SHRUG meeting with Chris Grayling, 5th December 2018

Representatives of Local Rail User Groups on the Manchester to Huddersfield line met with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport and Andrew Jones, Rail Minister and MP for Harrogate at a meeting in the House of Commons on Wednesday 5th December to inform him first hand of the effect that the poor service was having on people’s lives and to challenge him to take strong action to rectify the situation.

The meeting was also attended by Debbie Abrahams MP for Saddleworth, Jonathon Reynolds MP for Mossley and Thelma Walker MP for Colne Valley, Cllrs Rob Walker & Donna Bellamy (Colne Valley) and Martyn Bolt (Mirfield) & Chris Roberts of Rail North Partnership.

When the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, claimed that a recent review of the timetable chaos since May 2018 had shown that services had improved there were looks of disbelief on the faces of the Rail User Group representatives around the table.

Local Rail User Group representatives challenged Mr Grayling and gave examples of how bad the local train services have been since the May 2018 timetable change:

  • out of 2611 stations nationally, Mossley, Greenfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite are in the bottom 10 ranking of stations for service reliability, with Mossley and Slaithwaite in the bottom two places.
  •  in the 12 weeks to 04/12/18 of trains arriving on time there were at  Greenfield only 8%, Marsden only 9%  and Mossley & Slaithwaite only 4%.
  • in the 12 weeks to 04/12/18 trains cancelled were: Greenfield 4%, Marsden 4%, Mossley 5%  and Slaithwaite 6%. Despite previous promises that when trains were cancelled Special Stop Orders whereby other trains would make extra stops would be implemented yet this has rarely happened.
  • The effect of this poor service on the ability of people to get to and from work, business in general, additional road traffic due to people abandoning rail travel were all hammered home.
  • It was also made very clear that some people were considering moving house, having to change jobs, or had been disciplined by employers for lateness.

The Secretary of State for Transport seemed stunned by this evidence.

He stated that it was completely unacceptable on an hourly service for two consecutive services to be cancelled causing a three hour gap.

The lack of disabled access at Marsden and other stations was also discussed.

Chris Grayling also said that the recently announced £3bn. rail investment for the north would help the trans-Pennine route, but he could not say whether the scope of the upgrade would be sufficient to provide two trains per hour and full disabled access at Greenfield, Mossley, Marsden and Slaithwaite.

Chris Grayling promised to arrange for Rail User Group representatives and MPs to meet with Richard George, the Independent Trouble Shooter appointed by the Department for Transport.

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Timetable changes, 9th December

Stakeholder update from TPE (below, in italics) regarding the timetable changes from 9th December. Whilst we don’t always agree with TPE, this seems like a reasonable summary.

The number of cancellations has gone right down (average weekly number of cancellations affecting Marsden and Slaithwaite in the 18 weeks before the timetable change – 32, first week of new timetable – 3). The timetable still isn’t fit for purpose in several aspects, but it’s something to build upon. Hopefully this is the start of the changes needed to rebuild passenger trust and confidence. 

New timetable is at https://d2cf7kiw5xizhy.cloudfront.net/images/timetables/2018-11/december-may/Northern-25-web-1018-28pp.pdf

and https://www.tpexpress.co.uk/travel-updates/timetables, look at table for Manchester to Leeds via all intermediate stations.

As you will be aware, a new timetable was introduced across the rail industry on 9th December 2018.  For TransPennine Express,the small number of changes we made were designed to address the performance issues our services have faced since the timetable change in May 2018. These changes were developed with agreement of Transport for the North and the Rail North Partnership, and following consultation with their local authority members, and are as follows:

  • The service that operated in each direction between Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds, calling at Stalybridge, Greenfield, Marsden, Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury, Batley and Morley is now 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 service that operates between Hull and Manchester Piccadilly has had two stops removed and no longer calls at Batley or Slaithwaite, while delivering a sub two hour journey time between Hull and Manchester.  The calls at Batley and Slaithwaite are now made in the newly introduced Huddersfield to Leeds and Manchester to Huddersfield services respectively (as above)
  • We have increased the turnaround time of Newcastle/Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport services at Manchester Airport.  This has not altered the timetable for customers but is designed to improve the reliability of these services

It has been just over a week since the start of the new timetable and we have seen a marked improvement in Public Performance Measure (arrival at end destination within ten minutes) with several days achieving above 80% PPM and a notable decrease in the number of services being cancelled short of their final destination, which we know has caused significant disruption to customers since May 2018.

The new timetable needs a longer period of monitoring and it will take a number of weeks to see an established positive trend, but early indications are good.  We still have to see how the timetable will respond to incidents on the network (train delays, infrastructure issues, vandalism,suicides etc) and it is important that we continue to mitigate the impact such events have on customers.  We will also 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.

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

Every Time You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse – The Sequel

Now that we are six months into the new timetable, it’s worth looking at how it has worked, and whether there has been any discernible improvement.

TPE would argue that there has been some improvement, but in saying that they are looking at their network as a whole, not focusing on the Hull-Manchester and Leeds-Manchester stopping services or on the impact specifically on Slaithwaite, Marsden, Greenfield and Mossley stations. It’s the impact on our area which interests SMART, and it’s clear that there has been no improvement.

It’s not easy to explain to an outsider just how bad it has been, it has to be experienced to be believed.

So, first of all, some statistics and graphs.

Even before the timetable change, Slaithwaite was in the bottom 100 stations for punctuality and reliability.

The timetable change resulted in a further decline in punctuality and reliability, and instead of being in the bottom 100 stations it is now in the bottom 1. TPE should be embarrassed by this, but they seem more interested in pointing out that only about a fifth of delays and cancellations are their fault, and what upsets them more is that the likes of SMART respond to enquiries from the Yorkshire Post.  However, one fifth of the delays is still a lot of delays.

Analysis by www.ontimetrains.co.uk puts Slaithwaite worst in the entire country for delays and cancellations over the past 6 months, with Mossley 2nd and Greenfield and Marsden also in the worst 20.

Although in the past 4 weeks there are a few stations in West Lancashire which have managed to push Slaithwaite and Mossley off the coveted bottom position, it’s worth noting that that’s not an improvement for Slaithwaite (reliability has fallen even further), but that in a few other places the decline in performance has been even greater.

Our own analysis has attempted to track the number of cancellations and part-cancellations. How these are defined is a bit subjective, but we have looked at it from the point of view of Slaithwaite and Marsden passengers. So, as we define it, any train which was timetabled to call at Slaithwaite or Marsden and doesn’t counts as a cancellation. Any train which calls at Slaithwaite or Marsden but failed to go to/from Manchester in one direction and Leeds in the other we have classed as a part cancellation. We didn’t even bother looking at delays. They are so commonplace as to pass without comment.

On that basis, we are looking at (up to 29th November), a total of about 350 part cancellations (typically a train which starts or terminates at Stalybridge) and 630 full cancellations. It seems inevitable that before the next timetable change on 9th December, this will have passed 1000. In the unlikely event that any TPE manager reads this, it’s something to be embarrassed and ashamed of.

It’s more than just statistics.

It’s about how it affects people’s ability to travel to and from work, and how it affects people’s lives.

The commute to and from Manchester is now much more difficult than before the timetable change. What was previously a half-hourly peak service was reduced to hourly in the 20th May timetable, and often cancellations reduce that to just two trains in a three hour peak period.

It’s common for peak trains to be terminated at Stalybridge, leaving passengers to wait for the next train (if that isn’t cancelled, too) and often unable to board because it’s just too crowded. Timings are too unpredictable to rely on being able to connect to trains to Victoria. In the return direction, it’s common for hundreds of passengers to be stranded at Piccadilly whilst their train departs from Stalybridge instead, empty.

The commute to Leeds is a little less disrupted. The one good thing in the 20th May timetable was the regular through trains to Leeds. These, at least, have been less prone to cancellation than the Manchester commute. Delays are commonplace, but we have all reduced our expectations.

Cancellations in the daytime deter passengers from using the service when they don’t know whether there will be a train home at the time they planned to return.

The Yorkshire Post articles by Rob Walker and Mark Wylie describe some of the impacts on passengers’ personal and work lives.

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/mark-wylie-welcome-to-transpennine-express-a-passenger-s-long-wait-for-a-semi-reliable-service-1-9388681#comments-area

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/robert-walker-the-passengers-forgotten-in-the-trans-pennine-rail-crisis-1-9344627

More importantly, it’s something which should have been addressed long ago, by means of actions to mitigate the disruption. The promised stop orders have largely failed to materialise, and routinely TPE regard it as acceptable to expect passengers to wait an hour for the next service, and maybe wait another hour if that one’s cancelled, too. It’s unclear whether the ultimate responsibility for refusing stop orders sits with TPE or Network Rail or a combination of both. TPE and Network Rail have agreed a recovery plan which involves terminating westbound trains at Stalybridge if running more than 11 minutes late at Huddersfield, but also refers to stop orders being made in the event of cancellations. What’s the point of a recovery plan if TPE and/or Network Rail just cherry-pick which bits of it they implement?

Providing a service that passengers can use doesn’t appear to have been on the agenda.

It’s worth pointing out that Northern run 10% of the trains serving Slaithwaite and Marsden, but only account for 4% of the cancellations. We never thought we would be relying on Northern to be the relatively reliable part of the service.

Posted in Marsden, Slaithwaite, Transpennine | 2 Comments

“The Manchester train commuters left in tears because they are being ‘sacrificed’ by TransPennine Express”

The Manchester train commuters left in tears because they are being ‘sacrificed’ by TransPennine Express

Passengers have described a ‘lottery’ system between stations in Tameside and central Manchester

[from the Manchester Evening News, 30 NOV 2018]

Commuters are being ‘left in tears’ amid delays and cancellations which have left them missing children’s bedtimes and at risk of losing their jobs.

Passengers using TransPennine Express services to travel between parts of Tameside and Manchester are complaining of continuing disruption.

Rail users have described a ‘lottery’ system between stations such as Mossley and Greenfield to Manchester Piccadilly, leaving some with no choice but to pay for taxis to get to work.

One commuter reported being so late home from work, she doesn’t get to see her children before they go to bed.

TransPennine Express say it’s difficult to add extra stops to their services because the rail network in central Manchester is ‘very congested’, but added that they are ‘making changes to our train plan from 9 December that will make our services more reliable’.

Andrew Holstead is a secretary of Friends of Mossley Station and commutes daily from Mossley to his job in Manchester City Centre.

The station is currently ranked fourth worst in the country by data from On Time Trains for overall performance and punctuality.

The commuter is petitioning to increase the number of trains serving local stations between Huddersfield and Manchester – including Mossley.

Currently, there is one service an hour.

Andrew believes the current timetable from TransPennine is not fit for purpose and is leaving short-distance commuters stranded on a daily basis.

Speaking to the M.E.N, Andrew said:

“Whenever things go wrong on the line between Manchester and Huddersfield, they sacrifice short distance customers.

“I have seen people who have been left in tears after facing severe disruption to get to and from work.

“People are having to get a taxi to get to work in the morning or risk losing their jobs and in the evening, people aren’t getting home in time to see their children.

“It’s just a lottery every day.”

Andrew says that many passengers have resulted to driving into Manchester and some are even looking to move out of the area due to the disruption to their lives.

Yesterday’s commute home was no exception with passengers left stranded at Manchester Piccadilly for more than two hours.

With the last Northern service running at 18.01, many commuters were left with a long wait after the 17.47 and 18.47 TransPennine trains from Manchester to Hull were cancelled.

Andrew says he asked TransPennine staff if a ‘stop-order’ could be placed on the 19.47 train from Manchester to Leeds – allowing it to make an unscheduled stop at Mossley.

His request was refused by staff who sited ‘operational reasons,’ leaving him and others stranded for more than two hours until the delayed 19.47 train arrived.

Despite a journey time of just 17 minutes between Manchester and Mossley, Andrew didn’t arrive home until 8.30pm. He arrived at Piccadilly shortly after 6pm.

“We understand that things go wrong but when they do go wrong, TransPennine aren’t doing enough to accommodate people,” he said.

“This is having a massive impact on people’s mental health.

“Yesterday, a woman told me that for the second time this week – she won’t get home in time to see her children before they go to bed.”

“It is not unreasonable to suggest that TransPennine will do their best to get us home – they are failing to do their job.”

Recent data from train time comparison site, On Time Trains ranked Mossley 2,614th out of 2,618 station in Britain over the last six months.

Only six per cent of trains were recorded as ‘on time’ and 24 per cent of trains were delayed by 10 minutes or more.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said:

“Due to a number of issues on the rail network yesterday evening, we unfortunately had to cancel these two services.

“This combined with a fatality elsewhere also led to significant disruption to customers journeys.

“We request additional stop orders when we can however, the railway network in central Manchester is very congested and this isn’t always possible.

“We are making changes to our train plan from 9 December that will make our services more reliable for customers that will address circumstances like this.”

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