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Turkeys on Trains


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The sight of crowds of people trying to board trains last night to avoid the Government's latest restrictions due to Covid 19 raises the question of how irresponsible the train companies are behaving in selling tickets. Before yesterday's news, my wife had noticed that tickets were still being sold on the Trainline and the price had dropped appreciably. How many tickets were on offer? Was the need for social distancing being accounted for? Indeed, was there any limit on the number of tickets for any trains being imposed? This was of concern to us as both our daughters planned on travelling to see us on 23rd and 24th December by Greater Anglia. Both dates were potentially very busy and therefore potentially dangerous ones on which to travel if social distancing was not considered.

 

I rang the Trainline enquiry office and was told that some rail companies were only accepting passengers with reservations onto trains, but Greater Anglia was not one of them. I then contacted the company directly and asked the following:

 

If, say, GA's coaches have 60 seats each, but social distancing can be maintained only if (say) 30 of them are occupied, then was the company restricting their sales to 30 per coach? All the call handler (who clearly could not be held responsible for policy), could tell me was that GA estimate train capacity from advance sales, but they could not account for the number of people turning up on the day. Extra coaches would be added but only if possible. He also added that it was the passengers' responsibility to socially distance. 

 

It is appreciated that estimating passenger numbers cannot be precise. How many will join or leave trains at stations en route, how many or what size of "bubbles" will be travelling must be complicated to calculate. Nor can GA be wholly responsible for how passengers distribute themselves over the whole length of trains. 

 

But GA clearly believe that turkeys are responsible for Christmas! How can passengers with tickets be expected to socially distance on trains that are overcrowded? They wont find out what the situation is until they get to their stations. The call handler suggested that they could wait for the next one - which may also be over full. Suppose the last train is also "standing room only"? What does GA expect passengers to do if they are on a train which stops at a station en route to find the platform full of people wanting to board? As for extra "coaches", just how many FLIRTS do GA have spare? Where are they stabled ready for use? Is there the staff to run them? 

 

Surely, all railway companies should only be accepting a safe number of passengers in advance and then only allowing a safe number of those who turn up on the day to travel? Failure to do so is disingenuous on the part of GA and all the other companies who are not controlling the numbers of passengers on services. Even if they wont accept any duty of care for their passengers, they surely do have one for both their platform and their on board staff.

 

Obviously, after yesterday's announcement, the situation is now academic, but last night's scenes of crowds attempting to pre-empt the midnight deadline should not be repeated in future. (And yes, the government should accept some responsibility as well!)

 

David C



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All train operators in tier 3 or 4 areas are pushing the 'essential travel only' message. 

 

The government (which is now effectively setting service levels) is generally requiring as much of the timetable as possible to operate. 

 

Those operators who operate reservations are operating a 'reservations only' policy (certainly LNER are, not been anywhere else recently). 

 

Those operators who don't operate  a reservation system have no way of controlling ticket sales for a particular train. 

 

Rail staff are not there to enforce social distancing or check your reason for travelling, passengers are expected to  behave like grown ups and take responsibility for their own actions. We didn't make you all go shopping in the first place. BTP can enforce the restrictions but they can't marshall every train and they've got better things to do. 

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I would certainly not want to be a traincrew roster clerk at the moment. There must have been quite a few timetable amendments over recent months. 

My heart would sink each year as the prospect of covering services over Christmas and New Year loomed.

This year there is the added problem of sickness or self isolation due to Covid. I note that GWR currently have problems in the West Country with high sickness levels.

 

cheers 

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1 hour ago, David C said:

Surely, all railway companies should only be accepting a safe number of passengers in advance and then only allowing a safe number of those who turn up on the day to travel? Failure to do so is disingenuous on the part of GA and all the other companies who are not controlling the numbers of passengers on services. Even if they wont accept any duty of care for their passengers, they surely do have one for both their platform and their on board staff.

 

 

A bit rough on key workers commuting into work if you tell them they can't go home at the end of their shift.

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2 hours ago, David C said:

The call handler suggested that they could wait for the next one - which may also be over full. Suppose the last train is also "standing room only"? What does GA expect passengers to do if they are on a train which stops at a station en route to find the platform full of people wanting to board? 

 

I'm sure on a busy day, the call handler who could do nothing about either company or government policy enjoyed the chance to try and defend it to someone.  You must have made their day - what answer did you expect?

 

A friend who handles this sort of thing regularly regales us with the "fun" of dealing with endless bizarre DFT requests for changes to the timetable. Even those wouldn't have anticipated yesterday's sudden changes.

 

 

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I work in a shop and after 9 months of lockdown/restrictions I am fed up to the back teeth of people who either see the rules as a challenge or as something that applies to everyone else but them.

Likewise those who will readily give front line workers a hard time if they see others doing something 'wrong' ("what are you going to do about it?") but stand and argue if they are even ASKED to obey distancing etc. ("Who are you to tell me what to do?")

Finally, I don't see why workers should be held responsible for the irresponsible/disrespectful behaviour of those who choose to ignore the guidelines.

We do our best to request, respectfully and politely, that people do the right thing. If they deliberately choose not to, and then give me a load of grief for doing it, then it is they who need to look at themselves.

If you won't take responsibility for your own actions/behaviour then why expect someone else to do so?

Finally, whether it's seems fair or not, if you're in a crowded situation and are complaining about it, remember you are part of that crowd. Do you really need to be there?

 

Rant over

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1 hour ago, keefer said:

I work in a shop and after 9 months of lockdown/restrictions I am fed up to the back teeth of people who either see the rules as a challenge or as something that applies to everyone else but them.

Likewise those who will readily give front line workers a hard time if they see others doing something 'wrong' ("what are you going to do about it?") but stand and argue if they are even ASKED to obey distancing etc. ("Who are you to tell me what to do?")

Finally, I don't see why workers should be held responsible for the irresponsible/disrespectful behaviour of those who choose to ignore the guidelines.

We do our best to request, respectfully and politely, that people do the right thing. If they deliberately choose not to, and then give me a load of grief for doing it, then it is they who need to look at themselves.

If you won't take responsibility for your own actions/behaviour then why expect someone else to do so?

Finally, whether it's seems fair or not, if you're in a crowded situation and are complaining about it, remember you are part of that crowd. Do you really need to be there?

 

Rant over

 

Couldn't have put it better myself.

The only thing that would have prevented the type of scene enacted last night would have been to stop all trains running immediately after, or preferably before, the official announcement! 

I presume all those people escaping London have accomodation there of some kind, all they're escaping from is the thought of being on their own and, for want of a better word, trapped there.

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The Health Secretary has a strong view on the subject if the BBC has quoted him correctly:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55385130

And although the Mayor of London criticised the government (he would, of course) he also said some strong words:

From that story: Mr Khan urged people in London and the South East to stay at home and avoid "breaking the rules".

He said: "Yesterday, technically speaking, you may not have been breaking the rules but you may well have the virus and not realise you've got the virus.

"Keep [the virus] within London, follow the rules and let's get on top of this."

So you decide to visit your family in the country (as one couple said they had done at the last minute). You have the virus but no symptoms, so you take it with you and infect your family and spread it to another part of the country. Great.

But I am afraid that "what can I get away with?" seems to be a common reaction to the restrictions, instead of "what can I do for the best?

Jonathan

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2 hours ago, mikejames said:

be realistic

the rules were changed at VERY short notice

To expect the TOCs to respond in  'a few minutes' is unrealistic

 

To blame people is fair

To blame TOCs is not

 

Mike James

 

 

The whole 'blame game' has got it totally wrong in my opinion.

 

To continue from above, it is fair to blame the public for reacting the way they have done.

But then where do we look?

Is it fair to blame the government, more particularly BJ, who whether you agree with their politics or not, have had to react to something unknown and unprecedented?

Do we blame the various 'science professionals' for their attempts to work out what the heck is going on with something they still know little about, and advise the government and public on what is the best thing to do in everyone's interest?

Almost everyone in the world affected by this blight is reacting to the results of someone else's actions, so is it right to blame any of them?

Ultimately we don't know who to blame for the origins of this in the human race, many have their ideas, theories and suspicions, I certainly have mine.

I think someone somewhere knows more than they're admitting, let's face it, if a certain 'enemy' of another state can be poisoned by agents of that state in a foreign country, how simple can it be just to unleash something on the population at large either deliberately or otherwise?

The origins need investigating thoroughly and the world told, only then can blame be properly apportioned, everything else is a reaction.

I seriously doubt that we will ever know the truth of the matter, certainly not in my lifetime at least, but to be able to say that something is someone else's fault makes us feel better.

 

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2 hours ago, great central said:

 

The whole 'blame game' has got it totally wrong in my opinion.

 

To continue from above, it is fair to blame the public for reacting the way they have done.

But then where do we look?

Is it fair to blame the government, more particularly BJ, who whether you agree with their politics or not, have had to react to something unknown and unprecedented?

Do we blame the various 'science professionals' for their attempts to work out what the heck is going on with something they still know little about, and advise the government and public on what is the best thing to do in everyone's interest?

Almost everyone in the world affected by this blight is reacting to the results of someone else's actions, so is it right to blame any of them?

Ultimately we don't know who to blame for the origins of this in the human race, many have their ideas, theories and suspicions, I certainly have mine.

I think someone somewhere knows more than they're admitting, let's face it, if a certain 'enemy' of another state can be poisoned by agents of that state in a foreign country, how simple can it be just to unleash something on the population at large either deliberately or otherwise?

The origins need investigating thoroughly and the world told, only then can blame be properly apportioned, everything else is a reaction.

I seriously doubt that we will ever know the truth of the matter, certainly not in my lifetime at least, but to be able to say that something is someone else's fault makes us feel better.

 

Spending huge resources on trying to track down the exact cause of Covid 19 is something of secondary importance IMO.

Better to spend the effort to bring the effects of the virus under control. This is something that some countries seem to be only interested in a half-hearted approach. 'Someone else's fault' helps not one little bit.

 

Some countries have been relatively successful in bringing it under control, an example is my home state of Victoria, Australia.

NSW has now got a new outbreak, not sure of the exact numbers as I write, but it's still in double figures, so not out of control. Other states have already started to block travel from NSW. They are doing this, because they don't want new outbreaks. For some reason, NSW is not mandating mask wearing, just suggesting it. This certainly makes other states wary.

 

Imposing short periods of restrictions, then easing them thus creating another wave, appears to be of no help whatsoever. Hoping for a different result the next time?

 

Current NSW outbreak is 83.

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22 hours ago, David C said:

If, say, GA's coaches have 60 seats each, but social distancing can be maintained only if (say) 30 of them are occupied, then was the company restricting their sales to 30 per coach?

 

How would you suggest GA, or any other TOC operating non seat-reservable services, would actually achieve this ? People can buy tickets up to the minute a train departs, from intermediate stations as well as the origin, without specifying which train they intend to catch, and season ticket holders can travel on any train they choose (which train that is, the train operator cannot possibly know). 

 

 

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Caradoc: in the same way that supermarkets and bus operators restrict the number of their customers at any given time. In fact, its probably easier for the TOCs because most passengers will book in advance and they will therefore know when numbers are reaching a dangerous level. If they stopped accepting bookings for a specific service at that point, but reserved a certain number of seats for key workers, (who would have to show ID), then that should answer Michael Hodgson's point. Perhaps an allowance for season ticket holders could be included as well, but It may be necessary to introduce a system for them to pre-book too. In pre-pandemic days, GA seemed to have no problem labelling seats with reserved notices for passengers starting from a station en route - and also finishing it before the terminus. If the public are warned in advance that they wont be able to travel without a pre booked reservation, then no blame can be aimed at the TOCs - and scenes such as those at St Pancras last Saturday could conceivably be avoided.

 

Mike James: yes, last Saturday's announcement gave hardly any notice of the abolition of Christmas, but the Xmas relaxation of restrictions between 23 and 27 December had been know for some time. It should have been obvious that there would be a large increase in the number of travellers at the beginning and end of those 5 days and TOCs could have sorted out some sort of system to ensure passengers travelled safely beforehand.

 

Keefer: I completely agree with your comments. The point I was trying to make was that the behaviour of the irresponsible should not be allowed to endanger those who were responsible - or at least, that some of the TOCs were not even attempting to curtail their irresponsibility. 

 

 Phil Parker: I'm glad you think the call handlers (there were in fact 2) I spoke to will be regaling their mates with the details of my conversations with them. I'm sorry you think I was being unreasonable and/or stupid, but I maintain it was a perfectly legitimate point to make. So do my immediate family, two of whom were faced with travelling on trains on which no social distancing seemed to be in place. All three of them mentioned their concerns to me, which is why I posted on here. Incidentally, all three are graduates, two have MAs and are both solicitors, whilst the third works for Network Rail. That does not of course mean that they aren't capable of making daft or ill informed comments - but then so are you! I usually find your contributions on this forum and elsewhere interesting and often informative, but on this occasion ....

 

David C

 

 

 

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From my experience of trying roster traincrew to cover train services in the Xmas period it was always a struggle.

I would imagine that this year, with the possibility of a percentage of traincrew (and other grades of staff) unavailable due to the virus, running extra services at short notice might be well nigh impossible even if there was the stock.

 

cheers

 

 

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2 hours ago, David C said:

Caradoc: in the same way that supermarkets and bus operators restrict the number of their customers at any given time. In fact, its probably easier for the TOCs because most passengers will book in advance and they will therefore know when numbers are reaching a dangerous level. If they stopped accepting bookings for a specific service at that point,

 

Tickets restricted to specified trains only are normally those offered at discounted fares, and only a limited number are available per train. Also, on routes where passengers do book in advance it is not normally necessary to reserve a seat, even for long distance travel; For example, Avanti West Coast earlier this month were advising that seat reservations were recommended - not essential. So for those trains, and on all the many other services where seat reservations are not offered in the first place, the TOCs have no possible way of knowing how many passengers will turn up for any given train. On the TOC in your example, many passengers are season ticket holders who are entitled to travel on any train, and they are not required to tell the TOC their plans !

 

2 hours ago, ClikC said:

Perhaps TOCs could look at running additional services, as some sort of relief.

 

You could all them "relief services".

 

With who ? Where will the additional Traincrew to run these trains come from ? Great Western Railway are cancelling trains on their already reduced timetable due to staff shortage !

 

 

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For those touting reservations as the solution to the problem, all EMR services leaving STP are reservable, and they ran a full service apart from the one shortformed set for Leeds which made the news. Even that was rectified at Derby with the 5 car swapped for an 8 car. 

 

I love working for the railways, its as easy as football management. Every one and his granny thinks they can do that better as well. 

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7 hours ago, Wheatley said:

For those touting reservations as the solution to the problem, all EMR services leaving STP are reservable, and they ran a full service apart from the one shortformed set for Leeds which made the news. Even that was rectified at Derby with the 5 car swapped for an 8 car. 

 

I love working for the railways, its as easy as football management. Every one and his granny thinks they can do that better as well. 

 

A small correction as things stand at the moment, normally EMR services are reservable but currently all reservations are suspended to allow social distancing.

This was done at first lockdown due to relatively small numbers of people travelling, HSTs were serving

 London with passenger numbers in single figures.

Norwich-Liverpool services were at times running empty, it was after lockdown that numbers got into double figures sometimes, the most I have recorded since March would be the mid 30s on a four car set, those that seem to think they could do a better job would probably have said reduce the service even more!

Friday's scenes were, in my opinion,  due to people going into panic mode at the thought of being, effectively, imprisoned in London or the surrounding area. Shades of some sort of disaster movie where everyone just runs blindly from the invading unseen enemy!

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