Northern Rail – Just why are their services struggling to deliver and who’s going to fix things?

I guess many of passengers using Northern Rail in recent times will have asked themselves this question. Cancelled trains due to a lack of rolling stock and or drivers/guards seem to be an everyday occurrence nowadays and of course, as with Merseyrail, Northern are deeply into industrial action with rail union RMT over loss of train guards on new rolling stock.

I’m told that locally cancelled trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line are now a common occurrence, but it’s clear that Northern’s problems extend over the whole franchise area and it must be the case that Arriva, who own the Northern Rail franchise, are under pressure.

That northern MP’s are getting to the end of their tether with Northern is to be expected as their constituents fill the MP’s post bags with stories of poor performance. That frustration amongst northern MP’s leads to this (see link below):-

www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1240

And of course we have seen that the services on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line are soon to go into Manchester Victoria Station, with few going to Manchester Piccadilly and none to Manchester Airport anymore.

All in all it seems that Northern’s passengers have a lot to be unhappy about but how are the problems going to get fixed?

Southport – Wigan – Manchester Trains suffer appalling cutbacks!

A blogged yesterday about some reasonably good news (extra trains) on the Ormskirk – Preston Line, now the other side of the coin on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line where services are in effect being cut back!

Departure board at Southport Station.

Southport to Manchester Airport trains withdrawn

The current service [from Southport to Manchester] is dreadful with consistently poor punctuality, many cancellations, short forming of trains [too few carriages] and disruption of services for overrunning ‘improvement works’ (sic) and as feared the plan is to withdraw the Southport – Airport service for it to be replaced with a Stalybridge – Wigan North Western – Alderley Edge service pattern.

There will be just two morning services from Southport, departing 06.17 and 07.17, to Alderley Edge via Manchester Piccadilly and three return services in the evening:

– 17.19 departure from Piccadilly will not call at Oxford Road but will call at Deansgate.

– 18.18 departure from Piccadilly will call at Oxford Road but will not call at Deansgate.

– 21.27 departure from Piccadilly

All other services will go through Manchester Victoria to and from Leeds and Blackburn. There will be two services from Southport to Victoria departing Southport between 06.30 and 07.00.

All services will call at Gathurst and Meols Cop.

On Sundays there will be one train per hour to/from Blackburn via Victoria.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) say they will continue to fight these service reduction proposals because there’s no reason to withdraw services this year. They need community support to take the fight once again to Northern Rail and Network Rail.

My thanks to OPSTA for the information contained in this posting

Another example of the Northern Poorhouse, sorry Powerhouse?

Click on the photo to enlarge it

Southport & West Lancs – Manchester Trains – Local MP’s cheesed off by Arriva Rail North and just about everyone else involved in the North West rail industry

A return to that knotty problem of the railway powers that be making all trains from Southport, Burscough, Parbold etc. run into Manchester Victoria Station from 2017. A bad idea if ever I heard one as it is clear that rail travellers on the line want half the trains to continue to go through to Manchester Piccadilly as they do now.

L:ib Dem Leader Tim Farron at Southport Station with Southport Councillor David Pullin.

Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron at Southport Station with Southport Councillor David Pullin.

The campaign to get Network Rail, Rail North and Arriva Rail North to reverse their decision recently came to a head with local MP’s leading the charge with OPSTA and Southport Rail Transport Forum etc.

Parbold Level Crossing

Parbold Level Crossing

To say the MP’s were unimpressed with what they heard is putting it too politely. Here’s what Rosie Cooper Labour MP for West Lancashire thinks:-

www.rosiecooper.net/rosie_cooper_mp_furious_at_arriva_s_dishonesty_over_rail_links_to_manchester

And here’s a report on events from Southport Rail Transport Forum:-

www.facebook.com/southportrailtransportforum/posts/638817542960877?notif_t=notify_me_page&notif_id=1467713462228408

Looks to me as though Southport, West Lancashire and Wigan rail travellers have been shafted by a rail industry that did not consult them before it made the decision and has not backed off since. Who are our railways being run for? The convenience of the rail industry or for the ticket buying passengers? It seems we know the answer!!

Southport – Manchester Train Services an update from OPSTA

Loss of Piccadilly/ Airport Services under the New Franchise –

Departure board at Southport Station.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Arriva Rail North took over the Northern franchise from 1st April 2016 with a plan to divert our Piccadilly and airport services to Manchester Victoria from December 2017.

Since the last newsletter, OPSTA has been running the Make Your Voice Heard campaign in collaboration with the Southport Rail Transport Forum (SRFT), North West Manchester Stations Alliance (NWMSA) and station and community groups around Wigan.

While we felt the evidence of numbers we provided had made an impression, it would need real life and community impact if we were to convince the incoming train operator and the transport authorities, namely Rail North, Merseytravel, Lancashire County Council and Transport for Greater Manchester that the plan is wrong.

We have managed this through website, (www.opsta.org) social media: twitter (@opsta15 #gotopicc) and facebook (southportrailtransportforum), and the traditional methods of press, posters and flyers.

We asked rail users to petition individually by sending an e mail or writing a letter and hundreds have done so. Now the rail company and transport authorities know they cannot simply ignore this.

At the commencement of the new franchise, in reply to passenger objections and a body of evidence, Northern (the operational management) stated they would look at timetables in detail and consult but made no commitment to modify the plan to retain the direct service to Piccadilly. The Chair of Rail North also committed to hold the operator to its promise to conduct a review of plans but he placed this in a context of benefits that will result from the Ordsall Chord/ Northern Hub, electrification and new franchise.

Now in the second month of its franchise, Northern has become almost mute, Northern (Arriva Rail North) seem to be heavily under pressure in getting the new franchise organised which may explain their lack of communication. Or is it possibly because many passengers comprehensively deconstructed their initial response, not least the suggestion that a change at Salford Crescent would be reasonable? Their position remains ‘it’s being looked at’ with no time frame on when we will hear more.

In total contrast with the rail company and Rail North, any and all local authorities and business groups that the campaign group speaks to, immediately recognise the seriousness of the issue and act on it.

Wigan MBC quickly flagged its concerns with the plans and noted its formal objection stating the case from their part of Greater Manchester. On 21st April Sefton MBC gave its full support to a motion to state clearly its objection to the loss of service, expressing concern at the serious economic impact if the plan went ahead.

On the same evening OPSTA presented to the Local Association of local councils which comprises all parish councils in traditional West Lancashire and they unanimously gave their full backing to the campaign; active support and interventions had already come from many of them.

We have been working with many of our MPs who have been galvanised by their growing personal case files and are taking action.

Friends of Hindley station conducted ‘our’ survey at their station in March; the communities east of Wigan were now getting concerned and involved.

Recently completed platform surveys and counts by the Friends of Westhoughton station established that half of their travellers use the line for stations on the Piccadilly/ Airport route. We have now identified that 650 daily commuters will be seriously and adversely affected by the loss of
service. In order to obtain the complete view, on June 8th and 9th we will conduct a morning commuter survey at Wigan Wallgate and then report figures for all stations. Furthermore, while huge numbers need the service for work and education, the surveys at Westhoughton were extended through the morning and their findings reinforced passenger feedback, this is not just an issue for commuters.

NEXT PHASE OF THE CAMPAIGN

In June we will be seeking passenger participation again in Making Our Voice Heard with a fresh emphasis.

This will be ahead of a proposed meeting with the MPs for Southport, West Lancs, Wigan and Makerfield; Rail North; Northern and our local transport authorities (anticipated 1st July).

Where do our transport authorities stand?

TfGM says the matter can be looked at but so far has made no commitment. Merseytravel has not offered much more although working with Sefton Councillor Gordon Friel who is Vice Chair at Merseytravel he should have
influence and has continued to voice his support. Lancashire County Council has stated it will support us and evidently is taking some action in this respect.

The bottom line – Northern, our transport authorities and Rail North must be made to understand it is wrong to withdraw our Piccadilly service and we are not going to let this go.

Should you wish to raise an objection now while we press for meaningful dialogue and resolution visit our website www.opsta.org to see how you can make your voice heard – it is very quick and easy. If you use Twitter please
comment using #gotopicc and Campaign for Better Transport’s #railwoes. Or if Facebook is your social medium, have a look at southportrailtransportforum.

Southport – Wigan – Manchester rail services – Farron hears the case for Southport & West Lancs getting a better deal

Tim Farron & David Pullin at Southport Station April 2016

Nice to see that Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron is being briefed on the much needed upgrade of rail services to and from Southport to the east of the Town and through West Lancashire. In the photo above Southport resident and campaigner David Pullin is bending Tim’s ear.

And Southport Cambridge Ward Cllr. Pat Keith was also on hand to make sure Tim understood why the rail line to the east of Southport is so important to people travelling to Manchester Piccadilly Station.

Tim Farron and Cllr. Pat Keith

Tim, of course, has the promised electrification of the Windermere Branch under his belt, that he led the campaign for, even though Network Rail seem to be trying hard to kick the implementation of it as far as possible into the long grass.

Southport – Merseytravel should be leading the fight to save Southport – Manchester Piccadilly train services

I have posted before about the need for Southport’s train service to the east of the Town i.e. via Wigan to Manchester to be upgraded. Yes there are long-term plans to electrify the line but that will not happen for some years. However, there is a shorter term threat that Merseytravel, the public sector transport body for Merseyside, needs to address which I fear it is not doing.

Merseytravel logo

I refer to the threat to stop Southport trains running into Manchester Piccadilly Station and indeed onto Manchester Airport. The plan by Arriva who will take over the Northern rail Franchise very soon seems to be to take all Southport – Manchester trains into Manchester Victoria and some on to Yorkshire.

The campaign to try to stop this is being run by Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA and John Pugh MP but where are Merseytravel in this scrum? What are they doing to back the Southport campaigners? Why are they so quiet on the matter? Do you think if Liverpool was to have a rail service threatened they would take such a low profile?

Come on Merseytravel let’s see you taking stand rather than a back seat. You can’t leave the fight to others you are supposed to be the Transport leaders for all of Merseyside.