Sunday, 29 May 2016

Travelling via Bristol Parkway This Weekend (2)

Bristol Parkway Station (at Stoke Gifford, upper right) is on the main lines between London and South Wales and between The West Country, Bristol, Birmingham and points north.

fbb got ticked off good and proper yesterday for complaining about the rail companies' hidden information (not?) explaining the huge disruption to all services that use the so-called Filton Diamond of train routes to the north of Bristol.
fbb circulates amongst the elderly, many of whom, it is true, have computers or smart phones (good) but do not really understand how the internet works - or doesn't. (not good). Neither do they really understand to ramifications oif our privatised railway system.

Many of them do not realised, for example, that all rail companies' web sites will sell you any rail company's tickets; and that (with a few notably exceptions) ALL these tickets are available at the same price at their local staffed station.

Many do not understand, furthermore, that when you buy and open return, saver or supersavers they are valid on any train (subject to some time restrictions. On-line sales sites often force you to book specific trains even when such is not necessary.

It is, of course, insanely complicated and VERY FRIGHTENING.

Many of fbb';s chums would not consider travelling at weekends because the risks are too great. One of those risks is inadequate information.

Here is Great Western Railway 's leaflet for the "embouteillage" at Filton.
Fair enough. Now let's look inside.
Isn't that exactly what has been written on the front cover? We are then told when it is happening again with an extra calendar graphic in case we don't know what a calendar is, perhaps. We are also told about cycle policy and ...
... ticket easements. Hands up if you know what a "ticket easement" is. Thought not. Then comes the highlight (?) of the leaflet.

The map. Ta da! (shown here is two bits because it is too wide to blog)/
(click on the maps to make them a bit bigger)
Undoubtedly, the majority or readers of this esteemed publication will give up on the map straight away. Actually is is accurate but geographically incomprehensible and too cluttered to unravel. It has been drawn up by Great Western Railway's "see how much infromation we ctan cram into a small space to save the costs of a proper information booklet" department.

But, do not despair, there is more. Three list of "things happening" as follows:-
What IS running
London to South Wales diverted via Gloucester
London to Bristol direct operating normally
South West to The Midlands (Cross Country) diverted via Swindon.

What isn't running
Bristol to Newport (South Wales)
Bristol to Bristol Parkway and Gloucester
Bristol to Severn Beach

This information is very "basic" and leaves several questions unanswered. Could, fbb, for example, ride from Bristol to Gloucester via Swindon with Cross Country?

To add to the confusion (?) there then follows a list of replacement bus services. 
All this information refers back (using colours) to the map above.

Is this really the best way to do it?

As only three routes from Bristol are affected, surely a "from Bristol" publication would be simpler to understand. This would then explain how each of these routes are covered with an addition list to cover local services.

This would deliver 5 tables.

1. Cross Country via Swindon
2. Bristol - Parkway - Gloucester
3. Bristol - Newport - Cardiff (bus and train)
4. Bristol - locals via Filton Abbey Wood
5. Bristol - Severn Beach locals

Separate leaflets for Swindon - Gloucester - South Wales, and for routes from Parkway would also be needed. Simpler maps plus understandable timetables.

The "Travel Updates" links from the GWR home page give much the same information grouped as before; High Speed, Regional and Buses. This time readers do not have the benefit (?) of a Map.
But scroll down on the "Planned |Engineering" page as you can download a PDF ...
... which is different again. For this weekend, you get this. A map on which RED shows "significant" changes and YELLOW which indicates "minor" changes.
This display shows everything of GWRs that is affected including, for example, Neath tio Swansea and local lines in the London area. The panel below is, in fbb's humble opinion (!) even more confusing, but hopefully GWR's customers will know which area they are in ...

... and the consequences of their location. fbb is sure that grouping the details by station and not by service would be easier to understand.

Not many of yesterdays comment writers would appear to agree.
Silcox Susceptible to Sinking
Dateline March 2015

The Silcox family completed the re-purchase of Silcox Motor Coach Company Ltd from King Long Ltd on 6 March 2015. The deal secures the future of the Silcox name which has been synonymous with providing the residents of Pembrokeshire with their transportation needs. The company’s operations encompass coach holidays, private hire and local bus services with a fleet of over 70 vehicles.

MD of Silcox Coaches, Keith Silcox, said, ‘We are delighted to have completed the transaction and everyone at Silcox Coaches is now looking forward to working together to contribute to the success of the business.’

Silcox runs 20 bus services, holidays and tours and school contracts in south west Wales.
But not for long?
Pembrokeshire County Council is awaiting news on the future of a long standing company that operates many of its school buses. Silcox, based in Pembroke Dock, is searching for a buyer after suffering financial difficulties.

The company employs around 100 people. Letters explaining the situation have been sent to staff by Wilson Field, a company specialising in Business Recovery, Insolvency and Financial Solutions.

It does not look good for this long established and much respected firm.

More to follow, no doubt.
 Next blog as yet unwritten! : Monday 30th May 


  1. I think I understand what the railway companies mean by an "easement"
    But the concept of a "negative easement" always seems rather ridiculous!

  2. I have to agree with you in regards to the map. As a seasoned bus and rail traveler I can usually make out diversions when presented with a map and a bit of text. I took one look at this when I picked up a leaflet from Paddington and got a headache.

  3. A shame to hear about Silcox but presumably the business was stripped bare (and stuffed with KL coaches that the company didn't want/need or could afford?) by the previous owners. It's notable how many of that outfit's former companies have since gone out of business such as Tate's, Jeff's, Brijan...

  4. We must hold back a bit on Silcox. The company is still trading "pending a sale". Whether that is likely or not is a matter of conjecture, but unlikely is more likely.

  5. The situation that Silcox and others have found themselves in reminds of something that happened to a number of smaller operators in the nineties.

    As far as I can recall it went something like this;-

    1) A coach operator is visited by two men in suits who 'just happened to be passing' following a failed attempt to purchase another operator in that part of the country.

    2) They outline the opportunity the other company have missed and 'wonder if perhaps they might be interested instead'. The figures for 'selling' the business are not too much that they seem unbelievable but enough to ''smell gold'. Some who have been waiting for that one big contract that will push them into the big league are persuaded.

    3) First however all they have to do is turn the current business into a company and only a deposit is paid. One of the directors is the current owner. The others are nominated by the interlopers.

    4) Things start well to remove any doubt or fear.

    5) One day a number of 'new' coaches arrive. A director must sign for them and conveniently the only person around is the former owner.

    6) The existing fleet 'disappear overnight' and most are never traced.

    7) The business continues to trade but behind the scenes all income is going into a new bank account whilst the good credit line of the old business is stretched until it busts.

    8) The 'new owners' have meanwhile brought in their own lead drivers etc to quell any unrest.

    9) One day the bailiff arrives and surprise, surprise the original owner cannot contact or locate the other directors.

    At that time their were a number of press reports about problems on cheap European coach holidays where hotel bills hadn't been paid and poorly maintained vehicles. Just join the dots.

    For some while various small operators continued to be sucked in.

    If it looks too good to be true it probably is!

  6. I am not saying that this relates to Silcox.