Northern Trains – Could the Ormskirk-Preston Line be the most poorly performing in the UK?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Well if it’s not I would hate to be a passenger on one that is even worse.

Last night I attended an open meeting of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) and the stories of absolute chaos on this rail route were sad and numerous. An 80-year-old lady told the meeting how she can’t get to hospital appointments in Preston due to cancellations and the fact that some of the rail replacement buses don’t call at all the stations on the line! She lives in Croston and without the train, as she does not drive, getting to Preston is very difficult indeed.

Burscough Junction Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line.

If I’m correctly informed, which I think I am, there have no trains on the line at all this week so far. What’s more, I hear that Northern are resistant to paying for taxis when the trains and rail replacement buses both fail to provide a service.

Northern are supposed to be operating an hourly service on the line since the May 2018 timetable changes but it looks like they are interpreting this as 1 a week! We heard stories of passengers missing exams, having to take time off work or even getting to the stage where their jobs may be at risk because of this poorly performing rail franchise.

Unsurprisingly, Northern is reputed to be losing a lot of money on the franchise and there seems little confidence in those who know about the local rail industry that anything is going to change much in the foreseeable future. Will Northern have to pull out of the franchise, or will it have to be taken away from them?

It’s a sorry story indeed but it is ruining the lives of passengers who rely on Northern’s trains to get to work, to hospital, do their shopping or just run their day to day lives and frankly it is just not good enough. And the big question is what are the MP’s representing constituents along the Ormskirk – Preston line doing about it? One suggestion at the meeting was to try to replicate what Tim Farron the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale did when Northern failed spectacularly on the Lakes Line from Oxenhome to Windermere – he helped organise an alternative rail provider and made the DfT/Northern pay for it.

OPSTA are going to be banging the drum very hard indeed to get local politicians to take action. Oh, and by the way, there’s a clear suspicion that when Northern is in trouble they will often choose the Ormskirk – Preston Line to cancel trains – It would be interesting to get to the bottom of that train of thought.

Northern Rail – Crisis talks with DfT?

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Railnews has the story on its website – see link below:-

railnews.mobi/news/2018/11/05-northern-in-crisis-talks-over.html

Rumours that Northern has been suffering financially have been around for a while but then again that’s surely no surprise to anyone based on their well-documented troubles.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum have been lobbying anyone who will listen about the poor levels of service on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport-Wigan-Manchester Lines for a long time now, indeed the troubles as I have often said well predate the May 2018 timetable meltdown.

But of course, Northern’s problems are far, far wider than the two local lines that I am reasonably well informed about and I have been impressed with the campaigning over these troubles by MP’s Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and Lisa Nandy (Wigan).

I appreciate that not all of Northern’s troubles are of their own making and that their franchise has been hugely impacted on in a negative way by Network Rail’s delayed electrification projects and by the related stalled cascading of rolling stock. However, the trouble is not only the financial impact on Northern, who seem to have significant industrial relations problems with their own staff but on the confidence that the travelling public has in them.

Surely ending this franchise would be best all round, would it not?

Northern Rail – Their troubles just go on and on

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

The Liverpool Echo has the story on it web page – see link below

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/northern-suddenly-cancels-train-services-15243470

For this to happen on such a busy day in Liverpool may well be surprising but in reality its not as Northern have been in a terrible mess for longer than many of us can remember. Is there any wonder some of their passengers call them Northern Fail?

Whatever the reason for today’s cancellations they fit a pattern that has become far too familiar and it really makes you wonder how on earth the Department of Transport tolerates it.

Ormskirk – Preston Trains an update on a line that’s struggled to deliver decent service levels for a very long time now

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Along with many railway routes across the Northern Rail franchise the Ormskirk – Preston Line has suffered some very poor levels of performance for a long time now. Indeed, whilst you may be forgiven for thinking the melt-down that is Northern Rail started when the May 2018 was brought in the reality is that the rot set in well before that on this line. Cancellations and the dreaded rail replacement buses have been the norm for much longer than that sadly.

OPSTA*, the local volunteer rail campaign group, have been trying to hold Northern Rail’s feet to the fire so to speak in an attempt to push them to address all the many problems that have beset the line and here is the latest from them:-

They have been pressing Northern on why the service has been so abysmal in recent weeks and what steps they are taking to improve.

In response Northern stated that in the last 4 weeks the majority of cancellations were down to infrastructure failure** with 40% attributable to unavailability of traincrew or a train unit. Northern has claimed actions are being taken to bring about an improved service.

From Monday (17th) a new traincrew roster/link comes into effect and this has been designed to optimise performance and minimise all traincrew related cancellations for all Lancashire routes. We will of course be monitoring closely as ever.

OPSTA are looking for response and feedback on other matters raised with Northern but one thing seems clear, the final bus replacement service (11.26 Preston departure) may not be reverted to train before December.

OPSTA will continue to pursue the issues and concerns over replacement bus services, last minute cancellations and lack of revenue protection/ticket selling.

With thanks to Alan for the lead to this posting

* Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association is a rail campaign group made up of volunteers who are dedicated to improved train services on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan – Manchester lines operated by Northern Rail

** for ‘infrastructure failure’ read Network Rail as they are responsible for the track, signaling etc. on which the trains run. The response would seem to indicate that Northern feel that the majority of problems are out of their control.

Northern Fail trip up yet again as more trains are cancelled due to driver shortages

Are you sick of hearing of the shortcomings of Northern Fail because I am. Here’s the latest bit of bad news about the crisis riven provider of trains (sorry rail replacement buses) for northern England.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-45069160

MP’s like Tim Farron and Lisa Nandy have already called for Northern to be stripped of the right to continue to run the Northern franchise but whilst the Dept. for Transport and Chris Grayling ignore such pleas the situation keeps getting worse.

Yes the present situation is seemingly brought about by train drivers refusing to work on their rest days but why on earth should they if they don’t want to. Clearly Northern need more drivers so that there’s no need for rest day working to be a norm. But this situation should have been foreseen just like many of the problems associated with the May timetable changes that threw Northern into a spin. And as I’ve been saying for ages now, services on some Northern run lines, such as Southport – Wigan – Manchester & Ormskirk – Preston, have been bad for far too long now and the problems well predate the May timetable meltdown.

Time for DfT and Chris Grayling to listen to the likes of Tim Farron and Lisa Nandy and give Northern Fail the boot. A new start is needed for the lines affected by Northern’s inability to run trains regularly, on time and without the use of those damn rail replacement buses. It’s not too much to ask for is it?

Northern Rail’s meltdown and its impact on Merseyside and beyond

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/mersey-commuters-demand-more-government-14813870

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its web site – see link above

Yes we all know how badly the Northern Rail meltdown has affected negatively the lives of train users across the north of England but it’s worth saying yet again that the troubles actually predate the now infamous May timetable changes. Users of the Ormskirk – Preston route were seeing far too many cancellations before May and Southport – Manchester travellers were suffering often overcrowded and unreliable trains. May’s timetable changes just made it all much worse.

Southport – Manchester trains now virtually all go into at Manchester Victoria Station whereas before they were split between Victoria and Piccadilly. The loss of trains into Piccadilly is a huge issue to those using this line who work in the business area around Piccadilly.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy made a big fuss in House of Commons the other day as her frustration boiled over at the utter mess of train services on her local line – The Southport to Manchester Line. Lib Dem MP Tim Farron has launched a petition to try to get Northern sacked as the train operating company on his Lakes Line from Oxenholme to Windermere, indeed working with local residents he has brought in a heritage railway company to run the trains that Northern can’t/won’t run.