‘Fast frequent trains’: says it all really !

19 September 2018

The old British Rail Network South East slogan still sticks in my mind from years ago. They used to hang banners off bridges advertising to car drivers: ‘Fast frequent service to London’. Sums it all up really and underpins just how important frequency is as a driver of train travel.

The bulk of Britain’s passengers are commuters ( with a different attitude to business or leisure passengers) who want regular trains. Those going longer distances also want reliable services every 20 minutes for much of the day to London from Birmingham, Manchester and other places. Every half an hour from Leeds and Cardiff. Every hour from Glasgow and stations in between. You really don’t need a complex timetable for much of the network – just a reliable one.

That slogan also makes you think about how information is displayed. We still seem to insist on saying at high frequency stations like Balham in south London (where the information system has just been renewed) that particular trains are two minutes late or whatever. I don’t care. I just need to know that the next train to Victoria is arriving in two minutes: me happy ! Yes, the service is not totally regular as occasional trains go all the way to Milton Keynes, but nearly all trains and most people go to Clapham Junction or Victoria.

Yes, some people need to know the exact destinations of a particular train, but could we not focus on the majority who just need to know the next train to key destinations like Manchester, Reading or wherever? There is genuine scope for lots of improvements in some parts of the network, and the display boards at places like Waterloo could be really simplified, if we tried !


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