Header
Aiming to bring sense and order to our train services
Home
News
Cross Country
Bristol FGW
Local Arriva TW
Chepstow Station
Comments
Timetables
Get Involved
 
Archive
Website Links

Updated 16th June 2012

 


Archive Logo

————————————————————————————————————-

Review of the Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign. January 2010.
Our three primary aims remain the same.

1.The Arriva TW train service frequency should be upgraded to hourly.

This improvement will have the greatest impact. It will improve services and connections for all current and potential passengers using all the stations between Newport and Cheltenham. We believe that attaining a basic hourly service will have the added advantage of making objectives 2 & 3 more attractive to FGW and AXC.

One extra train unit is needed to fill in the service gaps. The current cost of leasing a train unit from a Rolling Stock Company (ROSCO) may be as much as £500,000 a year! A more economic solution would be to use a spare unit from the existing ATW fleet or to re-allocate under utilized units within the fleet to make one available to serve the Chepstow line.

The Sewta Draft Regional Transport Plan, July 2008 proposed to upgrade the Arriva TW Chepstow line service to hourly in 2010 and half hourly in 2014. These improvements await authorization by WAG.


2. Arriva CrossCountry should stop their trains at Chepstow instead of slowly passing through the town.

This is the improvement that will cost the least and could be implemented without further delay.

It is time the Government, WAG and Monmouthshire County Council accepted that there is no reason why these trains could not serve Chepstow. The DfT should be urged to amend the contract since AXC have demonstrated a reluctance to serve Chepstow beyond the minimum specified in their contract.

 The cost to AXC for stopping the trains that often pass through with no more than 20-30 passengers will be minimal but the value to the community, businesses and the local environment will be incalculable. It is a scandal that since AXC took over this franchise they have passed through Chepstow more than 30,000 times without stopping.

Serving Chepstow with this service would fulfill, at practically no cost, one of the transport requirements set out in the Wales Spacial Plan. Chepstow a key settlement in the Capital Region should, according to the plan, have access to the capital with a high speed transport link.

 

3. FGW should reinstate Cardiff / Portsmouth train stops at Severn Tunnel Junction and reconnect the Chepstow line services with Bristol.

As reported above FGW have already restored many of the services that were removed by the DfT when the franchise was renewed in 2005. The action by FGW is commendable and hopefully their co-operation will continue but the DfT should be prevailed upon to amend the contract and make these important connections secure for the future.

Passenger Surveys at Chepstow have consistently shown that as few as 5 people a day now attempt to travel by train between Chepstow and Bristol because the present service is so bad. Chepstow Chamber of Commerce and Tourism were appalled by this revelation.

 

—-

The Chepstow Great Train Robbery.
How Chepstow has been robbed of its train services.

Lost in the Last Few Years.

During the last few years train services to Chepstow, S.E. Monmouthshire, the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean have worsened with the appointment of each new train operator.

  1. In 2003 we lost the hourly train service to Cardiff when Arriva Trains Wales took over the Cardiff to Gloucester local service.

  2. Then in 2006 train connections at Severn Tunnel to Bristol were severed when the DfT removed the need for First Great Western to stop the Cardiff/Portsmouth trains at Severn Tunnel Junction. This effectively cut off train travel between Chepstow and Bristol.

  3. In 2007 the DfT failed to specify that Arriva Cross Country should stop and serve Chepstow with its hourly service and these trains continue through the town without stopping.The waste over the past few years has been enormous. We calculate that at the end of 2010 more than 30,000 XC trains have spent time waiting at signals or standing in Gloucester station instead of serving Chepstow.

  4. As announced above 14 more CrossCountry trains will, for a trial period of one year, stop at Chepstow. That’s good but it is time the waste was stopped for ever.

————————————————————————-

Experiment to Stop CrossCountry Trains at Chepstow is a Great Success.

It is nearly 6 months since an extra 14 CrossCountry trains have been stopping at Chepstow providing the town with additional faster services to and from Cardiff, Newport, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Birmingham.

It is evident that these extra trains are being used by a steadily increasing number of people attracted to use the trains in preference to cars. In particular for journeys to and from Cardiff the primary destination for rail passengers from Chepstow.  

At the start of the new services the predominant use was  towards Cardiff but as the word has spread and publicity of the improvements and the advantages of using the trains have been promoted and advertised the numbers using the services to and from Birmingham has also substantially improved.

Another area where the benefits of the extra services are evident is in connection with large scale sporting and entertainment events in Cardiff and at Chepstow.  Last Saturday, for instance, I was at Chepstow to see racegoers pouring off the trains from both directions. Many came early and spent time in the town before the afternoon meeting. A welcome boost for the town’s trade as well as cutting road congestion!  A few weeks ago the demand to get to Cardiff for a rugby match was so great that prospective rail passengers could not get on the limited number of trains. Despite the welcome service improvement there remains a need to regularise services throughout the day and to adequately cover the morning peak.

The extra services are already benefitting the community and helping to alleviate road congestion and we believe that it is in the public interest to continue with this trial beyond the 12 months that was originally proposed. Furthermore we believe that it should be extended so that all these trains stop, it would cost no more. The experiment has already demonstrated that stopping the services at Chepstow is perfectly feasible and obviously attracting more people to use our rail services.

October 2011

———————————————————————————————-

January 2011

Good News from CrossCountry.

More Trains for Chepstow and Lydney.

CrossCountry gave rail users at Chepstow and Lydney some good news in January 2011 when it announced that it will be increase the number of daily train services stopping at both stations from 24 May 2011.
From the May timetable change, a trial will be undertaken to measure customer demand for a more frequent service. The number of CrossCountry services on Mondays to Saturdays will increase to ten in each direction at Chepstow and six at Lydney. These extra trains, spread throughout the day, will offer new opportunities for customers to travel northbound to Gloucester, Cheltenham and Birmingham and southbound to Newport and Cardiff for business, leisure and commuting trips.
CrossCountry is only required to call two trains in each direction at these stations. However, at meetings with local stakeholders and during consultations on timetables, there have been many calls for extra trains to meet the demand which local people believe to be there. Following discussions with Passenger Focus and the Welsh Assembly Government, CrossCountry has agreed to provide a twelve-month trial to see whether people wish to take advantage of a more frequent service and so demonstrate they do bring a true benefit to the local area. 
Andy Cooper, CrossCountry’s Managing Director, said: “We are pleased to be introducing these trial services from May. Over the coming months we will work with local stakeholders and rail user groups to raise peoples’ awareness of the new services at Chepstow and Lydney. We are told there is a pressing need for the more frequent service and we shall be delighted if this proves to be so. ”
Michael Greedy, Passenger Focus Link Manager, said: “We welcome this CrossCountry initiative to stop more services at Chepstow and Lydney. Passengers have been asking for more trains for a considerable period of time and it will now be up to them to prove that they will use the additional services on a regular basis.  This is a trial period and it will very much be a case of ‘use it or lose it’.  The future of a better rail service at these stations is firmly in passengers’ hands.”

ENDS

——————————————-

BT4C Comments on proposals to stop additional CrossCountry trains at Chepstow. (12th January 2011.)

We are very pleased that AXC have agreed to stop more of our trains at Chepstow. The announcement is good news and came as a great surprise for we knew that WAG were seeking improvements but after many years of trying we didn’t expect such success. The negotiations must have been difficult and we would like to pay tribute to those involved on all sides for coming to this arrangement.

Naturally we would like to have all the trains scheduled to stop at Chepstow to provide a regular and predictable pattern of service, our objective for the past 5 years. But we recognise that passenger growth at Lydney is as at least as great as Chepstow and by sharing the services as proposed the trial should provide valuable information to shape the services for the future. This is an example of the way that train service improvements are possible at little or no additional cost and makes refreshing news when all we hear about are “cuts”.
 
We have no doubt that the trial will prove very popular with the public and will confirm the demand for more through services to Birmingham and the need for more frequent trains to Cardiff (currently the destination for half our passengers).   AXC should reap the benefit of filling more seats in the lightly loaded trains.
  
Chepstow businesses are already taking steps to publicise the improvement. We would hope that CrossCountry will also publicise the change and will make some special offers to bring attention to the new possibilities for people to attend events in Birmingham and to attract visitors and tourists to attractions in Chepstow, the Wye Valley and The Forest of Dean. These proposals are welcome and will benefit many people. We hope the trial will provide useful information to assess the shape of future services.

These improvements, good as they are, still leave the Chepstow Line with an irregular and haphazard service at variable frequencies. The worst is a two hour gap at Chepstow during the morning peak between 07.49 and 09.49 when no trains stop in the up direction. This will disappoint people without a car who need a public transport service to come to work at Chepstow or wish to travel to Gloucester and Cheltenham for work, school or college.

The service gaps and frequency irregularities in the Chepstow line stopping service require the renegotiation and amendment of the contract with Arriva Trains Wales. The stopping services need to be upgraded to hourly, with a regular clock-face schedule, matching the frequency of services to all destinations.

The Deputy First Minister is aware of this need and has recently answered questions about it in the Welsh Assembly. This alteration requires an extra train unit and crew and BT4C have suggested that WAG should consider utilising one of the spare units in the ATW fleet for this service.

 

——————————————————-

 

Good News.

In 2009 Lord Andrew ADONIS, Minister of State for Transport admitted that turn around time at Cardiff does not prevent Arriva CrossCountry serving Chepstow.

For years “insufficient time” was the main excuse for not serving Chepstow with Cross Country trains

We have to thank our MP, Mr David Davies, for his continued and persistent support that eventually led to the admission that there was sufficient time. Regretably he remained unwilling to renegotiate the contract.

We hope that the Coalition Government will take a more enlightened view and that is why we wrote to Philip Hammond MP in 2010 when he became the new Secretary for State for Transport.

 

 

FGW logo

News Release. 21/10/2009

Community group praises most regular train service ever.

A community group has praised the efforts of train operator, First Great Western, for providing the most regular service they have ever had at Severn Tunnel Junction station.

Severn Tunnel Action Group (STAG) says an extra stop at the station, which will be introduced in December, means they will have a half-hourly service between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Tunnel Junction from the evening peak and throughout the evening for the first time ever.

Since the First Great Western franchise began in April 2006, company officials have worked closely with STAG members to implement almost 20 additional stops to date. The 6.22pm Portsmouth to Cardiff service will now call at the station at 9.16pm.

STAG Treasurer, Alan Vickers, said: “We really feel this is something we should shout from the rooftops about. First Great Western has always been very helpful in re-instating train stops at Severn Tunnel Junction. Never before have we had a level of service that we will have from the December 2009 timetable change. We are so grateful to First Great Western for their continued support.”

First Great Western’s Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, said: “First Great Western works closely with the community to provide the best possible service to customers throughout our network. We hope that the half-hourly stops at Severn Tunnel Junction will encourage more people to choose to travel by train.”

Ends

 

The Chepstow Great Train Robbery.
How Chepstow has been robbed of its train services.

Government Rhetoric.

            The Government give the impression that they want to get people out of their cars and into public transport but in reality the DfT franchise specifications for train services in Monmouthshire don’t encourage train travel at all. The evidence here is that the DfT priority is for inter city travel between major cities: Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol, Portsmouth etc and to disregard the loss of local services.

The DfT achieve their objectives by omitting to specify local stops and by excluding any requirement that the TOC should maintain or provide connections with the services of other TOC’s.

In S E Monmouthshire cutting out stops at local stations has brought no advantage to the long distance services (except to reduce the number of passengers). Overall journey times have not been reduced and no effort has been made to replace the local services lost as a result of the ill conceived changes. To replace the lost local connections with additional trains will be costly and hard to justify under the current regime.

The DfT try to defend their inadequate specifications by saying that TOC’s are at liberty to make extra stops and provide additional services if they are commercially viable. They attempt to defend their lack of clarity and precision in specifying service requirements by saying they are accused of micromanaging by TOC’s. From a passenger perspective the DfT is guilty of mismanagement and neglect, not micromanagement.

Three measures adopted by the government in an attempt to suppress demand and curtail the growth of rail travel in this part of the UK :-

  1. Expensive and confusing fares.
  2. A shortage of train units and a reluctance to place orders for new ones..
  3. Unwillingness to invest in developing the capacity of the railway infrastructure.



Lost in the Last Few Years.

During the last few years train services to Chepstow, S.E. Monmouthshire, the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean have worsened with the appointment of each new train operator.

  1. In 2003 we lost the hourly train service to Cardiff when Arriva Trains Wales took over the Cardiff to Gloucester local service.

  2. Then in 2006 train connections at Severn Tunnel to Bristol were severed when the DfT removed the need for First Great Western to stop the Cardiff/Portsmouth trains at Severn Tunnel Junction. This effectively cut off train travel between Chepstow and Bristol.


  3. In 2007 the DfT failed to specify that Arriva Cross Country should stop and serve Chepstow with its hourly service and these trains continue through the town without stopping. 18,000 trains that could have served Chepstow have instead spent their spare time waiting at signals or standing in Gloucester station.


BT4C and STAG

BT4C and STAG, two local campaign groups continue working to reverse these decisions and to improve services. STAG with the co-operation of FGW have been successful in reinstating some of the stops at STJ but much remains to be done to gain a regular and orderly service on the Chepstow line.

When we started to lobby for improvements we thought that our modest, low cost, suggestions were so obvious and beneficial they would be taken up and acted upon immediately. But we encountered ignorance, apathy, resistance to change, with no one prepared to take responsibility or prepared to take any action.

We were told that schedules were so tight that there was not time to make the stops we wanted. We were told all sorts of stories and lies in the hope we would go away!

But we haven’t given up yet. Nearly 5 years later reinforced by reports from dozens of people seriously inconvenienced or driven away from rail by the deplorable services we have continued to try and bring sense and order to our services. We have checked out all the stories, taken our stop watches and measured turn round times, conducted and analysed passenger surveys, attended numerous meetings and met many of the people involved. In the process we have discovered the source of many of the problems and the more we discover the worse the situation appears to be!

It is clear to us that the problems rest with the government’s franchise process and its mismanagement of the franchise contracts. But we also believe that Monmouthshire County Council, Sewta and WAG should do much more to help to stop the decline and to provide us with services to be proud of.

WAG and Mon CC should be proactive in preventing the removal of local services. They should secure the necessary finance and replacement services before axing existing connections and services.

A BT4C Opinion

We owe the existence of our railway in Monmouthshire to the vision enterprise and labour of our Victorian ancestors. The Victorians were ahead of their time unaware that the mode of transport they invented and built would be continuously improved with advances in science, engineering and communications for the next 150 years.

As we enter the 21st century progressive countries around the globe are actively developing their railways recognising that their ability to transport large numbers of people at high speed with environmentally friendly electric traction and regenerative braking railways is a logical choice.

UK Government policy is to suppress demand. Fares continue to increase and potential customers are confronted with a bewildering and confusing fares system that puts many people off the idea of train travel. Orders for much needed extra train units have been cancelled.

For example expenditure on the Newport Area Resignalling Scheme was limited to exclude the demolition of Bishton Flyover, between Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction that could have greatly increased traffic flow and capacity of this important section of line. (see www.bettertrains4chepstow.co.uk   Bishton Flyover. The Lost Opportunity.)

Monmouthshire CC, SEWTA and the Welsh Assembly Government have been devolved powers to manage our railways in Wales and several notable documents that they have produced suggest that they share our vision of regular more frequent services but sadly they appear not to have made any progress.
The lack of a comprehensible and integrated train services has a serious impact upon individuals, businesses, the economy and the environment in this area.
The inefficiency and failure to utilise the costly subsidised rail service to its full capacity is a waste of taxpayer’s money and should stop.

 The ambition of a fully integrated network of public transport in Monmouthshire will never be achieved until we get a frequent regular train service with services that connect with one another.

———————————————————————————————————

Review of the Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign
January 2010.

The start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect upon the progress of our campaign and to review our aims and objectives.

BT4C continues to draw attention to the irregular and haphazard train services and to suggest several obvious and inexpensive measures that could quickly transform our train services if desired.

After nearly 5 years we are pleased with the support we receive from local organisations and the growing number of individuals who recognise the advantages that a regular integrated service would bring to businesses and the population of Chepstow, the Wye Valley and the nearby Forest of Dean.

We hoped that 2010, the year when the Ryder Cup comes to Celtic Manor would have been a spur for change and we were looking forward to improvements in our rail services. SEWTA proposed changes but they have still not been authorised by WAG and are therefore unlikely to be implemented this year.

Whilst train services at Chepstow have not improved, our surveys have shown that the numbers of people using the trains has continued to increase by about 10% each year. It is obvious that the number of people using the trains would increase greatly if we had regular hourly services that connected with trains to London and Bristol.

 First Great Western (FGW) now stop more of their Portsmouth trains at Severn Tunnel Junction which provide much needed connections with Bristol and Portsmouth for Chepstow line passengers. We are grateful to FGW and the Severn Tunnel Action Group STAG for their work and co-operation that has led to this improvement.

In 2009 we suffered a further worsening of our services at the hands of AXC and ATW. This followed lengthy correspondence from STAG trying to persuade AXC to transfer a contracted stopping train from the evening (where it served no useful purpose) to the morning where it would have filled a 2 hour gap in the ATW timetable.

We are disappointed that Arriva, who have a monopoly on the Chepstow line, and could have improved the services to bring more people to work selfishly decided to cut out a train to save a few hours staff costs and increase their profit.  

During the past year we were pleased to welcome three newcomers into the transport frame all in positions of power to impact upon our train services here in Chepstow.

The first and most senior was Lord Andrew Adonis who was appointed Secretary of State for Transport at Westminster. On the 29th April 2009 David Davies MP in a reply from Lord Adonis, received a letter accepting that there was sufficient time for AXC trains to serve Chepstow. This is a turning point in our campaign to stop all the Cross Country trains at Chepstow. Despite acceptance of this fact the Minister was unwilling to change the mandate for the service, in the short term.

The other two changes we welcomed were local ones on Monmouthshire County Council:  the appointment of Paul Matthews as Chief Executive Officer and Councillor Bryan Jones to Cabinet Member, Transport and Infrastructure.

We were privileged to meet both of these men who have key roles in formulating policies and decisions affecting transport in Monmouthshire and we look forward to some important announcements in due course. We are pleased to report that they both have a keen interest in improving train services in Monmouthshire and showed a refreshingly positive attitude towards making progress on some of the issues we have identified.

——————————————————————————————————————

A48 at Chepstow

Just a Minute. 25th FEBRUARY 2008.
This snapshot of the A48 shows the problem of road congestion through Chepstow.
Notice the CrossCountry train in the top right corner which every hour throughout the day creeps through the town without stopping.

The train doesn’t creep because it feels guilty and wishes to avoid attention it does so because the track bends sharply each side of the town and all trains have to reduce speed here for safety reasons. It would take just one minute to stop and start the train at Chepstow and less than a minute for people to get on and off. This is not much in a 200 minute journey and we know the schedules contain about 6 minutes “recovery” time for the section between Gloucester and Newport.

Since 2004 the Better Trains for Chepstow team with widespread cross-party support has campaigned for these trains to stop and serve our community.

The change could simply and quickly be implemented at “no cost” and would bring substantial benefits to our town and the neighbouring area. When we promoted the idea we expected the DfT and the Train Operating Companies to grasp the opportunity for extra business and to want to provide the service. Unfortunately we have encountered a string of excuses and lists of supposed difficulties which are all negative and effectively delaying any decision to some future event or date.

We know it is possible for the trains to stop at Chepstow without altering the times at Newport or Gloucester by simply cutting recovery times in this 45 mile section from the present 6 minutes to 4 minutes. To stop these trains is not a new or revolutionary idea: many people in the town remember when these trains did stop and Chepstow enjoyed through services to Birmingham.

The current situation.
In 2007 the Department for Transport DfT, London let a new contract to Arriva CrossCountry Ltd, Birmingham to operate the Nottingham- Cardiff trains. The contract omitted to specify that these trains must stop at Chepstow. Had the DfT specified this then the matter would have been resolved.

The DfT, however, told us that they were not against the trains stopping and instructed BT4C to negotiate with Arriva CC Ltd once they were awarded the contract to operate the franchise.

BT4C contacted Arriva CC immediately they were awarded the contract in July 2007 They said they could not make any alterations until December 2008 when a new timetable would come into operation.

In December 2007 Arriva CrossCountry Ltd took over the operation of the train service continuing to work to the existing timetable.

Since July 2007 BT4C have attended a Briefing Meeting, been in correspondence and dialogue over the new December 2008 timetable. BT4C have reiterated the advantages to them and the people of Chepstow but the tone of the responses from Arriva CC Ltd have all appeared consistently negative. At no stage have we heard anything that would suggest that they are seriously considering serving Chepstow. Each and every communication from them has either reiterated excuses for not serving the town or has introduced new ones.
Worn out rails and conflicting train movements at Birmingham are amongst the latest problems.

We would like to think that it is still possible that common sense will prevail and we will all have a very pleasant surprise to find that the service will, after all, be restored by Arriva CrossCountry Ltd.in December 2008.


How does it look from our perspective.

Arriva CrossCountry Ltd has their contract which doesn’t specify stopping at Chepstow. So they don’t need to serve Chepstow if it doesn’t suit them.
The terms of the contract are secret but it appears that any advantages that Arriva CrossCountry Ltd would accrue from extra revenue by serving Chepstow may be less than the penalties they risk incurring by failing to meet their Public Performance Measure (PPM) targets. Arriva CC’s pre-occupation with building spare time in their schedules, evident from the letters sent to us, is suggesting that this is the fear.
The aim to increase slack in the timetables is also borne out by the situation at Severn Tunnel Junction in 2006 where stops were cut out when a new franchise was awarded to FGW and end to end journey times remained the same. It looks as though Chepstow is confronted with a situation similar to that at STJ
From a passenger/taxpayer perspective, measures to ensure a reliable service are necessary. But it looks as though these PPM targets may be driving the DfT and TOC’s to cut out services to communities to make it easier (and cheaper) for TOC’s to meet their targets. If this is the case then the taxpayer is losing services it could have and not getting value for money.


Useful Contacts.
Mr Andy COOPER, Managing Director, Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. 85 Smallbrook Queensway, BIRMINGHAM. B5 4HA.
Tom HARRIS MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Department of Transport, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, LONDON SW1P 4DR


_____________________________________________________________________________

Hoping for a positive decision. JANUARY 2008

BT4C hopes that a decision to amend the Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. timetable will finally be resolved in 2008.

The Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign (BT4C) is looking forward to 2008 when it hopes that Arriva CrossCountry Ltd and the Department for Transport (DfT) will confirm that Chepstow will once more have an hourly through service to Birmingham. This service could be restored in December 2008 when the new timetable is due providing Arriva CC Ltd and the DfT agree to allocate 2 minutes of the 200 minute schedule to stop and serve Chepstow. This will increase the number of trains serving Chepstow from 28 to 54.

BT4C starts 2008 with steadily increasing support after nearly 4 years since the campaign began and just a year after the formation of the BT4C campaign team. The strength of support continues to grow as more individuals, businesses, organisations and community representatives from across all political parties become aware of the advantages that this minimal cost alteration could bring to our town and the nearby area.

We greatly appreciate all the help and encouragement we have received and we look forward to receiving continued support throughout 2008.

The year 2007 was an eventful one for the Cross Country Route but disappointing because the DfT omitted to make it mandatory for them to stop at Chepstow when it awarded a new contract to Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. in July. If the DfT had included these stops in the franchise specification we believe that Arriva CrossCountry Ltd could have introduced the simple timetable alteration in December 2007.

The DfT maintain that they are not against the trains stopping at Chepstow but placed responsibility with BT4C to negotiate directly with Arriva CC Ltd. once the contract was let. Immediately Arriva CrossCountry Ltd was awarded the contract we got in touch with them only to be told that due to operational constraints and guidelines they could not contemplate any changes until December 2008.

We are pleased to say that Arriva Trains CrossCountry Ltd has engaged us in their consultations for the new timetable commencing in December 2008 and appear to be studying our proposals very seriously. However, the responses have not been positive and we have found it necessary to continue our dialogue with them. We will keep you informed of the situation as it develops in 2008.

BT4C know there is more than enough spare time in the schedules but Arriva CrossCountry Ltd is under pressure to meet performance targets. We have to convince them that it makes more sense (and profit) to allocate 2 minutes to serve the community at Chepstow than to allot 30 minutes of every hour to have a train stand idle in Cardiff station.

Jim JENKINS, Chairman, Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign Team.

Joint Vice Chairmen: Alan VICKERS and Philip INSKIP
.

——————————————————————————————————————————

A REVIEW OF BT4C’s FOUR OBJECTIVES. JANUARY 2008

Objective 1. To ensure that all the Nottingham to Cardiff trains operated by Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. stop to serve Chepstow.

We have been campaigning for the Cross Country trains to serve Chepstow since July 2004.
In October 2004 the excuse we were given for not stopping was that it was not in the contract as it was a City Link express service. It suggested that Chepstow was not important enough and that serving it would entail stopping the trains too frequently. Both these notions have been debunked since it is obvious that the trains already serve many communities smaller than Chepstow and at stations much closer than Chepstow to Newport or Gloucester.
In December 2006 when FGW took over their new franchise contract and withdrew some connecting services at Severn Tunnel Junction we joined the STAG campaign for their reinstatement. We also decided it was time to try and stop the decline in our train services. We wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport asking him to include Chepstow in the Cross Country service when the franchise was renewed in 2007. We immediately received confirmation from Tom Harris that he understood our concerns and he confirmed that the DfT would not stop future operators calling at Chepstow if it could be robustly timetabled. This looked like a promising response at the time.
12 January 2007 we had a useful meeting headed by M German AM, with Simon Pickering of Passenger Focus. This meeting led to contacts with the franchise bidders and led us to research and develop a list of reasons to justify why trains should stop at Chepstow.
On the 19th January the DfT wrote to Passenger Focus and said it was their idea that the new franchise would deliver what rail passengers want and what they expected, and that the aim was for a regular clock face timetable. Once more this looked encouraging since one of our primary objectives is to achieve a regular and predictable service with all the CrossCountry trains serving Chepstow free of the haphazard interruptions that bedevil the Arriva Trains Wales stopping service.
By 2nd March 2007 when final bids were submitted for the new franchise we had been in contact with all the bidders and with the DfT to explain our aspirations for Chepstow.
On 2 March 2007 we were informed by the DfT that the successful bidder would announce details of their timetable when they were installed. He encouraged us to engage directly with them. It was apparent that the DfT had omitted to specify that Cross Country trains must stop at Chepstow leaving it to us to negotiate direct with the winning bidder!
April 2007 BT4C Website launched. www.bettertrains4chepstow.org
10 July 2007 The DfT announced that Arriva had been awarded new Cross Country franchise which will run from 11 November 2007 to 31 March 2016. The last 2 years 5 months is conditional. Objectives include a 35% increase in seats by June 2009. The DfT (Department for Transport) who awarded the new contract to Arriva CrossCountry Ltd omitted to stipulate that the trains must stop at Chepstow and left it to the contractor’s discretion. Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. confirmed that they are permitted to make stops not included in DfT core specification providing they are robustly timetabled and they make good business sense.
July 2007. We immediately contacted Arriva CrossCountry in the hope that they would introduce the service to Chepstow commencing December 2007.
On 6th August 2007 Arriva CrossCountry replied saying that operational constraints and guidelines prevented them from implementing changes until December 2008
On 6th August 2007 The BT4C team carried out a census of passengers using Chepstow station. The results confirmed that passenger numbers were still increasing at about 6% a year despite the deteriorating train service.
11th August 2007. BT4C promoted its campaign in Chepstow High Street by handing out leaflets. Collected many signatures in support
4th October 2007. Sent documents and timetables to Arriva explaining “Why it Makes Sense to Serve Chepstow”.
On the 9th October 2007 BT4C were represented at a Briefing Meeting at Birmingham where Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. discussed their proposals for a new timetable due to start in December 2008. The draft timetable that Arriva CC Ltd presented for discussion didn’t show the scheduled stops at Chepstow which we are seeking.
BT4C was pleased to have had the opportunity to make the case for a simple change to the timetable which would add no more than 2 minutes to the schedule.
14th October 2007.Since Arriva CrossCountry appeared unconvinced of the case for serving Chepstow and we wrote to them again making further representations and observations on “robustness” in the hope that they will look more closely at the eminently sensible aspiration that will bring benefits to them and to the town.. We find it extraordinary that such a simple and obvious change that will cost nothing and bring extra revenue to the train operator should be delayed a day longer than necessary.
14th November 2007. We received a detailed reply from Arriva CC which said they were still considering stopping at Chepstow but the tone was entirely negative. The desire to have every train stand for half an hour at Cardiff appeared more important than sparing 2 minutes to serve Chepstow. They also claimed that extra stops would make end to end journeys less commercially attractive.
5th December 2007.We replied to Arriva CC challenging the need to have trains stand at Cardiff for half the day. We quoted extracts from the Railway Working Timetable showing where spare minutes were available in the schedules between Gloucester and Cardiff. We questioned the extent to which end to end revenue would be impacted by extra business from Chepstow. We hoped that with the help of the Network Rail Timetable Team, they would find it possible to serve Chepstow.

Objective 2. To lobby WAG and Arriva Trains Wales Ltd to fill the six two hour gaps in service and bring Chepstow a regular hourly service throughout the day.

The 2 hour gaps in the service three times a day in each direction are inconsistent with the aims of providing a regular and predictable “clockface” timetable. We know from our own experience and from complaints received from others that the inconvenience and frustration caused by these gaps is a major disincentive to rail travellers on this line. The service is inferior to that of other towns in South Wales.
On 24th September 2007 we wrote to Arriva Trains Wales to see if they had any plans to close the service gaps that we knew would involve the provision of an extra train.
On 4th October 2007. Arriva TW replied stating that the service could only be increased with external funding. They were optimistic that the extension of the service to Cheltenham will increase the number of passengers and strengthen the case for service enhancements.
We intend to pursue the issue with SEWTA and WAG.in 2008.

Objective 3. To lobby WAG and Arriva Trains Wales Ltd services to extend their journey beyond Gloucester to Cheltenham.

Arriva Trains Wales Ltd received agreement to extend the service beyond Gloucester to Cheltenham Spa commencing 10th December 2007.
This was good news providing the people of Chepstow with a through service to one important town and more and better connections than we had before. It is a step in the right direction but is no substitute for extra trains and through services which stopping the Cross Country trains at Chepstow will bring.
Initial reports confirm the popularity of this improvement but we have also heard that on occasions the service has terminated at Gloucester because of late running. Because the Arriva TW service does not run every hour through the day and has two hour gaps morning, afternoon and midday it has the problem of being unpredictable and liable to leave passengers stranded for a long wait to complete a journey.
It fails to bring any increase in the number of trains serving Chepstow and brings no improvement to services from Chepstow in the opposite direction towards Cardiff.

Objective 4. Together with the Severn Tunnel Action Group to lobby for the reinstatement of FGW services at STJ that provided connections between Chepstow and Bristol etc.

BT4C supports STAG (The Severn Tunnel Action Group) which is actively seeking the reinstatement of services from Severn Tunnel Junction to Bristol and Bath cut out in 2006.
These services now operated by FGW are important for the people of Chepstow, Lydney and Caldicot as they used to provide connections at STJ for people travelling across the Severn to and from Bristol and the south Coast.


_

UPDATE;    THE SITUATION NOW.


In July 2007 the DfT awarded a new contract to Arriva CrossCountry Ltd but omitted to make it mandatory for the trains to stop at Chepstow. Had the DfT included these stops in the franchise specification we believe that Arriva CrossCountry Ltd could have introduced the simple timetable alteration in December 2007.

Despite this omission the DfT insisted that they are not against the trains stopping at Chepstow and asked BT4C to negotiate for this change directly with Arriva CC Ltd.

We immediately got in touch Arriva CrossCountry Ltd only to be told that due to ‘operational constraints and guidelines’ they could not contemplate any changes until December 2008.

Arriva Trains CrossCountry Ltd then engaged us in their consultations for the new timetable that is due to commence in December 2008 and appeared to be studying our proposals very seriously. It was clear from the responses we received that they were finding excuses for not serving Chepstow rather than looking to see how they could.

  • ‘Consultation’ with Arriva CrossCountry Ltd was taken to the highest level, when on the 21st May 2008 BT4C were granted a meeting with their Managing Director, Andrew COOPER, at Westminster. At the meeting arranged by David DAVIES MP it was admitted that Arriva had no plans to serve Chepstow when the new timetable commences in December 2008. Arriva CrossCountry Ltd were not prepared to consider making extra stops on a trial basis as suggested by David DAVIES.

  • For BT4C this was a disappointing , if not unexpected outcome. Significantly Arriva XC would not give a reason for not serving the town except to say that if the trains stopped at Chepstow then others would want the service too! Neither would they identify any costs that would arise in serving Chepstow.
    The only glimmer of hope came from Richard GIBSON Stakeholder Manager, at the end of the meeting who hinted that the situation might change some time in the future.

  • BT4C resolved to continue the fight to persuade Arriva XC and would endeavour to meet Mr GIBSON again to find out how they might be convinced to serve the town. Meanwhile we decided that the next step was to take the issue back to the DfT, who were responsible for writing the contract.
  • Through the good offices of Jessica MORDEN MP BT4C we were fortunate to meet Tom HARRIS MP the Minister of State for Transport on the 30th June 2008.
    BT4C used the opportunity to remind Mr Harris of the background to our campaign for the XC trains to serve Chepstow. We explained that we believed it was the fault of the DfT that we were unsuccessful and he agreed to re-examine the situation but warned us that he could make no promises. We got the impression he was powerless to alter the contract.

  • We received a reply from Tom Harris dated 29th September shortly before he was replaced by Lord Andrew Adonis the new Minister of State for Transport. The reply asserted that XC Trains were compliant with the terms of the contract which could not be altered in the short term.

  • BT4C has now written to Rt Hon. Geoff. Hoon MP Secretary of State for Transport and Lord Andrew Adonis, Minister of State for Transport.

    Click “Letter to Mr Hoon MP No.1”and “Repeat Letter to Mr Hoon MP” to see the text of our two letters.

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Press Release. 14th October 2007.
Better Trains for Chepstow. Hopefully in December 2008.


Hopes that the Cross Country trains would be stopping at Chepstow to improve services to the town may be a step nearer. Last Tuesday BT4C were invited to attend a Briefing Meeting at Birmingham where Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. discussed their proposals for a new timetable due to start in December 2008.
Jim Jenkins, Chairman of the Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign Team (BT4C) said he was pleased to have had the opportunity to make the case for a simple change to the timetable which its members have been campaigning for since 2004. The change which would add just 2 minutes to the schedule involves stopping the trains at Chepstow instead of passing slowly through the town.
The Arriva CC Ltd draft timetable doesn’t yet show the alteration but BT4C were making further representations in the hope that they will look more closely at the suggestion and see that it is an eminently sensible aspiration that will bring benefits to them and to the town.. It is extraordinary that such a simple and obvious change that will cost nothing and bring extra revenue to the train operator is delayed a day longer than necessary.
The DfT (Department for Transport) who awarded the new contract to Arriva CrossCountry Ltd did not stipulate that the trains must stop here but left it to the contractor’s discretion. Arriva Cross Country Ltd. confirmed that they are permitted to make stops not included in DfT core specification providing they are robustly timetabled and they make good business sense.

The BT4C team carefully checked the times of trains through Chepstow, and the turn round at Cardiff, and know that the extra 2 minutes required to stop for passengers can be accommodated within the schedules.

BT4C is a local independent group whose sole purpose is to secure improved rail services for the Chepstow area. BT4C work closely with STAG the team who have similar objectives at Severn Tunnel Junction.
Present Objectives are:-
1. To ensure that all the Nottingham to Cardiff trains operated by Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. stop to serve Chepstow.

2. To lobby WAG and Arriva Trains Wales Ltd to fill the six two hour gaps in service and bring Chepstow a regular hourly service throughout the day.

3. To lobby WAG and Arriva Trains Wales Ltd services to extend their journey beyond Gloucester to Cheltenham. (We have heard that this change may come into effect in December 2007)

4. Together with the Severn Tunnel Action Group to lobby for the reinstatement of FGW services at STJ that provided connections between Chepstow and Bristol etc.



Press Release. 13th August 2007.
Better Trains for Chepstow. Not Yet!


Hopes that the Cross Country trains would soon be stopping at Chepstow to improve services to the town have been dashed by Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. Their response to the Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign Group is that they don’t have an operational franchise for making changes until November when there will be insufficient time to implement them in December 2007. They say they will commence timetable consultation this autumn for the new timetable for December 2008.

Jim Jenkins, Chairman of the Better Trains for Chepstow Campaign Team (BT4C) said he was bitterly disappointed that this simple change to the timetable which its members have been campaigning for since 2004 that would bring a substantial improvement to rail services for the town is still not planned to take place. It seems extraordinary that such a simple and obvious change that will cost nothing and bring extra revenue to the train operator is delayed a day longer than necessary.

The DfT (Department for Transport) who awarded the new contract to Arriva CrossCountry Ltd have not stipulated that the trains must stop here but left it to the contractor’s discretion. The DfT assured us that they have no objection to these trains stopping at Chepstow and asked us to engage with the new operator once installed.

The BT4C team carefully checked the times of trains through Chepstow, and the turn round at Cardiff, and know that the extra 2 minutes required to stop for passengers can be accommodated within the schedules.

The Network Rail Timetable Section warned by BT4C that this alteration would be required and were expecting Arriva CrossCountry to ask for the change in time for December 2007.

BT4C is a local independent group whose sole purpose is to secure improved rail services for the Chepstow area. BT4C work closely with STAG the team who have similar objectives at Severn Tunnel Junction.

Present Objectives are:-

1. To ensure that all the Nottingham to Cardiff trains operated by Arriva CrossCountry Ltd. stop to serve Chepstow.

2. To lobby WAG and Arriva Trains Wales Ltd to fill the six two hour gaps in service and bring Chepstow a regular hourly service throughout the day.

3. To lobby WAG and Arriva Trains Wales Ltd services to extend their journey beyond Gloucester to Cheltenham.

4. Together with the Severn Tunnel Action Group to lobby for the reinstatement of FGW services at STJ that provided connections between Chepstow and Bristol etc.

 

Free Press Logo

‘More trains should stop’
A POLITICIAN and local campaigners are lobbying for more trains to stop at Chepstow train station.
Although many services between Cardiff and the midlands pass through the station, just over half stop to pick up passengers.
Travellers heading to Newport or Gloucester sometimes have to wait up to two hours.
But with the franchise being negotiated later this year, Mike German AM for South Wales East and some local residents are using the opportunity to press for changes.
They are to meet train operators Arriva, First Group, National Express Group and Virgin, who are all putting in bids, to put forward their case.
“We are trying to convince them their bids should contain the Chepstow stops,” said Mr German.
“Chepstow in an anchor point for many commuters. A better train service would enable more people to take the train rather than the car.”
He added it would ease traffic congestion problems in the town.
Jim Jenkins, a retired railway engineer from St Arvans, described the situation as “scandalous.” He has been calling for improvements for years.
“Nobody goes down to the station because there is never a train there,” said Mr Jenkins.
He drew up an alternative timetable to show how the Chepstow stops could be incorporated into the existing timetable.
“The trains would only need to stop for two minutes,” he said.
He wants an hourly service in both directions. This would see the number of trains stopping increase from 28 to 54.
Chepstow Councillor Armand Watts is also backing the campaign. He is calling for more Central Trains, who currently operate the frabchsie, to stop at the station.
But a Central Trains spokesman said they provided an express service with only limited stops. He said there was not enough time in the tight timetable.

Free Press: Thursday 1st February 2007
Free Press Logo

_________

The Background to BT4C. 

In 2004 when our members first drew attention to the possibilities for improving our train service we thought, naively, that our ideas would be taken up and be implemented quickly and as a matter of course.

However, at the end of 2006, when the DfT awarded FGW the contract to operate the Cardiff – Portsmouth services we were appalled to discover that the DfT had neglected to stipulate that these trains stop at Severn Tunnel Junction as they had previously whilst Wessex Trains operated the service.

The omission which cut out local commuter services between STJ and Bristol led to public protests and the formation of the Severn Tunnel Action Group (STAG) in December 2006. STAG has been successful in persuading FGW to restore most of the peak hour services but, like BT4C, it continues to fight to restore services through the day. STAG has now widened its scope with proposals for a much improved station and rail interchange at Severn Tunnel Junction.

In January 2007 The ‘Better Trains for Chepstow (BT4C)’campaign team was formed. The primary concern was to ensure that the DfT who were due to renew the Nottingham to Cardiff, Cross Country franchise in 2007 incorporated stops at Chepstow in the new contract. We recognised that this presented on opportunity for the town.

BT4C and STAG work together in seeking improvements to rail services in South East Monmouthshire. An important and common objective is to convince FGW that they should restore the services they cut at Severn Tunnel Junction. These cuts have a devastating impact upon rail journeys between Chepstow and Bristol and with the Portsmouth line.

________________________________________________________________________

Jim hopes his timetable will signal train changes.
8th December 2004

Jim's Timetable

Free Press Logo


_______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Return to Top

 

Bottom page logo