Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cost of Travel (2)

Yesterday evening I went to visit a friend in Poole – and I had a lovely time doing so.

However, the return journey has given me an excuse to indulge in a railway related rant.  Maybe that’s music to your ears (I haven’t had one in a little while, after all) but I hope you’ll otherwise bear with me.

The (hourly) trains in the evening seem to stop at every house, farmyard and stable in the New Forest, so I had plenty of time to watch the world go by.  I must have somehow missed the throng of people alighting and embarking at Pokesdown (“for Boscombe”) but I was able to familiarise myself thoroughly with the list of scheduled calling points.  The bustling metropolis of Hinton Admiral was, of course, on the list, as was the large Hampshire town of Micheldever.  In fact, the train was due to stop at every station on the line…except St Denys and Swaythling.

You might be thinking that this makes no sense, but compared with the busy streets of Shawford, the Southampton suburbs pale in to insignificance.  I’m glad that SouthWest Trains considered the needs of the majority onboard the empty train and have cut unnecessary stops from the timetable.  After all, the number of stops meant that the train was due in Waterloo two hours after leaving Southampton Airport, so it’s good that they saved a minute or two.  I was more than happy to speed past my house and have a long walk back* in aid of the Greater Good.

Despite my overflowing joy, however, if you come across someone from SouthWest Trains I’d be grateful if you would force them to sit on a train which stops everywhere except at the most convenient station for them.  Such torture might be more effective than water-boarding, and if nothing else may encourage them to get as far as looking up “Customer Service” in the dictionary.

Two days ago I reported that the Transport Research Group have discovered that “taking the train might be cheaper than driving.”  Like lopping off you big toe, or buying a Daewoo Matiz, however, cheap does not necessarily mean cheerful.

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*to be fair, I could have waited 40 minutes for a connecting train.  Or pushed the boat out and reduced my wait to 30 minutes by buying a bus ticket.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Full of just about every factual inaccuracy known to rail users in Hampshire (and probably further afield). Aside from the fact that many of the stations mentioned are a vital lifeline for (admittedly, a few) users, they are are also essential to the Forest economy, however invisible that may be to the irascible blogger.

You write, "The (hourly) trains in the evening seem to stop at every house, farmyard and stable in the New Forest." Not true – there are only a few stations in the Forest proper, and I note you mention none of them. Shawford, meanwhile? Ah! Is that not the place that the BBC killed of the character Victor Meldrew, known for his banal rants. Maybe there's something in that!

JP... said...

There might have been an element of sarcasm in my post, but I refute the suggestion of factual inaccuracy. I suggest you look at the calling points of the 21.54 service from Poole.

My point is not that I begrudge the train stopping at the small stations en route, but that Swaythling and St Denys were missed off an otherwise fairly comprehensible list. It's understandable that fast services skip these stops, but it seems bizarre for the evening stopping services to run straight through - especially when there is no reasonable bus or train connection from either Central or Airport at that time in the evening. As I intimated in my post, it is a slow service all the way to Waterloo (taking 2h from Southampton!) so there is nothing to be gained by missing out these two stops.

Statistically, the large area of Southampton served by Swaythling and St Denys has more rail users than areas of the New Forest - and the fact that it may be a 'lifeline' for one or two who got on and off yesterday does not mean that the same train cannot also be used to provide a reasonable level of service to others.

JP... said...

Actually, I should admit that describing Hinton Admiral as a 'bustling metropolis' was probably factually inaccurate. Sorry about that.

Verbatim said...

It's obviously a corporate conspiracy that the train does not stop at Swaythling. For if it did then Uni-Link would not be able to charge, from 28th August, the princely sum of £2 for a single from the Airport to Wessex Lane.