Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Christmas Services Affected By Engineering Work

On bank holidays Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 December a base Sunday timetable will operate.

Due to all lines being closed between Liverpool Street and Ilford for engineering work the following train service alterations apply for journeys between Liverpool Street, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich and branches:

No trains will operate between Liverpool Street and Ilford. Passengers are to use TfL Central Line services between Liverpool Street, Stratford and Newbury Park. Connecting rail-replacement bus services will operate from Newbury Park to Ingatestone.

Mainline services will operate from Shenfield (interchange for Metro and Southend services) to Ingatestone (interchange for rail-replacement bus service to/from Newbury Park), Colchester, Clacton-on-Sea, Ipswich and Norwich.

Wednesday 29, Thursday 31 and Friday 31 December

Due to a partial line closure between Bethnal Green and Stratford for engineering work (all trains run via platforms 5 and 8 at Stratford) a revised train service will operate between Liverpool Street and Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich and branches.

Morning Peak (07:00-10:00) and Evening Peak (16:00-19:00):
Intercity services will operate between Norwich and Liverpool Street; hourly in the morning peak and half-hourly in the evening peak.

Mainline services will operate between Ipswich, Clacton and Colchester to Liverpool Street (6 trains per hour).

Braintree services will operate to/from Witham, Sudbury services will operate to/from Marks Tey, Walton services will operate to/from Colchester via Colchester Town, Harwich Town services will operate to/from Manningtree.

Off Peak (before 07:00, 10:00-16:00, and after 19:00):
Intercity services will operate half-hourly between Norwich and Liverpool Street (hourly early morning / late evening).

Mainline services will operate between Ipswich, Clacton and Colchester Town and Braintree to Liverpool Street (as per Saturday timetable but with minor retimings).

Sudbury services will operate to/from Marks Tey, Walton services will operate to/from Colchester via Colchester Town, Harwich Town services will operate to/from Manningtree.

Possible Monthly Charge For WiFi?

An article published by ZDNet suggests that there may be a monthly charge of £19 for Standard Class passengers intending to use WiFi on London - Norwich services.  NXEA has so far only announced that the service will be free to First Class passengers and that Standard Class passengers will have to pay £2.95 a journey.  A £2.95 charge per journey makes it a very expensive exercise for regular users.

£19 per month would certainly be better value but is still considerably more than some service providers are charging.  The MRUA will continue to press for this to be a free service for all as is the case on National Express coaches.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Tube Strike - 29th November

A reminder that the RMT and TSSA unions have called a strike on the Tube starting on the evening of Sunday 28 November. If the strike goes ahead, disruption to Tube services is likely all day Monday 29 November, with services returning to normal on Tuesday 30 November.

TFL will run as many Tube services as possible, but some lines will have a restricted service and some stations will be closed.

Please check before you travel, and use an alternative route or method of transport if possible. Visit the TFL strike page for more detailed information.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

NXEA Gets A Mention In 'Private Eye'

NXEA gets a mention in the Dr B Ching column of the latest Private Eye magazine, highlighting the double standards applied by the company in the paying of fares / fines.

Referring to the Delay Repay scheme the article explains how, when rail or rail replacement bus services are delayed, passengers can obtain and fill in a form to apply, by post only, for compensation for delays exceeding 30 minutes.  NXEA aims to respond within 15 days.

However, the NXEA guide to penalty fares states "you will be requested to pay the full amount by the authorised collector at the time the penalty fare is charged".

So basically when a passenger gets it wrong they have to pay up immediately but if NXEA gets it wrong compensation can take weeks to arrive.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

NXEA WiFi To Cost £2.95

Many will be disappointed to hear that NXEA will be charging for their WiFi service when introduced on London - Norwich services. Whilst free to first-class passengers, others will have to pay £2.95 per journey. Regular users will see themselves paying over £1,300 a year!

As mentioned in an earlier article here the system is being installed thanks to a grant of £346,000 from the EEDA and Suffolk and Norfolk county councils.

It will be interesting to see what the take up will be for something that should surely be a free service.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Train Fares To Increase By Average Of 6.2%

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has provided figures indicating that fares will increase by an average of 6.2% in the new year. Regulated fares which include season tickets will go up by an average of 5.8% but some increases could be as high as 10.8%.

Regulated fares are tied to an annual price cap formula meaning fares can increase each January only by the previous July's RPI inflation rate plus 1%. Hence the 5.8% average rise for 2011.  However, companies are able to put up some fares by more than 5% as long as other fares decrease at the same rate.  Precise details of NXEA fares are not known at this stage.

In January 2012, passengers will have to dig even deeper into their pockets when the annual price rise formula changes to RPI plus 3% across the national network.

NXEA Announce Customer Service Investment

In what will be seen by some as a tacit acknowledgement that trains are in a pretty poor state, that customer service often falls short of expectations and to perhaps soften the blow of the significant fare increases that are imminent, NXEA has announced a range of measures to improve things as follows:
  • 20 additional cleaning staff to improve presentation and cleaning on board trains and between journeys 
  • A new cleaning team improving exterior presentation of trains, complementing NXEA’s additional investment of £2m in new carriage washers at Ilford and Orient Way train maintenance depots 
  • An enhanced station cleaning programme for NXEA’s London stations and other key stations 
  • Improvements in communication and engagement with customers led by the recruitment of a new Customer Information Manager and welcome hosts at key stations including, London Liverpool Street, Cambridge, Colchester, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich and Witham 
  • Provision of free weekend travel for partners of NXEA annual season-ticket holders 
  • Production of a new Commuter News publication for season-ticket holders and enhanced at-seat breakfast service for First Class customers on the 07.10 and 07.40 Intercity services from Norwich 
  • Senior Citizens 2-for-1 travel offer on Wednesdays in the New Year
The MRUA will continue to press for the reinstatement of the texting service that is seen by many as key to improving customer communications. 

Friday, 19 November 2010

Network Rail Criticised By NXEA

Andrew Chivers, Managing Director of National Express East Anglia, has written to local MPs criticising the performance of Network Rail, saying that its progress in reducing delays caused by infrastructure problems in the last seven years had been "minor" when compared to NXEA's record in tackling delays caused by train faults. Passengers have suffered from long delays recently as a consequence of overrunning maintenance work.

As well as over-running engineering work last week, Mr Chivers said it had also emerged that “some of the additional infrastructure problems on Tuesday and Wednesday resulted from sub-standard installation of equipment during the same weekend engineering work programme”. “Network Rail have already carried out an initial investigation, which suggests that the key causes of the problems related to poor project management, inadequate programme preparation and unsatisfactory real time delivery of the works by the contractors...,” Mr Chivers said. “They are taking steps to ensure that better planning and monitoring of such schemes is in place for future projects.

“We have acted quickly to raise our concerns with the Network Rail Route Director, Andrew Munden. In addition, our group chief executive Dean Finch has also met personally with the Network Rail Chairman, Rick Haythornthwaite, to emphasise just how damaging such disruption is for our passengers and to highlight our wider discontent that the rate of performance improvement and overall punctuality standards being achieved by Network Rail on the Great Eastern Mainline are not acceptable. Their progress in reducing infrastructure-related delays over the last seven years has been minor in comparison to the major reduction we have achieved in delays caused by train faults.”

He added that National Express East Anglia had also appointed a manager to work at the joint control centre in London, and would co-locate teams at Network Rail depots to increase the urgency in Network Rail’s decision-making and create a “greater focus on passengers’ needs”.

Whilst the Manningtree Rail Users Association welcomes this public criticism by NXEA of the services provided by Network Rail there is concern too that NXEA's handling of these problems can be handled so much better.  Improved communications, including the reintroduction of a text alerting service and better use of the NXEA website, are essential.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Coach Hits Bridge At Manningtree

A coach being used on a rail replacement service was involved in a serious accident whilst attempting to use the A137 underpass next to Manningtree station yesterday evening.  10 people were taken to hospital suffering mainly from injuries sustained by flying glass.  One of the injured had to be cut free by emergency services.

It appears that the coach was too tall for the low bridge.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Call For Rail Safety Review

Following on from predictions of more overcrowding on trains as more and more people are expected use the railways, the Chair of the Transport Select Committee has called for a review of passenger safety.  Louise Ellman is calling for Health & Safety legislation to be looked at again.

The Rail Safety and Standards Board, which is owned by the train operating companies, has denied safety is being compromised whilst admitting that overcrowding caused discomfort.

Apart from the obvious potential for disaster in the event of an accident, passengers are often to be  found passing out in cramped conditions on a daily basis.

Unlike planes and buses there are no legal restrictions on how packed a train can be.  However, the Office of Rail Regulation, which is in charge of keeping the railways safe, said overcrowding did not affect safety and pointed out that rail was the safest form of land transport.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Overcrowding To Get Worse

A report by MPs has stated that overcrowding on trains will get worse and that targets set by the Department for Transport for increasing passenger places will be missed. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was concerned that the "already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and even more intolerable".

The PAC went on to state that ""At present there is no incentive for the rail industry to supply extra capacity without additional public subsidy.

"The DfT should, for future franchises, require operators to take measures themselves to avoid overcrowding and to meet the costs of doing so."

The report recommends that new carriages be fitted with automatic passenger counting equipment and that smart card technology be adopted to monitor passenger numbers to target overcrowding.

At present franchisees, such as National Express East Anglia (NXEA), are not incentivised to make the investment necessary to ensure that services keep up with growth in demand. This is one of the reasons the government is reviewing the franchising system with a view to providing longer franchises to encourage the necessary investment.

NXEA is increasing the number of seats available to Manningtree commuters in the new December timetable but the growth in passenger numbers nationally - 40% in ten years - may see this as a temporary solution if that sort of increase in replicated here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Poor Communication Over Delays

The MRUA has asked National Express East Anglia for an explanation as to why this morning's delays caused by overrunning engineering work were not better communicated to passengers.  It is thought that it was known late yesterday afternoon that services would be adversely affected this morning by the overrunning work by Network Rail to overhead lines near Ilford.  However no action appears to have been taken by NXEA to advise passengers until this morning.

The MRUA will be asking NXEA to reinstate its texting service to passengers.  This was replaced by an emailing service earlier this year but this morning's events clearly show that emails sent at 3:30am are less likely to be read in time than a text message.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Disappointing Attendance In Parliamentary Debate On NXEA

Witham MP, Priti Patel, secured a debate in parliament entitled "The Performance of National Express East Anglia" which took place yesterday.  In the debate Ms Patel took the opportunity to raise her constituents' concerns at the service provided by NXEA with the Rail Minister Theresa Villiers.  Sadly only one other MP was present - the MP for Brigg and Goole (Yorkshire, before you ask).

It is disappointing to note that no other Essex MPs were present and that an opportunity for a consolidated approach was not taken.  The MRUA has this morning written to Bernard Jenkin MP to highlight the disappointment already being voiced by Manningtree and Harwich commuters.