Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Big Issue

(33 044 Salisbury 14.4.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 1986 we had wonderful Portsmouth to Cardiff trains, with a class 33 at the head of 5 coaches. There were always plenty of seats on the train and it was rare that you couldn't find a whole compartment to yourself. The journey was a pleasure, you could sit back in your deep pile seat, open a picnic lunch and watch the world go by. It was what made railways great, and what attracted a lot of people to the hobby of rail enthusiasm.

Thirty years on you would think that we would have added to the experience, being constantly told that the world is now a far better place, that the country is booming and that railways are the coming thing.

Today we decided to take the train to Bath. It was a Sunday, always a quiet day on the railways. Well, that once was the case! I've noticed railways getting busier and busier over the last few years, but today was a real eyeopener.

Below is the crowd waiting for the 13.10 to Bath and onwards to Portsmouth.

(31.1.2016 Bristol TM copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

We struggled to find a seat on the already packed train, but eventually got one each, but only by asking a couple who'd spread out over four seats to free up some space for us, which they grumpily did. (They were an older pair, not your traditional sullen teenagers!)

After four hours in Bath we returned to Spa station. I was expecting it to be practically deserted on a cold and wet Sunday evening. It wasn't.

Our three coach train came in and it was a nightmare! It was already packed when it pulled into the station, few people seemed to get off, but loads poured on. The end result was not only every seat taken but the entire aisle of the coach was packed - we couldn't even get in there! So NINE of us were stuck in the entrance - and were thrown about all the way to Temple Meads, the only relief was when we stopped at the two intermediate stations and a couple of people got off on to the platform - not to alight but to let other passengers get off the train! Below is an actual picture of this journey!

(A quiet Sunday evening on a cross country route - 31.1.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

It's great that the railways are so busy, but disastrous that people are expected to travel like this. Why isn't the train at least six carriages? Why isn't the alternative route via Bitton open and taking some of this traffic? Why was the line so busy on an ordinary Sunday?

Railways will only get busier as the oil vanishes. The railways will have to take more (and eventually ALL freight), trains will get busier as ridership increases. Why aren't we opening hundreds of miles of railways and tramways each year to cope with something that's no longer a forecast or projection but something that's happening, on the ground, now???


  1. GWR ar doing timing trials with a 2+5 HST for CDF-PMH services

  2. i've had to endure the exact same experience a number of times, coming back to Salisbury from Bristol. I remember the days of the 33's and mark 1's on this route and as you say it used to be an absolute pleasure travelling on this line. It would be nice if GWR did swap the 158's for HST's. Fingers crossed!!

  3. Sadly an all to familiar story. There used to be 2 carriages on this service. They though adding only 1 would work. I've deliberately stood in the vestibule so we can open the doors when the train stops. The air con isn't up to the passenger loading

  4. Sunday evenings are always very busy. I agree these trains should have more coaches; the rail companies operate in a perverse economy where they can sell as many tickets as they like, regardless of crowding, but it costs them extra money to run more or longer trains.