MEN article-"Northern Rail is crumbling from the inside out and things are only going to get worse"

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Djgr, 18 Dec 2019.

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  1. Aivilo

    Aivilo Member

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    Sorry if I'm narrow minded but if you've offered me a day off for training to take as and when I please it would be over the festive period so I can be with my family instead of getting up at 2am.
     
  2. Aivilo

    Aivilo Member

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    They have the staff they just lack the foresight to use them properly
     
  3. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    We've been over this argument so many times, but the fact remains that these airport services are popular. Just yesterday both airport services either side of the Liverpool I was on were rammed, but the Liverpool was lightly loaded. All three were 185s. You need to reassess your views on the TPE airport service loadings, because they are becoming an integral part of that franchise, and as such will not be let go.

    And besides is tipping out even more punters at Victoria a good idea? Because with longer units, Piccadilly is becoming less of an option for terminating TPEs.

    Perhaps as suggested elsewhere it is other cross Manchester services that need to be reappraised. There are some paths of operational convenience within the Northern network that need closer inspection.

    Whilst I generally agree with these sentiments, I have less faith in an OoLR being allowed to make commitment changes without fundamentally wreaking services even more, the government itself doesn't reappraise it's position on subsidies.

    I think it is time to stop trying to micro-manage individual choke points on the network, and with operations, and start looking at the bigger issues here.
     
  4. scrapy

    scrapy Established Member

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    Could the OLR not use it as an opportunity to amalgamate the east side of Northern into the East Coast franchise, in the same way GWR and EMR run both Intercity and local services. Then Northern (Eastern side) would not be seen so much as a basket case franchise and may go someway to being break even with the long distance operations subsidising the local ones in the way they do at GWR and EMR.

    A dedicated West side based management team could then tackle the problems (which are mainly on the West side) and a smaller franchise may be more manageable. If the East side model is successful then the West side could possibly be amalgamated with the West Coast (Avanti) franchise in the future.

    None of this would solve the infrastructure problems but could work to solve the operational difficulties.
     
    Last edited: 24 Dec 2019
  5. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    To be honest a better option would be to merge the Northern and TPE franchises. This could mean that TPE could concentrate on a purely inter city service, and Northern local.
     
  6. scrapy

    scrapy Established Member

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    I disagree, one of the main problems is that Northern is too big. There is a gaping communications hole between local and senior management all pulling in different directions. There is no overall plan as they seem to be firefighting all the time. Adding TPE into the same franchise will just complicate this even more. More different rolling stock types and more differing staff contracts.
     
  7. Aivilo

    Aivilo Member

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    They already have tpe conditions in some places
     
  8. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    That isn't as a result of it's size, that is because of how badly the two earlier franchises were merged. Splitting the franchise along the Pennines won't work, at least for those in the east because Northern is not equally split. Ops in the west are far bigger than in the east. And services across the Pennines are heavily interlinked, and there is not one simple flow of passengers. So the North needs a franchise that can serve it's inter city and local much more seamlessly.
     
  9. scrapy

    scrapy Established Member

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    Seamless sounds good on paper but combining the two wouldn't solve the still outstanding problems of how badly the two were merged years ago, and how do you propose merging TPE into all that and not repeating the mistakes of the past?

    Splitting the West and East sides of Northern would be quite easy, just going back to the boundaries of the old FNW and ATN but I would put all Calder Valley (that works West of Halifax/Brighouse) on the West with a small traincrew base at Leeds on West side conditions (which obviously would need changing). Wakefield to Huddersfield would stay on the East. Blackpool to Scarborough would go to TPE, Preston/York/Scarborough depots.

    I would support control of fares being taken over by TFN and abolishing TPE /Northern only walk up tickets to allow seamless fares and smartcard use and avoid confusion on walk up tickets.

    I have no objection to the 3 franchises (North West, North East & Yorkshire and TPE being seamlessly branded (something like TFN Rail) so they appear seamless to passengers but operationally they need to remain seperate.
     
    Last edited: 24 Dec 2019
  10. Horizon22

    Horizon22 Member

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    Of course. It's daft that management working in a rostered industry who know that Xmas normally has more requests than usual for AL and higher levels of sickness would allow these banked RDs days to be taken now. Its classic railway short-termism.
     
  11. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    As I said, the passenger flows don't match a simple split. There is nothing wrong with a larger franchise properly managed, but split it amongst the various PTEs and you will end up with a funding bun fight, which we don't need. The North needs a single strategy, not lots of little franchises no matter how neat they might look on a Crayola map.
     
  12. TUC

    TUC Established Member

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    Three problems could have been avoided by an accurate, phased implementation schedule that reflect reality.

    As for funding a surplus of drivers, yes please. It would transform TOCs' hands in reforming terms and conditions and eliminate situations like this month.
     
  13. Andyh82

    Andyh82 Established Member

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    But they only had a limited time between the new trains arriving and the deadline for the pacers to be withdrawn?

    They’ve already got stick for partially missing the pacer deadline, imagine if the deadline had been pushed back entirely. In fact it would probably worse as it’s a much easier thing for the press and politicians to latch onto.
     
  14. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    Generally, fast services between Piccadilly and the Airport are lightly loaded. Most passengers disembark at Oxford Road or Piccadilly - many of the services through Manchester only go to the Airport because there is no where else for them to reverse. It's valid concern that capacity and paths are not being maximised as they ought to be as well as the impending problem of platform capacity at the Airport with the new TPE 5/6 carriages. Also a problem with the Airport Line is the cross flow between TPE fast services, Northern stopping services as well as freight chucked into the mix.
     
  15. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    Agreed. It's seems daft and too big to many but it was considered in 2014 prior to the Northern/TPE franchises going out to tender. Merging both would help from a staff resourcing and timetabling point of view >cross flows between slower Northern services and TPE fast services is becoming a headache.
     
  16. tbtc

    tbtc Veteran Member

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    IF there's no way of running a reliable hourly service on a line (due to lack of stock, lack of staff, delays impacted from other routes etc) then I'd rather we were allowed to trim the timetable down to a reliable bi-hourly service, rather than keep up the pretence that we are running an hourly service that is generally delayed, with trains missing (so that passengers may end up waiting at a cold station for sixty minutes, never to return to the railway after that horrible experience).

    But Northern can't make this decision unilaterally, so their hands are tied.

    Something needs to be done with the cross-Manchester routes.

    At the moment there are too many timetabled services running through Castlefield at irregular intervals - you could run a cross-city metro service every five minutes if you had suitable uniform stock (e.g. Merseyrail, Thameslink, Crossrail, Snow Hill to Moor Street, Central and Queen Street Undergrounds) but you can't run an assortment of random length trains with different door positions with gaps of three to nine minutes, where the huge number of different destinations means that in the even of any delay you'll get several trains worth of passengers crowding around the platforms (e.g. on a "Metro" timetable, if everything is ten minutes late then nothing is ten minutes late, but if everything at 13/14 is ten minutes late then you'll have the Newcastle passengers and the Llandudno passengers and the Blackpool passengers all getting in each others way on a platform not built to take such volumes of people).

    So my suggestions generally revolve around a combination of thinning out the number of cross-city services, simplifying the route pattern, trying to keep like with like etc.

    The biggest problem seems to be the Stalybridge - Airport services, since these are the ones that have to either reverse at Piccadilly or do the full circuitous loop of the city centre to get round Ordsall. There's obvious *some* demand for such services, but at what opportunity cost? The average passenger loading of services at Manchester Airport is only in the thirties (i.e. quite empty given that a 185 is 3x23m and an 802 is 5x26m long) - presumably quite a few of the Airport passengers are only travelling to/from Manchester City Centre (in which case it matters little if the ultimate destination is Rochdale or Redcar).

    There are peaks and troughs in Airport demand. It's not surprising that a service was busy in the days running up to Christmas, when lots of people fly off. It's not surprising if services are busy early in the morning, given that a lot of flights are scheduled for those kind of times. But we are tying up lots of other services because of this half hourly service from Stalybridge to the Airport, so it doesn't seem unreasonable IMHO to question the need for so many of them.

    Building 15/16 (as many keep suggesting) will just mean even more services through Castlefield (e.g. Bradford to the Airport), rather than dealing with the root causes (e.g. too many hourly services to a disparate combination of destinations with an irregular gap between them).

    Plus, if building the Chord means we then have to spend huge sums on 15/16 then 15/16 will only mean that we then have to spend huge sums on more platform capacity at Manchester Airport (if you want to run 5x26m 802s every half hour, and you want to give them forty minute layovers, then there's not going to be a lot of room for other services to terminate there, given that services from Glasgow/ Cleethorpes etc will all need a reasonable length of layover too - and that's before you've crammed in even more Airport services like the proposed Bradford one).

    Personally, I like the idea of combining local and longer distance services in one franchise - these things seem to go in cycles (with the initial privatisation including very local TOCs like Valley Lines/ Thames Trains, then things getting merged together like GWR/ TSGN, then talk of local franchises for the West Country etc) - but I'm wary of the idea of trying to hide Northern's losses inside LNER (without addressing the reason for those losses)

    I don't know if there's an optimal size for a franchise (defined by number of staff, number of carriages, number of services run per day, revenue?), after which it becomes too unwieldy and the economies of scale are no longer enough to justify the unfocussed TOC that is not responsive enough to local needs. Maybe one for another thread, I guess.

    There's even more interlinkage nowadays - Calder Valley services running through to Chester and Wigan (was Southport), with plans for the Nottingham - Bradford - Manchester Airport diagrams that were surely designed by a committee - but how do we split these kind of routes up if there's no capacity at (e.g) Manchester Victoria to accommodate all terminating services?
     
  17. TUC

    TUC Established Member

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    When Northern manage to 'Like' a post that is actually having a dig at them what can you say?
     

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  18. ScottGallagher

    ScottGallagher Member

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    I was of the opinion pre big northern franchise that everything out of Euston plus First North Western (excluding wales) should be together (ive no doubt if that was proposed Virgin would have lobbied against it) and the equivalent out of Kings Cross along with Northern Spirit/ATN. TPE stuff shared between the two or less likely merged in to Cross Country. Midland Mainline would have been merged with Central trains except the Welsh stuff.
     
  19. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    We kept getting told that there are lightly loaded, yet whenever I've been on one or seen one they seem to have plenty of punters seemingly heading for the airport. And then let us not forget that the airport is planning somewhere around a 40% expansion in traffic, so add the potential to the 25%+ growth seen on the TPE airport services and that makes a lot more people. As I have said, the TOC is not going to give up this lucrative route. And Greater Manchester also benefits from growth there, so its there to stay.

    What is needed is a review of all services through Manchester. For example the Liverpool - Crewe is only there really because Northern can use EMUs throughout, is there really a need for it otherwise? That could easily be split again, making the Chat Moss section terminate at Victoria until the wires go further east, and the Styal Line section go back to being started at Piccadilly, and probably easier to make closer to a clock face service. One path through Castlefield released. And then there is the obsession with Southport being connected to the rest of the universe, this is one that could immediately be rerouted and / or combined with shorter east facing services through Manchester. Quite honestly Leeds doesn't need a Southport service (or to be honest a Chester one), so some rationalisation is possible there too. Now we have freed up two paths.

    It was bad enough not merging the two as an operation & simply using each brand for their own purpose, but to then have TPE run stoppers through the North TP, especially all the way between Manchester & Leeds was plain mad. It was one of the main drivers in the May '18 meltdown, and has probably tainted subsequent re-casts of the timetable.

    Well I've said it before someone needs to tell Manchester Airport Group (owned by the councils of Greater Manchester), because a lot of their expansion plains involve shipping punters in from afar, and in growing numbers on those airport trains. Tipping punters off at Victoria to make their own way across Manchester will kill this growing market stone dead, and throw the problem off the rails and onto the roads. Now if there was a fast Metrolink connection from Victoria through to the airport then fair enough, sort out cross-ticketing, supply trams with enough capacity to soak up the regular commuters & the airport traffic with suitcases, it might be an option. But a long slow trundle all the way to the airport along the current Magical Mystery Route, or a slow trundle through Manchester to Piccadilly then potentially being dumped on congested P13/P14 isn't going to grow that business. And believe me Greater Manchester do want to grow it.

    My suggestion would be similar to yours made previous, all CLC stoppers through Castlefield, all Chat Moss / North West stoppers through Victoria & where possible beyond, TPE services & fasts from Liverpool only to serve the airport through Castlefield. All South facing stoppers to start from the shed at Piccadilly

    It isn't necessarily just the numbers in the corridor, it is the dwell times & sometimes also the inefficient use of capacity through it. For instance I have been on airport-bound TPEs that have been stuck at Deansgate waiting for P4 to clear when P3 was. So better use of that capacity, combined with the advantage of being able to stagger trains offloading & boarding with P15/16 would go a long way to solve the problem if properly applied. Add to that getting P1 up to scratch for regular use would open up even more capacity. In fact just getting P1 accessible for all users would open up a potential terminating platform to be used to keep short-stopped services out of the way. Its actually a quick win in the big scheme of things.

    Size shouldn't be an issue if applied properly, what it would need is to combine the best working practices of all three management areas. This would probably need some incentives, especially in the Northern North West sector, but quite honestly the time for cheaping out has gone. Better for the DfT to authorise any new such franchise to allow a balancing of T&Cs to the best position to resolve what are becoming very expensive problems.

    To be honest, if it comes to it these routes out of Bradford could be dropped, and perhaps should be. But, and this is important, better connectivity is needed in its place, so that will need airport services still running through the North TP, but with either cross-ticketing arrangements between TOCs to negate the effect of any disruption, or better still the single franchise that would allow connections via Leeds / Huddersfield & Manchester. Then some simplification can be effected to reduce the easily disruptable paths as they are now. But again, that needs a single strategy mindset from the DfT & operators.
     
  20. 43074

    43074 Established Member

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    The nature of the cross-Manchester railway is that it is very different to any of those examples, in that it is basically not "Manchester's/Andy Burnham's railway" but a corridor of national importance with the Trafford Park freight terminal at one end, the third busiest Airport in the country at the other, by it's very nature it is going to have long distance trains squeezing through a two track section. Even if it were quadrupled (plats 15/16) you still run into issues at the junctions at either end which are not grade seperated. Best bet is to try and get as many of the Northern locals (perhaps not the Blackpools but certainly Lime Street via Newton-le-Willows and Southport services) via Victoria and don't go above 12tph (say 11tph passenger and a freight path) on the corridor itself with 5 minute headways to maintain a bit of resilience.
     
  21. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Precisely. Which means it should not have been offered then.
     
  22. gazzaa2

    gazzaa2 Member

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    Those airport services are also busy because so many get cancelled!

    Lime St-Man Airport service replaced Liverpool-Scarborough on CLC via LPY. So a lot of people use that from Lime Street/South Parkway/Widnes/Warrington to get into Manchester quicker than using stoppers.

    The TPE ones are popular because they stop at all the main central Manchester stations, rather than just Victoria if it's going on to Liverpool or a final stop. And going the other way because the first few stops are Airport, Piccadilly and Oxford Road it's already packed before victoria.
     
  23. underbank

    underbank Established Member

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    But where do the airport passengers get on them? Are there really dozens of people on each train who've come from outside the Manchester area, or are they picking up "local" passengers the nearer they get to the airport?

    If there really are huge numbers of people from the outposts travelling all the way to the airport, would it not be better to have a new route(s) to get them to the airport without passing through the Manchester congestion, i.e. maybe a new line or connections to existing lines to by-pass Manchester via the East?

    Or if the passenger numbers are going to be so high generally, is it not time to start planning a new "through" station at the airport rather than a terminus?

    I just think that it needs "bigger thinking" than just faffing around with a couple of extra platforms at Picc or redesigning Vic - surely that's just a sticking plaster which will also take many years to happen?

    Does HS2 or the northern power house provide completely new routes into the airport so trains can completely avoid the congestion in central Manchester?
     
  24. underbank

    underbank Established Member

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    And if there are large numbers of people travelling long distance between Liverpool/Preston to Leeds/York/Newcastle etc., is there not scope to provide trains using the Bentham<>Leeds line instead to relieve congestion around Manchester?
     
  25. The Prisoner

    The Prisoner Member

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    Contingency plans being made for replacement of the franchise in some way shape or form from this "Christmas misery" esque Guardian article quote from the DfT

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news...3IbbP0MQJFOFPxElXyJlKkC6aU#Echobox=1577190131

     
  26. Killingworth

    Killingworth Established Member

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    Manchester Airport is a pain! It's influence spreads wide. Just a few passengers travelling through from here, there and everywhere served by TPE and Northern don't just cause issues at Piccadilly, Victoria and the Castlefield corridor.

    I noted 8 through airport passengers travelling on the TPE 5.15 service from tiny Dore & Totley last week. Allegedly most nights 20-30 cars are left in their free car park and on nearby streets by air travellers away for several days up to 3 weeks. That will be replicated around the airport's catchment area.

    On Saturday mornings the price differentials between the 3 TOCs on Shefield - Manchester have been so great that many haven't used TPE from Sheffield for the airport. The Northern stopping services can be a third the price. Consequently little Pacers have been so overloaded with Hope Valley backpackers, cyclists and airport luggage that Hope Valley residents and visitors to the Peak District can't all get aboard.

    Hopefully TPE can bring their prices down to fill their forthcoming 6 coach trains direct to the airport (although users will need to be aware that they need to be in the rear half of the train). In recent months their single 185s have been unable to cope thereby pushing the overload onto EMR as well as Northern. Then Northern guards will be able to get through their trains to check everyone has paid - currently many haven't! The upgrade from a single Pacer to a 150, 156 or 158 isn't enough in itself to resolve Saturday overcrowding.

    PS Personally I'd not trust TPE trains to get to and from the airport, despite living 12 minutes hilly walk from my station. By car I can reliably be there door to door in 80 minutes (+/- 10) thanks to the new A555 southern link road. Local station car park is rammed full Monday - Thursday unless there before 7.30
     
    Last edited: 24 Dec 2019
  27. Bantamzen

    Bantamzen Established Member

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    Do you honestly believe Manchester airport only serves Greater Manchester? People travel from all over the north of England and even Scotland to take flights from there. In the next few years they are expecting to handle up to 50 million passengers, even now they handle 30 million. Why does this airport's passenger base surprise so many members? And talking of which...

    Why do you think the airport has so much influence? Clue, think of it's owners....
     
  28. TUC

    TUC Established Member

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    Sone of these comments confirm my suspicion that those in Manchester think the North's rail system should be built around their needs.
     
  29. gazzaa2

    gazzaa2 Member

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    It is. A transpennine service from South Parkway (which links to Liverpool airport) to Scarborough was taken off the route and replaced by Lime Street to Manchester Airport, in addition to other Trans Pennine services directly to Manchester Airport from Yorkshire via the new Chord. Now the Norwich/Nottingham service from South Parkway is under threat.

    The Chord has caused chaos primarily to give more links to Manchester Airport.
     
  30. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    Agreed. The Liverpool-Crewe stopping service since the May 2018 through Manchester simply hasn't worked. As I understand the only reason it exists is Newton-Le-Willows required a direct service to Manchester Airport as part of the Train Service Requirements. It was a theoretical route devised by the DfT simply to tick a box rather than it being a service which could work in a sense.

    Thirty three services from Manchester Airport to Manchester shall also call at Liverpool Lime
    Street. Of these, eighteen shall also call at Deansgate and Newton-le-Willows and fifteen
    shall also call at Warrington Central.


    Dividing the west side via Victoria (potentially onto Stalybridge as it was pre-May 2018 I believe) and terminating south side into Piccadilly (as it was pre-May 2018) would increase its reliability and lessen impact on other 'fast' services to the Airport. Additionally, this would have the added benefit of releasing a much-needed path through Castlefield which should result in improved punctuality.
     
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