Friday, August 25, 2006

Trains, commuting and time

This is after all supposed to partly be a Brentwood Blog, and I was left thinking tonight on the train to Shenfield about local complaints about the train service. David Kendall, of the local Liberal Democrat organisation, has organised a transport forum to discuss transport issues within the town. If I recall correctly, the forum recently called for fast trains to stop at Brentwood.

On the face of it, this is not an unreasonable proposal. On closer thought I'm not so convinced it is there. When I first moved to Brentwood, I lived in Warley and took the train from Brentwood to Southend every day. That job turned out not to be as good as it was labelled on the tin, so instead I found a job in the Docklands, and continued to commute from Brentwood, but this time via Stratford and the DLR. Not long after moving jobs, I moved house to Shenfield, where by moving three miles further away from London, I cut 15 minutes off my commute. However, I also added £40 a month to my season ticket. Shortly we'll be moving to Ingatestone, which means, if I have it right, that despite being five miles further out than when I lived in Warley, I'll still have an eight minute shorter commute. However, I'll now be dealing with two trains an hour, rather than every ten minutes from Brentwood.

However, I'm convinced there are two reasons for the infrequent service there. Firstly is the issue that according to the world's largest collection of facts, debate, rumour and rubbish the population of the village is 3400. Secondly, and more significantly in my opinion, it's on the main line between London and Chelmsford, with a large number of express trains on the line (during a driving lesson recently, I sat at the level crossing at Ingatestone and watched four trains pass before the line was sufficently clear to raise the gates, only for the gates to come down as soon as I'd crossed over). That line merges with the Southend and Southminster line at Shenfield, which means you've got even more traffic along the line I commute.

This leads to me conclude it's not feasible for fast trains to stop at Brentwood - when I did commute from Brentwood during rush hour, you could usually reckon on a train going by every two minutes on the fast tracks. A sum I once did calculated that for a train travelling at 100 km an hour, a stop would add three minutes to the journey. I can't remember the assumptions, which were probably wrong, and it was done in my head, which means the calculations could be wrong, but there is a point in that the deceleration and acceleration required to stop at a station does mean that a train takes longer to traverse that section of track, and that doesn't include the time to let the customers on.

In case I lost you there, my point is that I think having "fast trains" (by which I suspect would mean trains from Southend Victoria) stop at Brentwood as well as Shenfield is not operationally feasible during rush hour (I think the high level of traffic on the fast line is the reason only off peak fast trains sometimes stop at Romford).

There are two other points I think are worth making to the Brentwood commuter, as opposed to the Shenfield commuter:

1. There's rarely seating on the fast trains from Shenfield as it is - there simply isn't room for all the Brentwood commuters on the train as well. On the other hand, metro services are practically empty on arrival in Brentwood, so at least you get to sit down.
2. There's a mark up for travelling from Shenfield which probably includes the price of getting the fast train as opposed to the Metro service. And you've always got the option of buying the Shenfield ticket anyway, and then going to Shenfield on the slow train before double backing on a fast one. That's often quicker than going direct on the Metro.

1 comment:

Darling wife said...

Does this mean that by having to target specific trains, you'll be home earlier?