SMART meeting, 31st January

As SHRUG and SMART have had meetings with Andy Burnham and are due to meet Rail North on the 17th of this month we thought it would be a good idea to hold a SMART meeting to feedback and update on recent developments.

It will take place at 7.30 on Wednesday 31st January, in Marsden Mechanics Hall.

We plan to hold another more publicised public meeting after further conversations with the train companies and post timetable publication which we envisage will be end of February beginning of March

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Strikes, Monday 8th, Wednesday 10th & Friday 12th January

Please see details about next weeks planned train strike (Mon 8th, Wed 10th, Fri 12th)—Stalybridge-buses.pdf

Replacement buses between Stalybridge & Huddersfield, hourly but finish in early evening.

Two months after asking, we still don’t know whether they call at Marsden & Slaithwaite stations or stay on the A62 Manchester Road.

If we get a reply more informative than

“Thank you for your feedback, which is really helpful to us.”

we will post it on here.

FIRST UPDATE 8pm, 3rd January:

“It should be from the stations. Please report this if it doesn’t happen ^TW”

SECOND UPDATE received 6.14pm, Sunday 7th.

“The buses are stopping on the A62 now, I have just confirmed this with our bus coordinator. Very sorry for the mixed information here ^TW”

THIRD UPDATE posted by Northern Rail on their facebook feed at 1pm, Monday 8th

#Marsden customers – the rail replacement bus pickup / drop off is in the station car park at the front of the station”

FOURTH UPDATE received 7pm, Monday 8th

“Marsden pick up and drop off is at the station, Slaithwaite is the A62 ^TW”

SMART is now forced to acknowledge that our attempts to obtain and pass on reliable and trustworthy information, on the simple matter of where the replacement buses call in Slaithwaite & Marsden, has ended in dismal failure.

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Happy New Year on the Railways

Another new year, another fare increase.

It’s 3.4% on average, although there is quite a bit of variation within that. Individual fares may increase by more or less than that. Only a cynic would suggest that it’s fares on busy routes that will rise by the largest amounts, balanced out by lower fare increases on less busy routes.

One thing which doesn’t change from one year to the next is the pretext for the fare increase. The Rail Delivery Group (formerly the Association of Train Operating Companies) have a superb record on recycling, as can be evidenced by their press releases every time there’s a fare increase.

Whilst it’s gratifying to see the effort that Rail Delivery Group put in on our behalf in trying to find slightly different arrangements of words to say exactly the same thing, it turned out not to be the reality in 2004 and every year since then.

There are only so many times you can link fare increases to investment and improvement before passengers conclude that it’s BS.

So, for the sake of completeness more than anything else, here’s this year’s quote from Paul Plummer of the Rail Delivery Group (which was formerly ATOC – the Association of Train Operating Companies).

“Government controls increases to almost half of fares, including season tickets, with the rest heavily influenced by the payments train companies make to government. Alongside investment from the public and private sectors, money from fares is underpinning the partnership railway’s long-term plan to change and improve. Working together, our plan will secure £85bn of additional economic benefits while enabling further investment and improved journeys for customers, better connections to boost local communities and a bright future for our employees.”

“Rail companies are working together to deliver more than £50billion of improvements, including private sector investment of £11.6billion on 5,700 new train carriages by 2021.”

Again for the sake of completeness, a series of quotes from previous years from RDG/ATOC spokesmen regarding fare increases. They all appear to be interchangeable.

“Fares have to rise to pay for the huge investment which the rail industry is currently making in the railways – which is the fastest growing in Europe.”[ 2 January 2005]

“Our railways are the fastest growing in Europe and operators will continue to introduce new trains, better passenger facilities and improved travel information.” [ 8 December 2005]

“While no-one likes to pay more for their travel, we need the revenue to pay for the ongoing improvements to the railways that passengers expect – and overall satisfaction levels are now at an all time high of 80%. Train operators will continue to raise their game, delivering further improvements to the railway and enhancing the travel experience of passengers.” [28 November 2006]

“The revenue from fares helps pay for investment that directly benefits passengers. Billions of pounds are now being spent to improve the railway and the results are showing through.” [ 1 January 2008]

“Fare changes this year will help pay for 265,000 extra services, all against a background which is determined by government policy to reduce the call on us as taxpayers. The fare changes actually in our view strike the right balance between trying to ensure a reasonable level of increase to fund in return much improved services.” [ 2 January 2009]

“We know times are tough for many people but next year’s fare increases will ensure that Britain can continue investing in its railways. Money invested through fares has helped to bring about the record levels of customer satisfaction and punctuality on the railways today. Passengers are already benefiting from record levels of investment in our railways. While we understand people won’t welcome any kind of price increases, it is important to remember that we need to continue and sustain investment in our railways.” [23 November 2010]

“For a number of years, the government has sought to sustain investment in the railways by reducing what taxpayers contribute and increasing the share that is paid for by passengers,” he said.

“The focus of the whole industry is to keep on reducing the overall cost of running the railways as a way of limiting future fare rises and providing taxpayers with better value for money.”

“Record amounts of money are being invested in better stations and more trains.” [2 January 2012]

And finally, here’s a quote regarding the January 2007 fare increases.

“This is very unwelcome news for passengers and will only underline the fact that things are really not right on our railways.”

It’s from the then shadow transport minister, Chris Grayling. I wonder what became of him.

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“Rail operators promise big improvements for West Yorkshire in 2018”

Not sure that reducing the peak hour service at Marsden and Slaithwaite to satisfy a silly obsession with running lots of short trains between Leeds and Manchester counts as one of the improvements.

[Article from the Yorkshire Evening Post,  30 December 2017, follows]

“Rail operators promise big improvements for West Yorkshire in 2018”

2018 will be the year the travelling public start to see the benefits of West Yorkshire and other northern regions working together as one on transport policy, according to a senior figure responsible for drawing a strategy for the North.

A strategic transport plan for the North, setting out the £60bn worth of spending needed over the next three decades, will be unveiled next month after being agreed by the region’s 19 transport authorities.

Transport for the North will become the first strategic body of its type on April 1, meaning the Government will have to take its views into account when deciding where it allocates vital infrastructure funding. Jonathan Spruce, TfN’s Interim Strategy Director, said passengers in Yorkshire would also start to see benefits on the ground. Among the improvements will be the introduction of smart technology on rail season tickets across the region, meaning commuters will get a smart card rather than a paper ticket when they renew.

Rail operators have also promised a number of tangible improvements. Perhaps the most eye-catching will be the 65 Azuma trains which will enter service at the start of the December timetable on the East Coast Mainline, which stops at Leeds between London and Edinburgh.

As part of the roll-out the new train, which reaches 125pm in less than five minutes, will stop at new destinations including Middlesbrough and will regularly go between London and Leeds in two hours.

Inter-city services around the region will also benefit from new rolling stock. Northern, which runs rail services around West Yorkshire and has pledged to get rid of its much-maligned Pacer trains by 2020, will next year introduce the first of its 98 new trains as part of a modernisation programme.

They will be capable of travelling at 100mph, will be fully air conditioned, have electronic seat reservation systems, CCTV, power sockets and free wifi.

The firm is refurbishing 240 of its older trains and introducing new and more frequent services, as well as launching Northern Connect, a “fast inter-urban network” in December.

TransPennine Express will in the second half of 2018 be rolling out the first of its 220 state-of-the-art intercity train carriages which will reach speeds of up to 140mph and cut journey times. There will be more frequent services, including six trains an hour between Leeds and Manchester.

Ministers have faced criticism over the disparity in transport spending between the North and London.

Ed Cox, director of think-tank IPPR North, said:

“The Department for Transport never believed northern leaders could come up with a mutually agreed transport strategy for the North.

“They were wrong. In 2018 I expect we’ll see transformational projects ready for investment and at that point the talking and excuses will have to stop and government will have to put its money where its mouth is.”

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