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