The rail – Scilly connection that doesn’t!

Lord Berkeley

From Lord Berkeley

Open letter to:

Robert Goldsmith, Chief Executive, IOS Steamship Company

Mark Hopwood, CEO First Great Western

Andy Cooper, CEO Cross Country Trains

Cllr Chris Thomas, Isles of Scilly Council

Cllr Bert Biscoe, Cornwall Council

Chris Pomfret, Chairman, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP

Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail

22 February 2015




Where is joined up customer service in transport to Scilly?

Getting to the Isles of Scilly can be a nightmare. The flights from Lands End are becoming more reliable now that the runway is surfaced, but there are still delays due to fog and winds and, in the winter, no ferry.  Improvements at St Mary’s harbour currently under way will improve the passenger experience there.

In the summer, the Scillonian provides a daily service from Penzance and a bit cheaper than flying.  Whatever service is chosen, the operators and Councils that need to support the business and tourist industries emphasise the importance of customer service, as does First Great Western and Cross Country trains which serve Penzance.

However, the fine words don’t get translated into action when it comes to linking the timetables of the Scillonian with the trains.

Taken from next summer’s timetable, there are examples of trains from Paddington arrives just a few minutes before the Scillonian departs.  One is the sleeper from London on a Monday which arrives PZ at 0859, with the Scillonian leaving at 0915.  The other is on two Saturdays in May and perhaps other dates when the Scillonian does two round trips in the day; the second one leaves at 1330 when the first train from London arrives at 1320.

The Monday sleeper issue remain bizarre; the FGW timetable offers an alternative if you want to get to PZ to catch the Scillonian; get off the sleeper at Plymouth at 0535 and join the Cross Country train that leaves at 0600 arriving PZ at 0752, plenty of time to walk or taxi to the Scillonian which leaves at 0915.  The sleeper leaves Plymouth at 0628.

So why does the sleeper sit for nearly an hour at Plymouth on Monday mornings?  FGW says it is because on that night Network Rail have a possession to maintain the track.  But, if a Cross country train can run, why not a FGW one?  Why not swap them round?  Cross Country say they are willing, but FGW – all too difficult!

If you are on a sleeper, it is to sleep and get a nice breakfast served in your berth or in the buffet and wake up at a reasonable hour.   Getting up at 0530 to change trains, and then find that there are no refreshments whatsoever on Cross Country trains in Cornwall is not really so attractive.

These two examples sadly demonstrate that, for all the talk of customer service, from the train operators, from the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, and from the two local authorities, Isles of Scilly Council and Cornwall Council and other stakeholders, it is not really a priority.  One has to ask – do they actually want more visitors and more residents having good transport connections and, if so, what are they doing about it?  Are they even talking with each other?

Two simple timetable changes, to the Scillonian or the train, would get quite a few happier customers!

I hope that you will be able to do so for this coming summer.

Tony Berkeley

1 comment for “The rail – Scilly connection that doesn’t!

  1. MilesJSD
    24/02/2015 at 5:46 pm

    I use trains, aeroplane,s and ships/ferries very seldom –
    but when I do, there is often this coordination ‘failure’ or mismatch.

    Even the rail link StErth to StIves has been mismatched with the main-line to and fro trains.

    Some bus-services do not coordinate with each other, either.

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