AS an emergency rail timetable was introduced on June 4, Friends of Mossley Station secretary Andrew Holstead has been chronicling the fortnight of misery experienced by commuters following the introduction of a new timetable.
With 2,000 cancellations on Northern trains and the punctuality of other services poor, it has been a torrid time for rail users, especially those travelling at peak times.
Indeed, mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has described the episode as a “shambles” while Network Rail and Northern has announced they will be commissioning an independent report and recommendations into the preparations and processes leading up to the implementation of the recent timetable change.
Customer groups, transport and Northern stakeholders will be invited to contribute to the report.
Mr Holstead said: “The general feeling is one of frustration and desperation, with people not having any idea whether they can expect their planned train to be running or not.
“This is turning to anger that they cannot even manage to guarantee to get in to work on time.”
And Mr Holstead has not been reassured by the emergency timetable as he detailed its failings.
He said: “I have managed to get on to Northern’s website to look at their emergency timetable for services from Stalybridge to Victoria via Ashton-under-Lyne – it’s terrible out of the peak time.
“If the Trans Pennine Express service is late arriving at Stalybridge (and on average it has been eight minutes late), the Northern service will have just left.
“On the return from Victoria and Ashton the TPE service leaves a few minutes before the Northern gets in, resulting in almost an hour’s wait at Stalybridge for the Mossley train.
“This means nearly an hour wait each way at Stalybridge for journeys between Mossley and Ashton or Victoria. Definitely not an improvement!”
And of his own personal experiences as a commuter, Mr Holstead said: “I have varied my journey times to and from work depending on circumstances and enforced variation by delays or cancellations.
“Like many commuters trying to get to work, a delayed arrival in the morning has necessarily meant a later departure from work to compensate – my employer is understanding – but I still have to complete my work.
“The main thing I have noted is there has been little dependability or reliability.
“Between checking the trains when I get up to arriving at the station trains previously showing as on-time have materialised into 10-20 minute delays.
“I have left work only to get to Piccadilly to discover the train has been cancelled.
“Three times my journey into work has been disrupted by cancelled trains and twice on the return journey home.
“Things were definitely not perfect before the recent timetable change, but to have been affected by five cancellations in a single week is something I cannot recall happening in the last 10 years of commuting.”
Mr Holstead has been collating comments from irate commuters which include:
• Stuck in Manchester due to lots of cancelled trains. Anyone want to share a taxi?
• I love nothing better than to have to wait another hour for my train when all I want is to get home after a long day at work.
• Trying to get back early for the bands (on Whit Friday) 14.47 cancelled, 15.17 (Greenfield) cancelled, on the late and jam-packed 15.47 and the 15.59 is cancelled.
• Nice and cosy on the 7.48 this morning. I have no idea how anyone managed to squeeze on at Stalybridge.…this is ridiculous.
• The main problem for Mossley passengers about the emergency timetable is the cancellation of the 10.23 through to 15.23 services from Victoria to Stalybridge, which are the ones you would need to change for Mossley.
• So, the 17.47 cancelled tonight from Piccadilly, thank God I ran from Oxford Rd to Piccadilly to get the 17.17.
• So, so poor, the excuses are lame. There never appears to be any contingency plan in place. Just cancellations of missed stops at the expense of the customer.
• I drove to Stalybridge so I didn’t miss my connection.
• Second time running for my son, he’s managed to get a lift now. It’s a joke.
• This week I have cycled in on Tuesday and drove to the tram stop in Ashton today. Despite having already coughed up for a season ticket, just can’t face it anymore.
• Was amazed the 17.59 actually ran.
• It continues this week. 16.47 late, 17.00 cancelled. How do they expect commuters to get home?
• People are giving up on them. The ‘teething problems’ seem to go on and on.
• Northern and TPE are conspiring to stop us getting in to work. Guess I’m driving.
Mr Holstead added: “The other thing to consider is that while much of the attention this has, quite rightly, been focused on Northern – they only operate three trains a day in each direction – the rest of the trains are operated exclusively by TransPennine Express, and have been shockingly poor.
“TransPennine have cancelled a lot of their trains and, supposedly, they are not facing the same problems as Northern about train drivers – so why are they being cancelled?
“Another feature has been that TPE is cancelling/turning back trains at Stalybridge, presumably to reduce knock-on effects on the timetable – but this leaves passengers stranded at Stalybridge, trying to get to Manchester, or at Piccadilly trying to pick up their train at Stalybridge.
“People are complaining about not getting home to see their children and people having their jobs put at risk.
“Quite worryingly a number of people are now talking about rejecting the train and driving to work.”
Martin Frobisher, managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “We recognise how tough it has been for customers, particularly since the May timetable change and we’re sorry for that.
“We are working hard with Northern to get service back to where it needs to be.
“The independent report will ensure lessons are learned and there are no repeats of current problems as we prepare for the next major timetable change in December this year.”
David Brown, managing director of Northern, said: “We are doing everything we can to minimise cancellations and delays and keep our customers informed.
“It has been difficult for many of our customers and I am truly sorry for this.
“There is urgent work to do to fully understand what did and didn’t work on all aspects of planning and delivery of the new timetable.
“We are committed to working with Network Rail and Northern stakeholders to deliver the services our customers expect and deserve.”