Project to improve accessibility at Marsden station gets underway

Thanks to both Thelma Walker MP and Cllr Donna Bellamy for their work on this issue.[Press release from Network Rail, dated 18th February 2018, follows]

Project to improve accessibility at West Yorkshire station gets underway

Passengers using Marsden station will no longer have to face a large drop between the train and the platform as work to improve accessibility at the station begins.

Thanks to new funding, part of a £15million benefit package for passengers in the North of England announced in late 2018, work will take place to raise the height of platform two.

The upgrade will mean platform two will be made a consistent height from one end to the other, making it easier for passengers to get on and off trains stopping at the station and remove the need for single door operation, the process where only one set of doors on the train are available for passengers to board and alight.

The discrepancy between the height of the platform and the trains using platform two was initially going to be solved by the installation of a temporary graded slope known as a Harrington Hump but the additional funding now means the whole of the platform can be raised instead.

Network Rail will begin work today (Monday, 18 February) and the work will complete by the end of March. Whilst the project is ongoing, train services will use platform three.

Rob McIntosh, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said:

“Passengers using Marsden station will soon be able to enjoy a more comfortable experience as platform two is raised, making it more accessible for many users.

“We are delighted to be able to carry out this upgrade thanks to the extra funding and this project will mean we can continue to provide a railway which meets the needs of the communities and economies we serve both now and in years to come.”

Rail Minister Andrew Jones said:

“Transport accessibility is vitally important, so I am pleased that passengers using Marsden station will soon find it easier to get on and off trains as part of Network Rail’s £15million enhancements package.

“The Government is investing a record £48bn to modernise our railways, and we are working with Transport for the North and Richard George to drive forward improved performance across the northern network – focused on delivering more reliable, frequent and punctual services.”

Chris Nutton, Major Projects Director for TransPennine Express, said:

“The safety and comfort of our customers is of paramount importance and so we are pleased that work to raise the height of platform two is now underway.”

A Northern spokesperson said:

“This project is excellent news for customers of Marsden station. This is in addition to the ongoing work Northern is undertaking to modernise our network that includes new and updated trains, more services and better stations.”

Gary Godolphin, Secretary for Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport, said:

“We welcome the improvements to platform two as a first step towards improving accessibility to all platforms at Marsden station. Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport hope that the forthcoming Transpennine Route Upgrade will provide full disabled access to all platforms enabling everyone to use the station safely”.

The customer benefit package, which was announced by the Rail Minister, Andrew Jones MP last year, is being delivered by Network Rail, Northern and TransPennine Express at stations across the north of England.

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December 2018 Timetable Change, One Month On

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

For the 6 month period of the May 2018 timetable, Slaithwaite closely followed by Mossley, was the worst in the entire country for delays and cancellations. Source:

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.

This graph, courtesy of, shows how punctuality and reliability went from awful to something a lot worse than awful at the May 2018 timetable change, and a partial recovery at the December 2018 timetable change. Slaithwaite = green, Marsden = blue.

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.

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, Transpennine, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Accessibility Update – Marsden Station

Accessibility at Marsden station has been raised with the Secretary of State both by Thelma Walker MP and by Cllr Donna Bellamy.

Until May 2018, most westbound trains used platform 3, with level access. From 20th May 2018, most eastbound trains used platform 2, accessed by steep steps and with a height difference of 51cm between the train and the platform. [SMART had advised against this, but we were ignored.] The reasoning behind the change is that use of platform 2 saves 1 ½ to 2 minutes, which makes a difference on a line as busy as Huddersfield-Stalybridge.

The kindest thing to say is that the train companies and Network Rail didn’t realise that the height gap was a great as it was.

It’s evident that use of platform 2 has been troublesome operationally. First of all TPE changed their operating practice to only open one centre door at Marsden westbound, then in January 2019 TPE stopped using platform 2 on a regular basis. It’s this latest change which has meant that all westbound trains run two minutes late (or should that be two minutes later than they would otherwise have been).

Thelma Walker MP now reports:

I am delighted that after raising the issue of accessibility at Marsden Station with the Secretary of State for Transport in the Chamber and in private meetings, action is being taken to improve platform access.

As a temporary measure, an Easy Access Area will be put in place on Platform 2, and there is a longer-term plan to raise the whole length of the platform as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade.

Cllr Donna Bellamy adds:

Marsden station platform 2, just had further update after an assessment has taken place the Original solution was Harrington Humps for 1x set of doors on P2 at Marsden. The Plan has since changed to be a ‘Dura’ platform raise for the full (99m) length of the platform. this does mean that the work completion will be slightly longer but should be done by the end of March.

Of course, there needs to be a bit of perspective here. This is a mitigation of a problem which should never have been created in the first place. It is no substitute for full disabled access to all platforms.

When we met the Secretary of State we asked for confirmation that the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) would provide full disabled access to all platforms at Mossley, Greenfield, Marsden & Slaithwaite. We do not yet have an answer.

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Discussions about the December 2019 timetable

The following is taken from West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee’s agenda papers for 11th January, and specifically from WYCA’s formal consultation response on the proposed December 2019 timetable.

2. Local services between Leeds and Manchester

As you will be aware, the service patterns on the core Diggle axis have been the focus of much attention both before and after the May 2018 timetable change, both with regard to the connectivity and service levels timetabled and to real-world operating performance. The Combined Authority’s consistent position has been not to favour “skip-stopping” or similar patterns on the rail network, and in this respect the Combined Authority welcomes the December 2018 changes as representing the beginning of a move away from this, albeit only the beginning.

Clearly, this route is highly capacity-constrained and some improvements will need to await the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade programme (TRU), but we believe that some enhancements both can and should be delivered in the shorter term. These include:

The restoration of a “true” stopping service between Manchester and Huddersfield, operating at least once per hour and calling at all stations.

An increase in service levels at Slaithwaite and Marsden to 2tph in the AM and PM peaks (in each case in both directions), again to restore pre-May-2018service levels to those stations. It is accepted that under some service combinations it might not be possible for all the additional peak-only trains to stop at all stations, and a pragmatic view will be needed as to which “extra” trains can accommodate stops at these stations, provided that at least 1tph does stop at all stations between Huddersfield and Stalybridge.

The Combined Authority notes that the current services at Slaithwaite and Marsden, taking TPE and Northern services together, fall short of franchise requirements in the peaks, as well as being inferior to the position before May 2018. While the noncompliances may directly relate to Northern’s rather than TPE’s Train Service Requirement, the reality of this corridor is that the two operations are inextricably linked, and the constraints “caused” by one operator’s service often cause issues for the other. In any event, we retain an open mind as to the potential merits of any “remapping” of certain services if this provides a route to unlocking the service levels we wish to see.

In the longer term, Combined Authority policy favours 2tph on the stopping service between Huddersfield and Leeds via Dewsbury (with the Manchester – Calder Valley – Brighouse – Dewsbury – Leeds service becoming semi-fast), but accepts that this is unlikely to be feasible without additional infrastructure, for which we look to TRU.

3. Operational Performance (Punctuality and Reliability)

Performance on the North Trans-Pennine route continues to fall far below reasonable expectations and franchise standards. Indeed, by some measures Slaithwaite station has the least reliable services anywhere in Britain, and six out of the top ten least reliably-served stations are on this line; amongst the top 100 busiest stations in the country, nine of the ten with the least reliable services are on the TPE network, including Huddersfield as the least reliable large station of all, with Leeds and York also featuring.

Day-to-day operating decisions have exacerbated the impact of the poor performance: we have received numerous reports of trains that should travel to Manchester Airport being terminated at Manchester Victoria, from where the onward journey to the Airport is anything but straightforward; of stops at Slaithwaite or Marsden being omitted; and of Scarborough trains only reaching Malton – amongst other examples. Where trains only run hourly, the impacts on travellers’ journeys is often unacceptable, and we have heard of situations where such steps have been taken to consecutive trains. This is harming both rail travel and the economies of the communities that depend on rail connectivity. So not only the structure of the timetable but also the management of performance on a day-to-day basis needs closer and improved management focus.

The Combined Authority is aware that TPE is taking steps to seek to mitigate this, including the timetable changes being introduced in December 2018, and it has been pleasing to see evidence of TPE moving away from a “blame culture” towards working positively to tackle the root-causes of the problems. The Combined Authority is in principle supportive of any timetable interventions designed to improve performance, provided that they do not entail compromises to connectivity (either of TPE’s own services or consequent impacts on other operators’ services) that go beyond acceptable limits, as for example removing station-stops or curtailing local services would be likely to.

In this spirit, the Combined Authority has not opposed the principle of the breaking of the cross-Huddersfield links on local services that have proved incapable of being maintained reliably. Similarly, we would not necessarily oppose re-examining the clockface structure of fast services between York/Leeds and Manchester if, for example, a move away from current structure could greatly increase performance or unlock local connectivity at intermediate stations.

Posted in METRO/WYCA, Transpennine, Uncategorized | Leave a comment