Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not the best of weeks

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of those involved, things don't go to plan. My experiences with Chiltern Railways over the last couple of days lead me to believe that the management of my local railway company probably want to stop banging their heads against the proverbial Brick Wall...

Wednesday 14th July 2010

The 0629 train from Aylesbury to London usually consists of a four coach 'Clubman', with an empty two coach 165 class unit tacked onto the back. The train usually arrives at High Wycombe where the rear train is de-coupled. The front four coaches then head off for Marylebone at 0702 with the two coach train then forming the 0708 train, calling en-route just at Seer Green & Jordans and Gerrards Cross.

Yesterday the train was 20 minutes late leaving Aylesbury. The departure boards indicated that it was to terminate early at High Wycombe. When the train came round the corner there was clearly something wrong as the front four coaches were missing and the train was made up of just the two rear coaches.

At High Wycombe no announcements were made. Half the passengers got off and the platform was deserted. The platform indicator did however suggest that the train was to be the 0708, due to leave at about 0720.

While we were sat at the red signal a fast train ran through on the 'Down' line, overtaking us. When we got a green signal we then set off, again without so much as a squeak from the driver. The train was almost empty.

Ten minutes later we pulled into Seer Green & Jordans, a very small station in the middle of nowhere. The train almost filled up with all the passengers that got on. Highly unusual.

At Gerrards Cross a shoe horn would have failed to get all the passengers on board.

We eventually got into Marylebone at 0802 - on the approach the driver made the sole announcement of the journey to apologise for the late arrival.

Problem: A cancelled train will inevtably lead to overcrowding. However communication with passengers (and possibly to the driver) was terrible. Must try harder.

Thursday 15th July 2010

The 0733 Wrexham & Shropshire service from Marylebone broke down this morning and the passengers were turfed off at Wembley Stadium.

The 0736 Chiltern Railways from Marylebone was terminated early (I don't know why) at Princes Risborough. This train usually goes another two stations up the line to Bicester North where passengers have 4 - 7 minutes to cross the footbridge to connect with a fast running Birmingham train that zooms up behind it.

The 0750 Chiltern Railways (aforementioned fast running Birmingham train) today picked up the W&S passengers at Wembley Stadium and then ran non-stop but slowly to Bicester North.

Anyone who wanted to have connected at Bicester today would have struggled because the 0839 arrival didn't get there. If you are still with me, that train had stopped several miles south at Princes Risborough, with no imminent connection to the Birmingham services from there.

I was meeting a colleague on the fast service at Bicester North. Fortunately I had caught the preceding Birmingham service, so 'only' had to wait on the platform for 50 minutes for the fast train which was by then running almost half an hour late. We eventually arrived into Birmingham 24 minutes late.

Problems: Passengers from stations outside London who caught the 0736 departure today, and who wanted to connect to the Birmingham service at Bicester couldn't. This was because they were stranded at Princes Risborough. Also not a single announcement was made at Bicester North about the late running of the Birmingham service. Not good.

This Evening

A tree came down on the Metropolitan Line this evening, somewhere near Harrow on the Hill. This meant that all Aylesbury trains had to go via High Wycombe. One such diverted train (possibly the first?) did stop at Wembley Stadium. The train was then to run fast to Aylesbury on the Highy Wycombe line, but the passengers managed to persuade the driver to stop at Beaconsfield (the nearest alternative station to Amersham). A lot of passengers struggled to get home.

The 1812 service to Aylesbury from Marylebone managed to depart before the 1809 departure. The trains have different destinations and stopping patterns. At High Wycombe trains were randoly appearing and disappearing from the departure boards. No non-automated abnnouncements were made and neither staff or train drivers had a clue what was going on.

Things can and do go wrong, but someone at Chiltern needs perhaps to think about passenger experiences at a micro-level. Communications need to improve.

For much of the evening trains were backing up from Princes Risborough, presumably due to the number of trains fighting to get up the single track line from there to Aylesbury.

OK: I've got that off my chest. Boing... Off to bed. Oh and the bacon baguette sandwiches sold at the cafe at Bicester North are superb.

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