Well, it appears that, after a month or so, my internet connection is finally stable again and there will be no more random flashing lights on my modem. I won't bore you with the myriad bits of fiddling that I had to do before actually giving in and calling tech support to confirm that it was actually their problem. Now back, yay.
There have been a great deal of goings on lately. Hope you've all been well. I will now endeavour to update you on the interesting bits. Firstly, a quick shout-out to Tara from the last post. I don't want to take your survey. No-one does. Stop using my blog for free advertising and acting like I agreed to it.
It's old news but Alison Forster is gone as MD and is now 'Fleet Safety and Operations Manager.' Some call it a demotion but she has gone from responsbility for one TOC to responsbility across First Rail so make of it what you will.
Now Andrew Haines is in charge. I've met him and he's a good guy. One of th things that impressed me about him is his desire to get FGW back to being more customer-centric and less about pandering to the DfT and the Franchise commitments. This can only be a good thing so look for some customer service improvements. One little thing I have to commend him for is that now, whenever a customer writes in with praise for a staf member, they get a personal letter from Andrew with a bonus. It's a little incentive to do your best and help people, a shot in the arm that the staff really need.
Second on the out is Glenda Lamont. Again, probably old news to most of you. She's off to the US of A to do something or other. I've never been Glenda's greatest fan so I'm shedding no tears but I'm sure she'll do well for herself.
We're only about a month away from the December timetable. Boy has this been a big project. I know that many of you are holding your hands in despair and thinking bck to this time last year, but take it from me that things will be much different.
I know some of you are mad because you didn't get a say this year, but tinkthat this is a good thing. I'll tell you why. Last year, FGW got thousanda of suggestions and they did attempt to fit many of them in on top of the shite SLC imposed by the DfT. Too many. So many that we were trying to please everyone and it ended in a godawful mess. Not so this year. There has ben some condultation, but the rfocus has ben on building a robust timetable that works. I think that this has been achieved.
Not everyone is going to be happy. Some people have lost out. Apologies to those of you who live, or used to live, in Pangbourne.
However, we've been addressing many of the stuff that you guys weren't happy with. For example, in the morning peak, there are now an additional 4000 odd seats rushing through Reading towards Paddington. Thisis mostly courtesy of the new HSTs. I'm not going to get into a debate about whether this capacity is worth the loss of tables and igh seat backs etc. I think, when you really look at it, especially those of you who stand up every day, you know if it was worth it.
Severn Beach, long a source of contention gets it's service upgrade, with the full upgrade coming in May 2008 when Bristol City Council ponies up the cash they promised.
Portsmoth Harbour to Cardiff. Tricky subject. That line had it's first Working Group meeting on Thursday and plans were thrashed out to improve capacity as, at the moment, stock provision sucks. This is not gonna happen in December, sorry to dissapoint, but it will be happening.
The first of the West fleet was unveiled in its new refurbished state. New engines, no more scruffy interiors, it looks and performs like a solid, modern, train. This fleet will be done up and back in serice in March 2008. In the meantime, those of you in the West will have to put up with some 142 pacers while the stock is on the rolling refresh, but content yoursefl with the knowedge that it's in a good cause.
50 new drivers recruited so far, along with more guards and catering staff. Drivers learning more routes. All of these things will reduce problems caused by crew availability. New station facilities. Oxford is being done as we speak, Ealing starts before Christmas. Many more in early 2008. Reading gets done up in a 6 year project from 2009-2015 that's costing £524m.
Network Rail is spending about £6m to renew the points at Airport Junction over Christmas. The single biggest source of delays in the Thames Valley will be sorted at long, bloody, last.
The trains fit together more smoothly now. Connections are easier. There is increased service level on the majority of routes. For the first time in a long time, I'm slightly optimistic that things are going to get better.
Now I leave it to you to bring my world crashing around me by pointing out all the reasons you don't like the new timetable and all the problems you see with the changes. Or, if you want to pat me on the back and letme pass it vicariously to FGW, that would be cool too.
Speak to you all soon.