Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Hate First Great Western.... just one of many blogs I've recently found written by angry commuters. It's the name that best sums up my feelings. Though i might have slipped in a stronger word or two.

I've created a new separate link list of angry commuters. We need to share information, as, reading the various posts, people get given lots of different information. Our voice will become much louder if we co-ordinate our efforts and shout louder.

Cardiff Central to...? tells the story of John Shipston's efforts to get to places from South Wales (where I have to get to everyday). There are two (three if you count the occasional Virgin train) operators out of Cardiff, yet John only seems to have problems with one of them. Can you guess who it is?

Commuter blog is Max's story of trying to get from Bath to Oxford, made more difficult by having to change trains at different stops in the evening and morning! My favourite story of Max's is the driver not knowing the way to Chippenham from Swindon.

The now infamous, I Hate FGW blog is the tale of a government-friendly London commuter. Not that this means FGW run her train any better mind. She tells us there'll soon be badges for us all to wear, not the loudest of protests, but a very visual one none-the-less. I look forward to wearing mine.

More Train, Less Strain is not so much of a blog as a collective. It has a good forum to post your horror stories. They also seem to be our official spokespeople, and have such been granted an audience with Alison Forster (FGW managing director).

Oldfield Park
is where I used to catch my train to work. But since all FGW timetables should be taken with a ±1 hour warning, I now need to catch an earlier train, so I cycle to Bath Spa. Our blogger here updates delays (and overcrowding) at this commuter station, which now has the most bizarre of timetables. (Though not as bizarre as the poor guys down at Melksham who have a gap in the timetable of nearly 12 hours without any trains)

Tehmina is a frustrated commuter between Salisbury and Southampton, proving that FGW are crap everywhere. I've pinched the nice picture on this site for this blog entry. It's also now my screen saver. Thanks Tehmina.

The Truth About First Great Western is a very professional looking blog. Carter Harrison's main argument is that the government are mostly to blame for the problems we have. Although I agree with a lot of what he says (see elsewhere) I believe he's trying to shift a bit too much blame away from FGW. Maybe he has another agenda? I dunno, read it (and the two associated mini-sites) and make up your own mind. I believe that FGW could, after all, run more, cleaner carriages, on time, and at cheaper fares to try and boost their profits by attracting more custom. There is another way.

Finally I've stuck Train Delays on the list. It's not a blog, but it is a good site for listing your delays, finding out if compensation is due, reading the crap excuses that are given and seeing where FGW falls in the league table of incompetence.

Let me know if you know of any others. Maybe the guys at MTLS should put up a more up-to-date list.

Don't forget to keep writing to your MP, keep writing to the DfT and keep claiming back the money your entitled to. I'll keep you updated. Maybe we all need to get together for a gathering outside the DfT at some point. Actions, after all, speak louder than words.


Tom said...

The original photo was by me and can be found on Flickr at



Billyo said...

My apologies Tom.

Thanks for coming by.

Tehmina said...

Yes, it was I who used Tom's handiwork on my blog (with permission as I inspired him to create it!)

Thank you for your link and I will do likewise. There is a lot of blame passing in the cock-up of the FGW franchise. The DfT quite frankly don't care. Look at Tom Harris's website. How much committment to trains can you see there?! FGW don't care because they don't have to do anything to make a fast buck on this franchise. If they have the audacity to temporarily close Cornish branch lines to fill gaps around Bristol, how can we trust the so-called Service Level Committment?

I would love you to find a full copy of the service agreement. I requrested this from Tom Harris but his email address bounced... I haven't tried again. I want to find FGW's accounts to see how much they are actually spending.

The bottom line is is that this half-arsed privatisation has ruined the railways for a very long time. How can a company group like First be allowed take subsidies and turn over vast profits (do they, for example, pay back the subsidy from their profits??) Because it is one less thing the government get blamed for come election time.

I expect I will get nowhere even under the Freedom of Information Act as it will be deemed 'commercially sensitive'.

Billyo said...

Hi Tehmina,

As I understand it, under the terms of the franchise agreement FGW's subsidy is going to be cut and eventually they'll be paying back what they have been given at the start.

There are only two ways to do this, whilst maintaining returns for shareholders. One is to attract customers to increase profit. The other is to raise commuter fares and invest nothing.

I know which option they'll choose.

As you say I don't expect much joy in getting hold of the franchise agreement. But it's in the public interest so I'd like to think I could get hold of at least part of it.

I hate FGW said...

I hate FGW here, how lovely to see you mentioning my blog, fair warms the cockles so it does.
Here's an update - the badges have been ordered! So let me know if you would like one sent to you. Please keep blogwatching for pictures of the first commuters sporting the new badges, which I'm hoping are going to be a summertime fashion success. Thanks for linking to me, I've linked back to you and will continue reading with interest.