|New service - first impressions
Three days into the new service, and what impression do I have?
That - as predicted - the trains in their new timing through Melksham aren't well suited to the existing customer base who have deserted them for other means of transport. I myself had to give delegates a lift up to Chippenham on Monday, and to drive to Swindon on Tuesday where last week I would have used the train. Yesterday evening, I did meet two delegates off a very quiet train at Melksham at 19:08 ... they were travelling long distance afetr a day's work so actually the new times suited them well, although last week I'm sure they would still have come in by train arriving at 18:09 or 21:34 - so this does not, I regret, mean any new business.
It WILL take time to build up a new market for that's what First will have to look for with such a radical change in train times. Or rather, if they're sincere they'll have to look for a new market; I guess if their plan is to provide an inappropriate service so that they can kill it later, then they'll just let it run quietly and near-empty for a month or two.
There's signs of teething troubles in the first few days - 143 units having trouble keeping up with the schedules, cancellation rates even higher than recent weeks in spite of the reduced services they're having to provide. I think it would be upfair to judge them based on the three days. I wait to see how they're doing by next week, and in the first weeks of the New Year.
How will I judge whether or not First are sincere in wanting to do their best for their customers? By seeing if they correct some of the ommisions from their signage that they've been told about. By seeing if they have any marketing initiatives coming along. By watching the pattern of any cancellations - seeing if (as has been the recent case) the TransWilts service continues to be the first to be cancelled.
I'll also get a pretty good idea based on futher inputs to the positive move that their Andrew Griffiths made about a week ago in terms of asking how the service should develop in the future, based on a single extra train. My input to Andrew, and confirmed by lots of discussions, cae down in favour of a service from Swindon at 06:45, every 2 hours to 10:45, 13:45 and every 2 hours to 21:45, returning from Westbury an hour earlier / later.
Andrew - if you're reading this, you've just had the most enormous proof that the level of loading on this line does depend on the train frequency ... remove 60% of the trains and you loose 80% of the business. So, please, let's increas the service by 50% from where it was last week, advertise it, nd see the traffic figures rise from 109k per year to perhaps 250k. It's a very acheivable, and financially viable, target.
Written 2006-12-14 07:46:41
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