The Future of Camberley’s Rail Service

Back in November, a consultation was published by Network Rail which “sets out the strategic vision for the future of this vital part of the rail network over the next 30 years”. Formally, this is called “Wessex Route Study Draft for Consultation”.

Wessex route study

The train line through Camberley is part of Windsor Lines, within the Wessex Route

Windsor lines

The document is not really suitable for – or intended for – public consultation. But views from ‘anyone’ are invited. As we’ve not seen any commentary on the document, and the deadline for responses is mid February, here’s an attempt at producing one.

Firstly, the two issues of most relevance to Camberley (and Bagshot, and Frimley). Both relate to peak hour passenger services (the study also considers off-peak services, freight and other issues.)

Issue 1. Work is in hand to increase train lengths in our area to 10 carriages during the period 2014 to 2019.   One extra peak time train service via Richmond, and two via Hounslow, are planned to be introduced by 2019. The increase in Hounslow capacity is reckoned to be sufficient until at least 2043, although further work would be needed on the Richmond line to meet anticipated demand at that date.

Issue 2. There are serious capacity constraints on the main line – ie the Farnborough line –  and this could remain the case for the best part of a decade.  This, we presume, will affect the chance of any future connection from Camberley. Quote: “most services are loaded in excess of planning capacity, and standing is commonplace from Woking and Basingstoke. Passengers are also standing from as far away as Southampton”

Why do we say this?

Issue 1. an extract from the study: “The Route Study’s assessment is that the extra capacity already planned for CP5 will be sufficient to accommodate the anticipated demand for Windsor Line services in 2024 (via both Hounslow and Richmond). As a result, conditional output CO4 will be met …. Over the longer term, the Route Study’s assessment is that the extra capacity already planned for CP5 via Hounslow will be sufficient to accommodate the anticipated demand for services using this route by 2043. As a result, conditional output CO1 will be met for the route via Hounslow ….. On the route via Richmond, a capacity shortfall equivalent to 24 passenger vehicle arrivals into London Waterloo in the high peak hour is anticipated by 2043. Whilst it is not possible to directly provide extra capacity via Richmond within the end-CP5 capability of the network due to level crossings and other route capacity constraints, an opportunity exists to ease crowding on this route by introducing new services using spare train paths which are available via Hounslow (see Option 1). This option takes the total number of Windsor Line services operating into London Waterloo during the high peak hour to 20 trains per hour, the maximum possible within the end-CP5 capability of the network. Whilst Option 1 reduces the 2043 capacity shortfall via Richmond, a gap remains and as a result conditional output CO1 cannot be fully met for this route without further investment in the network.”

Notes

– CP5 is the period 2014 – 2019

– CO1 is “To provide sufficient capacity for passengers travelling into central London during peak hours, taking into account anticipated growth over the period to 2043.”

– CO4 is “to provide sufficient capacity for passengers travelling into central London during peak hours, taking into account anticipated growth to the end of Control Period 6 (2024) – Windsor Line services”

– Option 1 is “Utilising spare network capacity on the route via Hounslow to ease the level of crowding on the route via Richmond”

Issue 2. a second extract from the study: “Over the longer term, the Route Study’s assessment is that a capacity shortfall equivalent to over 150 passenger vehicle arrivals into London Waterloo in the high peak hour is anticipated by 2043 on Main Line long distance services. 72 of these passenger vehicle arrivals are required by 2024, some of which are needed to meet an existing shortfall in capacity. Both of these figures assume that any extra capacity will be provided by 20 metre passenger vehicles, configured with 3 + 2 seating in standard accommodation. If the extra capacity was to be provided in a 2 + 2 seating configuration, this would further increase the number of passenger vehicles required by approximately 20 per cent. Three ‘making best use’ options have been identified to increase capacity within the end-CP5 capability of the network (Options 2, 3 and 4, assessed below). Two of these (Options 3 and 4) involve making informed trade-offs against other rail outputs.  In combination, these three options do not provide sufficient capacity to meet the level of demand anticipated by 2024, and so chapter 6 of the Wessex Route Study identifies further investment-led options to meet the end-CP6 capacity requirement.”

Notes

– Option 2 is “Lengthen existing Main Line long distance services in the high peak”

– Option 3 is “Further deployment of three plus two seating in standard accommodation on Main Line long distance services”

– Option 4 is “Operate up to two additional Main Line long distance trains in the high peak hour”

– end-CP6 is 2024

———–

Some more information about the study.

The study is a major and authoritative piece of work, extending to 150 pages. Quote:

“A three tier structure for rail industry and wider stakeholder dialogue has been established to oversee and help produce this Wessex Route Study Draft for Consultation. First, a Programme Board, chaired by the Alliance Managing Director for Wessex with senior level representation from passenger and freight train operating companies, Rail Delivery Group, TfL, DfT and the ORR provides high level review and a forum to resolve any significant issues which the Working Group wish to remit to the board for decision. Second, a Working Group, chaired by Network Rail has a mandate to discuss the study on behalf of the rail industry with other stakeholders and a review of the ongoing work to develop them. The Working Group is where stakeholders meet to determine how the conditional outputs from the Market Studies can be accommodated, including identification of service specifications and options with the aim of developing choices to funders for Control Period 6 and for 2043 through publication of a Route Study Draft for Consultation and Final Study. The working group comprises representatives from the current Train Operating Companies (both passenger and freight) who operate on the route, Rail Delivery Group, Department for Transport, Transport for London, Network Rail, and the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) as an observer. Thirdly, a Regional Working group, convened and chaired by Network Rail, provides location specific oversight as well as an opportunity to collaborate in the production of the Route Study with the rail industry. The Regional group membership comprises Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Department for Transport, Airports and Freight stakeholders on the route. Network Rail has managed the development of the work through an internal ‘Technical Working Group’ to deliver the information necessary to support the deliberations of the Working Group. Where industry input has been required, this has been augmented by attendance or discussions with rail industry stakeholders.

…the Cross Boundary Working Group has provided significant input to the work to set out the Cross Boundary passenger and freight assumptions for the study to use. Additionally, a number of one to one meetings with stakeholders have been held to shape the proposals contained within this Wessex Route Study Draft for Consultation.”  

The end result is a document that is full of detail, albeit sometimes turgidly written. It appears to be based on a substantial amount of analysis and data, and this means that it is impossible to check its conclusions and findings without a great deal of further investigation. However, apart from natural caution, there is no obvious reason to suspect that its conclusions are wrong.

What is very apparent is that any urging by the public to improve the Camberley train service beyond that set out in the document would be unlikely to make much impact unless it were based on a similar degree of analysis and data. It would have to take account not only of local circumstances, but of the operation of, and constraints on, the rail network as a whole. This would be a challenge. Not an insurmountable challenge, but not something to be taken lightly.

Should you respond to the consultation?

As the report is almost certainly based on a summary of extensive data and analysis, it is difficult for a ‘lay’ reader to make any informed response. But our recommendation is, nevertheless, that readers should respond to the consultation, highlighting the inadequacy of Camberley’s train service and emphasising that all possible measures should be taken to provide a faster link to London.

It’s a moot point whether to comment on the dilapidated state of the trains and the station.  The implication is that such matters are outside the scope of the study.  On the other hand….

Responses should be submitted to WessexRouteStudy@networkrail.co.uk by 17th February at the latest(The study website says 18th Feb, but the document itself says 17th.)

——-

As an Aside

The Surrey Rail Strategy Report – released a little more than a year before the Network Rail study – looks at options for improving Camberley’s rail service.  It accepts that there is no short-term solution to linking with the main line in some way, but that modified services through Ash Vale might be a better prospect.  However, it ends with what seems to be a less-than-optimistic suggestion:  “If none of the above rail solutions come to fruition, we would recommend further improvements to the BUS [our emphasis] services between Camberley, Frimley and Bagshot and key stations on the South West Main Line”.  Has the county council given up the fight?
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16 thoughts on “The Future of Camberley’s Rail Service

  1. I think we all know that there is fundamentally no intention of ‘improving’ the train service on the Camberley line.
    They have already replaced the modern rolling stock with ancient clapped out cheappo South London commuter carriages that a) squeeze people in like sardines, b) have no air conditioning and c) no longer have any loos on the trains. That clearly shows that South West Trains care not a jot for Camberley Line users. They cant even be bothered to paint the rolling stock with SWT logos and branding.
    Its all very well to have these wishy washy plans to 2043 with all these ‘improvements’ but the fact of the matter is that the current service has been seriously downgraded over the last couple of years. The prices keep increasing and the service quality reduces all the time.
    The local bus service is not so bad – until you consider the price of it. If there are two or more of you, it is actually cheaper to take your car and park at Farnborough or to take a taxi than it is to use the bus service. Thats what happens when you allow a 100% mercenary commercial company to milk the local population for every single penny they can squeeze out of them.
    Maybe the council should address some of these immediate issues and encourage people to use current services before they start thinking 30 years ahead and talking about things that will never happen or be so diluted, stalled or shelved by successive government strategies / councils that effectively they will never happen.
    I’ll probably be dead before I see any improvements to public transport the way things are going! I’m sticking to my car for the moment and sadly I dont see that changing much for a long while.

    • Of course, the study is by Network Rail, whereas the rolling stock we have to use is provided by South West Trains. But I tend to agree with you; there’s not much reason to expect any radical improvement.

  2. I winder where reinstatement of the “Sturt link” fits into this, the piece of track which, if reinstated, could result in considerably faster services to London from the Camberley line?

    This would seem to me to be the best way of dragging Camberley back into the 19th Century in terms of rail speeds…ie faster than they are now.

    • Louise, if I interpret the study correctly, reopening the Sturt link isn’t a viable option for quite a few years. It would, indeed, enable Camberley trains to join the main line into/from London, but the study points out that the main line is unable to cope with the existing demands on it. You’ll find a quote or two to this effect in the article that I wrote.

  3. There’s nothing in issue 2 about Camberley because there is already capacity for 2 direct trains per hour by 2019. See option 5 for the full use of the 2019 capacity on the Windsor lines. It includes..

    2 tph to Aldershot (only calling at Vauxhall, Clapham Junction, Richmond, Twickenham, Feltham, Staines, Egham, Virginia Water, Sunningdale, Ascot, then all stations to Aldershot)

      • Matt, both your comments have been deleted. (Correction, one has now [re?]-appeared) Did you do that? – I hope it wasn’t me, though I have been known to hit the wrong bit of a touch screen. Let me know…

  4. I caught a couple of commuter train in Germany earlier this week. I could see absolutely no difference at all compared to Camberley trains except in trivial matters such as price, speed, punctuality, cleanliness and frequency.

  5. Five years ago, the service from Camberley to Waterloo was faster than it is now. They then rewrote the timetable to make the planned journey times longer and hey presto they started meeting their “punctuality targets” and avoided financial penalties.

    I now use my car whenever I go to London, or park and go from Farnborough. I shan’t be going by train from Camberley to London again until they get back to even the dreadful standards they had five years ago. I suspect there are many who think the same way.

    They can burble on about improving Camberley all they like. Until there is a decent train service, it will remain a backwater.

    • The trains need to stand at Camberley station for 5 minutes and Aldershot for 10 minutes because otherwise they get tired, especially the old green ones.
      What is particularly farcical about that particular situation is when the train leaves Ascot on time (to avoid the aforementioned penalties) even when the train from Waterloo is running late. I’ve been on trains arriving at Ascot just in time to see the Camberley train pulling out…

  6. This is all beyond me but being of a certain age…drive to Windsor Park and Ride(LEGOLAND)catch the 702…free! and play with iphone/ ipad.. and eat a sandwich on the way and get off in London …Albert Hall…Olympia,..Science, Museum etc …Buckingham Palace…door to door and forget about the tubes because there are also red buses for free…Its tough getting old!

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