Monday, September 05, 2011

Track Bashing the Chiltern Mainline

Today, I confess, has been a day of travelling on lots of trains, for no really good reason other than that I could.

Chiltern Railways today formally launched their new Mainline timetable.

Here and now I am not going to devil into the detail of what has, or has not been achieved.

What has happened is that there has been a complete recast of the train timetable, the aim being for many train journeys to be speeded up. In principle this is achieved by 'waves' of trains arriving into, and departing from, London Marylebone.

The general theory is that the fastest trains leaving (or arriving) are at the front of a wave, with progressively slower trains and those with shorter journeys following on behind. By the time the slowest train reaches its destination, the first train in the next wave is pushing up its backside. If you look at the timetable, you can see these waves.

There will no doubt be plenty of opportunity to analyse how the new timetable meets the broad base of Chiltern Railways' passengers. For today I simply present facts and figures on today's track bash.

For the record, my travelling today started well before the morning peak and finished not long before the close of service. The journeys were evenly spread throughout the day although, admittedly, may not necessarily reflect a sample of every journey type.
  • Total number of individual train journeys: 17
  • Total distance travelled: 340 Miles
  • Longest train journey: 77 Miles
  • Shortest train journey: 3 miles
  • Highest individual average journey speed: 70.1 mph
  • Average speed of all journeys:57.8 mph
  • Cumulative delay: 89 minutes *
  • Number of cancellations experienced: 1
  • Number of times my train was pulled over to allow a Mainline (express) service to overtake: 2 **
*The nature of the timetable is that there is very little slack. Some trains were early or on time, but the reality is that delays increased as the day went on. The delay status of every individual journey is shown to the right. I think that the general pattern of red will probably reflect the experience of many fellow passengers during the course of the day.

** Chiltern Railways operate a two track railway. It is important that some flexibility is built in to allow overtaking. If this manual intervention were not to happen, relatively light delays could very quickly snowball into a passenger nightmare. In times of need, Going as far as Aynho Junction, Northbound trains can overtake at South Ruislip, West Ruislip, Princes Risborough and Bicester North. Southbound trains can be overtaken at Princes Risborough, High Wycombe, Gerrards Cross and West Ruislip. I am happy to be told if this information is wrong. The fact that I was overtaken today is a good thing, but also a reflection of some late running.

My definition of 'late' is arriving after the minute of scheduled arrival - this is rather more harsh than what the railways use as their definition. However, the reality is that three trains were on time, or slightly early. Not fantastic, in fact a disappointment, but it has been Day 1.

All of this was made possible thanks to the good people at Chiltern Railways. I should also say that I was treated to a very pleasant on-board cream tea at the invitation of Adrian Shooter CBE, Chairman of Chiltern Railways. I will not let such courtesy and hospitality cloud my objectivity - I will continue to say what I see and think. What I say may be good, it may be bad, hopefully it will generally be balanced and most importantly reasonably well informed.

It's back to the normal commute tomorrow, so as used to be said, Boing....... Time for bed.

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