Arriva’s information gap

digger beside the line

lineside problems

Delayed and cancelled trains are always bad news – but disruption is much worse when we’re not told what’s happening.

Sadly, Arriva Trains Wales does not have a great reputation for giving full and timely information, whether on the train, the platform, on the phone or online. In the words of a recent Fishguard Trains commenter, Arriva “are at their very worst when things go wrong” and “severely allergic at all times to passing out information to their poor customers.”

Today’s chaos on the Pembrokshire-Manchester service is another example. Passengers on the 9:56 from Fishguard arrived on time at Carmarthen to find the connecting 11:04 eastbound was cancelled. An hour’s wait, and then the 12:05 (starting from Milford) finally left 35 minutes late. After Llanelli, the train came to a standstill, and eventually continued through Gowerton to Swansea an hour late (with many passengers already two hours late).

Piecing together the shreds of information given to passengers, it seems that “lineside problems” in the Crewe area earlier had delayed an incoming train, forcing the cancellation of the 11:04 from Carmarthen. Then a signalling or points failure on the notorious single track at Gowerton reduced the entire line between Llanelli and Swansea to single working, hence more delays.

Passengers on the train were travelling to job interviews, management meetings, college courses – all would be missed. One woman abandoned the train at Swansea saying it wasn’t worth continuing. On their behalf, Fishguard Trains tried to find more information. The National Rail Enquiries “Service Disruptions” web page had absolutely no information about this line. Their telephone service conceded that there was slow working through Gowerton due to a signalling problem, but nothing else. Arriva Trains Wales’ customer service phone line initially had no information either – leaving it to Fishguard Trains to tell them what we’d heard from passengers. They came back conceding major problems, and referring us to their Live Train Information web page. At last we found some real information: suddenly we get the picture [see below] of a main line service that is in chaos all the way from Milford to Manchester. Yet none of this information is being presented fairly and squarely where and when it matters – to travelling passengers.

The point is – the information was out there all along, and could and should have been communicated to all affected passengers, whether joining a connecting service at Fishguard, waiting endlessly on the platform at Carmarthen, or sitting in frustration on the stationary train outside Llanelli.

Why doesn’t this happen? It appears to Fishguard Trains that Arriva Trains Wales doesn’t understand that information is a key part of their service to the public. When we buy a ticket, we expect to be taken to our destination according to their timetable, and if not, to be told what’s happening as soon as it’s known. Arriva has no culture of communication. So it’s up to us passengers to explain to them what that means.

We’ve added a permanent link to Arriva’s Live Train Information page. Please use it before you travel, because once you set off for the station, you’re at risk of falling into Arriva’s information gap.

And here’s a sample of text from their page, revealing one day of chaos on rails …

problem: between Crewe and Nantwich.

Owing to a problem with line-side equipment between Crewe and Nantwich all lines are affected.
Impact:
Train services running through these stations may be delayed by up to 15 mins at short notice. An estimate for the resumption of normal services will be provided as soon as the problem has been fully assessed.
Show Further Information
Message Received :10/11/2011 07:40
Owing to a problem with line-side equipment between Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport southbound lines are affected.
Impact:
Train services running through these stations may be delayed by up to 15 mins at short notice. An estimate for the resumption of normal services will be provided as soon as the problem has been fully assessed.
Show Further Information
Message Received :10/11/2011 10:06
Owing to signalling problems between Swansea and Llanelli trains have to run at reduced speed on westbound lines. Train services through these stations may be subject to disruption on all routes at short notice. An estimate for the resumption of normal services will be provided as soon as the problem has been fully assessed.
NR staff on site.
Hide Further Information
Message Received :10/11/2011 11:10
Owing to speed restrictions between Chester and Crewe trains have to run at reduced speed on eastbound lines.
Impact:
Train services running through these stations may be delayed by up to 10 mins at short notice. An estimate for the resumption of normal services will be provided as soon as the problem has been fully assessed.
Message Received :10/11/2011 13:04
There are currently no Train Cancellations reported.
This train has been delayed and is expected to be 38 minutes late from Cardiff Central.
This train will be terminated at Crewe at 14:07.
This train will no longer call at Wilmslow, Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly.
This is due to a delay on a previous journey.
Message Received :10/11/2011 12:00
show calling pattern
This train will be delayed and is expected to be 5 minutes late from Newport South Wales.
This is due to passengers transferring between trains.
Show Further Information
Message Received :10/11/2011 09:36
show calling pattern
This train will no longer call at Neath and Swansea.
This is due to signalling problems.
Show Further Information
Message Received :10/11/2011 13:53

3 Comments

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3 Responses to Arriva’s information gap

  1. this happens in any form of transportation. i guess its really unfortunate for anyone who encounters this.

    • Spad

      Of course it does. But aren’t you missing the point, trains o scale? It’s bound to happen, and when it does, the transport operator should share its information. Knowledge is power. Only too often, Arriva neglects to tell its passengers what’s going on.

      • Rhydgaled

        Well said Spad. Of course it happens with all modes but as you say, the operator should inform you. Arriva are terrible when it comes to information. Even with something as predictable (to the operator itself), such as a timetable change on the X40 bus, which has screwed up connections with the Richards Bros X50, Arriva Buses Wales failed to give any advance warning on their website. Arriva needs to improve information provision across their operations.

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