Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A summary of my train travels

Summary figures for train travel for 2012 are:
  • January: 2,229mi 52ch
  • February: 3,264mi 70ch
  • March: 3,167mi 47ch
  • April: 4,204mi 58ch
  • May: 3,693mi 50ch
  • June: 1,698mi 00ch
  • July: 3,911mi 14ch
  • August: 4,377mi 43ch
  • September: 3,951mi 5ch
  • October: 4,597mi 50ch
  • November: 5,045mi 24ch
  • December: 3,765mi 5ch
This means that in 2012 I have travelled 43,906 miles 18 chains by rail, not including the London Underground.

During the year I have spent 33 days and 3 minutes on trains and have been delayed by 2 days, 7 hours and 16 minutes.

The worst delay of the year was on 11th August, while I was on my way to see a brilliant night of athletics in the Olympic Stadium. I was not the only person on the train getting slightly nervous as the delay wore on. It was not the fault of Chiltern Railways, but it was nonetheless frustrating.

I suspect that 2013 will see me travelling fewer miles by rail than happened this year. This is primarily because am am currently not travelling quite so much for work. Only time will tell.

All stats have been collected and collated using Railmiles, written by Tom Cairns.Thanks Tom!

Have a very Happy New Year and all the very best for 2013.

December 2012 - Back to normal numbers

This month turned out to be vaguely average for the month. With the Christmas break I would have expected it to dip more, but the numbers were boosted by a trip over the holiday period up to the North East on East Coast Trains (and very good they were too).

For the record:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
London Midland
South Eastern
Total for Month

I'll post an annual summary a little bit later. I hope you are having a good evening.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Track Bashing the new Chiltern Mainline Timetable (Episode 3)

Today saw the third significant recast of the Chiltern Railways timetable in 15 months. Technically the new timetable started yesterday, but the majority of the impact and changes affect weekday travellers.

As has become customary on these days, I have spent just a little too much of my time today stress testing the new timetable.

Disclosure: I pay for an annual season ticket for travel on a reasonable chunk of the Chiltern network. However for today I did approach the railway company for a day ticket that would enable me to travel further afield without paying any extra. They kindly agreed and I am most grateful. It was on the clear understanding, agreed with no difficulty, that anything I wrote would be my own and would not (on my part) just be a piece of marketing blurb for Chiltern Railways.

I should also add at this stage that I have significant and ongoing disagreements with Chiltern Railways relating to local matters, but those are for an entirely different time and place.

So, how did the day go?..... Well I suspect that Chiltern Railways will be fairly please with themselves tonight. Compared with the September 2011 and December 2012 Timetable days, today was considerably better.

Here is a summary of the day, using exactly the same format for the facts and figures that I used previously:

  • Total number of individual train journeys:15
  • Total distance travelled: 533.9 Miles
  • Longest train journey: 111 Miles
  • Shortest train journey: 4 miles
  • Highest individual average journey speed: 78.5 mph
  • Average speed of all journeys: 61.8 mph
  • Cumulative delay: 15 minutes
  • Number of cancellations experienced: 0
  • Number of times my train was pulled over to allow a Mainline (express) service to overtake: 0 
By referring back to my previous posts, immediately it is possible to see that I experienced far fewer problems today than on either of the previous two Track Bash days, despite travelling on more trains and travelling further.

Last December I also made made reference (with a chart) to the PPM (Public Performance Measure) for Chiltern Railways. The PPM is an important Key Performance Indicator used within the railway industry to measure both punctuality and reliability. I believe that there is a target for 'All Day' performance, and also a requirement that the target must be separately hit in the three hour morning and evening 'Peaks'.

From first thing this morning, through to late this evening, I have been monitoring the cumulative PPM punctuality performance for Chiltern. Hopefully you can see from the above graph that while there was a dip at lunchtime (caused mainly by a failed train), the punctuality across the network has been pretty good, particularly for a new and virtually re-written timetable. Senior Management at Chiltern Railways are probably patting themselves on the back - without doubt the performance today has been absolutely stellar compared to the last two significant timetable changes.

A word of caution though: At some times of the day there is a ridiculously large amount of slack built into the timetable, meaning that a train has to be running a huge amount behind what it is capable of, before it is considered to be officially late.

However notwithstanding this, the measure is the measure and performance has improved.

In no particular order (other than vaguely chronological) here are a number of observations from the day:

  • I spoke to five people before I boarded my first train of the day. Three were most unhappy with the new Timetable and what it would do to their work / life balance. Two were fine - they both travel just one stop to work.
  • Much confusion at High Wycombe with the main 'London Platform' departure board out of order. I witnessed a number of people miss a train because it was unclear from where they entered the station which platform their train would leave from.
  • The car Park at Princes Risborough was considerably quieter than normal till much later than normal. This can probably be attributed to the one remaining non-stop train running 20 minutes later than was previously the case.
  • One train (the train that started from Princes Risborough at 0644) being full at the front from High Wycombe and roughly a third full in the rear two carriages. If you want a seat on the 0701 from Beaconsfield consider moving towards the back.
  • Some people getting significantly animated (again, at Princes Risborough) with two senior Chiltern Railways staff about the withdrawal of their second morning non-stop train (there isn't one at all any more in the evening).
  • The look of confusion when a Mainline Silver Train pulled into Princes Risborough (with 15 minutes to spare), to form the 0744 service to London. Quite a few people were on the train when it started. A lot more got on at High Wycombe and it is estimated that 150 people were standing from Beaconsfield, throughout the length of the train.
  • I saw a Class 172 train heading to Stratford-upon-Avon, two cars long, capable of 100 mph, nor wi-fi or tables. The first I have seen that type of train on that route.
  • A mixed train formed of a 75 mph two car unit and a 100 mph Class 172. The service was timed for 100mph. Not possible.
  • Throughout the day, many more trains terminate at Bicester North than was previously the case. I witnessed three instances where terminating trains blocked or delayed the paths of Southbound trains. I have no doubt that this will have already been identified by the railway company, but instinctively it seems plain to me that the timetable modelling at that location has not worked.
  • A 'key' service (the 1715 from Marylebone to Kidderminster, first stop Leamington Spa) left with no more than 180 passengers on board (a generous over-guesstimate). Fifteen people in my carriage and three sat in the Business Zone. That seems an under-use of a valuable resource.
So, quite a lot of trains. A fair few facts and some objectivity. However, that is the problem - that is how the railway is run.

None of this measures that countless people have have definitely had their working day extended, or their home day diminished. There will inevitably be delays and cancellations, but the fact is that people need to be where they want to be when they want to be. At some stations the only way this can happen is by passengers leaving for London earlier than was previously the case, or by leaving London later than was previously the case.

Some passengers have praised the new timetable. Many have been most uncomplimentary. Measured objectively, it broadly works. Measured from how people feel, some people are not happy.

You cannot please all of the people all of the time. Many passengers will be happy tonight, many will not. Change happens, but people don't have to like it. For some, change is a positive experience, for some it's a real negative, and some just work around it.

Personally, the new timetable will involve me changing my working pattern and some additional expense. Others won't be affected. I would like to think however that senior management at Chiltern will listen and act on all constructive or heartfelt feedback, not just measure their success by reliability, punctuality and passenger loadings.

I am grateful to Chiltern Railways for giving me the opportunity to Track Bash the Chiltern Mainline today.

For the record, my first journey this morning was at about 6.00 am, while my last finished at about 8.00pm. It would appear to be time for a beer and bed!


Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 - I need to get a life!

Another record mileage this month - I cannot see that I am likely to do this much travelling again anytime soon.

Helped out by a day trip up to Windermere in the Lake District, during a week off work. That trip saw a new entrant to the list with the Transpennine Express shuttle between Oxenholme and Windermere.

Again, for the record:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
East Midland
First Great Western
TransPennine Express
Virgin Trains
Cross Country
Total for Month

Monday, November 05, 2012

A twelve minute delay, and this is what happens.....

Us normal rail travellers often don't realise how much pedalling behind the scenes takes place to attempt to keep an on-time railway running.

This afternoon I caught the Chiltern Railways 1555 Mainline Silver Train from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone.

Once it was past Leamington Spa, it was reported that the Class 67 Locomotive (67012), pushing it from the rear, had dumped a load of oil. This was obviously reported very quickly, because six minutes before we arrived into Banbury Chiltern posted on their website that the train would be held at Banbury, due to a train fault.

Fortunately the driver(s) were unable to find anything wrong, so we left Banbury just 12 minutes late.

Regular Marylebone commuters will know that orchestrating on-time arrivals and departures is an art. The train plan has services darting in from all over the place - The train to form the flagship 1807 departure to Kidderminster is the train that was running late.

Clearly something had to be done to prevent carnage at Marylebone.

What actually happened tonight was:
  • The 1702 departure from Bicester North to Marylebone was held for 6 minutes at Princes Risborough for us to whizz past. It arrived into London bang on the Working Timetable (1813) and three minutes ahead of the published public timetable.
  • The 1648 departure from Bicester North to Marylebone was pulled over onto Platform 2 at High Wycombe, from where it left seven minutes late. It arrived into Marylebone one minute late. Being plonked there caused the 1710 MYB/SAV service to be delayed by six minutes, but that train should easily make up that time. [Edit: The SAV train actual missed it's slot at Aynho, so eventually arrived into Stratford-upon-Avon two minutes behind the public timetable.]
  • The 1723 departure from High Wycombe to Marylebone was pulled over onto the slow line at West Ruislip and held at a red signal for us for about six minutes. That train arrived into London bang on time.
What that means is that due to some nifty footwork, the Silver Train was made to unexpectedly overtake three other trains and itself arrived into Marylebone on Platform 3 at 1758 (officially 9 minutes late). It left for Kidderminster a minute late at 1808. A pretty quick turnround. It is still running about one minute late, but that is neither here nor there.

All in all there were quite a few judgement calls to be made by the control staff. I would say they did a pretty good job tonight.

Without the manual intervention by signallers, it would have been total carnage at Marylebone. Trains would have been in the wrong platforms, hundreds or even a couple of thousand passengers could have been delayed, and there could ultimately have been significant costs to the railway company. All avoided bar some relatively minor inconvenience to a much smaller number of passengers.

Quite a bit of work caused by one late running train, but all's well that ends well!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 2012 Railmiles - The highest yet

This month saw the highest mileage of the year so far, helped along by a weekend trip to Brussels on the Eurostar to see Saracens play in the Heineken Cup.

For the record:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
First Great Western
London Midland
Cross Country
Total for Month

Monday, October 22, 2012

On time, early or extra early?

Chiltern Railways generally have a pretty good reputation for trains rarely arriving at their final destination late.

One of the reasons for this is that they pad out their 'Public Timetables' like mad.

For example the weekday 1907 train from Bicester North to London Marylebone is currently due to arrive into London at 2027. That's 3 minutes later than usual because lots of brown things are currently falling off the trees causing train wheels and tracks to occasionally disagree with each other.

Officially though, according to the 'Working Timetable', the train is due into Marylebone at 2019. It cannot arrive much earlier because the platform into which the 2027 arrives is only vacated at 2014.

Tonight the train left Bicester 2 minutes early and was officially two or three minutes early at every stopping station or monitoring point along the route. The train arrived into London at 2017 (it couldn't arrive any earlier) some 10 minutes ahead of the public timetable and even 2 minutes ahead of the Working Timetable.

I can only think that the clock in the driver's cab must need adjusting - why would anyone deliberately leave so early as to potentially make many people miss the train?

Apologies for the dodgy formatting... If you don't believe me, the table below shows the comparison between the Public Timetable, the Working Timetable and the Realtime Record for the train I have decribed. A train showing a negative delay is early.

This isn't a theoretical exercise - I nearly missed the train because it was running so early.

Goodness only knows what will happen when the clocks go back this weekend!

WTT Working
Arr Dep Arr Dep Arr Dep Dly
Bicester North
1907 1907 1905 -2
pass 1910 No report
Haddenham & Thame Parkway
1919 1919 1919 1919½ 1915 1917 -2
Princes Risborough
1926 1926 1926 1926½ 1923 1923 -3
1931 1931 1931 1931½ 1928 1929 -2
West Wycombe
pass 1934 No report
High Wycombe
1937 1938 1937 1938 1934 1935 -3
1944 1944 1943½ 1944 1941 1942 -2
Seer Green
1947 1947 1946½ 1947 1945 1945 -2
Gerrards Cross
1951 1952 1951 1952 1948 1949 -3
Denham Golf Club
pass 1954 No report
1956 1956 1955½ 1956 1953 1953 -3
West Ruislip
pass 1959 pass 1956 -3
South Ruislip
2001 2001 2001 2001½ 1958 1959 -2
Northolt Park Jn
pass 2002 No report
Northolt Park
pass 2003 No report
Sudbury Hill Harrow
pass 2004 No report
Sudbury & Harrow Road
pass 2005 No report
Wembley Stadium
2008 2008 2007½ 2008 2004 2005 -3
Neasden South Jn
pass 2010 pass 2007 -3
London Marylebone
2027 2019 2017 -2

Thursday, October 18, 2012

De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bunkum

I stopped Latin lessons after a couple of years. However the magic interweb thingy can quickly reveal what the above heading may be literally translated to mean.

The sentiment is absolutely right.

Move along please, there is nothing to see here. Oops sorry, that may not be right.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beardie Rail Lives Longer

My view is that the Government's announcement that they are negotiating with Beardie Rail, in order that they might continue to operate the West Coast Main Line for an extended period of time, is probably sensible.

It will be interesting to see what pans out. The commercial terms of any contract extension will I suspect be even more sensitive that would normally be the case.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

And today's news is...

The Department for Transport have today announced that the competition to run trains on the West coast Main Line has been cancelled.

I have seen examples of what I consider to be inadequate and erroneous analysis, by officials, of rail related information submitted to the DfT. I am therefore pleased to see an acknowledgement that the Department is not always right.

It is early, so I have to go to catch a train, but this story clearly has plenty of wheels. I wonder if many more are going to fall off?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012 Mileage Data

This month saw a couple more trips on the Olympic Javelin Shuttle plus a weekend trip down to Exeter to see Sarcens play rugby.

For the record:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
First Great Western
South Eastern
Virgin Trains
Cross Country
Total for Month

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Life moves on

This has been a good Summer for London.
Time that has been a long  while coming.
Tens of millions of people's expectations have been exceeded.
Thousands of people have had their hopes dashed.

There have been two flames at the heart of the most recent memories.
Tonight the second of those two flames will be extinguished.
The cauldron will then be dismantled.
Two hundred and four scorched petals to be despatched to every corner of the planet.
They will never be reunited.

The petals will move on, as life moves on.

The World will remember London in 2012.
The heat.
The rain.
The people.
The celebrations.

The endeavours.

The World has been reminded what we are about.
This land is full of good.
This planet is full of good.
The flames have been temporary.
The Games have been temporary.
They have helped remind us how to feel good.

Celebrate and move on.

Life moves on.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Olympic Month Mileage Data

A good month for a number of different reasons.

For the record:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
Cross Country
Total for Month

The second month running with a new Train Operating Company. The South Eastern mileage was all on the Javelin shuttles running between St Pancras International and the Olympic Park at Stratford International. That particular station will never ever see so many passengers again once the Paralympics have been and gone next month.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Well that was a little strange

I am not even sure how I found out (because I wasn't following him on Twitter), but today is Geoff Marshall's fortieth Birthday. Happy Birthday Geoff!

Before today I had never met Geoff and had never spoken to him either. Our only interaction had been a brief exchange of emails some years ago.

Just to give some background, Geoff was for a period the World Record Holder for travelling to every London Underground station in the shortest possible time. He also undertook a road trip to visit a place in each of the forty eight connected US States that had the same name as a London Underground station (and blogged about it). I am sure that you will notice a certain theme here - probably not a million miles from the sort of stuff that I have been known to blog about.

Anyhow, there I was up in Birmingham, about to catch a Chiltern Railways train home when I discovered that Geoff was organising a flashmob at five forty this evening at Forty Lane in Wembley.

I decided to go....

I did the proper thing and picked up an appropriate birthday card at Marylebone Station. I then checked my phone to discover that the Metropolitan Line service to Wembley could best be described as 'erratic'. While on the train, the adjoining Jubilee Line was suspended, followed shortly thereafter by the Metropolitan Line. Fortunately I had successfully wended my way through the tube detritus to reach the appointed place, about twenty minutes early.

Being just about the warmest day of 2012 so far, I needed no excuse to sit outside the local pub, soaking up the late afternoon sun. Meanwhile Geoff was tweeting away, mildly swearing and generally berating the misfortune that he and his friends were having trying to reach Wembley.

We were communicating by tweets, but at the appointed time it was clear that without Geoff & Co the flashmob was to consist of one person. Me.

It didn't happen.

Having had notice that the mob had arrived at Wembley Park shortly after the arranged time, I wandered back down towards the station. I then successfully stalked the party crowd up the road and successfully merged into them as they approached Forty Lane.

All a bit weird really.

Anyhow, I was made to feel most welcome, took a group picture, handed over aforesaid birthday card, and then travelled with most of the group back down to Baker Street, having been asked to sign a tee shirt on the way.

I am not sure why that all happened and, as I say, it was a little strange, but all in all it was rather fun.

Happy Birthday Geoff!

Oh, and check out the professional show reel - Geoff's pretty good at what he does for a living.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Friday Travel

Far more early Olympics spectators traveling into London this morning than any other morning, so far!

Still managed to get a seat on Chiltern Railways though... Every day so far.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 Mileage Figures

Back up to decent mileage this month, but this time just two Train Operating Companies:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
Cross Country
Total for Month

The 24th & 25th of July were poor performance days for Chiltern Railways, but other than that, not much to note really.

Monday, July 30, 2012

First day of the Olympics -

Leaving the house, I check my phone. There's a message from someone further up the line to say that my train is carryng a lot more people than usual. Damn - should have caught the earlier one.

Getting to the station I see two families of four wander in to the coffee shop before me - Oh, and there's a Gamesmaker in there already. It looks as though the normal coffee-making routine has gone out of the window.

Five minutes later - Oh dear, there are lots of people on the platform. Aforementioned Gamesmakers, little darlings clearly dragged out of bed, oh and the usual motley crew of commuters who keep the railway mandarins in their accustomed manner for the rest of the year.

Another message comes through - train really full. It's running 2 minutes late (it rarely does that - a measure of how full it is?). Our little cluster of regular travellers all start to collectively sigh, resigned to standing all the way to Marylebone.

The train come around the corner. We shuffle into a short line.

Deep breath.

Elbows deployed.

Train decelerates quickly, doors stop directly in front of us. Hmmmm. Something's wrong.

There are seats-a-plenty. We each sit down, puzzled.

The train pulls out three minutes late. We look around - the train now runs fast to London Marylebone and there are two empty seats. Chiltern Railways have not done anything special (they can't - they don't have spare trains), but the expected carnage has not appeared.

Actually, that isn't true - I think it is pretty full at the front of this train. Our little group of hardened commuters just made use of the really secret ingredient of successful commuting - the back door. Shush though - don't tell anyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


According to the Chiltern Railways Passenger Charter, nobody should have to stand [on one of their trains] for more than 20 minutes.

I am currently sat on a train (which left Marylebone at 20.37) on which dozens and dozens of people are standing. The first stop is / was scheduled to be 25 minutes after leaving London Marylebone. We set off 30 minutes ago and have not yet reached that first stop.

I really do worry about what passengers are going to experience during the Olympics. The opening ceremony is two weeks tomorrow.

Oh, and it's still raining. Does anybody have a spare Ark?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Holiday Month

This month I was abroad for almost two weeks, so, as promised my rail mileage has proved to be the lowest for quite some time.

As usual, here is the detail split by each Train Operating Company:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways

Heathrow Express

South West Trains

Cross Country
Total for Month

Given that my blogging is being artificially inflated by these Railmiles posts, I'd better root out some holiday snaps in due course.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Never Seconds - Some Thoughts

Martha Payne is a school girl in Scotland. With the support of her father, and a camera, she has been blogging about school meals. Martha's blog had also been raising money for 'Mary's Meals', a local charity that aims to provide school meals in many parts of the world.

I understand that the blog was originally set up as part of a school project.

All was going swimmingly well until a Scottish newspaper wrote an article about the blog "Never Seconds" that said some things in a not nice way about Martha's school meals. It is clear from Martha's writing that she is a bright and very polite young lady. The impression that I get is that her father is also very wise.

As a result of the not-so-nice newspaper article, the local council instructed Martha's school to prevent her from taking any further photographs of her school meals. At that point, Martha's JustGiving page had raised about £2,000 for Mary's Meals.

The photography ban caused a national and international firestorm, which resulted in Argyll & Bute Council rescinding it last Friday.

The publicity has been such that at present the funds raised by Martha's blog have increased to just over £76,500. That is phenomenal and is to be applauded. In just four days!

What I find somewhat charming is that Martha and her family have managed to keep a low profile over the last few days, with a simple blog post on Friday that starts "I think you know why I don't have a picture today....".

The other thing that I note is that Mary's Meals (a Scottish Charity No SC022140 which was rather boringly called 'Scottish International Relief' until the beginning of last month), had gross income of £7,624,426 in the year to 30 November 2010.

Mary's Meals is clearly a reasonably sized charity that seems to do fantastic work. I suspect that they will benefit both financially and publicity wise from Martha Payne's blog and from her fund raising.

However Martha's fund raising is so far about 1% of the charity's annual income (say half a week's worth). It needs to be kept in that perspective.

I hope that charity successfully manages the extra publicity and income. I wish Martha, her blog and her family well. I hope all involved in this story manage to keep themselves firmly grounded and worldly wise.

All power to the interweb!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Somewhere Different

I spent last week in a large, well known, city that is not London.

My expectations of a city holiday were not great, but I have to say that 'A good time was had by all'.

Toodle pip!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back to normality

This month saw relatively work travel, so the mileage for the month is pretty much what I would expect.

As usual, here is the detail split by each Train Operating Company:

Miles Travelled

Arriva Trains Wales
Chiltern Railways

Cross Country
Total for Month

As I shall be away for a while next month, June's numbers will definitely hit the doldrums!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

National Mills Weekend

Today (Sunday, 13th May 2012) is the second day of National Mills Weekend.

It has the making of a beautiful day - Currently there is not a cloud in the sky in my neck of the Chiltern Hills.

If you are anywhere near Princes Risborough, I recommend that you visit Lacey Green Windmill which is open today from 11.00am to 5.00pm.

It's a big day for the volunteers at Lacey Green. The weather forecast is for 8 mph winds today, so all things being equal, today is the day to see the sails turning.

For more information, please visit the windmill's website, or see my blog post of last August. The photo above / to the right is from last year - currently it's a blue sky day.

Travel information, including directions, is available here. Chiltern Railways are operating a normal Sunday service today to Princes Risborough.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Twenty Nine and A Quarter or Thirty Three?

OK. My Chiltern Railways train to London was cancelled this morning. Actually, my stop was taken off the usual train.

The next train arrived into Marylebone just over 29 minutes after my original train should have done, to Platform 5.

My usual train arrives on Platform 2.

I got to the ticket barriers more than 33 minutes later than usual.

Should I waste a stamp on trying for a 30 minute Charter Refund? Hmmm.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tippety tap, Tippety tap

On the usual early train to work.Last stop before London. I look for seat and find one.

Oh no! It's that woman.

Tippety tap.

"Woman"? No, not a sexist comment, more a statement of fact regarding an individual with exceedingly long painted nails.

Tippet tap.

Working on a lap top. Fair enough.

Tippety tap.

Wearing earphones (can't hear any noise overflow), fair enough.

Tippety tap.

All else in the carriage is silent.

Tippety tap Tippety tap.

I can't help but feel that the individual sitting opposite me is wearing headphone so that she does not need to listen to the sound of her tainted painted calcium enriched shards hammering into the keyboard of her inevitably soon to be replaced computer.

Tippety tap. Tippety tap. Tippety tap.

And you know the worst thing? I think she is employed by same company that I work for.

Tippety tap.

Monday, April 30, 2012

April 2012 - The most miles yet in a month

The heading says it all really. I am not sure whether it is an entirely good think but this month has seen plenty of work travel as well as quite a bit of play time.

For the record:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
First Great Western

Northern Trains

Cross Country
Total for Month

The second month running with a new Train Operating Company.

May should be lower and expectatons are that my Railmiles will now continue to drift downhill for the next couple of months.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

And here is the detail for the month...

This month sees anoth Train Operating Company to add to the usual list of suspects.

I'm not sure how long I can keep recording all my journeys for but anyhow here goes:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways
Arriva Trains Wales

London Midland


South West Trains

Cross Country
Total for Month

An idea for Chiltern Railways - How to improve the Wembley experience

Earlier today Saracens played Harlequins at Wembley Stadium. Kick off was at 15.00, though the pre-match entertainment started at 14.15.The whole event was great fun and a fantastic family afternoon out. I am not going to talk about the result!

Wembley Stadium has a spectator capacity of 90,779. In the event there was an official attendance at the match of 83,761 which was a world record for the number of spectators at  club Rugby Union match.

Chiltern Railways have a station at Wembley Stadium. Compared to Wembley Park underground station (which is designed to cope with several tens of thousands of spectators very quickly), Wembley Stadium station is a relatively sleepy backwater. It is however an integral and important part of the public transport infrastructure of the stadium.

Despite having a special timetable in place and laying on extra trains and carriages, the service received by Chiltern Railways' passengers on the way to the match today was shocking. I accept that it is always difficult to accurately predict passenger flows, but the level of overcrowding on trains was dangerously unacceptable and a very poor reflection on the railway company.

For quite some time now, Saracens have been putting out regular announcements as to how many spectators were expected to attend the event. On Wednesday they stated that 'only a few hundred tickets remain on sale' and none were available on-line yesterday.

It was fairly common knowledge that quite a few tickets had been given away. I think that means a lot of tickets were given away, but I don't know. Chiltern Railways seem to have taken this to heart - I have it on very good authority (please note that this is hearsay) that their plans took account of an actual attendance today of around 60,000 spectators.

I have no idea what percentage of event attendees travel to Wembley using Chiltern Railways, but one doesn't need the brains of a rocking horse to realise that a 23,000 underestimate will have led to several extra full capacity trains that it would seem were not planned for. Don't forget that, today, the Metropolitan Line is not running North of Harrow due to engineering works. I know that a lot of people drove down to Chiltern Stations - that is what people should do when they have to make alternative travel arrangements and cannot be described as unexpected behaviour!

My personal experience today is that the train I caught with three friends was standing room only from High Wycombe. Nobody was able to board at either Beaconsfield or at Gerrards Cross. The train was also made to stop at Denham (where nobody could get on), presumably because the waiting passengers could not board the previous train. We could only wave at a friend on the platform at Gerrards Cross, through the train window. She got to her seat at the stadium just over 1/2 an hour after us. She was not happy.

A couple of hours beforehand, I also witnessed passengers being unable to board trains as far out as Princes Risborough.

Many Chiltern Railways passengers were not happy.

I should say that after the match, when passenger flows are much easier to predict, things were much better. Yes trains were full, but boarding was possible and well managed. I also noted that Chiltern were using some (if not all) of their new Class 172 carriages which have fast acceleration and deceleration and are capable of travelling at speeds of up to 100 mph. We caught a four car Class 172 train home.

I cannot assist with any bright ideas as to how to accurately predict unpredictable passenger flows, however I do have one simple suggestion as to how Chiltern Railways could improve the passenger experience on Wembley event days.

My suggestion is that for a period of about three hours, two four car Class 172 trains should run a shuttle service between Gerrards Cross and London Marylebone, calling at Denham South Ruislip and Wembley Stadium only.

These trains could run as ECS (Empty Coaching Stock) from Marylebone back out again to Gerrards Cross, and each train could easily do the round trip in an hour. If these trains were to leave Gerrards Cross immediately after the 1/2 hourly 'fast' services from way up North, they would significantly reduce the match day experience of passengers from stations just outside London. With some decent publicity, Chiltern Railways could earn some decent goodwill from this.

My suggestion is not the entire solution (as I say, some trains were full from Princes Risborough), but it could perhaps help.

Let's face it, the railway company must absolutely coin it in on match days - how about putting on enough trains and in the right places?

The first quarter of 2012

I spent this afternoon at Wembley Stadium, where Saracens hosted (and lost) to Harlequins. The result was a shame because it was a good game of rugby to watch, particularly the second half.

As the quarter draws to a close I reflect on a couple of enjoyable ski holidays, lots of rugby, 8655 miles by rail so far in 2012 and the price of petrol going through the roof.

All in all, I am fairly content - I just wish the pace of life would slow down a little.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February - Where does all the time go?

The end of the month has slowed down a bit as I am currently away skiing.

Anyhow here are the stats for this month:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways

First Great Western

London Midland


Virgin Trains

Cross Country
Total for Month

Hopefuly I shall return next week with al limbs intact, ready to rejoin the rat race.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

What a load of tosh!

The Transport for London Press Office has just put out a press release saying how well TfL coped with last night's snow.

I have copied the text at the foot of this note for posterity.
  • Please note that late yesterday evening. the Central and Jubilee lines were totally suspended.
  • Thousands of of people struggled to get home from an Olly Murs concert at the O2 Arena last night. Roads in the area were log- jammed and, as I say, there was no Jubilee Line.
  • A Chiltern Railways train was stuck behind a Metropolitan Line train for over an hour, I think out in the Chorleywood area. The Metropolitan Line was stated as being suspended North of Wembley Park, late in the evening.
  • Annie Mole has captured the status of the London Underground as a whole, as at 11.30 pm yesterday evening. It was not good.

Personally I think that a piece of PR puff should include an acknowledgment of what real people actually experienced, rather than just stressing the the things that didn't break. If you read TfL's version of the truth, one might gain the impression that everything went swimmingly well with transport in London last night. Hmmmm.

TfL works to keep London moving through snow
05 February 2012

Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport, said:
  • "We have worked tirelessly from Saturday afternoon and throughout the night, gritting the Capital's main roads every few hours and running de-icing trains along the London Underground network"
  • "Around 2,000 tonnes of grit has been spread by TfL and boroughs and all main roads and the vast majority of local roads are open and traffic running smoothly."
  • "Bus routes are all operating this morning and there were only a few curtailments on night bus routes overnight."
  • "Tube services have started well this morning, but with some issues on the outer reaches of the Central and Jubilee lines. We are woking hard to get these sections running as soon as possible."
  • "So London is open for business today, but clearly people should take care on the roads and allow plenty of time for their journeys."

Saturday, February 04, 2012


I notice that the number of page hits to this little blog has just passed 30,000.

Now, I know that most visitors find themselves here by accident, usually as a result of typing some random term into an interweb thingy search whatsit, but nevertheless I am most grateful.

My feeble utterings have just passed their sixth anniversary and I appear to have written on a broad range of matters though, as it says on the tin, most posts are linked in some way to travel and transport. Please feel free to take a look at the 'Long List of Labels' to the right.

I do not chase around for readers, many blogs have masses more, and the number of comments (and therefore presumably interest?) has diminished a little over time.

Writing and musings occur when I want, and about what I want. I am not about to set the world on fire - it won't however be long before the number of hits overtakes the mileage on my car.... See some travel context!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Relatively Slow Month

Crikey, that's the first month of 2012 gone already!

At one point I didn't think I was even going to make 2,000 rail miles for the month, particularly as I was abroad for a week. I didn't even travel to the airport by train!

Anyhow, here are the numbers for January 2012:

Miles Travelled
Chiltern Railways

London Overground
Total for Month

Initial travel plans lead me to believe that there will be a bit more variety and distance next month.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Light Bulb

Near where to I live, there is a light bulb. It lights the road and path under a railway bridge.

The light bulb is dead. It is an ex light bulb. It is no more.

Without light, the path under the bridge is pitch black at night. I mean dark, really dark - you could bump into somebody walking in the opposite direction.
  • A neighbour (who originally arranged to have the light installed, and arranged the funding), says that the railway company agreed to maintain the upkeep of the light. He asked me to report the fact that the light had died, to the railway company.
  • The local manager at the railway company declined to fix the light, saying they have no recollection of the agreement to fix it.
  • I then telephoned the Network Rail Help Line. They tell me that as the bridge is a road bridge, the light is likely to be the responsibility of the 'Highways Authority'.
  • I dig further and establish that the District Council maintain very few lights, but that the most likely authority will be the County Council.
  • I speak to the County Council. A very helpful lady zooms in on her map and tells me that they have no lights, for which they are responsible, in our area.
  • We live in the middle of nowhere.
  • The nice lady tells me, with some conviction, that the light will be the responsibility of the local Parish Council. She even provides me with a telephone number for the Parish Clerk.
  • I leave a message for the Parish Clerk, outlining the problem.
  • I then see a senior manager from the local railway company (the actual person who allegedly agreed to maintain the light, some years ago). He re-affirms that there is no corporate memory of the agreement and again declines to help.
  • A conversation then follows with the Parish Clerk, who confirms that the Parish is not a 'Lighting Authority' and maintains no lights whatsoever. He follows it up with an email.
  • I then write to our County Councillor seeking guidance, for I know not what to do next.
  • The neighbour who original told me that the light is broken, then tells me that the light is definitely wired in to the electrics at the nearby station and, indeed, is controlled by the same timer that controls all the lights on the station platforms.
  • We go to look at the light and somebody decides to buy an appropriate light bulb from "Light-Bulbs-R-Us" or similar, and repair the light.
Is this a sign of the 'Big Society'?

I know who I think should repair the light. Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Parliamentary Train

Thanks to the tip-off by Diamond Geezer last week, today I travelled on the 10.02 Southern 'Parliamentary Train' from Kensington Olympia to Wandsworth Road.

As described by DG, it is indeed a weird feeling to board a train when the public address system explicitly tells you that the train is not in public service.

The only real difference between my journey and that experienced by Mr Geezer last week is that the train guard explicitly spoke with every passenger on board, before the train left Kensington Olympia, to make sure that they really meant to be on the train.

That would be me and a couple who like me, seemed to be on the train simply so as to make the journey that has no real purpose.

We left on time, called briefly at West Brompton and Imperial Wharf, before passing over the River Thames and then crossing a maze of railway junctions, somewhere South of the river.

We stopped for seven or eight minutes adjacent to the carriage works for the Venice Simplon Orient Express, before eventually pulling into Wandsworth Road station a minute early at 10.19.

If the point in travelling is the travel, then the journey was a short success. If the point of travel is to get to your destination, in this particular case, I wouldn't bother, but then I virtually need to use my passport when venturing as far South as Wandsworth.

I did travel North from Wandsworth Road, but back to Victoria. However I note that Ian Visits has previously made the afternoon return trip on this rather unusual, once a a weekday there-and-back train service.