Saturday 19 May 2012

Southampton to York : Then and Now [1]

Abbeyfields B&B & B B
And they even have little pottles of marmite! So the fbb's and chums are off today for a few days "respite care" in York and they will be staying with Les and Al at the Abbeyfields B&B. 
On a quiet side road just outside the City Centre, it is within walking distance of almost anywhere in York. In the past, the fbb's have had a front room (just above the bay window) which has the huge benefit of looking out over the York to Scarborough line, glimpsed here from the breakfast tables ...
... and yes siree, the breakfast is as good as it says, a veritable BB (Big Breakfast!) ...
... although it's not always Christmas! The Abbeyfields web site is (here) and the fbb's have no business connection with Les and Al other than of being satisfied customers!

Their usual route from Island to York is via Portsmouth and London; whence the fbb party has, in the past, had the privilege of privilege tickets (FOC!) on Grand Central trains. With GC's change of ownership this delight is now no more, so this time the journey is via Cross Country Trains from Southampton. fbb is not a lover of the Voyager train, but the fares are cheaper and the particular train starts in Southampton so there should be no punch-up when claiming seat reservations.

So Cross Country it is.

The Birmingham to Bristol section was originally built as the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway and the Bristol and Gloucester Railway, which then briefly amalgamated as the Birmingham and Bristol Railway before joining the Midland Railway. From Birmingham northwards, the line originated as the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway to Derby, then the North Midland Railway to Leeds, then the York and North Midland Railway.
It ran through several regions of British Rail and had timetabling priority in none of them, and as a result the services were poorly promoted and thus not always well-patronised.
Attempts to promote the line under the more market-led sectorisation policy were only partially successful. This was offset somewhat on privatisation when the route was awarded as a single franchise to Virgin Trains.
In September 2002, Mr Branson's boys introduced what turned out to be an unworkable but expanded "Operation Princess" timetable with services to Brighton, Cardiff, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Swindon.
The new timetable was introduced to coincide with the introduction of the new Voyager and SuperVoyager fleet and to create a network with shorter trains running more frequently. However the new fleet suffered from a number of technical faults which, coupled with infrastructure and capacity issues, led to endless problems for Virgin. Between September 2002 and January 2003 punctuality fell to 54.1%!
The "new" destinations were then removed from the network and, eventually at the end of Virgin's tenure, the franchise was nationalised.
Now run, not by the UK government but by that of Germany (!) as the Arriva division of Deutsche Bahn, the network is busier than it ever has been.
This has led to overcrowding and the call for "adding more coaches", the latter being totally beyond the wit of the modern railway because, to be blunt, it is more profitable to run a four coach train stuffed to the eyebrows than an eight coach train that is pleasantly comfortable. Apparently the nation voted for privatisation (fbb didn't!!) and so we get what we deserve.

Tomorrow, fbb looks at taking such a potentially terrifying journey nearly 110 years ago, and on Monday, will report on the success (or otherwise!) of his party's journey today.

One further delight, were you to be at Abbeyfields during July and August, would be a view of the Scarborough Spa Express (steam hauled) as it chugs into (or out of) York Station. Web site (here).

 Next Blog : Sunday 21st May 


  1. Can you please stop publishing such mouth-watering menus first thing in the morning?

    I usually read your blog just before going down for my bowl of cornflakes!!

    I look-forward to reading of your exploits with XC, and hope your experience was more comfortable than mine have been of late.

  2. Sorry Stuart: but be warned, Monday's "Cross Country" blog may well contain a picture of the full breakfast available on the ferry as we st off this morning. The "domestic authorities" have given permission! Adequate, but not up to the standards of "Abbeyfields" in quantity or quality!

    1. Thanks for the warning!

      I may make myself sa bacon sarnie before switching the computer on! Best wishes.

  3. Is that an East Cowes thing?

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