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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 16:24 GMT
Track Record: Your comments

BBC News Online has selected a few of your comments from the many hundreds of responses to our rail industry questionnaire.

Paul Casey, South East The train service in this country is old, overcrowded, unreliable,expensive and smelly. What more can I say? It should be re-nationalised without delay. Compared to France where I used to live - it is a tragedy!! Come on John Prescott - get your finger out!

Tim Colbourne, South East I travel into London on a Thameslink service every morning. The service is nearly always delayed and announcements are rarely made to explain why. On many occasions I have not physically been able to board the train because of overcrowding, forcing me to wait half an hour for the next one. On two occasions services have been cancelled with no explanation. I believe the rail regulators should be able to stipulate a certain level of investment, cap profits where necessary and fine companies for failing to provide a decent service. I've had enough!

Paul Suri, South East: I Watched Panorama where the deficit in rail funding was revealed together with the issues involved in trying to fund Railtrack commercially. Then watched John Prescott on Newsnight. Deeply depressing. There is a universal social benefit which derives from improving the railways - surely this is justification enough for further public subsidy of Railtrack. We need someone with the vision, courage and public credibility to overcome the economic regime which robs the rail industry of these virtues.

Patrick Hammerton, South East: I have stored a bike at Euston station form the last 25 years! (For every day use to the City). The bike has been stored behind/ below the left luggage office for a nominal annual rent, that is until Railtrack took over three years ago. The annual charge has gone from 90 to 360 in the last three years. So I have decided to take my bike home and use the overcrowded tube. What really gets me is that Marylebone station have just installed free Bike storage facilities on their Platforms.

Paul Semple, Scotland: Overall rail services in Scotland seem to be better than some other areas of Britain. However in comparison I feel that they can be more expensive.

I often travel all over the rail network due to work and the fares pricing does not appear to be on an equal standing all over the network. I feel that Railtrack as a company has to change and this can only be done via the government. It seems clear that Railtrack cannot continue the way it has done and it will never do what the travelling public want from it in its present form.

On another note I think we should be seeing by now some action over the Ladbroke Grove disaster. Simple measures like stickers on windows telling you where to break the glass or stickers that would tell you where to get out that could be seen in the dark. These sort of measures do not cost much and could do a lot to help restore some confidence back into the railway. Overall things are not being done quick enough its time action was seen now not later.

Neil Dunnage, South West: I have recently returned from a holiday in the Black Forest in Germany where a truly integrated transport policy exists. It cost me 20 per month to travel throughout the black forest mountains (with my family) by Train , tram and bus on the same ticket in very heavy snow in modern trains which were never more than a minute late despite 30 odd journeys.

In fact we had no need at all for a car which would have been prohibitively expensive to park in the towns anyway, a very refreshing and pleasant experience. On arrival back in England the roads are gridlocked and my daily commute from Christchurch to Winchester is delayed every day by up to 2 hours on occasions in what I now view as disgusting clapped out trains. I believe that the UK has now a third world rail system and that the core problem is that there is lack of will in both government and the fare paying public to improve things. A classic case of very British short termism.

Martin Dooley, North West: First North Western Service Knutsford to Stockport is appalling. 40 Year old rolling stock, slow, expensive unreliable. Leaves on the line. This is an annual problem no one is prepared to solve, we encountered five weeks of delays due to leaves on the line, inappropriate rail conditions, adverse weather, inadequate rail adhesion. These were all used as excuses by staff. Station standards, scruffy, dirty, badly maintained weed infested. Employ 5 "handyman" types, they could easily maintain 20 small stations and make the world(railways at least) a nicer place. ideal jobs for part time or jab spare schemes.

Martin Budd, South West: Overcrowding is getting worse month on month. With the additional revenues that result from higher passenger volumes, the train companies should be forced to increase capacity. The only real incentive for Railtrack and the operating companies is to make more profit for their shareholders. Railways should be seen as part of the public infrastructure and returned to public ownership. I would be prepared to pay more if the railways were publicly owned, but not to private companies just to add to their profits.

Martin Underwood: South East: Service on Bracknell-Waterloo line is good and fairly reliable at off peak times. But it is overcrowded (all seats taken and many passengers standing) on most services out of London from 4PM until well into the evening. Old slam-door trains (Class 423) are comfortable. Newer Class 455 trains are APPALLING! Low-backed seats with minimal padding on seat base; garish orange interior; no toilets (on a journey of up to 90 minutes to Reading). Newer is not necessarily better! If only we had Class 465 Networkers!

Martin Commons, North West: Railways can only function effectively if they are subject to central, preferably state, control. Having lived in Belgium for the past three months, I have been amazed at both the standard of rolling stock and facilities and the consistent punctuality of services. I have also been more than impressed with the prices, which on average are just half of those charged in the UK.

King, North West: I cannot understand all the snide remarks about rail safety. Rail travel is very safe (as many deaths in five years as five days on the roads. Therefore, put money into safety on the roads. Secondly, driving a train is infinitely easier than driving a bus. Why does no-one ever say this?

Les Cooper, North West: Overcrowding on the evening commuter trains are getting worse. However, all the current debate is about the commuter - quite right, but has any thought been given to the staff particularly those who are contracted to oversee and maintain the rail infrastructure. They are put under ever increasing pressures to deliver and are continually having to work overtime and additional rostas. It seems to me that they are under-staffed and management are manipulating them to produced the goods in favour of rail safety and consideration for staff conditions. Staff who are put under this sort of pressure are do not perform well and this means putting safety at risk.

Steve Lamb, North: The privatised companies inherited a decrepit railway system at a knock down price. How can they be expected to improve it and make a profit for their shareholders when British Rail could not make a profit?

Kevin Roche, South: I would like to see an improvement in the availability of tickets covering multiple locations. I don't go to the same place every day and it is annoying to have to queue every day to buy a ticket. I would like to be able to buy a reasonably priced season ticket to multiple locations.

Mr. J. Wheldon, South West: I'm a business, domestic and pleasure user of cars. My three children have to get to school in the mornings and there's no school bus / train. I drive to business appointments mostly ... a) because trains are not reliable b) because driving over 18000 business miles / yr reduces tax on my company car.

Only twice in the last year have the trains I caught been on time - one was early ! Last week I went from Bristol to Lewisham: a) Bristol train late, arrived Paddington late.
b) London U/ground: Bakerloo swamped - person under train at Edgware Rd - District / Circle indefinite delay
c) Charing Cross - Lewisham train cancelled. Next train 12 mins late departing. Change at London Bridge. Lewisham train 15 mins late
RailTrack should be brought into public ownership under ... a Transport Agency to include all forms of transport. It should be created and held publicly accountable for integrated Transport delivery, not just policy.

Julian Smyth, South: I am surprised at the negative report you give of my own TOC, Chiltern, about which I am continually grateful when compared with the other companies I am occasionally required to use and which are far far worse. The Chilterns rolling stock is all modern and comfortable, the train service is extremely frequent, and the prices are reasonable. When delays do occur, the frequency of service ensures that the delay is not crucial or too severe. Campared with the eleven hours it took me to travel from Waterloo to Sherborne recently, it is perfection itself.

J Tyler, North East: Politicians and the media are obsessed with measuring punctuaility, but in many areas the timetable is unattractive in the first place - trains are infrequent, they waste time calling at small stations which should be closed and replaced by buses (that's what integration means), and their connections at junctions with other services are badly planned. We need a comprehensive redesign of the entire national rail and bus timetable.

S Jones, South East: The train service that I HAVE to use every day is disgusting. Virtually every day for the last 2 weeks I have been late in to work. Frustration is building up, particularly as nobody seems to be doing anything about it. I pay a lot of money for my season ticket, why aren't I getting what I pay for?

Jonathan Follows, North West: I currently live (temporarily) in North Carolina and I very much miss the UK rail network, because it's still a world apart from the sort of public transport available over here.

When in the UK, I am a big user of local train services in the Manchester area, although I do not use them for commuting. Train services such as the Manchester Airport service are excellent, and other services remain much as they ever have done.

I am also a big user of Virgin services to London and am shocked at the basic fare increases over recent years; since I don't pay for this travel personally it's an observation rather then a concern.

However, Virgin's WCML plans leave me cold - I would be happy to see the existing service made more reliable with no increase in speeds; morning trains to London seem reasonably reliable but afternoon trains back seem to arrive in Manchester on time only rarely.

J. Oates: I find the rail service generally satisfactory and improving. I have certainly increased my usage of the rail system over the past 3 years. More flexibility in the carriage of cycles and greater luggage space would be appreciated. Safety remains a concern although I accept that rail travel is significantly safer than road. I would fully support greater public investment in infrastructure including the building of additional lines to increase capacity. We need a rail network comparable with that found in northern Europe.

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Track Record forum: Gwyneth Dunwoody
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Track Record forum: George Muir
01 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Track Record forum: Tom Winsor
29 Nov 99 |  UK
Rail network 'needs 41bn investment'