Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Prices frozen!

New news from First Great Western. This is from the BBC, who've linked it to the upcoming fare strike:

"A train company is to double the amount of compensation it pays season ticket holders after failing to meet its punctuality and reliability targets.
First Great Western (FGW) apologised for poor service and said it would also freeze fares and car park charges until the end of the year.
Most season ticket holders are expected to pay the previous year's prices when they renew their 2008 ticket.
The move comes days before a planned fare strike by disgruntled passengers.
Pressure group, More Train Less Strain, said it had received widespread support for the protest scheduled for 28 January across the West Country".
I have already found out how much my season ticket is due to be, when it runs out in a month's time. So, will that amount go down, if it's going back to 2007 prices? I wait and see with much excitement.

Strike details for the 28th January

Hello peeps

No reason for the picture, except that it's a lovely day and pictures of strikes are a bit dull, so this is a statue called "The Meeting Place" on St Pancras Station. Nice...

On to business.
Here are the details of the upcoming fare strike. The point is not necessarily to try and dodge your fare, but to bring the company's attention to the number of us who are unhappy with the service, so please take part even if, like me, you're already a season ticket holder. Details follow from More Train Less Strain, who are the organisers:

"The stations known to be partcipating are Yate, Yatton, Bath, Oldfield Park, Frome, Oxford and Bristol. Other stations may also partcipate so be prepared to pick up a strike ticket wherever you are.

At each of those stations you can expect to be given a fare strike ticket and explanatory leaflet between around 7:15 and 8:30 am.The leaflet says as follows:

FARE STRIKE DAY 28 01 2008.

Our aim is to demonstrate to First Great Western that their passengers will not tolerate their expensive and unreliable service any more, and that the government must take back the franchise from FGW. To do this you can

1. Show your FARE STRIKE ticket to staff on the train and at the barriers instead of your proper ticket. (It is your decision whether or not you have a proper ticket and you could be breaking the law if you travel without one!)

2. Avoid confrontations with staff, they are on our side!

3. TV and press will be at many stations on the FGW network. Tell them what you think.

4. Send a FARE STRIKE ticket to your local MP and local paper and tell them that the time has come for FGW to go. Email the CEO of FGW and tell him what you think: andrew.haines@firstgroup.com


They look similar in design to a standard ticket. If the barriers to the patform are open we suggest you show this ticket rather than a valid ticket to gain entry to the platform. Once on the platform, we suggest that you show your strike ticket when requested to show a ticket by staff on the train or at the exit barriers.It is up to you whether you travel with a valid ticket in your back pocket. The law states that you should have a valid ticket. It is not our intention to defraud FGW even though some might consider they are generating unreasonable profits from us. Our aim is to generate publicty to highlight at a local and national level the failure of FGW to provide an affordable and dependable service. We anticipate that this in turn will make it harder for the Department of Transport to continue to turn a blind eye to the collapse of FGW's franchise.


There is no party line. That depends on your politics. Some would say take the franchise back into public ownership, others would say hand it to a company who really can run a train service. Whatever you believe it is important that you make your views known to the media who will be out in force on the 28th and to your local MP.Whatever you do, please be polite and respectful of FGW 's long suffering staff.

Regards,The More Train Less Strain Team."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Slight disappointment re: the free money

I was very excited last night to find a letter had come from First Great Western. I was slightly less excited to find that the rail voucher enclosed was for the grand sum of £4.00.
Yes, you read that right. 400 of our British pence. This is Andrew Haines' compensation for the less-than-excellent service throughout December. Although, to be fair, that will buy 5.12 copies of my favourite Take a Break magazine, which provides much needed opportunities to laugh at other people's misfortunes during train delays.
For example, this week's edition, bought as compensation when I missed a connection last night, had finished my book, and found myself with nothing to read, contains the following headlines - Child with a Junkie Father - "wake up daddy, I'm scared"
They Were Burnt Alive - "Yobs murdered my pets"
Amazing! - I became pregnant - and shrank!
Britain's Got Love Rats - "You can run, John...but you can't hide!"
Quality entertainment I'm sure you'll agree. However, I can't help but be slightly concerned that the cost of sending out all these £4.00 vouchers may be more than the value of the vouchers themselves.
Still, I am now armed with four rail vouchers, as a result of all my careful complaining last year. Sadly, they add up to a mere £34.00 at the last count. Which probably won't even cover the recent fare rise. Still, it's something. As various celebrities continue to say annoyingly in Tesco adverts, "every little helps".

Friday, January 11, 2008

We can strike too!

As if by magic, my question from the last post has been answered. This comment from Tony at More Train Less Strain was received:
"If anyone from Reading or Maidenhead would like to help to co-ordiante a fare strike on the 28th January we want to hear from you.
Email: tambrose31@yahoo.co.uk and join the 6 fare strikes curently planned."
So, what are you waiting for? Join the strike and make your feelings known.
Even if the drivers and guards don't go ahead with their strike action, we can, and we have lots to complain about.
Also, an interesting discussion on overcrowding is taking place on the Insider's blog In Defence of First Great Western. Go and have a look. He explains it all in a clear and understandable way, but my question is: why is the system in such a mess that First Great Western hasn't got enough carriages (ie: why is no-one making any new ones?), and why does it have to run and ask the government every time it wants more? Why isn't it in control of its own trains? It's a rum old world I tells thee.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Can we strike too please?

So, guards and drivers at FGW have voted to go on strike. Apparently, they're fed up with FGW's "confrontational" style of management, and they don't like it when managers drive the trains.
Hey, guess what, I don't like it when managers drive the trains either! I want my trains driven by train drivers please.
The problem is, we passengers can't go on strike, so we'll have to put up with even more cancellations and delays, because the company can't get it together to look after the people who work for them, or at least keep them in dialogue long enough for them not to go out on strike.
Sometimes the words "piss-up" and "brewery" come to mind when I think of the way that FGW try to run their bit of the railway. The words "bull" and "china shop" occur to me too, when you look at the way they deal with problems.
Look, we know there aren't enough trains, the staff morale is low, the tracks need fixing and the stations aren't big enough. We know all this. We just want you to sort it out. All we can see from our end is the cost of our tickets, and the constant failure to get us from A to B. Surely you can see why we might be as annoyed as the drivers who object to managers driving the trains. My message to First Great Western is take your hands away from your ears and stop shouting "la la la, I can't hear you". It's good to talk, as they say.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Stop press: free money alert!

I should probably visit the First Great Western website more often than I do.
I must admit that, considering the nature of this blog, it is very remiss of me. But, better late than never. A peruse of some of the other websites which are not best friends with FGW (a list of links to which you can find on the right), has led me to find the following link. My thanks to Economy Klaus from First Late Western for being on the ball and bringing it to the attention of his readers.
It is a letter from Andrew Haines, FGW's Chief Operating Officer, apologising about December's bad service, and offering season ticket holders two day's worth of travel vouchers as an apology.
All you have to do is write to the Freepost address provided and give a copy of your ticket, and, hey presto, free vouchers come through the door. My letter is already written and posted. Hopefully the aforementioned vouchers will arrive before I renew my ticket in February.
So, a slightly more Happy New Year after all. I stand corrected.

Let it snow!

Ah, New Year. A time for fresh new beginnings, soon-to-be-broken resolutions, and the feeling that a new page has been turned, an opportunity to get fitter, get a better job, get to work on trains that run on time, and are not crowded. Ah.
I, like many of you, went back to work yesterday after a longer-than-usual break. It's delightfully quiet on the trains this week, I got a seat on the tube from Paddington this morning, which is unheard of. However, despite being delighted about arriving at work early, the only reason I did so is because the fast train from Slough that I usually miss was badly delayed, so I caught it. Everything was delayed at Slough this morning. It seems the system still isn't working, and they can't blame passenger numbers, because most of us aren't even there to get annoyed by it.
So, what has the New Year brought for First Great Western? Well, fare rises for a start. That got everyone talking on New Year's Day, probably because there wasn't much other news. I won't be getting all irate about that until February, when my season ticket runs out, but expect to hear some pretty loud bellyaching then.
No, I'm most aggravated by the fact that I'm really looking forward to the promised snow, and it hasn't come. Also, if it does come, I shall be forced to be annoyed about it messing with the trains, rather than stomping about enjoying it and throwing it and making it into snowmen as I did in my childhood. Being grown up is rubbish and forces you to be grumpy about things that used to be fun. Remember how cool it was to travel by train when you were a child? Perhaps we should try and recreate that innocence of youth, and be genuinely surprised every day when we arrive at the station and find that the train isn't there. Then we could all play clapping and skipping games while we wait for it to arrive. At least it would confuse the hell out of the staff, who seem pretty grumpy themselves about working on the trains, something they too would have thought brilliant as children.
Or maybe we should bring the age of steam back. Even adults think steam trains are cool. Choo choo!