Tuesday 22 March 2016

The MP and the Rail Company (4)

Three Mega-Moans from Shoreham-by-Sea
Mynd i mewn i dwll du
fbb has just discovered that his base over the Easter weekend has no wifi and no mobile signal. Blogging could, therefore, be tricky. Pre-posted blogs are being composed, but, with five to do to cover the days of darkness, success is not guaranteed.

Brevity might well be the answer!
Back to Shoreham by Sea

 Skipping Stops 

Southern Railway is not the only company to do it; but it does it the most often. In a clever plan to get a late-running train back on time the driver is instructed to miss out a few station! He is given a little paper ticket like this one ...
... which authorised this action. Meanwhile the passengers on the platform are told that the train is "cancelled". Imagine their delight, then, when their cancelled train speeds through their station with passengers on it. Imagine the joy of those on the train who might have wished to get off! Of course there will be announcements, but how many regular passengers listen to those?

At the Shoreham-by-Sea public meeting one speaker, a headmaster, reported that on several occasions some of his pupils were carried past their station and had to wait for a train back, thus making them very late for lessons.
Rail chiefs were today accused of stranding commuters by “skipping” stations more often to avoid trains being late. MPs today highlighted the growing fury of commuters waiting on platforms who see their train go past rather than stopping as scheduled. Some passengers have been unable to get off their train after failing to hear announcements that it is no longer stopping at their station. Official figures reveal a huge rise in the number of part-cancellations, which includes “skipping” trains, in the past two years. [London Evening Standard report]

At Govia Thameslink Railway, which includes Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink they spiralled from 4,148 to 6,732. The statistics do not separate out Southern trains from the group figures, but an unofficial estimate suggests that, in the year in question, over 4,000 Southern trains were part cancelled. No record exists of how many station stops were skipped; nor is there even a rough estimate of how many passengers were inconvenienced.

The line given by managers at the meeting was "we really dislike doing this, but we have to consider ther vast majority of passengers further down the line and later in the day who will suffer if we don't get their trains back on time."


 Closing Ticket Offices 

How's this for a misused statistic?

This was used at the Shoreham meeting as a "justification" for closing the station ticket office. The figures were received with contempt by the assembled multitude. In the first place, Shoreham does not have "Oyster" and the huge number of card-holders in the Transport for London area will skew the stats unfairly for south coast passengers. The 30/70 split is for the whole of GTR, not just Southern.

And then there are season tickets where one ticket sale covers multiple journeys.

But, as we all know, closing the ticvket office will be a great improvement to all passengers.

At some of our stations we know that our ticket offices sell fewer than 12 tickets per hour and the vast majority of customers don’t use the ticket offices on a daily basis. At these stations, we want our staff to become more available for all users of the station and ensure there is a visible presence on our station concourses where they can help customers with all of their queries, provide information, offer assistance and have the ability to sell tickets when needed.

Jacky Woolcock wrote to the local paper expressing similar views as were voices vociferously at the meeting.

The thought of loosing our tickets offices makes me panic about ever catching a train on time from Shoreham by Sea.

We may sell less than 12 tickets an hour on average but whenever I have travelled and bought a ticket at the station, I have had to queue and sometimes two windows have been open.

The staff have the facilities to sort complicated journeys and supply tickets quickly. The time it would take a station “host” to instruct an elderly pensioner like me to use a ticket machine and sorting out my mistakes would produce a queue of frantic people missing their trains.

The ticket machines do not always work and then there would be queues to buy tickets which are issued more slowly by hand held machines.

And if the host needs a comfort break? What will people who do not use the internet do to buy railcards?

The "Southern" man-at-the-meeting dropped a number of clangers clues as to the real agendas. "You see," he advised with hushed reticence, "Ticket Office staff are highly unionised and cannot perform other duties." (with the phrase "without extra money" clearly understood.

Station Hosts are new, multitasking and cheaper; but must, by definition, offer a worse service to the ticket buying folk of Shoreham-by-Sea. And the unions are, as expected, far for enthusiastic about the idea!
Rail Union RMT said today that it is to launch an immediate campaign to defend jobs and services as it emerged that 81 stations are being set up to lose their ticket offices in a formal public consultation across routes served by Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express.

Although the plans, driven by the part-French state owned Govia outfit, are legally required to be submitted for formal consultation the company are hell bent on bulldozing through the proposals from June this year.

Consultation? What consultation?


 Shut Subway Saddens 

Especially after a recent fatality at the level crossing.
Looks pretty normal, doesn't it?

But at busy times the crossing can be closed to traffic for 45 minutes in the hour. There are alternative routes for smaller vehicles ...
... but no way across for pedestrians. This can lead to a dangerous game of "chicken" which, we assume, is what led to the fatality. In many similar locations there is a footbridge and there was, until 2009, a subway.

There still is ...
... but it is behind the ticket barriers installed about 7 years ago and inaccessible to non ticket holders. You can see Southern's point. It would be expensive to dig another entrance but by no means impossible.
And probably cheaper than building a footbridge! But it would not be beyond the wit of man to re-jig the barriers to give unfettered access to the useful tunnel.


fbb and No 3 son will keep an eye on developments.

 next technology blog : 23rd March 
Easter Lamb - or a Substitute
Many of us remember the rather scary story whereby Gopd challenged Abraham to offer his only son as a sacrifice. A bit of a bummer as God had previously told Abe that he would be, via Isaac, "the father of a great nation."

In the end the dark and dastarddly deed was not necessary as God provided a ram "caught in as thicket" to offer up instead.

We can debate endlessly the purpose of this "test", but all will agree on the important tag line, "God will provide". 

God provides a lamb instead of a person?

Where might this theme take us?


  1. There is clearly an attempt to wipe out paid ticket office staff at stations around the country. Not only, that but when I buying tickets online, the screen prompts are skewed towards collecting tickets from the station machine (as opposed to posted out). The concept of trains skipping stations is ridiculous, but I also wonder whether this is (ever) for overcrowding/safety reasons. It would be useful to clarify that particular point.

  2. Skip-stopping is generally used where a train is so late that the one behind is only a few minutes away. The Southern response is absolutely correct - it is an attempt to minimise inconvenience to the maximum number of passengers. Yes, not good if you are affected directly, but you won't even have noticed that it has happened if you are a passenger using the train's next (and now hopefully on-time) working.

    1. If the train behind has caught up, for example, so you have two trains calling at the same places one behind the other then skip stopping the first train makes sense. The main problem is that skip stopping is often poorly implemented meaning a late train skip stops but makes up no time as it's stuck behind another train anyway. This is often the case on Southern and skip stops rarely help. Also the TOC's claim it doesn't help their punctuality stats but that is a lie as skip stopping means that a train gets back on time quicker meaning delays affecting that trains stats later are reduced.

  3. Northern are another TOC to be obsessed with skip-stopping, however they do at least get the train behind to make additional stops if necessary. I have had it once or twice due to overcrowding (2 coaches instead of 4) rather than late running.

  4. I was on Stafford station today and one departure on the hourly service to Crewe via Stoke and Alsager was running 25 minutes late and was redirected via the main line non stop to Crewe. Passengers waiting for Stone, Stoke and Alsager had an hour to wait, whilst passengers on the train were taken to Crewe and dropped off on the way back.

  5. The Crewe example above is a regular occurrence, probably due to the single line around Alsager.