Why people don't use trains - peterb
Having vowed not to use Virgin West Coast again two years ago, I went back on my word and travelled from Euston to Preston yesterday. (My client was just a few mins walk from the station.)

The outward journey was fine, but the way back took nearly 2 1/2 hours longer than it should have done. Just to add spice, the aircon didn't work in half the carriages thereby offering the choice of extreme heat or extreme crowding.

We received the odd, rather off-hand apology, but the general staff attitude was apathy.

All this cost me (or rather my client) £278.

Is it any surprise we all choose to drive/fly?


PS Don't worry, eM Be, I will be taking this up with Virgin directly.
Why people don't use trains - daveyjp
I don't know where you live, but flying London City to Manchester cost me £120 for a day return earlier this year (I would imagine prices from Heathrow are similar). Ok you've still to get to Preston, but the rail service from Manachester Airport is excellent.
Why people don't use trains - DenisO
I did this journey recently and did BA Gatwick/Manchster service which is about £100 return. Rented a Focus for £35 for the drive to Preston and back which used just over £6 in petrol. Add to that the cost of the round trip to Gatwick and parking for the day and it's still cheaper than train or driving. Add to that the benefits of not spending 8 hours in the car through some of the most stressful bottlenecks in the country M25, M6 Birmingham.
If it was twice the price it's still a no brainer to avoid stress and agro on the roads.
Why people don't use trains - Jonathan {p}
Its all due to the amazing properties of the steel they use in the tracks. Apparently it buckles when it reaches temperatures in the 30s. Why the rest of the world don't have this problem amazes me. I suspect that its a cover to ensure that the operators have a few days grace from not meeting their punctuality targets and will mean that network rail don't get the blame.

Why people don't use trains - Ian (Cape Town)
Why the rest of the world
don't have this problem amazes me.

Yep, and come autumn it's "the wrong type of leaves' and come January it's "The wrong type of snow".
What does spring bring? The wrong type of pollen? Romantic rabbits on the track?
Or are trains delayed by too much Ox Excrement?
[One of the reasons I choose NOT to live in the UK is the appaling transport system/motoring costs]
Why people don't use trains - MonkeyFunk
the leaves on the track are a problem for the signaling

Why people don't use trains - SteveH42
The main trouble is that for most of these things people just don't bother even trying to understand the reason. Leaves on the line is probably the worst of this as it is actually a very serious problem. If you consider a train that can have a point loading of 10t on each wheel compressing wet leaves on to the track, the result is something with properties similar to teflon, i.e. very low adhesion levels not to mention very difficult to remove. There is a further safety issue in that not only is it hard for the trains to get going and stop but this coating also breaks the track circuit so trains can 'disappear' from the signalling system and due to the safety-conscious nature of the railways they *have* to treat this as the train having stopped and all following trains have to crawl along to ensure a collision does not occur. The simple solution to this problem is to chop all the trees down - they are a fairly recent problem anyway as in the steam days they were cleared or burned down before they became a problem. However, you try chopping one tree down beside a railway and you have all sorts of environmental campaigners down on you like a ton of bricks.

The wrong type of snow was I believe a one-off problem where air intake grills had not been designed to cater for such powerdy snow, simply as it is not something that is often encountered here so it wasn't thought of. A simple modification cured this.

The bending rails is a more complex problem - as others have stated, it *does* happen elsewhere so we aren't alone with the problem, but the main reason it is so bad this year is that when Railtrack panicked and replaced a lot of track after Hatfield, they cut further corners by not properly installing it and stressing it correctly. Network Rail are trying to remedy this but there is only so much they can do and if an accident happened because they didn't put a speed restriction in place then the comeback would be horrific.

It's noticable that even though this is a motoring forum, the number of rants about avoidable problems on the road network are few and far between. Why do people accept badly placed and timed roadworks, delays due to accidents and breakdowns and other road problems with little complaint, yet the smallest problem with the railways results in a massive rant, which is usually locked by a moderator as OT before someone can actually correct the many misconceptions that have been aired already.
Why people don't use trains - J Bonington Jagworth
"Why do people accept badly placed and timed roadworks, delays due to accidents and breakdowns and other road problems with little complaint.."

Probably because they are not directly responsible for them, whereas the railways are supposed to be an integrated system where both the people running the track and the people running the trains are meant to communicate. Also, in a car, you're relatively comfortable and can phone home without inciting the hatred of your fellow travellers...
Why people don't use trains - MonkeyFunk
its because the rail is CWR - continues welded rail, which has to be stressed when installed,

its stressed to allow for the hot weather and then in the winter the freezing weather

and with the unusal hot weather, the track has to be monitered due to the cold weather during the night and then red hot temperatures in the day, you can imagine what will be happening to the rails!!

the speed restrictions are just a precaution

but i am no P-Way engineer!!

Why people don't use trains - borasport20
Peter - I beleive you can fly to london from blackpool now - surely worth investigating

another reason people shouldnt use train - because the taxi booked for 6:30 this morning to take her to the station didn't turn up and it's me who gets dragged out of bed to do a flyer into the middle of town !

I have to grow old - but I don't have to grow up
Why people don't use trains - SpamCan61 {P}
(puts on anorak)...Actually they do have the same problem in other countries; and yes they do have to run their trains slower. An air temperature of around 30C means the steel rail is around 50C. There is a choice between rails snapping in the depths of winter or rails bending in hot summers. The current compromise is presumably considered the best for the UK's temperature range.
(removes anorak)

Lots of detail over on the uk.railway Google group; if you can stand the anti-motoring rants. How long before the tarmac on the motorways starts melting; I wonder?
Why people don't use trains - Andrew-T
SC61 (speaking from inside anorak) - in the Good Old Days rails were in 60-foot lengths, as they still are on the'heritage' lines, so expansion was taken up at the joints. Now main lines use welded rail for a quiet ride and to avoid the other problems of rail joints, like wear or broken ends (Hatfield). Whatever happened to Neilson joints, which were designed to absorb expansion in long rails?

Even so, in very hot weather the old-style track used to bend out of straight, sometimes causing derailments. Would the grumbling public really prefer those?
Why people don't use trains - THe Growler
When you can get 2 nights and 3 days in Bangkok including airfare for the price of Peterb's ticket you'd have to be insane to even think about trains.
Why people don't use trains - peterb
I very nearly took the City Airport + rentacar route (and will next time). My rationale for taking the train was to get some work done while travelling - I ended up doing more than I expected!

We do seem to make heaveier weather (ho-ho-ho) of this than other countries. I came back from France on Sunday on Eurostar. It was over 30C but that didn't stop us from doing 186 mph.

BTW If anyone hasn't used it, City Airport is wonderful. You park right outside the terminal, it's quiet and you can check in late. Bliss!
Why people don't use trains - MonkeyFunk
thats cos it nice new straight track!!

Why people don't use trains - Armitage Shanks{P}
Leaves on the lines are an adhesion problem, not signalling, so far as I know. Mind you even trains on the line are a problem for the lame-brains who 'run' the system!
Why people don't use trains - J Bonington Jagworth
"even trains on the line are a problem"

LOL! If leaves are such a problem, howcome we never used to hear about it? Was the steam used to blow them off? I've often wondered why a wire brush couldn't be fitted ahead of the wheels to clear the path, but perhaps they just prefer cancelling trains until autumn is out of the way...
Why people don't use trains - SpamCan61 {P}
Leaves are a problem now because the braking systems have changed; most rolling stock now uses disc brakes; which don't scrape off the carp when the brakes are applied. In the 'good old days' the brakes were applied against the wheel treads, which meant the carp was scraped off as soon as the brakes were applied. Downside of a more efficient braking system.
Why people don't use trains - J Bonington Jagworth
"..the carp was scraped off as soon as the brakes were applied"

So why isn't that used now? They could keep the disc brakes for serious braking and use the old (tried and trusted) method for dealing with the leaf problem.
Why people don't use trains - SpamCan61 {P}
Because they would have to retrofit every single piece of rolling stock. £££££££££££££££s
Why people don't use trains - eMBe {P}
PS Don't worry, eM Be, I will be taking this up
with Virgin directly.

peter - I am replying since you mentioned my name. As it happens, when I last met RB and took up a complaint with him, he gave me a personal letter to pass on thanking the complainant for taking the trouble to bring the matter to his attention (via me).

In the above incident, I think you will find (as explained by others) that the party at "fault" was Network Rail. It seems that when Engineers designed the track, they did not anticipate Global-warming British weather! (The track is designed to withstand a min & max optimum). Also, no-one foresaaw the extreme safety culture that would come about following the last 3 major rail disasters (Hatfield, Paddington, Southall).

To get back to motoring - one day soon the Highways Agency or the Police will close all Motorways and A Roads for safety reasons due to extreme weather. Just wait ans see.

Why people don't use trains - J Bonington Jagworth
"extreme safety culture"

I'm not sure I'd call checking that the correct bolts are done up an extreme measure (especially when an off-duty railwayman had already drawn attention to the problem), or are you saying that Potters Bar wasn't a major disaster?

As for the heat expansion, the range of temperatures in this country must among the least extreme on the planet, and yet we still seem to have a problem. An ITN report tonight suggested that the steel used for our lines was particularly cheap and nasty, which wouldn't surprise me, post privatisation. The wrong sort of rails, in fact...
Why people don't use trains - eMBe {P}
>> I'm not sure I'd call checking that the correct bolts are
done up an extreme measure>>

The difference is I am talking about the attitude "post" the incident, whereas you are talking of the culture "pre" incident.

Railway officials were on all TV news channels last night saying why they had to take these extreme safety measures in this heat. Their words - NOT mine.
Why people don't use trains - J Bonington Jagworth
"Railway officials ... had to take these extreme safety measures in this heat"

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Not getting at you, eMBe, but this sounds like a backside-covering exercise rather than any real attempt to improve safety.

I remember the HSE reporting a year or two ago on the state of some trackside cabling, which they absolved from normal maintenance checks on the grounds that it was in such bad repair that disturbing it would only make matters worse!

Why people don't use trains - SteveH42
Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Not getting at you,
eMBe, but this sounds like a backside-covering exercise rather
than any real attempt to improve safety.

What on earth are you talking about? They are saying that it isn't safe to run trains at full speed due to the condition of the track. To do anything other than make them run slower would be criminally negligent. It's not backside-covering, it's the only measure they can take until they have had the chance to sort out the complete and utter mess left by Railtrack.

Look at it from a car perspective. If you have a flat and are forced to use a skinny, would you keep to the 50 limit until you had the chance to get it fixed, or would you take the risk of carrying on until normal regardless of the fact it is posing a danger to yourself and others?
Why people don't use trains - J Bonington Jagworth
"the condition of the track"

So has it buckled or hasn't it? If it has, I doubt that any speed would be safe! To pursue your analogy, I think that a wobbly track is more akin to a blowout than running on a spare!

How are railways run in, say, Canada, where the max temperature is above 40deg.C and the minimum below -20deg.C?

Why people don't use trains - burners
I do think our railway system is overly maligned. For many years it has suffered considerable under investment, and then privatisation which was a mistake certainly in the form it tuck.

Anybody travelling from London to Manchester by Virgin may notice that some services are now finally worked by new tilting trains (although the tilt is not opeational yet) some 21 years after British Rail attempted to introduce them.

Yes BR had a number of teething problems with the original titing train but would no doubt have solved them had the govenment not pulled the investment plug. Consequently you have some trains on the West coast route which should the countries premier inter city route worked by 40 year old locomotives.

The Leaf issue tends to be a greater problem these days because over the past 15 years there has been a switch from heavy locomotive hauled trains to lightweight multiple units, which dont mash up the leaves like the old locomotive hauled did.

I must say I travelled extensily around south wales by train for a couple days last week and all the trains I travelled on ran like clockwork.

Why people don't use trains - hootie
I must say I travelled extensily around south wales by train
for a couple days last week and all the trains I
travelled on ran like clockwork.

I do take your point for the main part burners, and I would be the first one to err on the side of safety procedures, but having a husband who has to get up at 04.50 every morning to be sure of getting to work before 8am (living only 50 miles from London) and having him walk in the door no earlier than 19.30 if he leaves the office before 17.00, when we live no more than 2 mins walk from a main line station, is no joke day in and day out. That's not counting the days when he gets in at about 21.00!

I'm sorry, but I feel, strongly, that unless you pay the season ticket price and do the journey day in and day out, you really have no idea of the hell that the daily commute can be.

On the bright side, by comparison, traffic jams on the M25/M4, no longer hold the same horrors that they used to!

We've discussed this before, and I said my bit - but the train journey at the moment in this heat has to be experienced to be believed - there're rules that wont let cattle travel like this (quite rightly so)
Why people don't use trains - Rob the Bus {P}
In the interests of impartialilty and fairness....

I recently travelled by West Coast Main Line from Preston to Euston and back and the journey both ways (apart from the family from hell on the way back) was a pleasure. Both trains got to their destinations early and there was a plentiful supply of food and drink available.

Going back ten years or so, I used to travel regularly by train to university open days and interviews and even then I had no trouble with delays etc.

For heaven's sake, I don't even have any trouble with Connex (yet!).

Perhaps I'm just lucky!


"Lord of Lard"
Why people don't use trains - superannuated rocker
I am amused by your comment that even ten years ago you didn't have problems. In my experience the west coast line was excellent at that time and has deteriorated considerably in recent years. I used to live in merseyside and regularly commuted to london. The fastest express journey time was 2hrs 30mins and the slowest 2hrs 36 and these were run with excellent punctuality (Check what it is now). The last time I went to Liverpool (admttedly on a saturday) from Watford the train went via Wolverhampton and Birmingham and managed to take almost 4hrs. I certainly am no fan of this government who have have achieved precisely nothing in terms of any transport advance but I find it hilarious when the tories snipe at the railways. Do they really think we have forgotten who rushed through parliament the extremely badly thought through legislation to privatise BR just before they lost power?
Why people don't use trains - burners
Yeh I can appreciate using the trains for commuting can be a nightmare, I commuted in the late eighties and eventually I had to make alternative arrangements because it became a joke.

Unfortunatly I think we now have goverment who have given the railways up as a bad job, The SRA should be hitting the rail companies and network rail hard if they dont sort their act out and looking at ways to improve rail services, but for some of the latest franchasis available the main aim seems to be to save as much money as possible and reduce services. The Chairman Richard Bowkers latest idea Substitute buses, nice one.

Arriva seem to have recently got the new Welsh franchise on basically maintaining the existing service, presumably some of the other bidders probably wanted to reduce services.
Why people don\'t use trains - Rob the Bus {P}
Why people don't use trains - Rob the Bus {P}
Try again...

>>Arriva seem to have recently got the new Welsh franchise.

Oh dear. If I'm remembering correctly, Arriva had the Miseryrail (sorry, Merseyrail) franchise taken off them as the service that they provided fell far short of that which was expected.

Good luck to all you poor commuters in Wales...


Why people don't use trains - SteveH42
The thing you have to remember about the various franchises is that there isn't really much difference who actually runs it, the staff on the ground and most of the management remain the same. When one TOC leaves and another takes over there just isn't the scope for wholesale replacement of staff, and if you have the same staff you are likely to get the same operating methods employed.

Arriva inherited two very badly run and underfunded TOCs from MTL, Merseyrail and Northern Spirit. Merseyrail needed a lot of investment that wasn't available immediately and Merseytravel were intent on taking it over themselves so weren't too keen on aiding Arriva. Whether it being run by the PTE is a good thing or not is another question. Northern Spirit however, especially the Transpennine Express side has been transformed under Arriva with more services, better punctuality and longer trains. Arriva have good cause to be upset at losing TPX and the Welsh population have few worries that Arriva will not at least match the standards that the Nat Ex group had on W&B.

The one thing to be worried about really is that one of the few remaining non-bus TOCs (GB Railways) which also happens to have one of the best reputations is in the process of being taken over by First Group. Not that First Group are the worst of the TOC-owning bus companies, but none of them have the reputation of the likes of Sea Containers and GB Railways.
Why people don't use trains - burners
Well As someone who lives near the main transpennine route and evens uses it ocasionaly you must tell me about this wonderful new arriva transpennine service because I havent seen it.

As far as I'm aware its pretty much the same as run by BR ten years ago, My last trip a few months involved standing in the middle of the carriage with the 2 coach unit carrying as many standing passengers as there were seated. The regulars said it was the same every weekend.

I'm not sure that the so called reputation of GNER is particularly well deserved, Yes they might have better puntuality than virgin but they inherited a modern east coast line with a modern fleet of trains, whereas virgin inherited clapped out trains and a clapped out west coast line. Virgin are putting massive investment into new trains what are GNER doing well they are finally refurbising there trains some 12 years after introduction BR used refubish there inter city stock afer about 8 years. Other than that they have leased 3 surplus eurostars hardly pushing the boat out.

I would agree that its a pitty that GB railways are being taken over as the rest of them leave a lot to be desired.

The transpennine route has long since deserved something better than the nasty little 158 units which currently work this route, lets hope firstgroup can deliver.

What Arriva are offering with the Wales and Borders isnt going to do much to get people out of thier cars.
Why people don't use trains - carlh
Just to correct a common myth, the Virgin publicity machine is very good at telling people that they are 'putting massive investment' into new trains. Completely untrue. The leasing company is buying the trains, Virgin is merely paying a monthly leasing charge.

Most of the current trains that Virgin runs are around 25 years old (Mk3), and were fully refurbished shortly before privatisation. I suspect that the maintenance has been cut back because they know that new trains are on the horizon - hence the reason why the air con often fails.

The Preston to London standard fare was around £175 two years ago, for that I did not even get a cup of tea (although at these fares standard class was always empty so getting a seat was no problem). I then had to pay a fiver to get out of the carpark. At that time Virgin seemed to run the service for their own convenience, trains were quite often cancelled or (very often), terminated short of their destination. I have not been on one since and not even new trains will persuade me. They need to get their customer focus right first.

Why people don't use trains - SteveH42
(Apologies to the moderators as this really is getting OT now, and would suggest that maybe uk.railway is a better place to discuss it although be prepared to be given direct, accurate and rail-biassed facts and opinions there)

I used the TPX services regularly from 1994 to 1998 when I use at uni in Liverpool to travel back to Durham. I quickly learned to travel as late as possible to get trains quiet enough for a seat. On one occasion about 3 trains were cancelled in succession so I was only just getting on a train in Liverpool when I should have been arriving at Durham. This was in the MTL days. Now, Arriva have obtained more units from Scotrail to alleviate capacity problems as well as resolved a very tricky pay dispute and do genuinely do as good as job as can be expected on the TPx route. Unfortunately, the local services aren't quite so good, but the circumstances mean there is only so much they can do.

The main trouble with franchises such as Arriva, CT, fNW etc are that the actual franchise ended a few years back but the SRA keep extending the management contracts (in some cases) or franchise by 12 months at a time. No business can justify massive investment when they don't know if they'll still be in a position to reap the rewards of that investment when it pays off. Further, for those that are on management contracts (Arriva and fNW) they simply can't invest any more than the SRA will let them - they effectively can only run the trains - any expenditure is down to the SRA. What many people don't realise is that a large number of TOCs are actually in this position - effectively owned by the SRA but for convenience the existing management are kept on to run them. Even the two Virgin franchises are run in this manner!

Firstgroup *should* be able to improve the TPx routes, but the only reason they can do more than Arriva is that they are being allowed to invest in new stock and given a period long enough to make that investment potentially pay off.

As for GNER, there are other factors to take in to account. They can't run many more trains than they do at the moment due to various capacity problems on the ECML that are a result of the 'on the cheap' way it was electrified due to treasury intervention. I doubt many motorways are build with a single lane each way because it would cost a bit more to build a wider bridge, but without thinking I can come up with two railway locations where the equivalent of this has happened, with the consequent operational problems.

GNER did have an advantage to start with, but they took advantage of it. The only arguable thing is that they could have started the stock refurb sooner, but then you also need to continue running a service while taking stock out for refurb so it's not a simple matter to arrange. Again, investment in new stock is hindered by the fact that rather than given then a decent extension to the franchise, the regulator only gave them another year.
Why people don't use trains - Mark (RLBS)
>>would suggest that maybe uk.railway is a better place to discuss it

I couldn't agree more.

Value my car