The Northern Rail Blues

There are some things that Northern Rail are really bad at, and some things they’re really good at.

One of the things they’re good at is providing artistic inspiration for musicians.

Here’s an example.

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Someone else isn’t happy about the timetable changes

Someone else isn’t happy about the timetable changes from May 2018.

Hull Chamber of Commerce are unhappy about the extended journey time between Manchester and Hull which will result from stopping it at ten intermediate stations instead of the current four. They don’t appear to be quite right about the detail, as in the current timetable it makes six, not four, stops between Manchester and Hull. The additional stations include Slaithwaite & Mossley, so that’s where we fit into it. Another way in which the silly obsession with a 15 minute clockface timetable for fast trains between Manchester, Leeds & York is compromising the interests of other passengers.

[article from the Hull Daily Mail, 14th February 2018, follows]

“Plans to downgrade Hull to Manchester rail service will undermine city, say business leaders”

Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce has criticised Transpennine Express’ plans to change its Hull to Manchester service

Business leaders in Hull are calling for Transpennine Express to explain the decision to downgrade its Hull to Manchester services.

Transpennine Express proposed changes last year to add an extra six stops onto its Hull to Manchester rail service, planned for May 2018.

The Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce is now calling on Leo Goodwin, managing director of the rail service provider to meet with them, Hull MPs, council representatives and rail consultants about the concerns.

In a letter handed to Mr Goodwin on Wednesday, Chamber chief executive Ian Kelly said the downgraded service would “undermine” the tourism and business growth Hull has seen because of City of Culture.

Concerns about the proposal to increase the number of stop on the Hull – Leeds – Manchester route from four to 10 [Editor’s note: actually increase from six to 10] were raised by the business organisation during the consultation process last summer.

The Chamber says it believes the changes will have a negative effect on the economy and connectivity in the “energy estuary”.

Transpennine Express says that the changes will only increase journey times by two minutes, but the Chamber disputes this.

The train company has planned route improvements in other areas of the North, with both Newcastle and Scarborough set to see faster services from May.

The Chamber says that proposals counter Transport for the North’s states aims to create a corridor of power between Liverpool and Hull, and says it will lobby the Department for Transport with regional MPs.

Hull and Humber Chief Executive, Dr Ian Kelly, said in the letter:

“We made representations through the consultation process in conjunction with Hull City Council, and also wrote to you directly expressing our concerns relating to the possible effects on businesses, so we are disappointed to see these changes are still planned to be implemented in May.

“The proposals set out by TransPennine Express worsen, not improve the current service, adding an average of six minutes to journey times, and feel this is unacceptable at a time when rail links between the largest cities in the Northern Powerhouse of the country should be improved, and not downgraded.

“Hull’s year as UK City of Culture fuelled a boost in both tourism and business travel, we feel strongly that nothing should happen which could not therefore undermine this growth which is vital for Hull’s continuing renaissance as a destination city.

“The Chamber is particularly disappointed at the proposal to increase the number of stops on the Hull to Manchester service to ten intermediate stations as this represents a significant downgrading of our rail connectivity and efficiency.”

A spokeswoman for Transpennine Express said:

“The Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce have sadly been wrongly advised on this matter.

“We have offered to meet with them on several occasions over the past year to inform them on the improvements proposed but have received no response. We would like to reiterate that we are still open to discussions on this matter.

“The timetable developments in May 2018 are currently being finalised but our plan will enhance connectivity to and from Hull.

“Stopping at additional stations in West Yorkshire will enable the capacity of the route to become more reliable. We know that the vast majority of customers travel from Hull to Leeds and this journey time will not be affected. Our customers travelling to and from Manchester will see an increase of around only a few minutes.

“We are currently delivering a significant investment to improve Hull’s rail services, including a £32million upgrade of our trains with free Wi-Fi in Standard and First Class and an on-board entertainment system.

“We have already introduced additional late-night services from Hull towards Leeds and Manchester and delivered a significant improvement at Hull Paragon station including new toilets, waiting rooms, retail units and a new customer information centre.”

https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/business/plans-downgrade-hull-manchester-rail-1213022

https://www.hull-humber-chamber.co.uk/articles/taking-the-express-out-of-transpennine-rail-as-journey-times-increase-from-may

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An Old Timetable, from 1991

Here’s an old timetable, from 1991. It’s interesting to make a comparison with the proposed timetable to take effect from May 2018.

What’s clear is that any commuters from Marsden and (especially) Slaithwaite in the Manchester direction will suffer a reduced peak frequency compared to 1991, where what was previously a half hourly service becomes hourly.

So, 27 years of progress and alleged investment, and we end up with something worse than when we first started.

Since the train companies are so fond of using alleged service improvements as a justification for fare increases, next time we meet with TPE we’ll be asking them to reduce peak fares into Manchester to pre-1991 levels. It’s only fair that if improvement justifies an increase, deterioration justifies a decrease.

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May 2018 timetable changes

Since there has been an article in the Huddersfield Examiner recently, which focuses almost entirely on the removal of a direct service between Marsden & Slaithwaite, somewhat missing most of the points about the new timetable, it’s appropriate to list our concerns about the changes.

The removal of direct link between Marsden and Slaithwaite is on our list of concerns, but it’s not near the top of that list.

Firstly, not all aspects of the changes are bad. However, our view was and is that there is no objection to improving the capacity and quality of services linking Manchester and Leeds city centres provided that it was not achieved at the expense of services at our local stations. Unfortunately that appears to be precisely what is happening.

The timetable appears to have been designed on the basis that there is no cross-boundary commuting.

The proposed service, with TPEs skip-stopping service supplemented by a small number of extra trains provided at peak hours, fails to meet our aspirations and indeed fails even to provide a service comparable with the current functional but inadequate service.

Whilst we welcome

  • through trains to Leeds
  • a later last service from Manchester (Piccadilly and Victoria) and from Leeds (Fri & Sat only)
  • later last trains on Sundays

The proposed timetable is significantly worse in several respects

  • Halving of the peak hours service between Slaithwaite & Manchester
  • Worse peak hour service, at uneven intervals
  • Reduced peak frequency and hence capacity
  • Loss of direct links between local stations
  • Loss of direct trains to Ashton and Victoria
  • Regular use of platform 2 at Marsden
  • Trains are likely be full from the outset

What the original proposals showed was a reduction in the number of peak services to/from Manchester, and in the case of Marsden and Slaithwaite a halving of peak frequency from half-hourly to hourly. In the Manchester direction the 2018 timetable will be worse at peak times than in 1991.

Timings of peak trains from some of our stations will be particularly inconvenient such that they will involve an earlier start and a later finish. Most commuters on our line want to get to destinations in Manchester close to either Victoria or Salford Central, and face considerably extended overall journey times, in some cases with two changes where none are required at present. Journey times returning from Victoria to Marsden & Slaithwaite in the evening peak will be considerably extended, although admittedly much of the additional time will be spent in the agreeable surroundings of the Stalybridge buffet bar, and the frequency is reduced from half-hourly to hourly.

Almost all westbound trains at Marsden will in future use platform 2, accessible only by a steep and narrow flight of stairs, instead of platform 3 which has level access.

We have concerns about capacity. Our trains are typically full and standing at peak times, and heavily loaded off-peak. Three carriage class 185s do not offer much increase on 2 carriage class 150s, and indeed less capacity than 4 carriage class 150s which operate at peak times. Now the trains that are provided as a replacement also have to carry passengers from Manchester to Huddersfield and beyond.

None of this is the fault of the train operating companies, who have listened and within the parameters set for them attempted to mitigate the impact of these DfT-imposed changes.

Along with our colleagues from Greenfield Rail Action Group and Friends of Mossley Station, we have met with the train operating companies (several times), Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester), Transport for Greater Manchester, WYCA and Rail North. They now recognise the issues with the proposed new timetable.  How soon, and how effectively, those issues can be addressed remains to be seen.

Posted in Campaigning, Marsden, Northern Rail, Slaithwaite, timetable changes, Transpennine | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments