As Northern Rail starts another week of misery for its passengers……………….

End of the line from Wigan, the Merseyrail service to Liverpool is accessed under the bridge.

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/diary-commuter-what-really-like-15427245

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.

I’m informed that this week is going to be yet another commuting challenge on many Northern routes because of the lack of availability of trains i.e. too many of them are bust. And the reason they are bust? Well for those of you who are interested in the technicalities my understanding is this. The shortage of trains follows a high number of wheel tread damage ‘flats’* incurred over the last 7 days following a deterioration of the railhead due to extreme autumn conditions. What’s extreme about this Autumn compared to any other?

Northern is predicting, so I’m told, a lack of around 20 trains on their network resulting in shorter more crowded trains along with full bus replacement services on the Ormskirk – Preston line today.

Northern expect, or more precisely their passengers expect, to experience crowding on many routes particularly into Manchester and Liverpool.

When will this madness end and Northern’s put out of their misery and the misery they cause to their passengers on a daily basis?

* Oddly on Remembrance Sunday when getting a Merseyrail train to Liverpool from Maghull the train I got on seemed to have wheel flats as you could hear it banging as the wheels turned. Not only that but whilst waiting for my train another passed through Maghull heading for Ormskirk and I could swear it had wheel flats too. Is there something to this extreme autumn conditions claim and what on earth is it?

Northern Rail recruiting train guards whilst being in dispute with them

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/northern-rail-looking-train-conductors-15382492

And isn’t this the very section of its workforce that Northern seems to be in almost permanent dispute with via the RMT trade union due to this franchise operator’s wish to run trains without train guards?!

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.

Transport For the North (TFN) make bold statements on rail but will anything much actually happen?

A Northern Class 158 DMU at York Station

The article is on Transport for the North’s web site – see link below:-

transportforthenorth.com/transport-north-board-takes-decisive-action-future-norths-railways/

A Transpennie Express Class 185 DMU leaving Liverpool Lime Street Station

And why do I continue to hold a skeptical line? Keolis have recently announced that the Liverpool – Chester via Frodsham service, due to start in December, will not now appear until May 2019. This is due, I understand, to “rolling stock availability issues”. Keolis take over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales (which will run this new service) next month.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting

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?