FRIENDS of Mossley Station and other local rail user groups recently met with Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and the Rail Minister Andrew Jones at the House of Commons to challenge them to take strong action to sort out failing local train services.
The meeting was also attended by Jonathon Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and Chris Roberts, of Rail North Partnership and arranged by Thelma Walker, MP for Colne Valley.
Mr Grayling began the meeting by asserting that while there had been problems with the May 2018 timetable initially, things had improved with the introduction of the emergency timetable a few weeks later.
This statement was met with disbelief by all present from the local stations.
Andrew Holstead, secretary of the Friends of Mossley Station, said: “I emphatically and categorically denied there had been any sort of improvement at Mossley or the other three local stations on the line.
“I pointed out that the number of cancellations had exceeded 700 in six months.
“When I also pointed out that while in the last 12 weeks for Epsom station, in Mr Grayling’s constituency, some 56 per cent of trains ran on time, whereas for Mossley, the figure was only four per cent, Mr Grayling looked shocked.”
All the members of the local rail groups present gave examples of how bad the local train services had been since the introduction of the May 2018 timetable and pointed out that:
• People had been give warnings or lost their jobs for being late
• People had given up trying to rely on train services to get them to where they needed to be
• People had been forced to spend money on taxis when left stranded by TransPennine Express
• People were even considering moving house.
Mr Holstead added it was also pointed out:
• 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
• In the 12 weeks to December 4, of trains arriving on time: Mossley and Slaithwaite only four per cent, Greenfield only eight per cent and Marsden only nine per cent
• In the 12 weeks to December 4, trains cancelled were: Mossley five per cent, Greenfield four per cent, Marsden four per cent, and Slaithwaite six per cent
• Despite previous promises that when trains were cancelled special stop orders, where other trains would make extra stops, would be implemented had rarely ever been implemented.
The Secretary of State for Transport seemed stunned by this evidence according to Mr Holstead who added: “He stated it was completely unacceptable on an hourly service for two consecutive services to be cancelled and also stated it was unacceptable for only four per cent of train services to actually run on time.
“While the Secretary of State indicated the recently announced £3 billion rail investment for the north would help the trans-Pennine route, he was unable to say how and where the money would be spent or 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.
“The Secretary of State also explained that Richard George, an independent trouble shooter, had been appointed to investigate the day-to-day operation of the North-TransPennine rail route with Northern and TransPennine Express.
“Mr Grayling promised to arrange for rail user group representatives and MPs to meet Mr George after he had reported back in the New Year.”
As far as the new December timetable is concerned, after the first week of operation, Mr Holstead says there appears to have been fewer cancellations, which is to be welcomed, although train punctuality remains a concern.
More importantly however, overcrowding continues to be an issue, especially on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas.
“Unfortunately with the delays in the introduction of new rolling stock, overcrowding is likely to get worse,” Mr Holstead added.
“We call on TransPennine to take whatever steps to ensure passengers can get to where they want to go and back again.”