Trans-Pennine rail £2.9bn upgrade will cause five years of route closures, longer journeys and less capacity

A letter from Network Rail to the Transport Secretary sets out some of the potential outcomes of the proposed Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU), and the potential disruption during a construction period of five years.

 “Communities at Ravensthorpe, Mirfield, Batley, Dewsbury, Marsden and Slaithwaite would be hugely affected as many rail services would need to become bus replacements”.

“This is attempt to test public and political reaction”.

“I am disappointed that there was not a formal briefing for MPs in whose constituencies construction work will take place.

“The same tactic of drip feeding bad news has already been used to lower expectations regarding the full electrification of the line, which was initially promised by the Conservative government.

“My initial concern is that the inevitably extensive construction work in the Colne Valley will hit our services and disrupt the wider community.

“It is my hope, however, that we will see every effort being made to schedule work so that this stretch is closed for the minimum period of time whilst trains by-pass our stations.

“Potentially, the upgrade is positive, if it delivers a modern railway providing improved capacity, frequency and reliability.

“This must deliver these benefits for passengers from Huddersfield, Slaithwaite and Marsden, rather than being exclusively focused on passengers travelling between Manchester and Leeds.”

[Thelma Walker, Colne Valley MP]

“In the long term this will bring real benefits but in the short term it could cause a lot of grief because of the scale of building work taking place.

“We would hope they would do some proper consultation with local politicians, and more importantly with the wider community, before anything is decided.

“What I worry about is because we are on the fringes of Leeds and Manchester, when decisions are made the emphasis is on the passengers from the big cities and not enough consideration is given to us.

“It’s clear from the May timetable scandal that people from Slaithwaite and Marsden have probably suffered more than anybody else.

“We’ve already been let down in terms of what was promised.

“I’ve seen people in tears on the platforms when their trains don’t turn up.

“We’ve heard of people getting their wages docked £20 every time they’re late.

“It’s vital we get more people on trains and less in cars, but at the moment it’s going the other way.”

[Cllr Rob Walker, Chair of SMART]

[Article from the Yorkshire Post, Thursday 13 September 2018, follows]

 Trans-Pennine rail £2.9bn upgrade will cause five years of route closures, longer journeys and less capacity

The £2.9bn upgrade of trans-Pennine rail repeatedly promoted by Chris Grayling will cause “significant disruption” for five years, including route closures for up to 39 weeks a year, longer journey times and less seats on trains, a senior transport official has said.

A letter from Rob McIntosh, a route managing director at Network Rail, to the Transport Secretary, describes the disruption that could be caused if the project is to be completed by 2024.

The document, which has emerged online, also says attempting to make further improvements “would add additional risk to the programme”, although it is understood that parts of the line will be electrified, but not the entire route.

Mr Grayling has repeatedly highlighted the Government’s £2.9bn investment in upgrades to the Victorian railway, which has long been blighted by delays and a lack of capacity, peaking this summer during the timetabling chaos.

Mr McIntosh said the work would eventually “transform” passengers’ experience between York, Leeds and Manchester through “significantly” reduced journey times, more capacity on trains, and upgrades to stations along the route.

But he warned it “cannot be delivered without significant disruption” due to having to upgrade an old railway in the “inherently challenging” landscape of the Pennines.

Network Rail will carry out the works to minimise disruption around key seasonal economies such as tourism, university terms and Christmas markets, “but delivering this level of investment to ensure value is maximised cannot be done without disruption”.

Trains will be diverted through other routes such as through the Calder Valley, but

“in practice to achieve the improvements we are seeking we will need to close some part of this (trans-Pennine) route for up to 39 weeks per year between 2020 and 2024,”

Mr McIntosh said.

“This will see journey times increase by 15 to 25 minutes and also constrain capacity over the period.”

Commenting on the letter, Mr McIntosh told The Yorkshire Post:

“The message for me is that delivering £3bn of investment on one of the most contested parts of the network is going to be disruptive to local communities, economies and passengers.

“What we have put forward we think delivers the best benefits and outcomes for passengers in the shortest time scales while maintaining the connectivity of the community. “

Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake said disruption was unfortunately inevitable with works “of that magnitude” while suggesting Ministers could ask Network Rail to potentially shorten the timescale.

The revelations also highlight the lack of other routes across the Pennines and the need to get on with building Northern Powerhouse Rail across the region by 2032, he said.

Mr Hollinrake added:

“The Treasury and the Department for Transport (DfT) seem very supportive (of that idea), they are waiting for this business case from Transport for the North which we think will be with us by the end of the year, but I’m still hoping for a Budget commitment for that nevertheless to say ‘all being well with the business case we’re going to support it’.”

The Department for Transport said the improvements were being phased over five years to “keep disruption to a minimum”.

A spokeswoman said:

“We are investing £13bn in transport in the north, and are planning to invest £3 billion upgrading the trans-Pennine route – one third of our budget for rail upgrades between 2019-24. This is our biggest planned investment project in the next five years, and will reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve stations.

“We are working closely with Network Rail and Transport for the North to deliver these vital improvements that passengers want and deserve as quickly as possible. However, we also want to keep disruption to a minimum, which is why the upgrade will be delivered in phases from Spring 2019.”

Posted in Electrification, Marsden, Northern Hub, Slaithwaite, Transpennine Route Upgrade | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Amendments to TransPennine Express timetable from December 2018

Received the following from TPE today.

Whilst the loss of regular through trains to Leeds is disappointing, as it was one of the few benefits of the May 2018 timetable, it has to be recognised that the experience of the past four months, as evidenced by over 600 cancellations in just 16 weeks, has shown that it wasn’t possible to operate the May 2018 timetable reliably.

SMART would like to see a direct service to Leeds restored when practicable, but not at the expense of reliability. At the moment, there’s a trade-off between the two.

Hopefully this will see an end to the farce of trains being turned round at Stalybridge on a regular basis.


Amendments to TransPennine Express timetable from December 2018


As you will be aware, our services have been affected by a range of performance issues since the introduction of the May 2018 timetable which has affected the punctuality and reliability of our services on the North TransPennine route.


We wanted to take the opportunity to outline performance improvement changes we will be introducing to the timetable in December to provide greater resilience for services on this route.  Since May, over 70% of delays to our services have been caused by factors outside the direct control of TransPennine Express.  We have therefore worked with Network Rail and Northern to develop an industry plan to deliver improvements to train service performance.


With the agreement of Transport for the North and the Rail North Partnership, and following consultation with their local authority members, as part of the timetable change on 09 December 2018 we will make amendments to a small number of TransPennine Express services as follows:


  • The current service that operates in each direction between Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds, calling at Stalybridge, Greenfield, Marsden, Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury, Batley and Morley will from this date be operated by two separate trains as follows:

    • Manchester Piccadilly to Huddersfield, calling at Stalybridge, Greenfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite

    • Huddersfield to Leeds calling at Deighton, Mirfield, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury, Batley, Morley and Cottingley

  • The current service that operates between Hull and Manchester Piccadilly will have two stops removed and will no longer call at Batley or Slaithwaite.  These calls will now be made in the newly introduced Huddersfield to Leeds and Manchester to Huddersfield services respectively (as above)

  • We will make changes to increase the turnaround time of Newcastle/Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport services at Manchester Airport.  This does not alter the timetable for customers but will improve the reliability of these services


We are confident these changes will provide customers with a more resilient and reliable service.


These changes have also enabled us to make progress on responding to stakeholder requests for improved local station connectivity between Manchester and Huddersfield and Leeds and Huddersfield and to reduce the number of stations calls between Hull and Manchester.

There are no other structural changes being made to the timetable at December.  Timetables (on-line, printed and published at stations) will be available in advance of the winter timetable change as per normal.  We will circulate links to these timetables once available.

We will continue to closely monitor performance and assess the impact and effectiveness of these changes and consider, particularly in light of the performance of services in and around Manchester, whether further amendments will be required to improve train service performance.

We would also like to apologise again to all customers who have been affected by any delays or cancellations since the May 2018 timetable was introduced.  Compensation for eligible season tickets holders is available ( and compensation is provided from any delays of 30 minutes or more via our Delay Repay scheme (  Claims should be made by 01 October 2018 for the May 2018 compensation scheme.

We look forward to introducing these service changes on 09 December 2018.

Provisional timings have now been published in the National Rail journey planner, and show most trains at Slaithwaite on the opposite half hour from now, plus some changed timings on Northern’s peak extra trains that call at Marsden in the westbound direction. These will now run from Huddersfield to Marsden, wait in platform 3 for 25 minutes, and then continue to Manchester.

It appears there is one through train to Leeds from Marsden (0610) & Slaithwaite (0613), and two through trains from Hull/Leeds which continue to call at Slaithwaite (Leeds 1640, Slaithwaite 1707 & Leeds 1740, Slaithwaite 1807).

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, timetable changes, Transpennine | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Robert Walker: The passengers forgotten in the trans-Pennine rail crisis

Robert Walker: The passengers forgotten in the trans-Pennine rail crisis

[from the Yorkshire Post, 12 September 2018]

The May 2018 rail timetable changes and franchise change have brought massive disruption to the Colne Valley villages of Marsden and Slaithwaite.

We had initial concerns about the prospect of reduced services, particularly at peak periods, but were told this was just a temporary transition measure with modern TransPennine Express rolling stock replacing Northern’s antiquated trains.

Months before the changes were implemented, members of our local rail users group, Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport (SMART), along with colleagues from the Manchester side of the Standedge Tunnel, raised concerns about the viability of the plans.

As May came closer, alarm bells began to ring with the failure to complete preparatory projects. At the final pre-launch public meeting in Marsden the lack of any coherent response to passengers’ concerns from TransPennine Express managers was ominous.

Even the most pessimistic of passengers have been shocked by both the level of disruption and the apparent disregard for them as customers. Well over 550 trains have been cancelled. By late August, no fewer than 503 trains serving Slaithwaite and Marsden have been cancelled or part-cancelled by terminating trains before their destination. Even by late August, less than one in three trains arrived on time.

At first we hoped this was teething trouble. Now it appears that TransPennine Express is incapable of responding to the crisis and places no value upon its customers. Public bodies appear impotent to tackle this scandal.

Passengers feel that their interests have been sacrificed to try and meet a badly planned timetable designed to hit targets for quicker inter city services.

There have been sympathetic words from West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Rail North and Transport for the North, but they appear incapable of solving the ongoing problems. The community I represent as a councillor has been seriously let down by the rail industry whilst the Government denies responsibility.

One commuter told me:

“Train cancellations are a pain if trains are frequent. But now the service has been slashed to just one train an hour, the impact is massive. I’ve cancelled plans with friends, missed meetings and spent numerous hours at the station waiting for trains – sometimes only to have more than one in a row cancelled. It’s miserable. I try to work from home when I can, but not many people have that luxury.”

Another passenger returning to work after a holiday reported “dreading” the prospect of resuming her daily commute to Salford Quays.

A passenger who works in Manchester told our local MP, Thelma Walker, that her employer in Manchester now “fines” £20 from her wages every time she is late. This has happened frequently since May.

I have witnessed commuters facing two cancellations of services from Marsden to Leeds. They were left standing on the station when they should have been in an important meeting or conducting a university lecture. Several commuters who moved to the area because of good transport links, the attractive environment and reasonable house prices have stated that they are considering moving back into Leeds or Manchester to safeguard both their careers and personal lives.

Some of the most affecting stories come from parents with young families.

To add insult to injury, there have been serious delays in adapting the stations. Again things have deteriorated. In Marsden, the platform for Manchester-bound trains has been changed, removing any disabled access. Due to a failure to raise the platform height, many travellers struggle to board or alight from trains.

At the busy Slaithwaite station, passenger shelters were removed from both platforms, along with the ticket machines, in July. As yet, they have not been replaced.

This timetable change was supposed to herald a “modal shift” in travel with people ditching their cars for more frequent, reliable and comfortable trains.

Unfortunately for those who cannot risk being regularly late for work or social commitments, and have the luxury of a viable alternative, there has been a shift – to cars and buses. Who is going to take responsibility for recognising that passengers matter and that our railways should be a public service that is central to a successful Leeds City Region?

Robert Walker is a Kirklees councillor and chair of Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport.

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, timetable changes, Transpennine | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, 10/09/2018

In which Chris Grayling says that “things have stabilised”

Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire 10/09/2018 – 7.30, BBC1 and on iPlayer

An Inside Out railway special live from the National Railway Museum in York. A unique collaboration by three regional BBC Inside Out programmes from across the north of England examines the crisis-hit railway services across the north.

Posted in Northern Rail, timetable changes, Transpennine | Tagged , , | Leave a comment