Saturday, 3 November 2012

UK Railtours Statement

John Farrow of UK Railtours has issued a statement about their dealings with DB Schenker and how they have been let down recently.

Here is the statement that has been issued by email

It is now three o’clock in the morning on Friday 2 November. I’ve not had much sleep lately so I may as well make a cup of tea and share a few things with you. It is, of course, all to do with the drivers’ issues that have dogged DB Schenker for months.

August and September saw DB Schenker crippled by industrial action involving the drivers’ union ASLEF. In October agreement was reached and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But we were in for a nasty surprise. It wasn’t the end and lots of DBS trains (not just charters) are still being cancelled at short notice because of non-availability of drivers. A lot of people are getting seriously fed up and are wondering what on earth is going on.
 

Literally thousands of customers have had their long-awaited days out ruined. But it’s more than that. There is a whole chain of people whose livelihoods depend upon charter trains. Tour companies like ourselves, Pathfinder and Steam Dreams have all had their businesses threatened, then there’s the rolling stock owners, the depot staff, the catering companies, the train cleaners, the train managers, the guards, the list goes on. Yet DBS simply buries its head in the sand, staggers from each crisis to the next and seems totally unable to communicate effectively with those who suffer the consequences of its actions.

WHAT WAS THE STRIKE ALL ABOUT?

I will try and keep this short and simple. There was a pay issue, but that was the easy bit and it was quickly resolved. More fundamentally, DBS had failed to listen to the voice of the most important people in its production line, namely its drivers. Long-standing rostering issues had been left unresolved, not just for months but for years. The rosters had not reflected changes in traffic patterns and had become totally out of date and unworkable. Drivers tell me they were being phoned up at all hours of the day and night to come and rescue DBS from the consequences of its own poor management. The guys could not plan their private lives, and all in all they had just about had enough. They were not being awkward. Something had to go bang. And it did, big time!  

Suffice to say that, in my opinion, ASLEF had a fair point and DBS management was found badly wanting. The effects shook the company from head to foot. But did any heads roll? We don’t know, but they certainly should have done.

WHY ARE THE CREWING PROBLEMS CONTINUING?

Again it’s complex but in simple terms it’s because the rather strange settlement reached with ASLEF, basically to do with drivers working their rest days, cannot yet be made to work properly.  Network Rail (the biggest customer of DBS) has now gone ballistic because of DBS’s failures to operate a very large number of engineers’ trains that are necessary for the current upgrade of the network. It is a fair guess that the government has stuck its finger in too, because the massive programme of renewals is being paid for by taxpayers like you and me and if it’s not happening we all have a right to know why.

BUT IS THE ORIENT EXPRESS STILL RUNNING? 

That’s the question you’re not meant to ask. We have no axe to grind with VSOE. They are a highly reputable business and have every right to try to protect their operations. But we do take issue with DBS. It is morally wrong that charters with a price tag of £300+ are all running as normal while those conveying you and me are being cancelled. Personally I would have expected ASLEF to take a view on this too. It is not acceptable.  

DBS AT ITS BEST

There is no doubt that DB Schenker can run charters brilliantly when it wants to. In the recent past we have gone for months on end, even years, without any performance issues worthy of note, which is how it should be of course. Whether it’s a circular tour over the Settle & Carlisle or a Forgotten Tracks tour to Ferrybridge, Fiddlers Ferry or Boulby, they can do it, and do it really well.

DBS AT ITS WORST

We would normally not hang out dirty washing in public, but the performance of DBS last Friday was nothing short of shameful. Loco 67025 was turned out in a state that was not only defective but probably dangerous, and DBS’s obsessive refusal to let a perfectly serviceable 67021 bring the train back from Holyhead single handed in case it picked up a few minutes delay costs resulted in an arrival back after 01.00. To be fair, DBS provided free taxis home from Euston for those that needed them, but the whole thing should never have happened and our claim for compensation has not been properly addressed. Tragically for one very long-standing customer it was all too much. He never made it home and never will.

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

We are in the process of moving business away from DB Schenker to other operators.  This process could be partly halted by the immediate intervention of Nigel Smith, Managing Director of DB Schenker Construction, which is the business sector responsible for its passenger train operations. He returns from holiday on Monday. We will be asking him for an end to cancellations with immediate effect and an apology on behalf of DBS. I have known Nigel for many years and he is certainly a ‘no nonsense’ bloke who makes things happen. Let’s see.

KEEPING YOU INFORMED

There will be further newsletters in the next few days as things unfold. No doubt the contents of this one will be well reported on all manner of websites and in the railway press and we have no problem with that. The time for keeping quiet and hoping this will all get better on its own has passed.

TRAIN BY TRAIN

Here is a summary of our intentions for all remaining tours from now until year end. We do not have any more information yet, so PLEASE do not call our office with enquiries as we are snowed under with the task of processing, changing and cancelling bookings. We will not be able to tell you anything more for the moment.    


THE AMMAN VALLEY RANGER - SATURDAY 3 NOVEMBER

We were given just three days’ notice by DB Schenker that this train would be cancelled. That in itself is lousy service. Nevertheless we believe that all booked passengers have now been informed, a great tribute to Liz, Holly and Roger in our office. Well done!

We had intended to refund everybody straight away, but so many people have asked us to re-date the trip that we are going to try.

There are issues to address. Firstly it will require a new derogation by the Office of the Rail Regulator, due to unique operating features of the Gwaun-cae-Gurwen branch which we won’t go into here. Secondly the trip is too long for the very short days of midwinter. Thirdly the tour becomes impossible from Easter onwards because of Reading remodelling which will prevent any extra trains (not just charters) passing through or stopping there for two whole years.

If you are happy to wait a few days until we know more about a new date then take no action. If you would like a refund to your card then email us and this will be done. Please do not telephone - thank you.

THE WORTH VALLEY WANDERER – SATURDAY 3 NOVEMBER

This is a charity trip operated by East Midlands Trains with ourselves acting as ticketing agents. It is totally unaffected by the DBS crisis. However it is fully booked so please do not turn up on chance.

THE PENNINE PANORAMA - SATURDAY 10 NOVEMBER

This is now our most immediate concern. We are presently working with DBS and one other operator to find a joint solution that will enable this trip to go ahead. This is a new approach to the ongoing problem and we will know more early next week. Tickets have not yet been posted. We remain hopeful that a solution will be found. This site will be updated as more information becomes available. We thank you for your understanding. Please do not telephone - thank you.

THE ST NICHOLAS FAYRE IN YORK – SATURDAY 1 DECEMBER
THE LINCOLN CHRISTMAS MARKET – SATURDAY 8 DECEMBER


These two trips are operated by East Midlands Trains and are totally unaffected by the DBS crisis. Standard Class seats are still available on both but First Class Dining is fully booked.

THE SHORT-HAIRED BUMBLEBEE – SATURDAY 15 DECEMBER
CAROLS AT BEVERLEY MINSTER – SATURDAY 22 DECEMBER
THE SOLENT WITNESS – FRIDAY 28 DECEMBER


Arrangements are well in hand to transfer all three trips to alternative train operators. DB Schenker could possibly still partly stop this happening by giving us an immediate written guarantee regarding traincrew provision.         

If you know a customer who is not online and you would like to convey the contents of this newsletter to him or her, that would be very kind. Thank you for reading this newsletter and for your understanding. Another will follow as soon as we have something more to tell you.

That will not be very long.


http://www.ukrailtours.com/index.asp 

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