Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Transport User Voice – January 2022 – Around Great Britain

16 December 2021

The West Midlands, Wales, Scotland, and London

The West Midlands 

With less than 230 days to go until the start of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the region’s rail infrastructure is being readied. The roof has now been completed at the new Perry Barr stadium, serving the main athletics arena. 

The work at Birmingham University station continues apace ahead of the games, and redevelopment works at Coventry Station are nearing completion. There will be a very different look and feel to some of the region’s infrastructure next summer. A new railway station for Willenhall is also under construction, opening in 2023. 

Timetables for bus and rail services are being updated in the first and second weeks of December. These have a mix of adjusted departure times, additional services, and adjustments to the length of some trains. Re-timings and an increase in much-needed branch line services complete the changes being introduced. 

With no firm date set for the return of West Midlands Metro tram services, West Midlands Combined Authority has appointed a cycling and walking commissioner for the region. The position will help to help support and drive the aspiration for 5% of all journeys in the West Midlands to be made by bicycle in 2023. On road, Birmingham has seen a reduction of 6,000 plus cars per day entering the city since the introduction of its Clean Air Zone (CAZ). 

Wales 

Onboard experience 

We have been out and about on the network recently and have been feeding back our experience to Transport for Wales (TfW).  

Trains have generally been very clean and well-maintained. Announcements about the face covering requirement (unless exempt) at stations and onboard services have been welcome. These will really help to drive up compliance. Our research shows operators need to maintain high levels of cleanliness and face covering compliance to help passengers feel safe.  

We know that onboard displays have not been working on certain routes due to a change in train stopping patterns implemented at the start of the pandemic.  

We have been pressing for TfW to work on a solution to fix this and hope to see onboard displays back in full working order this month. We have also been pushing for improved information onboard. These are things such as making routine station stop announcements and providing better information for passengers.  

During times of disruption, this will ensure they can get to their intended destination as quickly and safely as possible. On recent services, the picture has been mixed and we are calling for consistency across all services. 

A new app from Transport for Wales 

Rail passengers in Wales have an upgraded journey planning tool available to them, in the shape of the new app from TfW launched earlier this month.  

The new app needs a new account to buy tickets, although any existing tickets on the old app will stay live for three months. Trying out the new app shows a few new items can be viewed in Welsh or English depending on language preference.  

You can also check for updates on service alterations and cancellations. There are better links to booking assisted travel, capacity checker and delay repay information too – all welcome enhancements. Tickets are now downloaded to a ‘wallet’, with a separate section for season tickets, and there are more payment options. 

We have given feedback on the new app to TfW. We suggested improving service update information and highlighted issues of users having difficulty with payment on different devices. We will continue to work with TfW to make sure that the new app simplifies and improves the journey experience for passengers. 

Scotland 

2021 was another difficult year because of Covid-19 but we were involved in positive discussions this month. These were with infrastructure, rail and bus operators that will see improved timetables and projects delivered. 

Network Rail has installed a footbridge over the East Coast Main Line as part of the new £20m Reston station development in the Scottish Borders. It is also carrying out preparatory work ahead of the construction of the new East Linton station. Trains will call at the village for the first time in more than half a century. 

 ScotRail passengers in the north east and Highlands will benefit from revised timetables, beginning this month. The key improvements include: 

  • more trains stopping at Kintore from Monday to Saturday 
  • extra services between Elgin and Inverness 
  • an additional return service between Inverness and Invergordon 
  • continued introduction of longer, five-coach, high speed trains (HSTs) which means an extra standard class passenger coach on Inter7City services. 

Stagecoach has revealed its new livery for the autonomous bus project, CAVForth. This project is in partnership with Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis, and Transport Scotland. It’s the next key milestone in a trial that will see full-sized autonomous buses on UK roads for the first time.  

The new service will be made up of four single-decker buses. These will run along a 14-mile route, including crossing the iconic Forth Road Bridge. It will provide capacity for up to 10,000 passengers a week, connecting Fife’s Ferrytoll Park & Ride with Edinburgh Park’s transport hub. Look out for them in 2022. 

London 

Things have gone to the wire and beyond for TfL in its negotiations with the Government to find a funding settlement. There was a risk of significant cuts to public transport services across the capital if a deal could not be reached. However, last weekend TfL was granted an extension until 17 December, so it’s looking more hopeful that a deal may be reached. 

Last week London TravelWatch launched its #FreeTheBus video which was a collaboration with Zen School of Motoring creator, Ogmios. It’s a fun little video but does highlight a number of real-world problems that buses face daily, trying to navigate the city.  

You can watch the two-minute version on London TravelWatch’s Twitter page here or the full five-minute version on its YouTube channel. 

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