Every Time You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse – The Sequel

Now that we are six months into the new timetable, it’s worth looking at how it has worked, and whether there has been any discernible improvement.

TPE would argue that there has been some improvement, but in saying that they are looking at their network as a whole, not focusing on the Hull-Manchester and Leeds-Manchester stopping services or on the impact specifically on Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Mossley stations. It’s the impact on our area which interests SMART, and it’s clear that there has been no improvement.

It’s not easy to explain to an outsider just how bad it has been, it has to be experienced to be believed.

So, first of all, some statistics and graphs.

Even before the timetable change, Slaithwaite was in the bottom 100 stations for punctuality and reliability.

The timetable change resulted in a further decline in punctuality and reliability, and instead of being in the bottom 100 stations it is now in the bottom 1. TPE should be embarrassed by this, but they seem more interested in pointing out that only about a fifth of delays and cancellations are their fault, and what upsets them more is that the likes of SMART respond to enquiries from the Yorkshire Post.  However, one fifth of the delays is still a lot of delays.

Analysis by www.ontimetrains.co.uk puts Slaithwaite worst in the entire country for delays and cancellations over the past 6 months, with Mossley 2nd and Greenfield and Marsden also in the worst 20.

Although in the past 4 weeks there are a few stations in West Lancashire which have managed to push Slaithwaite and Mossley off the coveted bottom position, it’s worth noting that that’s not an improvement for Slaithwaite (reliability has fallen even further), but that in a few other places the decline in performance has been even greater.

Our own analysis has attempted to track the number of cancellations and part-cancellations. How these are defined is a bit subjective, but we have looked at it from the point of view of Slaithwaite and Marsden passengers. So, as we define it, any train which was timetabled to call at Slaithwaite or Marsden and doesn’t counts as a cancellation. Any train which calls at Slaithwaite or Marsden but failed to go to/from Manchester in one direction and Leeds in the other we have classed as a part cancellation. We didn’t even bother looking at delays. They are so commonplace as to pass without comment.

On that basis, we are looking at (up to 29th November), a total of about 350 part cancellations (typically a train which starts or terminates at Stalybridge) and 630 full cancellations. It seems inevitable that before the next timetable change on 9th December, this will have passed 1000. In the unlikely event that any TPE manager reads this, it’s something to be embarrassed and ashamed of.

It’s more than just statistics.

It’s about how it affects people’s ability to travel to and from work, and how it affects people’s lives.

The commute to and from Manchester is now much more difficult than before the timetable change. What was previously a half-hourly peak service was reduced to hourly in the 20th May timetable, and often cancellations reduce that to just two trains in a three hour peak period.

It’s common for peak trains to be terminated at Stalybridge, leaving passengers to wait for the next train (if that isn’t cancelled, too) and often unable to board because it’s just too crowded. Timings are too unpredictable to rely on being able to connect to trains to Victoria. In the return direction, it’s common for hundreds of passengers to be stranded at Piccadilly whilst their train departs from Stalybridge instead, empty.

The commute to Leeds is a little less disrupted. The one good thing in the 20th May timetable was the regular through trains to Leeds. These, at least, have been less prone to cancellation than the Manchester commute. Delays are commonplace, but we have all reduced our expectations.

Cancellations in the daytime deter passengers from using the service when they don’t know whether there will be a train home at the time they planned to return.

The Yorkshire Post articles by Rob Walker and Mark Wylie describe some of the impacts on passengers’ personal and work lives.



More importantly, it’s something which should have been addressed long ago, by means of actions to mitigate the disruption. The promised stop orders have largely failed to materialise, and routinely TPE regard it as acceptable to expect passengers to wait an hour for the next service, and maybe wait another hour if that one’s cancelled, too. It’s unclear whether the ultimate responsibility for refusing stop orders sits with TPE or Network Rail or a combination of both. TPE and Network Rail have agreed a recovery plan which involves terminating westbound trains at Stalybridge if running more than 11 minutes late at Huddersfield, but also refers to stop orders being made in the event of cancellations. What’s the point of a recovery plan if TPE and/or Network Rail just cherry-pick which bits of it they implement?

Providing a service that passengers can use doesn’t appear to have been on the agenda.

It’s worth pointing out that Northern run 10% of the trains serving Slaithwaite and Marsden, but only account for 4% of the cancellations. We never thought we would be relying on Northern to be the relatively reliable part of the service.

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, Transpennine | 2 Comments

“The Manchester train commuters left in tears because they are being ‘sacrificed’ by TransPennine Express”

The Manchester train commuters left in tears because they are being ‘sacrificed’ by TransPennine Express

Passengers have described a ‘lottery’ system between stations in Tameside and central Manchester

[from the Manchester Evening News, 30 NOV 2018]

Commuters are being ‘left in tears’ amid delays and cancellations which have left them missing children’s bedtimes and at risk of losing their jobs.

Passengers using TransPennine Express services to travel between parts of Tameside and Manchester are complaining of continuing disruption.

Rail users have described a ‘lottery’ system between stations such as Mossley and Greenfield to Manchester Piccadilly, leaving some with no choice but to pay for taxis to get to work.

One commuter reported being so late home from work, she doesn’t get to see her children before they go to bed.

TransPennine Express say it’s difficult to add extra stops to their services because the rail network in central Manchester is ‘very congested’, but added that they are ‘making changes to our train plan from 9 December that will make our services more reliable’.

Andrew Holstead is a secretary of Friends of Mossley Station and commutes daily from Mossley to his job in Manchester City Centre.

The station is currently ranked fourth worst in the country by data from On Time Trains for overall performance and punctuality.

The commuter is petitioning to increase the number of trains serving local stations between Huddersfield and Manchester – including Mossley.

Currently, there is one service an hour.

Andrew believes the current timetable from TransPennine is not fit for purpose and is leaving short-distance commuters stranded on a daily basis.

Speaking to the M.E.N, Andrew said:

“Whenever things go wrong on the line between Manchester and Huddersfield, they sacrifice short distance customers.

“I have seen people who have been left in tears after facing severe disruption to get to and from work.

“People are having to get a taxi to get to work in the morning or risk losing their jobs and in the evening, people aren’t getting home in time to see their children.

“It’s just a lottery every day.”

Andrew says that many passengers have resulted to driving into Manchester and some are even looking to move out of the area due to the disruption to their lives.

Yesterday’s commute home was no exception with passengers left stranded at Manchester Piccadilly for more than two hours.

With the last Northern service running at 18.01, many commuters were left with a long wait after the 17.47 and 18.47 TransPennine trains from Manchester to Hull were cancelled.

Andrew says he asked TransPennine staff if a ‘stop-order’ could be placed on the 19.47 train from Manchester to Leeds – allowing it to make an unscheduled stop at Mossley.

His request was refused by staff who sited ‘operational reasons,’ leaving him and others stranded for more than two hours until the delayed 19.47 train arrived.

Despite a journey time of just 17 minutes between Manchester and Mossley, Andrew didn’t arrive home until 8.30pm. He arrived at Piccadilly shortly after 6pm.

“We understand that things go wrong but when they do go wrong, TransPennine aren’t doing enough to accommodate people,” he said.

“This is having a massive impact on people’s mental health.

“Yesterday, a woman told me that for the second time this week – she won’t get home in time to see her children before they go to bed.”

“It is not unreasonable to suggest that TransPennine will do their best to get us home – they are failing to do their job.”

Recent data from train time comparison site, On Time Trains ranked Mossley 2,614th out of 2,618 station in Britain over the last six months.

Only six per cent of trains were recorded as ‘on time’ and 24 per cent of trains were delayed by 10 minutes or more.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said:

“Due to a number of issues on the rail network yesterday evening, we unfortunately had to cancel these two services.

“This combined with a fatality elsewhere also led to significant disruption to customers journeys.

“We request additional stop orders when we can however, the railway network in central Manchester is very congested and this isn’t always possible.

“We are making changes to our train plan from 9 December that will make our services more reliable for customers that will address circumstances like this.”

Posted in Transpennine | Leave a comment

“Over 900 cancelled trains in six months for Colne Valley communities”

We had hesitated before publishing this on our website, because we were uncomfortable about describing TPE as “sacrificing” passengers at our stations. Since TPE have effectively confirmed in the Manchester Evening News (30/11/2018), we no longer have any doubts so far as the use of the word “sacrifice” is concerned.

“We’ve been sacrificed by TransPennine Express”: Over 900 cancelled trains in six months for Colne Valley communities

Residents in Marsden and Slaithwaite are up in arms about rail services to their communities after TransPennine Express have cancelled/delayed hundreds of trains to their area in recent months.

[from the Yorkshire Post, Tuesday 20 November 2018]

Furious residents living in the Colne Valley say lives are being ruined by months of unreliable rail services from TransPennine Express. Chris Burn reports.

On paper, the Colne Valley villages of Marsden and Slaithwaite have almost everything going for them; set in beautiful countryside with affordable house prices, good local schools, a plethora of independent businesses and sitting midway between Leeds and Manchester. But there is one major problem; they are now home to two of the worst-performing railway stations in the entire country.

Since May, when the botched rollout of a new timetable caused chaos across the Northern network, the two communities – along with near-neighbours Greenfield and Mossley in Greater Manchester – have been subjected to major disruption, frequently-overcrowded trains and most notably hundreds of cancelled services through late-running trains skipping their stops to make up time.

And while a semblance of normality has returned to most northern rail services after the widespread problems of spring and early summer, the grim statistics bear out exactly how problems are continuing for people in this corner of the world – around 1,000 of whom use the stations each day.

According to the performance tracking website On Time Trains, over the past 12 weeks Slaithwaite has been the fourth-worst performing station of the 2,606 in the country, with Marsden 20th worst. Slaithwaite has seen only four per cent of trains arrive on time compared to five per cent that have been cancelled and 22 per cent that have been more than 10 minutes late.

But behind the statistics are countless stories of severe disruption to daily lives; with people unable to get to work on time, passengers waiting for hours for trains and commuters having to set off an hour earlier and missing out on time with their families. It has resulted, say locals, in many passengers abandoning the unreliable services entirely.

David Hagerty, treasurer of the Slaithwaite & Marsden Action on Rail Transport (SMART), says before May 2018, the two villages – which are not on major road networks – were served by an hourly service between Huddersfield and Manchester Victoria, with half-hourly services at peak times. But in an attempt to up the number of ‘fast’ trains between Leeds and Manchester from five to six per hour, a solution was devised whereby TransPennine Express would stop one of the express services each hour at Mossley and Slaithwaite and another at Greenfield and Marsden; while Northern would provide extra trains at peak times.

But Mr Hagerty says the rollout has been a disaster, with more than 900 trains cancelled – 300 involving part-cancellations where trains have started or terminated at Stalybridge rather than going to their intended destination. When services do run, because of previous cancellations there are often problems with over-crowding. Earlier this month, it was reported a young woman had fainted and was given first aid by passengers as the train was too full for the conductor to get through.

“The May 2018 timetable fell apart on day one and has yet to recover,” says Mr Hagerty. “Two-hour gaps with no service are commonplace, and three and even four-hour gaps with no service have also occurred. Slaithwaite is just 20 miles from Manchester but consecutive cancellations have meant that on occasions that journey has taken three hours, even though during that time express trains have continued to pass through without stopping.”

He says TransPennine have chosen to “sacrifice” passengers in the Colne Valley by having late-running trains miss out their scheduled Slaithwaite and Marsden stops to make up time on hundreds of occasions since May.

“Their way of dealing with disruption has had the effect of sacrificing passengers at Slaithwaite and Marsden to minimise delays to passengers elsewhere on their network.”

But the problems are not just about punctuality, as The Yorkshire Post discovers when meeting frustrated residents at Marsden station. Because of the timetable changes, the platform trains heading from Leeds towards Manchester now stop at has such a large height difference between the train and the ground that only one set of doors of six on the train are opened to let people out because of safety reasons. Even the exit deemed safe causes problems for many – such as husband and wife Keith and Christine Docker, who are both in their 80s.

The couple regularly travel to Leeds where Keith has been attending cancer appointments at St James’s Hospital. But after Christine hurt her back trying to get off the service last month, they have decided they will have to get off trains at Huddersfield and get a bus home in future rather than risking injury.

“We feel there could be a serious accident for someone,” says Christine.

Local businesses are also being affected. Jane Walker, who runs the Spinning Mill House B&B in Slaithwaite, says another issue is the lack of rail connection between the two villages due to the express trains alternating between the stations rather than stop at each. She says customers who may have previously wanted to go for a drink or an evening meal in Marsden can no longer make the easy four-minute journey by train, while she has recently had a guest in tears convinced they would miss their friend’s wedding because of the problems.

Jane says her own family was affected when they were due to catch a train for a couple of days away in London. But after their service failed to turn up 25 minutes after being due, they had to drive to Leeds to catch their connecting train – returning to a £120 parking bill for their two cars.

“It all makes me very reluctant to use the train. I have got a three-hour window in the middle of the day to get the jobs done I need to in Huddersfield for the business but I can’t trust the trains to get there and back.”

Michael Blake, who was part of the Marsden & Slaithwaite Renaissance Project designed to improve the fortunes of the two villages, says the progress of recent years is being threatened by the failing rail services.

“They are trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, with extra express trains there isn’t room for. If two consecutive services are cancelled, you might be waiting for three hours. People have stopped using the train service. It will really devastate the area’s economy if this carries on.”

Blake says that when trains are cancelled, TPE have the option to use a ‘temporary stop order’ on the next express train due to pass through – but this has only been deployed on a handful of occasions.

Fellow group member Tony Bowers says when he asked for such an order to be used in Huddersfield after his train was cancelled, he was met with bafflement by staff.

“They said, ‘We have never heard of it’,” he says.

Paul Robinson, whose wife Philippa commutes into Manchester, says on one occasion cancellations meant she had to book into a hotel as she had no way of getting home.

“Passengers get frustrated, angry and impatient. They are late for work, they can’t plan with any confidence. Anyone picking them up after work doesn’t know what time the train will arrived or where it will even stop – I have picked my wife up at Marsden, Huddersfield and Slaithwaite. I’ve heard of and spoken to passengers who have moved house from Lancashire and are now thinking of moving back because of the uncertainty of trains.”

With the help of MP Thelma Walker, SMART have secured a meeting with Chris Grayling next month. Long-suffering residents will hope the Transport Secretary does not run their concerns into the sidings.

Changes planned ‘to improve performance’

Transpennine Express say timetable changes next month will “improve performance” on the route.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said:

“We understand our customers frustration with the issues that have developed following May’s timetable change. That is why from December, we will split our Leeds to Manchester local service at Huddersfield, which will add resilience to the current timetable and improve performance at stations, such as Slaithwaite and Marsden, on this route.”

But David Hagerty says the planned changes will result in the loss of direct services to Leeds – the one positive aspect of the May timetable changes.

“Trains to Leeds are being withdrawn in an attempt to address reliability problems which should never have been allowed to arise in the first place.”


The Yorkshire Post says: A rail disgrace. Colne Valley passengers are being let down.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

The chaotic scenes at railway stations across the North of England in May which prompted The Yorkshire Post and other regional publications to demand Government action earlier this year may have dissipated from the height of the problems – but the experiences of passengers living in the Colne Valley demonstrates that the issues caused by the botched timetable rollout that month remain a daily reality for many.

Slaithwaite and Marsden now have the unfortunate distinction of being the home to two of the worst-served railway stations in the entire country. In Slaithwaite for the past 12 weeks, trains are more likely to have been cancelled than turned up on time; an extraordinary statistic.

Members of the Slaithwaite & Marsden Action on Rail Transport have described how the situation is ruining the quality of life for hundreds of families; with people unable to get to work on time and passengers waiting for hours for trains.

The situation in which late-running trains between Manchester and Leeds simply miss out the two stations in order to 
make up time is simply unacceptable.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has come in for a great deal of justified criticism for his department’s handling of the timetable rollout. But to his credit, he has agreed to meet with members of the SMART group next month to hear their concerns about the way in which they are being failed by TransPennine Express.

But this issue must not be pushed into the sidings by either Mr Grayling or TransPennine Express. Urgent and decisive action is required.



Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, Transpennine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Worst in the Entire Country

There’s a website www.ontimetrains.co.uk which ranks stations by a performance score, which is calculated based on service punctuality and cancellation frequency.

So, on the list of worst of all 2,615 stations in Great Britain for punctuality and cancellations, taken over the past 6 months:
1st: Slaithwaite
2nd: Mossley 
9th: Greenfield
17th: Marsden
42nd: Stalybridge

Posted in Marsden, Northern Rail, Slaithwaite, Transpennine | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment