SMART – Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport
Public meeting on November 22nd 2017 at Slaithwaite Civic Hall
Over 80 members of the public attended
The meeting was chaired by Cllr. Rob Walker.
Pete Myers Northern Railway (NR)
Graham Meiklejohn Transpennine Express (TPE)
Michael Sasse West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA)
Joe Cookson Network Rail
Gary Godolphin SMART
Chas Ball from Marsden Jazz Festival, Cllr Nicola Turner.
Cllr Rob Walker welcomed everyone and explained that the meeting would enable people to find out about changes from May 2018. He emphasised the importance of the railway – local people rely on the services for many reasons including commuting to work, attending school, college and university, leisure and local businesses also benefit from good transport links.
SHRUG (Stalybridge to Huddersfield group) and SMART
Gary Godolphin, SMART secretary, explained the main issues.
From May 2018, TPE will deliver most of the services. The changes will affect peak time services and local station stops.
Skip Stop services will be introduced. There will be an hourly service at Slaithwaite (SWT) and at Marsden (MSN). One of the trains will stop at SWT, the other will stop at MSN. [In an attempt to clear up any confusion, one train per hour at SWT, one train per hour at MSN, but not the same train so no direct service between the two.]
Trains stopping at our two stations will be running between Hull and Manchester Piccadilly, and between Leeds and Manchester Piccadilly and both will stop at Huddersfield.
These trains will run to Piccadilly rather than Victoria. This will affect the many people who work in the Deansgate, Spinningfields and Salford areas.
Graham talked about Rail North’s aspirations and TPE’s franchise.
The emphasis is to create more capacity and services between Leeds and Manchester.
From May 2018 the trains that will stop at SWT and MSN will be the skip stopping services:
One is a new service – Leeds to Piccadilly starting in May, and the other stopper will run between Hull and Piccadilly.
The present signalling means that running additional of trains is not possible, hence skip stop.
TPE has issued a consultation document – rail groups have given feedback.
Network Rail is currently looking at the suggestions and developing the new timetable and the final details are still to be worked out.
Graham said that the current draft proposals have been improved since 2014 and that TPE is working on what they have been asked to deliver by DfT and Rail North.
Questions and comments from the floor
There was agreement that people don’t know about these coming changes. Suggestions that questionnaires could have been distributed at stations.
Michael Sasse said that some research by TfgM (Transport for Greater Manchester) has been done. This was particularly around the use of Piccadilly rather than Victoria. Analysis demonstrated most commuters travelled to areas better served by Victoria.
Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester) has expressed interest in this campaign and has agreed to meet rail users’ groups to discuss the changes.
There was concern about capacity and that there are already severe problems with overcrowding. Would people be able to get on trains during peak periods from May 2018?
Graham agreed that the peak periods will need more scrutiny and said that there is no spare rolling stock at the moment. There should be new trains from summer 2018.
Pete Myers – Northern Railway (NR)
Pete gave some background information and explained that in 2014 an extra TPE service per hour was introduced and this had squeezed the Northern stoppers. With the extra one coming in 2018 the stopping trains will be unable to run as they do now and stop at every station.
Improvements: there will be new trains as NR will get other trains from areas that electrify. Platforms will be extended. New shelters, more ticket machines will start being introduced next year.
The NR draft timetable will probably be available for the public in Jan/Feb 2018.
Mick Sasse – WYCA
Mick’s job is rail technical advisor for WYCA, which was formerly West Yorkshire Metro. A lot of concerns expressed by the public are shared by WYCA and are already being voiced. WYCA has limited power in the rail system, but they exert influence across the transport industry and are a member of Rail North.
They are unhappy with the proposed skip stopping and see it as a short term measure until the Trans Pennine route is upgraded. They are continuing to work on improving the peak services.
They would like to see flexibility within the hourly timetable to get more stopping trains.
Any future upgrading must put back proper local services and skip stop mustn’t become permanent.
Electrification – this would enable lighter and faster trains which would enable WYCAs aspiration to have two stopping trains per hour.
Joe Cookson Network Rail (NR)
NR manages the infrastructure – track, signalling, major interventions at stations.
The coming changes in 2018 are massive and there are currently large numbers of staff working in the North to prepare a report for the Secretary of State on options for upgrading the Trans Pennine route
Questions and comments
Complaint about the current evening peak service from Vic with only 2 carriages.
Pete Myers apologised and explained that NR is currently short of trains – some are being currently being refurbished, so many trains are out of service.
Also leaf fall is a serious issue this year because the fall has happened sooner than expected. This has caused problems eg higher numbers of ‘wheel flats’ and so trains are being taken out of service to be repaired.
There was a comment about the bigger picture – the South has much better transport funding – North/South divide.
Infrastructure – in the South trains have more lines to run on so faster trains can overtake. The North needs better infrastructure.
DfT and the Treasury need to respond and political pressure is needed.
Platforms – SWT has a big gap between the doors and the platform and creates access difficulties for older people and people with disabilities.
Response from Graham that the TPE trains will have two staff on trains and sometimes three.
Stalybridge to Victoria – from May there will be two trains an hour with one of those going on to Salford.
Cllr. Donna Bellamy asked if there would be CCTV cameras and better access at Marsden as part of the station improvement programme.
Response – CCTV will be installed at SWT and MSN, but disability access improvement at Marsden will not be included.
Access problems are a massive issue across the whole country. If electrification happens, bridges will be altered and access could be improved then
Question about the ‘tunnel tax’ – the high fare between Marsden and Greenfield. Mick from WYCA explained that Rail North now has a mandate to look at fare anomalies. They recognise this issue as a problem.
Comment about the importance of local connectivity being important for health and wellbeing reasons.
Could the disused Standedge tunnel be re-opened?
Some proposed timings from the draft timetable can be seen on the Facebook page of Stalybridge & Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds.
Pete Myers will share the draft timetable when they receive a copy.
There will be lots of general publicity about the new timetables, about 12 weeks before May 2018 will see a lot of publicity.
Question about NRs trains to Manchester not stopping at MSN and SWT in the morning peak period. Pete will check on this.
Question about most westbound trains using the centre platform at MSN. No response given on this.
Agreement that ‘flexing’ the fast service could help.
Cllr. Rob Walker summed up:
Need for further consultation and that there will be a public meeting when the draft timetable is made available.
Rob encouraged everyone to use political pressure to influence Rail North – to write as individuals, members of organisations and community groups and via their local councillors, MPs.
Rob thanked everyone for coming.