Failing First Great Western

My tips for travelling to Cornwall using the First Great Western train company is one of my most popular and favourite entries.

I have travelled to and from Praze Farm in Cornwall to visit my family countless times. I am really becoming dismayed with the train service.

Purchasing tickets for FGW journeys via http://www.thetrainline.com is still a complete nightmare.

To: fgwfeedback@firstgroup.com

I've travelled home to Bodmin Parkway for many years now from
Paddington or via Reading to visit my parents. Normally I'm based in
Woking nowadays, though I used to live in London.

Firstly the ticket prices have risen over the years and I feel far far
ahead of inflation. Do you provide statistics of this astonishing
trend? As I have not collected my old tickets.

Last time I travelled from Guildford on a Friday afternoon, I was told
that the return ticket would be 100GBP+ because I want to travel in a
peak time ~5pm. As I've mentioned before. I have travelled to Bodmin
Parkway after work on Fridays countless times (normally from
Paddington, not Reading) and I have never had heard of this "peak"
super-saver return ticket. The ticket teller at Guildford station
seems to think this system has been in place for years. Have I been
very fortunate?

Please don't recommend buying tickets in advance. I do not want to
endure the horrors of your online ticket purchasing site. Also I like
being able to choose to visit my parents on a whim. I don't like
planning things in advance.

My last Friday Penzance train I stood from Reading to Exeter St.
Davids. That was a weekend with poor weather too and I saw no reason
really why that train was so full. To be honest a full train on a
Friday evening is very common, though on Friday the 17th of July I
thought it was particularly crowded. I had this sinking feeling that
Penzance trains were getting more crowded and more expensive. Can you
show me otherwise?

The final thing which I found the most disappointing. Frequent
travellers are well aware of the 10GBP first class upgrade on
weekends. Many times I've left for Cornwall on Saturday morning to
take advantage of this offer. Now the upgrade costs 25GBP I've been
told. That's another huge rise in the cost of travelling for me. I am
honestly quite shocked how the experience of train travel to Cornwall
has digressed over the years.

Kind regards,

The formulaic reply from First Great Western customer services:

First Great Western
Customer Services Team
FREEPOST
SWB40576
Plymouth
PL4 6ZZ

Tel: 08457 000 125
Fax: 08456 008 363
fgwfeedback@firstgroup.com

www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk

Ref: 4803065

Dear Customer

Thank you for your email dated 1 August 2009 regarding your journeys betwee=
n London Paddington and Bodmin Parkway. For the last 12 months, in a year w=
hen many other rail operators had as many as three separate fares increases=
, all First Great Western fares and car park charges have been frozen. With=
 rising costs and increased investment, fares cannot be frozen again this y=
ear.=20

I understand that both you and many other customers may not agree that ther=
e is a case for any increase in fares. We have therefore looked very carefu=
lly at all our ticket charges and made some fare reductions alongside the i=
ncreases. I don't say this to add further annoyance at the increase in your=
 fare, purely to demonstrate that we have looked very carefully at the whol=
e pricing structure. Some of the reductions have been made to encourage cus=
tomers to use less busy trains, for example many Cheap Day Return tickets h=
ave fallen by as much as 60% in the London and Thames Valley area.=20

Where are the figures for my journey to Bodmin?

Whilst there have been a number of reductions, some fares have remained the=
 same or have increased by more than others. In general, unregulated fares =
will rise by an average of 1.6% above inflation and regulated fares, such a=
s Season Tickets, will rise at a rate of 1% over inflation (based on the Re=
tail Price Index of July 2008). =20

Still you didn't answer my question.

The extra monies raised will be used to replace reduced Government subsidie=
s, as payments across the rail industry are set to fall by 40% between 2006=
/7 and 2013/14. They will also help to fund the additional investment in ma=
jor infrastructure projects, such as the =A3440 million remodelling of Read=
ing station, and our own investment in additional colleagues, more trains a=
nd better information systems.=20

440 000 000 GBP for a remodelling of Reading station? What the FUCK. Are the rails going to be made of solid gold?

We know that your priority is for reliable, comfortable services.  Although=
 we appreciate that there is more for us to do on this, we have made good p=
rogress and trains are more reliable, with cancellations dramatically reduc=
ed. If fares did not increase we would not be able to keep this progress go=
ing and could be in danger of sliding back. It is a difficult balance and f=
ares must be carefully set if we are to remain a viable option for our pass=
engers, but there is no advantage to you, or us, to set prices at a rate wh=
ere we cannot cover costs. For this reason we cannot freeze fares any longe=
r. =20

When the hell did you ever freeze tickets? They always rise every time I buy a ticket.

Rail travel still remains good value, but it is never going to feel good to=
 be asked to pay more.  We do try and keep the prices down and offer a rang=
e of discount fares for both peak and off peak travel. Season Tickets also =
remain excellent value, with a daily rate well below the individual daily j=
ourney fare.=20

I can rent a four seat car for the entire weekend, Friday till Monday morning for 45GBP. Two tanks of about 50GBP is ample for the weekend in Cornwall. So 150GBP all in all. I think the car is actually sounding quite bloody good.

Whilst this is true, I do understand that the cost of your journey has incr=
eased and appreciate your frustration with this. I have logged your complai=
nt and we will monitor the effect of the increases.=20

Monitor it, with a beer? Will FGW publish statistics?

 I am sorry that you had such a crowded journey from Reading to Exeter on 2=
4 July 2009. We realise that it is uncomfortable and inconvenient when you =
have to stand and I do apologise.

Your comfort is a real concern for us and we constantly monitor our service=
s to identify areas where improvements can be made. We will also use your f=
eedback to help us identify how we can do better. This includes reviewing o=
ur timetable and looking at the type of trains we use on each journey.=20

Again I need to see the evidence, words aren't enough!

We try very hard to provide the best service possible; however there will a=
lways be services that are more popular than others and can become crowded.=
 In addition to these ongoing reviews, our recently completed High Speed Tr=
ain (HST) refresh programme has increased the number of seats on each servi=
ce to ease the problem of overcrowding.

I am quite aware of the tables you've removed and how you crammed chairs in there. :/

Thank you again for contacting us and I hope that future journeys with us w=
ill be more comfortable and enjoyable.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Macgougan
Customer Services Advisor

And train fares to rise by up to 20% is the news today.

I will hopefully calm down enough to complain to my MP.

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