Wednesday, 28 July 2010

New Doors For Manningtree Station

The replacement doors to the station have been installed.  Handmade specially, these new doors replace those damaged by the break in a couple of months ago. Unfortunately there are no plans at present to replace the cashpoint.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Rail Firms Asked To Simplify Ticket Machines

Rail firms including National Express East Anglia are being asked to simplify ticket machines as many passengers are choosing to shun the machines and queue at the the ticket office instead. Customer watchdog Passenger Focus has said that passengers were being "defeated" by the "bewildering jargon" they faced when using these machines and would rather talk to a person as a consequence. This leads to significant queues at peak times whilst ticket machines often go unused.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Possible 10% Fare Increases

Following on from our item on the 9th July about the possible scrapping of the RPI+1 cap on fare increases, reports in the press are now suggesting the possibility of fare increases in the region of 10% in the new year. This would see a £430 increase in the price of an annual Standard Fare season ticket between Manningtree ad London.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Dedham Vale Society Calls For Stricter Planning Regulations

The Harwich & Manningtree Standard is reporting that The Dedham Vale Society is lobbying Tendring District Council (TDC) to consult the public on any further building plans in the Suffolk Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This follows the construction of the car park extension at Manningtree Station which the society describes as "...simply a steel structure which was unfortunately constructed. It's an eyesore".

The society goes on to say that they expect "...Network Rail will stick a bit on top of that extension at some point. We don't want anything like this to happen again."

Network Rail and National Express East Anglia who built and financed the car park extension did not require planning permission from TDC as the work was carried out under permitted rights development.

Interestingly feedback about the extension received by the MRUA has been very positive. It is unlikely that any further extension will be considered for quite some time as the car park overall is barely half full on most days. This is as a consequence of the economic downturn and also the exorbitant charges levied for parking.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Removing Freight From The GE Mainline

Network Rail has been given the go-ahead from the Department for Transport to build a new freight line in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Called the Nuneaton North Chord Scheme the new line will only be 1km in length but it will link the existing cross-country rail route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton with the West Coast mainline. This will allow freight trains to travel directly to the West Midlands and North West England without having to travel down the Great Eastern mainline, through Manningtree, to London as is currently the case. The extension will allow for eight additional freight trains per day in each direction - the equivalent of 225,000 lorries a year. Perhaps of more interest to Manningtree passengers, it will also free up much needed space on the line between Ipswich and London.

Work is anticipated to start in spring 2011 and take 18 months to complete.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

National Express East Anglia's Ageing Trains

In the National Rail Trends survey issued by the Office of Rail Regulation, the train fleet run by National Express East Anglia (NXEA) is noted as having an average age of 24.95 years old. These figures put the NXEA fleet third from bottom in the national rankings behind Merseyrail (31.25 years) and the Island Line which has an average age of 71.25 years! (The Island Line runs on the Isle of Wight and uses old London Underground tube trains).

At the other end of the scale TransPennine Express trains have an average age of 4.25 years.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Rail Passengers Could See Big Fare Increases

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has warned that rail passengers could see a big rise in ticket costs in the new year if investment in the railways is to be protected. He said the current formula used to set fares at 1% above the Retail Price Index (RPI) was not "set in stone". Speaking to the National Rail Conference in Liverpool Mr Hammond said the government faced "stark choices" and it would be "irresponsible" to not consider charging passengers more.

The UK already has the highest fares in Europe and there are fears that significant fare increases will drive people off the railways. The Liberal Democrats had a pledge in their manifesto to amend the RPI+1% formula to RPI-1% and the coalition will no doubt be pressed on this in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

'Hidden' Parking Charges At Manningtree

A reminder to passengers of the potential hidden costs when buying a ticket to park at Manningtree station. If you elect to buy your ticket via mobile phone there is an additional charge of 30p on top of the already extortionate £6.20 daily cost. There is then the option to receive a text message confirming your booking but this will cost another 10p.

The system used to take these 'phone bookings is fully automated and is based on speech recognition. However, there are a number of reports that this system is very unreliable and requests often have to be repeated a number of times thereby lengthening the call, for which of course the customer is paying.

National Express East Anglia outsource their car parks to NCP who in turn appear to outsource the mobile phone element of the ticketing to RingGo Parking. All these companies presumably want to make a profit on the arrangement, hence the ridiculous charges.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Warm Weather Disruption - Air Conditioning

Once again the warm weather brings disruption to the trains. For those not already aware the air conditioning on the ageing London - Norwich Inter City trains has all but given up in many carriages. As the windows don't open on these trains conditions can become unbearable, especially during the evening peak period.

Passengers may want to consider other train types where possible. The Class 360 units (The newer, purple trains with sliding doors) have *very* efficient air conditioning. The older sliding door trains (Class 321) do not have air conditioning but the windows do open which can help things considerably.