Comments on operation of the new timetable from 20th May 2018

These are the comments that SMART sent to the Kirklees councillors on WYCA’s Transport Committee, in advance of their meeting on 6th July.

Comments on operation of the new timetable from 20th May 2018 – Slaithwaite & Marsden Action on Rail Transport

We are now six weeks into the new timetable, and whilst it may have stabilised elsewhere on the network with the introduction of the emergency timetable, at stations between Huddersfield and Stalybridge the service is every bit as bad as it was on day one.

Some of this narrative repeats our comments from the first week of the new timetable. Nothing has changed.

We have seen no improvement. There has been only one single weekday, Wednesday 20th June, when there have been no cancellations affecting trains at Slaithwaite.

Whilst Arriva Northern have rightly attracted criticism and attention for their poor performance, our service has been mostly provided by TPE, and passengers on this route cannot understand how TPE has escaped the same level of criticism.

We are served by three services – a TPE service between Hull and Stalybridge which calls at Slaithwaite and Mossley, a TPE service between Leeds and Manchester which serves Marsden and Greenfield, and an Arriva Northern service between Huddersfield and Manchester which serves some of Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Mossley at weekday peak times on a variable stopping pattern.

The first of these we have described as a Hull to Stalybridge service. According to the timetable, this is supposed to run through to Manchester Piccadilly. Often it does not. If it is not cancelled, part-cancelled or terminated short, then it is usually late. We were told that we would benefit from faster journeys into Leeds and Manchester, one of the few improvements in the new timetable pattern. Because the trains are habitually delayed, the faster journeys have not occurred.

We were also told, in a letter from TPE Managing Director Leo Goodwin to GM Mayor Andy Burnham dated 5th February, that passengers would benefit from through services to Manchester and Leeds. It seemed odd that Mr Goodwin should be unaware that we have had regular through services to Manchester ever since 1990. Now we have many fewer through services, because of TPEs propensity to terminate services at Stalybridge with no thought as to how passengers could complete their journey. Trying to get back from Manchester is even more of a lottery.

The second service, serving Greenfield and Marsden, appears to be slightly less unreliable, but still prone to cancellations and on more than one occasion with trains forgetting to stop at intermediate stations, carrying passengers unwillingly beyond their destination.

When Arriva Northern’s service is the least unreliable of the three, then it should be apparent that there is a significant problem.

The peak service between Slaithwaite/Marsden and Manchester (which contrary to common perception is our nearest large city, nearer than Leeds) was approximately halved in frequency in the May timetable change, with the previous six trains from Manchester to Slaithwaite in the evening peak being reduced to three. With cancellations this is often reduced to just two in a three hour evening peak period.

The service between Marsden/Slaithwaite and Leeds, whilst equally unreliable and subject to delays, is at least not affected by terminations short of the main destination station for passengers. Nevertheless, we should not be expected to lower our expectations and this is still unsatisfactory.

This is probably not the place to discuss in detail the inadequacies of the existing (pre and post timetable change) service, other than to point out that there are very few other stations on lines radiating from Leeds and Manchester which have so many passengers (circa 200,000pa or more at each station) but only an hourly service. Because the service is so infrequent, the impact on passengers of a cancellation is greater than on routes with a more frequent service. TPE have failed to take this into account when cancelling or part-cancelling our services.

When services are cancelled, TPE direct passengers to the next service an hour later, even if that also turns out to be cancelled. Sometimes there can be a chain of successive cancellations, where passengers are directed from one cancelled train to another to another. We can provide specific examples of this.

If TPE are giving a higher priority to minimising the delays on services which run four times an hour, where the inconvenience of a single cancellation is easy for passengers to work around, then their priorities are wrong and need to change.

Mr Goodwin’s letter of 5th February refers to improved reliability. This has also been referenced by TPEs managers in public meetings held in Marsden and Mossley prior to the timetable change. It was made clear that having almost all services on the route operated by TPE would make it easier to mitigate the impact of delays by putting stop orders at Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Mossley in other TPE trains. In six weeks of utter chaos, we have seen just four stop orders. When passengers have requested stop orders they have been refused. From this passengers have concluded that TPE do not care about the inconvenience caused to passengers at these stations. We have had no explanation from TPE management as to why the claims they made before the timetable change have proved to be false, and why they are unwilling to make any attempt to mitigate the disruption to passengers. In fact, we remain to be convinced that they even understand the question.

Given the scale of disruption affecting Marsden and Slaithwaite passengers since the timetable change, will TPE allow passengers between Marsden/Slaithwaite and Manchester to travel via Huddersfield at no extra charge until TPE is able to run a full service at these stations in accordance with the published timetable? This question was asked in week one, but remains unanswered. A simple yes will suffice.

Concerns continue to be expressed by Marsden passengers at the large gap (both distance and height) between train and platform edge on platform 2 at Marsden. Until the timetable change, this platform was not in regular use. What Station Operational Risk Assessments have been carried out for Marsden platform 2?  Again, this question was asked in week one and remains unanswered.

It is clear that there has been significant modal shift from trains to private cars. One of TPEs franchise objectives was modal shift in the opposite direction.

We also have issues with overcharging on fares between Marsden/Slaithwaite and Manchester where TPE have been charging the higher “via Huddersfield” fare rather than the direct fare. WYCAs Rail Technical Adviser has been provided with the details.

We have seen reference to compensation for passengers, with season ticket holders on Northern’s routes in the North West receiving 4 weeks’ compensation, and passengers on TPE routes or in Yorkshire only receiving 1 week’s compensation. Given the scale of continuing disruption on our route we believe that fairness dictates that passengers at Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Mossley should receive the maximum level of compensation (i.e. 4 weeks) and if the current chaos persists further compensation should be forthcoming. We understand that TfN has a major role in determining the level of compensation on different routes.

The impact on people’s working lives and family lives is significant, and it should not be seen as merely an abstract operational problem. It impacts on real people, whose interests need to be taken into account in a way that has not so far happened.

We have urged TPE to communicate with the passengers at the stations affected, to identify what TPE will do to provide a more reliable service, and what they will do to rebuild passenger trust and confidence in their service. Six weeks into the new timetable, it should not be for a rail users’ group to suggest to TPE a course of action which should have been obvious in week one.

The experience of the past six weeks means it is now difficult to have confidence in TPEs ability and commitment to provide a reliable service.

Passengers are now talking about what direct action they can take to force TPE to take seriously the need to provide an adequate service at these stations. We would much prefer that TPE resolved the situation before it gets to this point.


Posted in Marsden, METRO/WYCA, Slaithwaite, timetable changes, Transpennine | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

SHRUG meeting with TPE, 2nd July

This is what TPE are happy for us to share from our meeting with them on 2nd July.

We pass this on without comment, other than to observe that nowhere does the word “passenger” appear.

“I would like to thank you and your colleagues from SHRUG for the feedback provided at our meeting on Monday 2nd July. As we discussed, the introduction of the May 2018 timetable has seen considerable performance challenges that have resulted in a significant drop in performance delivery.”

“On our North TransPennine route between Manchester – Leeds and Hull, customers have faced disruption and delay from a range of external factors. To try to protect overall train service performance, we have unfortunately had to turn trains around at Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge, as a result of following other late running services, failure of the infrastructure and because there has been severe congestion at key stations such as Manchester Victoria, Manchester Oxford Road and Leeds, where platforms have at times been unavailable for our services. All of these issues have caused delays to services across all parts of the network and are the root causes of the delays and cancellations.”

“We have worked closely with Northern and Network Rail since the start of the timetable to highlight issues and press for action to improve network performance. Steps have already been taken by the industry and we are pleased to see a corresponding improvement in North route performance in the last couple of weeks, however we recognise that further improvement is needed. Further work is needed on the routes through Manchester (predominately the Castlefield corridor). Delays on that route in Manchester have an impact on delaying services on all our routes.”

“I would like to assure you and your members that we will continue to maintain our focus on improving train service performance in collaboration with Northern and Network Rail to ensure that all parts of the railway in the North receive reliable and punctual services.”

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Every Time You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse

We have now had six weeks of massive disruption.

Before the timetable change, Northern inflicted large scale disruption on passengers, with cancellations, bus replacements taking three times as long and even trains omitting our stops in order to make up time.

We thought TPE couldn’t possibly be any worse.

I’ll just repeat that to emphasise the point. We thought TPE couldn’t possibly be any worse.

Cancellations are now routine. Daily, trains for Manchester are terminated short at Stalybridge, dumping large numbers of passengers six miles short of their destination and left to hope that there will be onward travel. In the opposite direction, passengers from Manchester are unable to get to Stalybridge in time for onward travel to Marsden & Slaithwaite. Occasionally trains miss out or stops in order to make up time.

If it’s not cancelled, then it’s delayed. A fifteen minute delay is normal, a delay of only ten minutes now counts as a good news story.

Just when we had got used to the idea that cancellations and part cancellations would lead to two hour gaps in the service with occasional three hour gaps, TPE have managed (on 27th June) to extend that to a four hour gap between (approximately) 0915 and 1315 with no direct services between Slaithwaite and Manchester and the same in the return direction. And the same the following day, coming back from Manchester no direct trains between approximately 1830 and 2230. No explanation, no attempt at mitigation, passengers told to wait an hour for the next service even if it’s already known that that one’s cancelled, too.

Within that time period, TPE would have run 15 services between Huddersfield and Manchester, but weren’t willing to put a stop order on any one of those to enable passengers at Slaithwaite and Mossley to get to/from Manchester. Before the timetable change we were told stop orders could be made in those circumstances. We can think of no valid reason why they weren’t.

Other places on TPEs network are being affected, too. As described above, Hull to Manchester passengers get abandoned in Stalybridge. Scarborough’s hourly service often only makes it as far as Malton. Middlesbrough trains (also hourly) are often terminated short, too. Some of their trains to Newcastle get terminated short, but that’s of less significance because there are plenty of alternative trains between York and Newcastle.

The only bit they seem to be interested in is running fast trains at 15 minute intervals between Manchester, Leeds and York. If you’re not a passenger who wants to get from Manchester to Leeds or York in a hurry, then they’re just not interested in you.

It would be wrong to think TPE are failing, because that would be to imply that they are making an attempt to get things right.

So what’s the solution?

The fundamental problem is that to many trains are being squeezed on to a system which can’t cope, with pinch points at Manchester (several locations), between Stalybridge and Huddersfield, between Huddersfield and Leeds, and at Leeds station.

This is what happens when a silly obsession with running “six fast trains per hour” is pushed through without providing the necessary infrastructure. In the long term, capacity needs to be increased and the Transpennine Route Upgrade needs to deal with all the pinch points by reinstating all the cancelled or deferred schemes, additional track at key locations, full electrification, sufficient to cope with existing traffic and future growth. Over to you, Secretary of State.

In the short term, something needs to be done to make operations more resilient, with the focus firmly on minimising the scale of disruption to passengers. Remember them?

In order to do this, TPE needs to stop prioritising its long distance passengers over all the others. If, as with Northern, this requires an emergency timetable with some of the expresses removed (and the rolling stock released being used to lengthen the remaining expresses), then that is what should be done. Likewise, if putting stop orders in expresses is necessary in order to ensure passengers at places like Mossley and Slaithwaite retain a roughly hourly service throughout the day, then that too should be done.

TPE’s management also needs to apologise and acknowledge the extent of their failure, because until you acknowledge a problem you can’t begin to put it right. They also need to explain what they propose to do to put it right, and what they will do to regain the trust and confidence of passengers. Up to now they have been completely silent, maybe hoping that if they keep quiet none of the passengers will notice.

Posted in Slaithwaite, timetable changes, Transpennine | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Apparently It’s OK To Overcharge

Mark Wylo‎ to TransPennine Express Trains

20 June at 22:34 ·

Can you explain why the TPE website has issues with the season ticket fares to Slaithwaite? The only two options shown for a 7 day season ticket are £53 and £56.40. Yet the National Rail website shows a £50.80 direct fare, as well as noting that the £53 fare is via Hebden Bridge. How can TPE not have managed to get the fares right a month into the new timetable?

TransPennine Express Trains Hi Mark, where are you travelling from? ^LH

Mark Wylo Sorry, Manchester Piccadilly direct to Slaithwaite. It is a bit strange that there doesn’t seem to be the cheapest fare available on your own website don’t you think?

Mark Wylo I would appreciate a reply at some stage…

Mark Wylo Still waiting for a reply Transpennine!

TransPennine Express Trains Mark Wylo Hi Mark, the cheaper £50.80 is hot valid for travel via (changing trains or passing through) Huddersfield, so this would restrict your travel. The other two season tickets available match what Network Rail have on their site:

– £53.00 – Valid only for travel via (changing trains or passing through) Hebden Bridge)

– £56.40 – Any permitted route ^LH

Mark Wylo That does not explain why your website does not have the £50.80 fare which is the cheapest and the direct fare. My journey doesn’t take me through Huddersfield as Slaithwaite is on the Manchester side of Huddersfield. Surely it is up to me to decide how restricted I want my travel to be.

Mark Wylo According to Principle 3 of the Code of Practice on Retail information for Rail Tickets and Services it states that: Retailers should take steps to ensure that the information they provide is, to the best of their ability, accurate and truthful and that the way in which it is presented does not deceive passengers or lead the passenger to take a different understanding than that which is actually correct.

Mark Wylo I fully realise that you will be unable to answer every single question, but perhaps you might like to push this upstairs to management to get their view on whether the website is complying with the Code of Practice. I would like to hear their response.


Posted in fares, Slaithwaite, ticketing, Transpennine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment