“Rail bosses’ £3.8m war chest from unspent fund to compensate passengers in North after timetable chaos”

Rail bosses’ £3.8m war chest from unspent fund to compensate passengers in North after timetable chaos

[from the Yorkshire Post, 8th March 2019]

Transport bosses are to hand out £3.5m in free tickets and discounted fares to compensate rail passengers across the North who suffered during last year’s timetable chaos, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Six million pounds of central government funds were allocated to compensate regular northern commuters caught up in the widespread delays and disruption, but nearly two-thirds – £3.8m – remains to be spent because uptake was lower than anticipated.

Passengers across the North suffered weeks of delayed or cancelled trains after the May timetable change, prompting The Yorkshire Post and other northern newspapers to issue an unprecedented call to action in a day of joint front page editorials.

More than a million hours were lost and the economic impact was estimated at a minimum of £38m.

A leaked document seen by this newspaper sets out how Rail North, the public body which manages the North’s two biggest rail operators, now plans to hand out £1m each in ticket giveaways for customers of Northern and TransPennine Express.

Another £1m will be allocated to offer discounted travel to parts of the North hardest hit by the disruption and a further £500,000 to encourage season ticket holders to move to smart ticketing with sweeteners of up to £50 per person.

Officials hope the special compensation schemes, which have yet to be made public, will encourage rail passengers to return to the parts of the North dependent on their tourist or leisure industries.

Barry White, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, said:

“This further phase of compensation recognises the impact on passengers and businesses caused by the disruption experienced by passengers and is designed to help those areas hardest hit by last year’s events and encourage people back onto trains.

“Our hope is it will bring direct benefits to a wide range of people and businesses across the North through a rolling programme of initiatives.”

Labour MP Paula Sherriff, representing Dewsbury, welcomed the compensation and said she hoped the schemes would “go some way to get people back using our railways”. But she criticised the continuing poor performance of rail services and called for “proper accountability”, adding:

“ Local people overwhelmingly want us to take back control of our railways.”

And Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said the scheme represented a missed opportunity to extend rail discounts for 16 to 18-year-olds to make it easier for young apprentices in the North to get to work.

Millions unspent in compensation fund

Nearly four million pounds was left unspent from a government fund to compensate northern rail passengers for last year’s timetable chaos because uptake of the scheme by regular passengers was “far lower than anticipated”.

A leaked document seen by The Yorkshire Post reveals the discussions by northern transport leaders over how best to make amends to rail passengers and get them back on trains after the disastrous events of summer 2018.

The failure to complete a vital piece of infrastructure work in the North West on time meant the May timetable in the North was re-drawn at short notice, resulting in delays and cancellations across the board due to a lack of properly trained drivers.

As passengers struggled to get to work on time or home to their families amid mounting anger at the rail industry, a compensation scheme for season ticket holders and passengers travelling three or more days per week was unveiled by the Government.

The document seen by The Yorkshire Post says £6m was allocated by the Department for Transport for compensation, but while large numbers of season ticket holders took up the offer, for other passengers the uptake was “far lower than anticipated”, meaning £3.8m of the funding remains to be spent.

As well as a desire to compensate customers, the document produced by Rail North, which manages operators Northern and TransPennine Express, says the scheme aims to stimulate travel to leisure and tourists markets that suffered last year.

Officials also want to promote a return to rail travel due to the damage done to the reputation of rail travel. For Northern, £1m in leisure tickets are to be given away through an online offer, with around 50 per cent in the areas with the worst disruption and the remainder spread around the region.

Meanwhile for fellow Yorkshire operator TransPennine Express, £1m in e-vouchers will be given away, entitling the recipient to £25 off leisure or season tickets, in an offer focused on the Easter and Spring period.

The firm is using its customer database to identify passengers who travelled during periods of disruption, so that they are first in line to get the vouchers. A key part of the scheme, according to the leaked document, is a series of targeted measures focused on those areas hit hardest by the disruption.

Precise details are still being worked out but could include offers for short-distance weekend leisure trips or for specific markets including half-price weekend tickets on the Lakes Line.

And a separate element will see £500,000 used to encourage season ticket holders to migrate to smartcards, an aim in-keeping with Transport for the North’s ambition to create an integrated transport system across the region.

This is expected to result in a value of between £25 and £50 per season ticket holder.

Last summer, a report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership set out how more than a million hours have been lost by railway users in the North as a result of the timetable chaos.

Its Director Henri Murison welcomed the compensation schemes but questioned whether an opportunity had been missed to extend proposed rail discounts for 16 to 18-year-olds to be available for the North’s apprentices at peak times.

He said:

“Many of those starting in the world of work as apprentices are having to pay the same to travel at peak times as those who in senior leaderships roles, and many of those same leaders I know would rather this financial help did long-term good for the Northern Powerhouse after the damage of the summer of rail chaos.”

The new scheme received a mixed reaction from Yorkshire MPs whose constituencies have been blighted by the poor performance of local rail services. Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, a Tory, said:

“It’s clearly good news that compensation is being offered to those who have suffered…however, compensation should have been extended directly to TransPennine customers who lost out through delays on cancellations east of the Pennines, rather than being focused on the North-West.”


Rail journey times ‘no better than in the early 80s’, report claims

A report into the state of rail services in West Yorkshire has claimed journey times on some routes were “no better than in the early 1980s”, despite significant investment.

The report from West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) said while improvements have been made since the May 2018 timetable crisis, it was still “disappointed” with the standard of service provided to rail travellers in the region.

Service frequency on Harrogate, Calder Valley and Wakefield had not yet reached required levels, while evening and Sunday services on some lines were still not up to scratch.

The report added that it expected to see “significant alterations” to take place when a reviewed timetable is introduced in May.

It stated:

“The May 2019 timetable change can be seen on Northern as an incremental step towards delivering the improvements planned for December 2017 and December 2019. While they represent significant progress, shortfalls remain.

“In general, these ‘gaps’ are in line with expectations given the known infrastructure constraints especially around Leeds and Manchester, though others, such as in evening or Sunday services as well as first and last trains, are disappointing.

“Also disappointing is that improvements to journey times have yet to be delivered on several routes; notably, on the Calder Valley Network Rail has recently invested around £150m and delivered significant line speed improvements, despite which some journey times are no faster than they were in the early 1980s.

“WYCA is continuing to bring pressure to bear to maximise what can be delivered on current infrastructure, to understand what further measures are required to deliver these services in full – and to obtain a commitment to carrying these out.”


Posted in Northern Rail, TfN, Transpennine, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Timetable alterations Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March 2019

Timetable alterations Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd March

From approx 1630 on Saturday and all day on Sunday there will be a revised timetable in operation between Leeds and Huddersfield, Manchester stations and Liverpool.Coaches will replace local train services between Marsden and Manchester PiccadillyAn hourly train service will operate between Middlesbrough and MarsdenThere will be NO TRAIN services between Manchester PICCADILLY and Stalybridge, Huddersfield and Leeds.

The amended timetables are available at

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, Transpennine, weekend rail services | Leave a comment

Project to improve accessibility at Marsden station gets underway

Thanks to both Thelma Walker MP and Cllr Donna Bellamy for their work on this issue.[Press release from Network Rail, dated 18th February 2018, follows]

Project to improve accessibility at West Yorkshire station gets underway

Passengers using Marsden station will no longer have to face a large drop between the train and the platform as work to improve accessibility at the station begins.

Thanks to new funding, part of a £15million benefit package for passengers in the North of England announced in late 2018, work will take place to raise the height of platform two.

The upgrade will mean platform two will be made a consistent height from one end to the other, making it easier for passengers to get on and off trains stopping at the station and remove the need for single door operation, the process where only one set of doors on the train are available for passengers to board and alight.

The discrepancy between the height of the platform and the trains using platform two was initially going to be solved by the installation of a temporary graded slope known as a Harrington Hump but the additional funding now means the whole of the platform can be raised instead.

Network Rail will begin work today (Monday, 18 February) and the work will complete by the end of March. Whilst the project is ongoing, train services will use platform three.

Rob McIntosh, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said:

“Passengers using Marsden station will soon be able to enjoy a more comfortable experience as platform two is raised, making it more accessible for many users.

“We are delighted to be able to carry out this upgrade thanks to the extra funding and this project will mean we can continue to provide a railway which meets the needs of the communities and economies we serve both now and in years to come.”

Rail Minister Andrew Jones said:

“Transport accessibility is vitally important, so I am pleased that passengers using Marsden station will soon find it easier to get on and off trains as part of Network Rail’s £15million enhancements package.

“The Government is investing a record £48bn to modernise our railways, and we are working with Transport for the North and Richard George to drive forward improved performance across the northern network – focused on delivering more reliable, frequent and punctual services.”

Chris Nutton, Major Projects Director for TransPennine Express, said:

“The safety and comfort of our customers is of paramount importance and so we are pleased that work to raise the height of platform two is now underway.”

A Northern spokesperson said:

“This project is excellent news for customers of Marsden station. This is in addition to the ongoing work Northern is undertaking to modernise our network that includes new and updated trains, more services and better stations.”

Gary Godolphin, Secretary for Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport, said:

“We welcome the improvements to platform two as a first step towards improving accessibility to all platforms at Marsden station. Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport hope that the forthcoming Transpennine Route Upgrade will provide full disabled access to all platforms enabling everyone to use the station safely”.

The customer benefit package, which was announced by the Rail Minister, Andrew Jones MP last year, is being delivered by Network Rail, Northern and TransPennine Express at stations across the north of England.

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December 2018 Timetable Change, One Month On

It’s seven weeks into the new timetable, and time to assess what difference it has made.

For the 6 month period of the May 2018 timetable, Slaithwaite closely followed by Mossley, was the worst in the entire country for delays and cancellations. Source: ontimetrains.co.uk.

Punctuality is still not brilliant, but there’s been a big improvement in reliability, with the number of cancellations & part-cancellations per week (at Slaithwaite & Marsden) down to an average of fewer than three per week. For the 12 weeks before the timetable change this averaged 32 per week. It hasn’t been enough to lift Slaithwaite & Marsden out of the bottom 10 stations for punctuality, which is an indication of just how awful it was before the timetable change.

One of the things passengers should be able to expect from the railways is a bit of predictability. If it’s in the timetable, it should be a reasonable prediction that it will turn up at or close to the appointed time. That wasn’t the case from May 2018 to December 2018. Now that appears to have changed, and it’s a first move towards restoring passenger trust and confidence.

This graph, courtesy of ontimetrains.co.uk, shows how punctuality and reliability went from awful to something a lot worse than awful at the May 2018 timetable change, and a partial recovery at the December 2018 timetable change. Slaithwaite = green, Marsden = blue.

There are still issues at Mossley with cancellations on the Hull to Manchester trains, but fewer than before. However, it appears that when this happens there is a better chance of getting stop orders put in – there were several on the morning of Saturday 12th January – so maybe the message that it’s not ok to leave two hour gaps with no service is finally getting through.

Since writing the above……………………we had observed a big improvement, but in the past few days we have seen (Sunday 27th) a series of cancellations reducing the daytime service to one every two hours, cancellations at peak times (Tuesday 29th & Wednesday 30th) and stop orders being requested and refused (Tuesday 29th), Mossley being reduced to a service every 2 hours in the daytime and stop orders being requested and refused (Friday 1st February). We really wanted to compliment TPE on doing so much better, but they make it so hard to do that. It’s disappointing that TPE are now reminding us of the bad old days.

It appears that most westbound trains at Marsden are now using platform 3 (if only SMART had been listened to in 2017 the platform 2 debacle would never have happened). This may be contributing to lateness, with the use of platform 3 introducing a delay of about two minutes, but it seems to work. We have long since stopped fussing about a delay of a mere two minutes.

There are still deficiencies in the timetable which need to be addressed. The one definite gain in the May 2018 timetable was the through trains to Leeds, but this was removed in December 2018 to improve reliability. Peak frequencies need to be restored to the same level as applied from 1990 until May 2018, with sensible arrival times in both Manchester and Leeds.

Ideally through trains to Leeds would be restored, but in theory the journey to Leeds is easy with cross-platform interchange at Huddersfield. The reality is that it is a whole lot less easy because of the limited capacity of the Huddersfield to Leeds trains, and possibly the arrival of new rolling stock, when it happens, will improve this.

Connectivity between the stopping service west of Huddersfield and the separate stopping service east of Huddersfield needs to be improved. One of the unintentional consequences of splitting the service at Huddersfield is that the two services don’t connect, so a journey from, say, Marsden to Mirfield involves a 56 minute wait for a connection at Huddersfield and even Marsden/Slaithwaite to Dewsbury involves a 25 minute wait at Huddersfield.

Hopefully the work that TPE and Transport for the North are doing on future timetable patterns for the local stopping service will address the acknowledged weaknesses in the current timetable.

We don’t see it as an unreasonable expectation that the service pattern and frequency should be restored to the same level as pre-May 2018 at the earliest possible opportunity.

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, Transpennine, Uncategorized | 2 Comments