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 ERUF 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

Train Crash Tanker Driver Jailed For 15 Months

The tanker driver responsible for the serious derailment of a train on the Sudbury branch line in August has been jailed for 15 months.  Arvydas Bartasius, a Lithuanian living in Ely, had pleaded guilty to endangering safety when he crossed the tracks without first seeking permission from the signalman.  The NXEA train was travelling between 50mph and 60mph when it struck the tanker, injuring 22 people.  Bartasius was also banned from driving for three years.

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 ERUF will continue to press for the reinstatement of the texting service that is seen by many as key to improving customer communications.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sunday Service to Colchester Town

National Express East Anglia are once again introducing a Sunday service to Colchester Town during the run up to Christmas.  The services will run on the 5th, 12th and 19th December starting at 10:50 and running hourly until 18:50.

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 Essex Rail Users Federation 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.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Kelvedon Commuter Swaps The Trains For A Car

The new December timetable being introduced by National Express East Anglia has persuaded Maureen Browning to give up on the railways and commute by road instead.  The new timetable sees the number of trains to Chelmsford calling at Kelvedon drop from four to two.  The only alternative for Mrs Browning is to catch a train and change at Witham, effectively doubling her journey time.

Dissatisfied with the response from NXEA to her concerns, Mrs Browning has purchased a second hand car and has calculated that she will be spending about the same on fuel as she would have done on fares.

Mrs Browning got a reply from Essex County Council which said: “The original intention in the timetable was to provide through services at 0743 and 0815.  However, Network Rail has not consented to these services stopping at Kelvedon as the power supply for the route is insufficient to accommodate all the additional services to be operated.”

Another indication that the infrastructure on the Great Eastern Mainline is not up to the job.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Witham MP Criticises NXEA in Parliament

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, secured a debate in parliament entitled "The Performance of National Express East Anglia" which took place yesterday.  Sadly only one other MP was was present (One Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole) but Ms Patel took the opportunity to list her constituents' concerns which included:

  • The fact that the Great eastern mainline is one of the busiest in the country but is only single track in each direction and the overall poor condition of the infrastructure, including the 50 year old overhead wires.  (Not actually the responsibility of NXEA but certainly worthy of a mention)
  • The proposed loss of certain services for Witham and Kelvedon passengers in the new December timetable.
  • The exhorbitant fares endured by passengers and the prospect of considerable increases.
Ms Patel also took up the plight of Nigel Clark whose refreshment business is under threat following the refurbishment of Marks Tey station.  She revealed that she has written to the Prime Minister and Rail Minister about his plight and has also handed in a 700 signature petition calling for his stall to be retained.

The Rail Minister, Theresa Villiers responded to Ms Patel's points by defending NXEA's overall performance of 90.9% of services running on time as opposed to the 62% of services to London and 48% of services from London as claimed by Ms Patel based on figures provided by Passenger Focus.  Mrs Villiers also mentioned that 70% of delays were down to infrastructure problems and were not the responsibility of National Express.  An extensive programme of renewal work was underway to replace the overhead wires but this would not be completed until 2012.  The Rail Minister also revealed that her department had intervened in the summer when NXEA was experiencing problems with its fleet by ensuring additional engineers were on hand to assist.

Mrs Villiers assured Ms Patel that she would be keeping a close eye on the future performance of NXEA.

It was disappointing to note however that no other Essex MPs were present at this debate.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sudbury Train Crash - Tanker Driver Pleads Guilty

The tanker driver involved in the derailment of a train on the Sudbury - Marks Tey branch on 17th August has pleaded guilty of endangering safety on the railway. 22 people were injured when the 17:31 service from Sudbury to Marks Tey was in collision with the tanker which was blocking the track.

Arvydas Bartasius, 38, of Hawthorn Close, Ely, Cambridgeshire, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court. He will return to court on 26th November for sentencing.