Rail for Herefordshire
run by volunteers working for improvements to rail services www.railforherefordshire.org.uk
100a Green Street
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Rail for Herefordshire response to Consultation on Great Western Franchise
We have only answered the questions that affect us most directly, and which we feel qualified to comment on.
2. Specific local factors
(a)The core strategy for Herefordshire, as set out in the latest Local Plan, proposes the
Building of over 16000 homes in Herefordshire between 2011 and 2031. Most of these households will use Hereford, Ledbury or Colwall for rail travel towards Worcester and London.
(b)The development of the proposed East West Rail route will surely increase demand for travel to Oxford for further travel to the east of England without going via London.
(c) An Enterprise Zone is currently under construction in Hereford, further increasing demand for a convenient and comfortable direct rail route to London.
(d)Herefordshire is seeking to develop a new university, based in Hereford City; this will also generate increased demand for rail services.
- Faster headline journey time or more intermediate stops?
With reference to the direct route between Hereford and London via Worcester, we would definitely want trains to stop at Ledbury and Colwall; as far as stops between Worcester and London are concerned, we would be happy for some of the current stops to be left out (e.g. between Worcester and Oxford), provided there was also a regular slower stopping train joining these places, although this would probably not suit commuters and others from these stops. It’s true that the current journey between Hereford and London via Worcester is slow for a supposedly High Speed Train, and one can’t help wondering why scheduled stops of up to 13 minutes are necessary, but most of our members feel that the convenience of a direct train to London makes the slow speed acceptable.
- Should any elements of the indicative modelled intercity service pattern be mandated, and can it be improved?
We note the intention of the Rail Executive that ‘any specification for the 5-year period covered by this consultation should aim to ensure continuity of the service pattern in operation today’ (section 7.4). We realise that the 5 or 6 trains per day that currently run in each direction between London and Hereford via Worcester make up less than 1% of the train services currently run by FGW and that Herefordshire itself is perceived by some as ‘a faraway county of which we know little’, BUT those trains are seen from here as a vital link with London and we are extremely unhappy with
the ‘indicative IEP service pattern’ in section 7.10 of ‘1 tph London-Worcester, with some extensions towards Hereford’ (our italics). This is unacceptably vague, and seems to imply that trains would not even have to get as far as Hereford. For people in Herefordshire, although there is an alternative route to London via Newport, the advantages of the direct route to London from Hereford are very considerable, especially for
- older, less mobile and disabled passengers;
- passengers with heavy luggage;
- passengers who wish to avoid the stress and inconvenience of changing at Newport where connections are often missed and which often involve a tedious change of platform, and where facilities are limited.
Furthermore, the specific local factors mentioned above in answer to Q. 2 (considerable population increase, East-West Rail, Enterprise Zone and new University) are key determinants of demand that need to be addressed. The Arriva Trains Wales service to Newport already suffers from some congestion at peak periods, especially when a two car set is used. The removal of any through train on the Cotswold line would have a serious effect on the Marches line capacity.
The fare structure, which makes the direct service cheaper than the faster route from Hereford to London via Newport during peak hours, is also a factor to be considered and, we hope, maintained. We would hope that the service specification, whatever trains are used, would provide three early direct weekday trains from Hereford to London as at present, but that there would not be the current long time interval (6½ hours on weekdays) between the third and fourth trains. The Sunday direct service to London should start long before the current 13.32.
The specification should require a service pattern at least as good as the current one for the London – Hereford direct route via Worcester.
17. Specific Stations or services where particular attention should be paid to reliability or punctuality There is regrettably little in the whole consultation document about liaison between the franchisee and other TOCs, although section 7.36 indicates the possibility of an incentive regime to encourage ‘the operator to work collaboratively with industry partners to improve the performance of the overall railway’. We feel such a regime is long overdue, in particular with regard to connections between Great Western and Arriva Trains Wales services at Newport (which are often too short, causing them to be missed), and between Great Western and London Midland services at Worcester or Great Malvern (which are often too long). We appreciate that connections will never be ideal for all users, but TOCs need to work far harder to find solutions in line with DfT guidance.
20. Communicating with passengers and keeping them informed during times of disruption Simple, straightforward methods of communication are still not always used – for example, upto-date displayed information at stations and clear announcements on trains. Guards should automatically walk through trains during significant delays (and at other times) to inform and advise passengers, some of whom may not have understood the announcements. We certainly support the introduction of Delay Repay compensation on the same basis across all TOCs and it should be mandatory for guards to inform passengers about this when a delay is long enough for it to be triggered, and forms should be automatically handed out; not all passengers have Internet access or live near a staffed station. These matters can be monitored overall by NPS results; a franchisee should also be required to have a continuous training programme in customer service for all staff who interact with passengers.