The new timetable from May 2018 has now been finalised. Times of trains can be found in the journey planner on www.nationalrail.co.uk, and timetables will be available on the First TransPennine website from 16th April.
TransPennine have now (12th April) published a timetable online showing all their trains Liverpool & Manchester to Leeds and Hull, York, Scarborough, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. This shows all their trains calling at Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Mossley but does not show the small number of peak trains operated by Northern. Link is https://www.tpexpress.co.uk/~/media/travelling-with-us/timetables/may-2018/northtp-timetable-20may-to-08dec2018.pdf?la=en
TPE have also published (16th April) a separate leaflet for the stations between Leeds and Manchester which also includes Northern’s trains – this is probably of more use to Slaithwaite & Marsden passengers.
Link is https://www.tpexpress.co.uk/travel-updates/timetables, look for “Manchester to Leeds via all intermediate stations”.
Northern Rail will also publish a timetable, showing all trains between Huddersfield, Stalybridge and Piccadilly and all trains between Stalybridge and Victoria.
Summary of key points.
- Apart from a small number of peak trains operated by Northern, all trains operated by First TransPennine
- Through trains to Leeds
- Trains go to/from Manchester Piccadilly, not Victoria
- Later last trains from Manchester
- Later last trains from Leeds on Friday & Saturday only
- Earlier first and later last trains on Sundays
- Almost all westbound trains will use platform 2 at Marsden (no disabled access)
- Peak frequency between Marsden/Slaithwaite and Huddersfield maintained, but instead of being approximately half-hourly, intervals will be approximately 45’/15′.
- Peak frequency between Slaithwaite and Manchester halved
- Peak frequency between Marsden and Manchester reduced, and instead of being approximately half-hourly, intervals will be approximately 45’/15′
- Need to change at Stalybridge for Ashton and Victoria
- Very few direct trains between Marsden & Slaithwaite
- One train per hour calling at Manchester Piccadilly, Stalybridge, Mossley, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley, Leeds and main stations to Hull
- One train per hour calling at Manchester Piccadilly, Stalybridge, Greenfield, Marsden, Huddersfield and most stations to Leeds – this train is overtaken by an express at Mirfield/Dewsbury
From the original proposals we have got
- An additional evening peak train for Slaithwaite & Marsden from Huddersfield
- Two additional Marsden calls in morning peak towards Manchester, and one additional return in the evening peak
- Additional calls at Mossley in both morning and evening peaks
- Last two trains go via Victoria
- Additional later last train at 23:25 on Friday & Saturday only from Leeds
- Some of the peak trains are no longer proposed to call at Guide Bridge (nothing against the good folk of Guide Bridge, but our trains will be grossly overcrowded at peak times and – unlike us – Guide Bridge passengers have plenty of alternative trains to use)
Had we not taken part in the consultation, would we have got these? We can never know what would have happened.
Nevertheless, we think it’s down to SHRUG that we got these things, so we’re going to claim the credit for it. Northern and TPE have been prepared to listen and make some changes to the original plans.
Is it sufficient?
No, not really. It’s mitigating some of the damage. We would have preferred for the damage not to be inflicted in the first place. We would have preferred, even more, for our service be improved so that it is as frequent as all other routes in Greater Manchester and most other routes and stations in West Yorkshire. That’s something that the train companies either couldn’t or wouldn’t do for May 2018.
Are there any good things?
There are advantages. Almost all the services will be operated by one company, TPE, which makes adapting to disruption a whole lot easier. in the event of a cancellation it’s more likely that an express will make additional stops, rather than passengers being abandoned or left to try to work out where when and if a replacement bus might appear.
Given the continuing stalemate in the dispute between the DfT/Northern and the RMT union about the role of guards (a subject upon which SMART does not take a view), having most trains run by TPE means not being affected by the dispute nearly as much as at present.
We expect to rather like having through trains to Leeds.
The rolling stock is of a much higher quality, always presupposing we can get a seat.
Advance Purchase tickets will be available in the off-peak for the four stations for longer journeys on the network.
Will it work?
It will work for some people, not for others. The biggest disruption to travel patterns will be for people who work close to, or beyond, Manchester Victoria.
If your workplace is in Manchester and your peak service between Slaithwaite/Marsden and Manchester is reduced from half hourly to hourly, you probably won’t be too impressed by a reply that “You will benefit from a regular direct train to Leeds.”
Whether it works from an operational point of view also remains to be seen. Our trains will be coming from Hull & Leeds, and may already be full when they get here. In the opposite direction our trains will be the fastest trains between Piccadilly and Huddersfield/Dewsbury, and it’s questionable whether passengers arriving at Piccadilly for onward travel will want to trail over the bridge to platform 14 for the trains heading to Victoria before going on to Leeds and beyond.
Providing sufficient seating capacity at the right times, and encouraging longer distance passengers to use the expresses to/from Victoria (our trains will be the quickest ones between Huddersfield and Piccadilly) may be challenging for TPE, and if they get this wrong then overcrowding, and delays where large numbers of passengers are trying to get on already crowded trains is going to create disruption which goes way beyond just our stations. TPE have recognised the potential (in our view, inevitable) overcrowding issues and will monitor passenger loadings pre and post May, for weekday services as well as weekend.
TPE will promote Victoria as the main Manchester station for Huddersfield and Leeds passengers.
TPE have employed 20 customer ambassadors who will be at stations across the network advising customers of the changes that are coming in May. Their primary purpose is to provide information to customers on the planned service changes.
- Customers for Manchester at Huddersfield and Leeds will be advised to get on the 15-minute frequency fast service to Manchester Victoria and not the service that stops at the intermediate stations.
- Customers who get on the train at Leeds will be advised that unless they are going to a station between Leeds and Manchester, they should get the express service.
- Ambassadors will be based at Huddersfield, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Dewsbury, Leeds
Platforms will be lengthened but there’s still some uncertainty as to when. Platform lengthening work will prioritise Mossley and Slaithwaite followed by Marsden and Greenfield by the end of summer.
Likewise, services are supposed to be strengthened to 6 carriages as soon as practicable. Mostly it won’t happen on day one. As we suspected, the recently announced delay to completion of Manchester-Bolton-Preston electrification has further delayed provision of additional rolling stock to our route. Some services in the morning peak and in the evening peak calling at Slaithwaite & Mossley will be strengthened to 6 carriages (subject to platform lengthening). More services may be strengthened as additional rolling stock becomes available.
Whilst Northern have previously said their peak services will be four carriages, they have a shortage of rolling stock so it’s not something we will be taking for granted.
Why the changes?
Someone thought it was a good idea to run “six fast trains an hour between Manchester and Leeds”. It looked good on a 2011 DfT press release.
There’s nothing to indicate that whoever came up with this bright idea noticed that not only were there places in between, but those places contained passengers. Quite a lot of passengers. But at some point that realisation must have dawned, at which point some sort of alternative was needed. So two of the fasts became “semi-fast” and “skip-stopping”, two of the railway industry’s more notable recent contributions to the English language.
So who benefits from all this?
According to all the hype, it’s for the benefit of passengers between Manchester and Leeds. At present they have 5 fast trains per hour between the two city centres. From May 2018 that goes up (whoops, sorry, make that down) to 4, but as they are at an even 15 minute interval that makes all the difference apparently. They also benefit from a reduction in the fastest journey time from 49 minutes down to, er, 47 minutes. For this huge (well, maybe slightly less than huge) improvement, we are the collateral damage.
Of course, had the additional capacity in the form of reopening the two disused Standedge tunnels and electrification (both previously approved but then quietly delayed indefinitely or quietly dropped), then it would not have been necessary for our service to be the collateral damage.