TERRIBLE British Rail Service

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- International' started by Mike R, Jan 30, 2003.

  1. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Has anyone else had the recent misfortune to try to get to a location in Britain, by rail, that is "off the beaten business path"?
    It's got to be the worst rail service in Europe now.

    My mother lives in Paignton, Devon, in an area where the sea wall is disintegrating from lack of funds to repair it. Therefore, one expects problems during the last few miles south of Bristol...and sure enough there are some serious cancellation and 'amended' schedule problems, emergency buses, if available, and so on.
    It took me 7 hours to get to Paignton from London [Gatwick] the last time I was there, and I had to drop 15 quid on a taxi from Newton Abbott or it would have been nearly 9 hours.

    Fair enough...a seawall problem. But coming back, a friend gave me a lift to Bristol, so I wouldn't have this delay. The train to London ran so late, [ 1 1/2 hours] I had to get off and take the last 35 miles by taxi, or I would have missed my plane.There was no earlier train I could take. A London businessman beside me said it's the same virtually every day, and gets worse every year.

    Hopefully, the next time I go, I can revert to going in summer, and fly into Cardiff or Exeter with some fighting chance of making connections...if there indeed ARE any, any more.
    regards / Mike
    :( :( :(
  2. grumbeast

    grumbeast Member

    All I can say is bring back British Rail, I have to say, this is
    what happens when you privatise passenger rail services,
    they get totally screwed up.. Its just so sad to see a once
    incredible rail service reduced to the laughing stock of europe.

    Now SNCF, they've got thier act together, as have JR if what
    I've seen is true
  3. swissjohn

    swissjohn Member

    Hi Mike,
    It's not only destinations that are off the "beaten business path" that suffer poor service.
    The Virgin Trains service on the West Coast Mainline which goes from London to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh is often on the verge of collapse mainly as a result of ageing infrastructure.
    Who did you travel with from Gatwick to Paignton ?
    First Great Western the main Inter-City carrier from London to the South-West are normally O.K. but Virgin Trains who operate Cross-Country services to Devon and Cornwall have been experiencing problems on the sea walls with their new Voyager diesel trains during bad weather. Sea spray has been drenching the roof mounted braking resistors on these trains and the computer operated safety systems have been shutting the engines down. Until the new trains can be modified they have been forced to bring 25 old HST's back into service.
  4. swissjohn

    swissjohn Member

    This is one of the Virgin Voyager trains I mentioned. This particular one is a class 220 but there is also a class 221 with the ability to tilt on curves.

    Attached Files:

  5. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Hello John;
    Sorry, I can't recall who the carrier was, but it was old BR equipment, I'd guess early 70's coaches, nothing like that Virgin Trains picture.
    I was in a hurry, my mother was ill, and I booked a train at the first kiosk I came to at Gatwick. "All the way to Paignton, only one change":rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: [not quite].
    I guess you have a very good point, it certainly isn't just the rural traffic, all the RR infrastructure has been breaking down in terrible fashion, worsening every year.
    best regards / Mike:(
  6. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    I am glad I am not traveling there now.
    In 1989, my wife and I flew to Heathrow Airport, dashed through customs, Stumbled on the underground. 5 minutes after we boarded, the train pulled out. This was early morning. We stopped all along the way to pick up commuters. Upon arriving at Kings Cross, took the esculater upstairs, went to a window and asked directions on how to get to Soham. We bought a ticket and dashed across to the other station and jumped on the train we were told. Within 5 minutes it pulled out and gained speed. It only made a couple of stops and we ended up at Cambridge. When we got off the train I saw another train with Ely on it. My wife dashed over and bought another ticket while I loaded our luggage on the last car. She came up and got on and no sooner got seated and the train took off. I thought we were really going to fly. We were the only two on the car. Nobody came to collect the tickets. When we arrived at Ely the conductor saw us get off and dashed over and asked what we were doing in that car. I explained that we just made it at Cambridge. He then informed us that that car was a 1st class car and we were not supposed to be on it. Ha Ha. We asked at the tickete window how to get to Soham and was told to take a taxi.
    It was 630 AM when we landed at Heathrow and we arrived at the motel in Soham at 1030 AM. We were really amazed at the speed and connections. Maybe just luck.
  7. swissjohn

    swissjohn Member

    I don't wish to get involved in a slanging match but I think a number of your statements are a little deceiving especially to our overseas readers.
    You say:
    "Also, because the Swiss system is generally so efficient, when things go wrong they don't know what to do"
    I think this sweeping statement is a little unfair. I have witnessed a number of incidents on Swiss railways and their procedures enabled them to recover very quickly. I am aware that a British rail magazine recently published reports of a prolonged chaotic situation following a derailment in Basel but in my opinion this is certainly not the norm.
    You also say:
    "Now if there is a cancellation and the next service is an hour later then a replacement road bus is provided, if possible"
    That may be what YOUR Train Operating Company does but it certainly isn't the case in my part of the country.
    I agree that British TOC's are sometimes unfairly criticised but please don't imply that they are all as efficient as the one you use (or possibly work for)
  8. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Hello Brian,

    As a Swiss I would be interested what you exactly mean by your statement. Do you have an example?
    Of course there are incidents - e.g. we have our share of snow and avalanches etc in the Alps. But so far I never had the feeling that our railwaymen didn't know what to do in an emergency.
    I think the same holds true for the personnel of the British railways.

    But what can you do as a railroader (oops - American slang again!), when the track is falling apart, because the top shots won't shell out money for track maintenance and only go for top shareholder values? :mad:

    I thank God that here in Switzerland the great part of the railways still belongs to the people and not to some mediocre business gurus whose horizon ends at their wallet.
    (And yes, there are also some idiots here in Switzerland who want to privatize all and everything - and then let it go down. Could it be, that THIS is the basic problem of the British railways?) :rolleyes:

    Sorry, just had to blow off some steam. :D

  9. Mike R

    Mike R Member

    Sorry Brian, I cannot agree with your position.
    I feel your defense of the British system relates to the fact that you work for the system.
    This is understandable, but not necessarily an objective view.
    I never met anyone in the last 30 years , British or traveler, with anything good to say about British train service, and that includes travel agencies, who have borne a heavy brunt of complaints from their client travellers.
    Many travel agents here in Canada outright refuse to make any connecting arrangements with trains in Britain.."you're on your own, for obvious reasons", yet they will make bookings for European,Japanese, and North American train connections.
    regards / Mike
  10. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member


    See my post above.

    We also got the same kind of service on the return trip.
  11. Sir_Tainly

    Sir_Tainly Member

    Hi Mike,

    Small world I live only a few minutes drive from Soham :)

    On a more general note:

    I used to commute daily to London from just outside Peterborough..and both the GNER and WAGN Services while relatively timely (allowing 15mins delay as given ;) ) were always packed ..I wish they would invest in trains with sufficient capacity and lose the ones where two people cannot sit in the 4 seat blocks, facing each other without interleaving knees

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