Although I searched First Capital Connect, WAGN came up so I guess this review is kind of for both. WAGN being the previous company to have the franchise and it has now gone across to FCC. If I am being honest I have noticed a much improved service with FCC compared to WAGN, as I use the train Monday to Friday I get a good chance to experience their service. I remember in the WAGN days that they didn't have enough drivers to operate the trains and the delays were horrendous, since FCC have taken over the delays are down a lot, usually being when their has been a fatality. One my main complaints is that the price continues to increase every year and usually by a large percentage. Overall though the service is a lot better than before and if there is a delay the delay repay system on their website is easy to use.
WAGN is part of the National Rail Network across the UK, the acronym standing for “West Anglia and Great Northern” Railways. For over a year now, I have been a daily commuter on their King’s Lynn – Cambridge – London King’s Cross line. I live in the town of Downham Market in Norfolk and work in a school in King’s Lynn. As we are trying to be an environmentally friendly family, we only run one car, so I cycle to and from the stations at either end. I catch the 07:33 train in a morning, departing from Downham station and arriving at 07:48 in King’s Lynn, passing through the village of Watlington on the way. However, at least that’s what it says in the timetable. Of course, the trains usually do run on time, in an ideal world. However, as we have unfortunately had to find out, the trains are not the most reliable form of transport. I have had to endure all sorts of delays and cancellations on this line, which is very inconvenient to me. I thought that dooyoo readers may wish to read copies of the last two letters which I sent to WAGN recently, to get a rough background to the problems on this line: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Dear Sir / Madam, The start of a new year, the start of a new term, and until today, a very reliable train service from Downham Market to Kings Lynn. It has made a world of difference, actually being able to get to work and return home exactly on time for 6 days. In fact, I was just about to send WAGN a “Congratulations” card. However, just as us regulars were getting excited on Platform 2 of Downham station this morning, we were unfortunately let down once again. Rob (the station master) informed us that the 0733 was cancelled and the 0803 was running approximately 20 minutes late. There was no explanation given as to why the trains were cancelled or late. Therefore, the estimated time of arrival into King’s Ly nn would be around 0845. This is absolutely no good for me, as I have stated before, I am a school teacher. Getting to school before the pupils arrive does actually help, which is why I always set off in plenty of time. Once again, I had to cycle home and get my wife to drive me into King’s Lynn. As she needed the car for the afternoon, I then had to walk from my place of work to the station at the end of the day, and walk from the station to home. (as the bike doesn’t fit in the car!), which was a great inconvenience to me. Not only did I have to pay out for petrol to get me from Downham Market to King’s Lynn, I then also had to pay for a single fare from King’s Lynn to Downham (at a cost of £3.20 – only 30p cheaper than a return.) I hope this is not a sign of things to come, I read on Teletext this week that during the month of December, only 43% of trains ran on time on WAGN railways. My colleagues and I think that 43% is quite a high estimation! Finally, I am enclosing the previous two letters I have written to WAGN railways, of which I am still awaiting a reply to the one dated 23rd November 2001. Perhaps you have been inundated with complaints, so I look forward to receiving a reply – eventually. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Prior to this, I sent this letter: Dear Sir / Madam, Thank you for your recent reply regarding my complaint about the service between Downham Market and King’s Lynn on the 29th September 2001, and your £4 in vouchers. Unfortunately, I am writing to you once again to inform you of the appalling service I have experienced this week on WAGN railways, between Downham and King’s Lynn, and wish to share my nightmare diary with you: Monday 19th November 2001 I usually catch the 0733 from Downham Market to King’s Lynn, arriving at the station in good time each morning. This particular morning, I purc hased my ticket from the automatic ticket machine and noticed that, unusually, the train was already in the station. A colleague and myself boarded the train and noticed that there were more people than normal on the train – we presumed that a previous one had been cancelled. Imagine our surprise when without warning, the train suddenly went backwards! – not in the direction of King’s Lynn as it does every other morning! A moment later, a message came across the tannoy informing us that this was the London King’s Cross train. We then got off the train at the next stop, Littleport, and had to run across the track to catch the train setting off in the correct direction towards King’s Lynn. It was not until we arrived back in Downham Market (half an hour after we originally set off) that an announcement was made informing us that there were no trains to King’s Lynn this morning due to an over-head power failure. Shame no-one had told us that half-an hour ago! We were then told to wait for a bus which would take us to King’s Lynn. We waited for a while, along with many other people, but no bus came, so I decided to give up and walk back home. I guessed that I probably would not have been able to take my bike on board the bus with me anyway, one luxury I do actually have with catching WAGN trains. I therefore had to borrow my wife’s car, drop her off at work, drop my daughter off at the childminder’s and make my way to King’s Lynn by road. I arrived in King’s Lynn at 0850 – far too late as I am a primary school teacher and need to arrive in good time to be prepared for the children – particularly Monday mornings! Tuesday 20th November I decided not to risk it by rail today after yesterday’s disaster, so I borrowed my wife’s car again to make the journey to King’s Lynn. Wednesday 21st November Congratulations, WAGN, the train was exactly on time today! However, I was left seething this time by the rudeness of your staff. This morning, I decided to queue up in the long queue and purchase my ticket from Rob, rather than your automated ticket machine. The customer before me in the queue, like myself, wanted to pay her fare with a £10 note. Rob informed us both that he had no change left (only very small amounts of money: 10p’s or 20p’s) and was unable to change our notes. He therefore told us to either try the machine, or to buy one on the train from the ticket collector. We tried putting our notes into the machine, but as usual, the machine wouldn’t take them. By now, the barriers had come down and the train was approaching the station. The red light on the “permit to travel” machine was also lit, so we were unable to obtain one of these. We therefore boarded the train to King’s Lynn with instructions from Rob to buy the ticket on board. When the ticket collector (a lady) came to check my ticket, she addressed me with a very rude tone of voice. I asked to buy a return ticket to King’s Lynn, to which she snappily replied “And may I ask WHY you didn’t get one from Downham?” I replied with Rob’s excuse of having no change, and the faulty machines on the platform. She looked at me as though I was telling a pack of lies and doubted Rob’s lack of change and advice very sternly. Through factors which were no fault of mine (I had actually now attempted to buy a ticket no less than three times, from three different sources!), I was made to feel like a lying schoolboy by one of your staff! I accept that there are indeed fare dodgers on this line, but for a (previously) loyal customer to be treated like this, I find very distressing. Thursday, 22nd November Thought yesterday was too good to be true – the 0733 was 12 minutes late today, due to engineering problems in Londo n. I had to get a colleague to pick me up from King’s Lynn station otherwise I would have been late again. Friday, 23rd November Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse! This time, I purchased my ticket from the machine (using the exact coinage). After waiting 10 minutes, Rob announced that the 0733 service was cancelled and to await further announcements, due to a broken down diesel train somewhere-or-other! I’m afraid, for me, this was the last straw! I walked home once again and had to borrow my wife’s car once again. This was very inconvenient as she had made a prior arrangement in Swaffham, which she had to cancel. Therefore, I again arrived to work late, and had to incur the costs of petrol as well as the rail ticket for the second day this week. It seems that on this line there is an on-going catalogue of disasters, with WAGN coming up with more excuses than a naughty schoolboy for not doing his homework. Late trains, cancelled trains, broken down trains, faulty machines, no change and rude staff do not exactly bode well for encouraging people to use public transport. As a colleague of mine stated, it seems as though the London trains usually run to time this early in the morning, and we locals have to suffer. Does this mean that our jobs or indeed journeys are less important than our commuter friends who travel to Cambridge and London on a daily basis rather than short, local journeys? I fail to comprehend that so many problems can arise on such a short distance of track and find these excuses totally unacceptable for such recent poor service and inconvenience. I look forward to receiving a reply and an offer of compensation. I request that you do not bother sending me WAGN vouchers this time as I doubt I will use WAGN very regularly in future if this is the appalling service we are going to have to put up with. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Now, dooyooer s, I have not yet received a reply to either of these letters – which I also find very disappointing! If you also wish to complain about the rail service on WAGN railways, then I suggest you take my advice and write to: WAGN Customer Relations Manager Station Road Cambridge CB1 2JW Or e-mail: Email@wagnrail.co.uk After reading this review, you may think that my opinions are a little one-sided! OK, there are some positives: 1. At least I can take my bike on the train without any fuss – on some networks you have to pay or are simply not allowed. 2. I am always guaranteed a good seat as so many people have been put off using the train! 3. The café at King’s Lynn station does bacon butties to die for! 4. The trains do actually run on time – sometimes!
I am not sure how much of this is just a problem with WAGN but I am aware that many other operators suffer from similar and worse problems. As a commuter over the last five years or so, I have had to endure my fair share of troubles on this line. Broken rails, well the impact form the Hatfield crash is still going on adding delays to journeys over six months after the accident. There was an occasion some six months before the crash when I was delayed three hours because there was a broken rail, there apparently was a one foot gap in the track right in front of the train. The problems were there before and the train companies were also aware of problems long before a fatal accident. Information, if there is one thing that annoys me more than bad service, is when you are experiencing bad service and you cannot find out how anything about it and how long it is going to affect you for. WAGN are terrible about letting you know how long things are going to take. Poor excuses, I just wish they would stop moaning and blaming other parties - governments, vandals, railtrack, their customers. I would rather hear an honest answer and an honest timeframe. They seem to be too busy working to a 20 year plan that they are too busy to tell us what is really going on and what we are going to see on a frequent basis that makes out lives better. Customer service, They are terrible at responding to the complaints and also responding in a suitable time frame. This is an unacceptable, when circumstances get serious enough for people to want to complain then complaints are ony official if they are received in writing (phone complaints do not count!), plus they take well over a month to process the complaints. They would not let me travel for a month free on the trains without paying! I have lost all tolerance with them and now automatically fire off a complaint and a request for compensation whenever it is appropriate. I may not be a sa tisfied customer but at least I can be a customer who is getting a proportion of his train far back. The list of complaints can go on and on, overcrowding, dirty trains, slow trains, infrequent trains, no trains during the night (so much for 24 hour society). Unmanned ticket offices, mercenary ticket inspectors desperate for their cut of a penalty fare. Several of these complaints should be aimed at Railtrack, but WAGN should not stand idly by and let them take the mickey with our services.
WAGN railway have a really good offer which we have used quite a few times over the past year. We can travel to London for only £16.00 (thats for one adult and one child) and not only does it cover the train fare but also includes travel over most of London by underground or bus all in with the price. Trains run very frequently and take less than an hour on many of the journeys although some can take a little longer if you get one that has extra stops. For each adult that travels at a cost of £15 you can take up to four children for only £1 per child. Each time we have used WAGN the trains have always been on time, and we have always been lucky enough to get good seats. We actually travel from Peterborough to London which is just over 80 miles, and as far as I am aware the service is available from other main stations.