More trains on the Great Western?


  I held a meeting with railway management from Great Western Trains to discuss improved services.

  I expalined that constituents would appreciate more capacity on the Reading to London line.Too many people have to stand at busy times of day. We reviewed ways in which line capacity could be expanded and more use made of existing track through lighter trains, better signals, better controls and sensors in trains, better timetabling and passing places for slower trains.

    I also asked for safer trains. Everyone travelling on a fast train should have a seat and a seat belt. Heavy luggage stowage should be secured by nets or doors, as on an aircraft, or stowed away from passengers as on a coach or in a car.

      I suggested that train operators also look at the information they provide, the services they offer onboard on longer distance trains. There is not usually any information provided for tourists about places passed and visited. There is no information supplied about route progress in the form of moving maps, unlike on aircraft or in many cars. No information is offered about major stations to prepare travellers for getting through such stations and finding other transport links at them. There are few services for business travellers to make their time onboard easier and more useful. Many trains still do not have facilities even to use the phone with a reliable link.


  1. John Roberts
    December 7, 2012

    The cost of installing seat belts cannot be justified when you consider that there has been only 1 passenger death in the last 8 years (an unprecedented result). In terms of public safety it would be much better to invest the tens of millions it would cost on other improvements to rail services that would generate a modal shift away from road transport, where we still have thousands killed each year (and where numbers are rising, coincidentally since the switching off of the majority of speed cameras.)

    Why would it cost tens of millions? Well existing stock has not been designed to have seat belts, so anchorage points are not necessarily available in the right places thus you would probably have to rip out the seating and start again.

    It’s also naive to demand that everyone has a seat on a fast train. That would require a much more restrictive method of boarding at every station on the route (some of the HST’s carry significant commuter loads into Bristol, Bath and Swindon) and the additional trains required to achieve this aspiration would make the service so much more expensive that people would be priced off and back onto the roads. Unless of course John is willing to accept the need for a much higher subsidy for our rail network, more akin to the level that european networks enjoy, which are so often held up as the example which our rail industry should aspire to. Except for subsidy of course.

    Of course, there is massive investment planned on the Great Western. We’re getting Inter City Express, a government designed train that nobody in the industry wants and which will cost twice as much per vehicle per month as the Pendolino, and probably four times as much as a straight forward loco and coaches which is the standard within Europe for non high speed services, and which has consistently been advocated by those in the industry including the head of one of the rolling stock companies. So the industry will be saddled by expensive trains which nobody wants, and which will result in continued high costs, allowing ill informed MPs to complain about the cost of our rail industry for the next 30 years.

    Reply Coach and aviation companies handle everyone has a seat quite easily.

    1. James Sutherland
      December 7, 2012

      Quite a self-contradictory comment, I think: if providing adequate seating would cost a lot more, and the new trains cost four times as much as more sensible rolling stock would, why could we not have adequate seating using sensible cost-effective rolling stock without extra funding?

      Up here, First are quite happy to run three-car sets with obscene levels of overcrowding, rather than switch to four or six car sets to provide sufficient seating. Before asking for further subsidies, perhaps they could cut down on excess staffing (is three ticket checks on a 22 mile journey even remotely justifiable?!) – and presumably the increased revenue from the succession of above-inflation fare hikes goes somewhere, so why not into additional seating?

      I agree the government’s obsession with marginal speed increases at enormous cost is misplaced, though: presumably the HS2 funding could provide a substantial increase in capacity across the whole network instead.

  2. Ilma
    December 7, 2012

    Isn’t it time to re-examine the possibility of double-decker trains to increase seating capacity?

    I completely agree with better information, and 1 simple point would be to provide place-name signs at stations that can be read at speed and in the dark. It amazes me that at so many stations, you have station name signs that are very few in number, very small and mounted on different poles to the platform lighting such that they are not visible, readable or illuminated.

    In parallel, many people have smartphones, so the systems that provide information to enable mobile apps to locate trains and provide accurate and up-to-date journey and arrival information also need improvement. To achieve this, continuous and reliable mobile 3G data connectivity along the routes should be a high priority, and/or free and easy to access wifi made available on trains.

  3. Normandee
    December 7, 2012

    Did they promise to pay as much attention to your demands as your own government pays to your complaints over the European problem. Or as usual is it a case of you have made the point, job done, back to counting the pensions.

  4. Iain Gill
    December 19, 2012

    one of the advantages of trains, both Eurostar and domestic, is that you can watch your luggage for the entire journey and make sure there is no theft.

    going to a coach/plane system where you loose sight of your luggage for much of your journey is a bad idea, the theft in both is outrageous.

    seat belts on trains would seem to be a good cost/benefit decision to me. also trains are good for old/disabled folk who cannot tolerate seatbelts very well.

    also hop on at short notice is a major advantage of trains. (and was same for domestic flights buit has been ruined by needing your passport for domestic flights which i dont feel is worthwhile in the round, it does more harm to the public than the marginal saftey it provides)

    and so on

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