly have the route.

Except for the Ipswich and Cambridge route, these routes are longer than those run in the past and these routes will probably need four-car trains with InterCity interiors and service.

The Liverpool Street and Lowestoft service of the 1960s and 1970s had a buffet car and passengers on this route will at least expect a trolley service of drinks and snacks.

I very much feel that the Class 755 trains will in a worse case be better than the Class 170 trains, that have run InterCity services in the past.

Will Class 755/3 And Class 755/4 Trains Have The Same Interiors?

Greater Anglia haven’t said definitely that the interiors in the two classes of train will be the same, but I think it will be likely, with respect to the ease of building and maintaining the trains.

This video shows the train being tested at Diss.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the interior.

So I’ll have to wait until the end of June to have a look at a real train.

It should also be noted that Class 755 trains can be lengthened by adding extra trailer cars.

So it would be unlikely that the interiors in the driver and trailer cars were different, as this would mean that shuffling of cars could create a train with a mixed interior.

Conclusion

Consider.

  • Some of the Class 755/4 trains will be running InterCity services.
  • Both Class 755 variants are capable of 100 mph running.
  • Ease of building and maintenance probably requires identical interiors.

It would appear that all services where Class 755 trains are used, will get the same InterCity passenger experience.

Although some services could be slower than InterCity services, due to track limitations.

Will Abellio use a similar philosophy, with the new fleet for East Midlands Railway?

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Leon The Only Fast-Food Restaurant, Where You Get Personal Service?

When I ordered my full English pot in Leon a few minutes ago, they were temporarily out. So the assistant told me to sit down and he brought it to me a couple of minutes later.

This regularly happens in Leon and it’s one of the reasons I go!

May 29, 2019 Posted by | Food | , | Leave a comment

A Trip Around The West Midlands

Today, I did a trip around the West Midlands, using five different trains.

Tain 1 – 19:10 – Chiltern – London Marylebone To Leamington Spa

This was one of Chiltern’s rakes of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

I like these trains.

  • They are comfortable.
  • Everybody gets a table and half sit by a big window.
  • There is more space than Virgin Train’s Class 390 trains.
  • They may be slower, but they are fast enough for most journeys I make.

The train arrived seven minutes late at Leamington Spa at 11:32.

Train 2 – 12:02 – West Midlands Trains – Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

This is a new West Midlands Trains service, via the new station at Kenilworth and Coventry.

The trains are Class 172 trains, that used to run on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Note.

  1. The have been repainted and refreshed.
  2. The seat cover on the driver’s seat is a relic of the London Overground.
  3. The train now has a toilet.

The train was about half-full and I got the impression, that the new service had been well-received.

The train arrived on time at Nuneaton at 12:38.

Train 3 – 12:54 – West Midlands Trains – Nuneaton to Rugeley Trent Valley

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived eight minutes late at 13:29.

These pictures show Rugeley Trent Valley station.

It is very minimal with just a shelter, a basic footbridge and no information on how or where to buy a ticket.

Passengers deserve better than this!

Train 4 – 13:43 – West Midlands Trains – Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street

This is a new West Midlands Trains electric service.

Compared to the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton service, passengers were spread rather thinly in the train.

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived five minutes late at 14:44.

Train 5 – 15:55 – Chiltern – Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone

Another comfortable Chiltern Railways train back to London, which arrived four minutes late at 17:47.

Customer Service

Customer service and especially that from West Midlands Trains was rather patchy.

  • Leamington Spa station was rebuilding the entrance, but staff were around.
  • Nuneaton station was very quiet.
  • Rugeley Trent Valley station needs a lot of improvement.
  • The two Birmingham City Centre stations were much better.

I actually had to travel ticketless from Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street, as the Conductor on the train didn’t check the tickets.

But Virgin Trains were very professional at Birmingham New Street.

Service Pattern

I have some observations on the service patterns.

  • For comfort reasons, I would prefer that Chiltern ran Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives on all Birmingham services.
  • In the future, it looks like Leamington Spa and Nuneaton needs at least a half-hourly service.
  • There definitely needs to be more services on the Chase Line.

There also is a serious need for staff and better facilities at Rugeley Trent Valley station.

No-one even a hardened member of the SAS would want to spend thirty minutes changing trains there on a blustery and cold winter’s day.

Conclusion

I tried two new services today, that started on the May 2019 timetable change.

  • A diesel service between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Kenilworth and Coventry.
  • An electrified service between Rugeley Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street.

The first would appear to be what passengers want, but the second needs a bit of promoting.

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the May 2019 Edition Of Modern Railways.

These are points fro the article.

  • Grand Union Railway is a new open access operator.
  • Trains will be formed of a Class 91 locomotive, nine Mark 4 coaches and a driving van trailer.
  • Trains will go between London and Cardiff, stopping at Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction and Newport
  • Trains will leave Paddington hourly from 07:35 to 21:35
  • Trains will leave Cardiff hourly from 06:35 to 19:35
  • The journey time will be one hour and forty-five minutes.
  • To run this timetable would appear to need four trains. Grand Union will probably have a fifth train, to allow for one in maintenance.

The service is subject to regulatory approval.

Note that the company has been formed by Ian Yeowart, who was previously Managing Director of Grand Central.

Currently, Great Western Railway (GWR) runs the following trains to South Wales

  • Paddington and Cardiff via Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bristol Parkway and Newport
  • Paddington and Swansea via Reading, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath

Services will soon be run exclusively by Class 800 or Class 802 trains.

Note.

  1. Some of the Swansea services are extended to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock.
  2. Paddington to Cardiff takes two hours and eight minutes.
  3. Paddington to Swansea takes just under three hours.
  4. These times will be improved when the the electrification is completed between Paddington and Cardiff

Paddington and Cardiff will be getting three trains per hour (tph) and two operators

Great Western Railway And Grand Union Services Compared

It is interesting to compare the two services.

Journey Times

Consider.

  • The Grand Union service at one hour forty-five minutes appears to be quicker than the GWR service at two hours eight minutes.
  • But are we comparing times after full electrification of the route to Cardiff, which the Class 91 locomotives will need to operate?
  • There is also the possibility of digital signalling being fitted to both sets of trains.
  • Both trains can run at 140 mph with in-cab signalling
  • The Grand Union service has less stops than the GWR service.

Will the trains settle for a draw and have the same journey times?

Capacity

The seating capacity of the two trains are as follows.

  • GWR Class 800/802 train – 655 seats
  • Grand Union – InterCity 225 – 535 seats

My only thought, is that is there enough space in the GWR train or all luggage.

Bicycles And Bulky Luggage

Tourists with cycles are increasing in number and Wales will become a destination.

Hitachi Class 800 trains do not have much space for bicycles and  bulky luggage.

On the other hand, the driving van trailer of an InterCoty225 can swallow a lot.

Will There Be Sufficient Demand For An Extra Service between London and Cardiff?

A friend asked.

Is there actually a market/capacity for an extra hourly service?

I made these points in reply.

  • The South Wales Metro will be one of the best City metros in the world and will improve feeder services to Cardiff Central dramatically.
  • The M4 is getting busier between Bristol and Cardiff, partly due to the abolition of tolls on the Severn Bridge.
  • The Principality Stadium
  • Tourism to South Wales is growing.
  • Business and finance in Wales is finally looking up.
  • All trains will be at 140 mph for long stretches, so journey times will be one hour forty-five minutes.
  • Paddngton is not an attractive place to arrive at in London, but after Crossrail opens, all should  be different.
  • City of London to City of Cardiff in two hours.
  • Cardiff will be closer to the City of London, than Brussels, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester or Paris!
  • Heathrow’s Third Runway.
  • Four wheels bad, rails good
  • Kids are getting to like trains, just as  we did.
  • The next generation of on-train Internet will be much faster for working and keeping kids of all ages amused.
  • GWR, Grand Union and the Welsh Government could market the route as High Speed Wales!

Will three tph be enough?

My Prediction In October 2013

In October 2013, I wrote Will We Get HSW Before HS2?

This was the conclusion of that post.

So I believe that even if it still goes slower on opening, trains to Bristol and Wales will be doing 225 kph before the end of this decade.

If that isn’t a high speed railway like HS1, I don’t know what is?

But whatever we call it, it’ll be here several years before HS2!

I think we need to call for three cheers for Brunel, who got the route right in the first place.

I felt the biggest problem would be the Severn Tunnel! I got that wrong, as that difficult job is now done.

Conclusion

I like this proposal.

  • The important Paddington and Cardiff route gets a fifty percent increase in train frequency.
  • There could be genuine competition on the route.
  • Grand Union would be using five of the thirty InterCity225 sets, which are in good condition, judging by my recent journeys.
  • Could we see a customer service and catering war between the two operators?

If Grand Union Railway runs to Cardiff, I’ll give it a go.

 

 

April 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rip-Off Ticketing At Bremen Hauptbahnhof

I am experienced user of Deutsche Bahn and generally buy my tickets at one of their reliable machines.

Note that queuing up at a Ticket Office sometimes takes up to thirty minutes and quite frankly I have better and more important thingfs to do with my life.

This picture shows a typical German ticket.

The two stations; Buxtehude and Cuxhaven are clearly shown.

But imagine my surprise at Bremen Hauptbahnhof, when the ticket machine dispensed this.

It is about one by four centimetres and the only readable writing on the front is EErw.

  • Does it look like a ticket to you?
  • There were no notices up about the change of ticket.
  • How do you sort out today’s ticket from yesterday’s?
  • What if you’re partially sighted?

I thought the machine had failed and curt off the ticket early.

So I tried again. With the same result!

I then tried the Ticket Office for an explanation, but the guy just played stumm, as Deutsche Bahn employees always do, when they know, there’s been a customer relations failure.

I did ascertain, that I had to put the ticket in a machine to validate it before travelling.

I did think about not doing this, so that I would get arrested on the train, but in the end, I can’t remember whether I did.

However, as tickets were not checked on the train, it didn’t matter.

It is the most arrogant system of ticketing I’ve ever found.

When I got home, I found I had been charge for two tickets.

My bank;Nationwide are trying to refuse one of the psyments.

I’ll update this post, to give you the result of their argument.

 

 

 

April 4, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

From Bremen Hauptbahnhof To Buxtehude

This should have been an easy journey with a change at Bremerhaven Hbf.

But it wasn’t and I had a nearly eighty minute wai at Bremerhaven.

If this sort of ptoblem had occured with most railway conpanies, you’d have got accurate updates and information, but even though there were some announcements, even the German passengers were confused.

I temember one incident on Greater Anglia on an extremely windy day, when a tree brought the overhead wires down at Chelmsford. Station staff at Colchester were handing out refund forms and I got refunded my trip back to Liverpool Street.

But where were the Germans?

Nowhere to be seen for a start!

I thought EU regulations laid down a tefund policy, if trains were late.

When I got to Buxtehude, a fellow passenger told me there had been signalling problems.

How do I claim my refund?

March 28, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Using Platform 12 At Stratford Station

Normally, if you take a train between Tottenham Hale and Stratford station, it terminates in Platform 11.

However, on Monday, I ended up in Platform 12.

Note there was no staff or information anywhere to be seen. Passengers were roaming aimlessly looking for the next train to the North.

I was not inconvenienced, as I was going to Marks and Spencer in Eastfield to get some food.

On enquiring at the London Overground Information Desk, it appeared there had been some signal problems, so they had swapped platforms.

March 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

It Pays To Complain Politely!

I like Nakd bars.

My favourite was the Cocoa Mint bar, but I was having difficulty getting them.

I complained politely and found out that they had been discontinued.

The company said they’d send a few others for me to try.

I wasn’t expecting a box of nine.

Note the box came in the padded bag on the left, so it came through my letterbox, without needing to be collected from the Post Office.

How many Christmas parcels have to be collected, because companies don’t pack them properly?

 

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Food | , , , | 2 Comments

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 | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment