Northern: North West Sunday Crew Shortages

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Starmill

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This has been discussed in some detail in the thread about CrossCountry's intermittent cancellations on Sundays due to a shortage of train crew, and in the (now locked) Northern industrial dispite thread but it was off topic in both locations. Unless anyone can think of a better solution or sees something I have missed, this can go in its own thread here, as a service update thread complementary to this one to discuss timetables on Saturdays, but not to discuss the role of the guard, DOO etc.

I don't know what proportion the shortage of crew is between drivers and guards. It has been endemic for some time - at least six months - and seems to significantly affect North West England. The trains which are cancelled are different every week and go up and down in scope and scale. Exactly what the cause is has been open to debate.

Today the cancellations are really significant, it was quite bad on 22 December but this seems worse:
All Hazel Grove shuttles cancelled, use the 1tph Buxton services
Liverpool - Wigan shuttles all cancelled, use the 1tph Blackpool North services
Hadfield line trains reduced from half-hourly to hourly
Manchester Airport - Liverpool Lime St via Warrington Central all cancelled but were partly affected by engiering work today anyway, use the stopper

The following are all cancelled:
Blackburn - Southport via Todmorden and Machester
Manchester Airport - Blackpool North
Manchester Vic - Blackpool North
Colne - Blackpool South

www.northernrailway.co.uk/news/travel-alerts/2170-planned-cancellations-this-sunday-dec-30

This means that no trains are running at all between Wigan and Southport, between Burnley and Colne, Todmorden and Burnley or on the South Fylde line - all are being replaced with buses. Lostock, Blackrod and Adlington's trains are cancelled so they have to be served by a bus. I am not sure what is happening for the local stations between Burnley and Preston. The Clitheroe - Hellifield services are all cancelled too but then I don't think these have run for months on end. TransPennine Express have called all of their trains additionally at Wigan North Western today to assist. This reduced service level is also having a serious impact on the trains which are left. I was on 1322 Preston to Manchester Airport this afternoon and there were almost people left behind by the 2 car 156.

Looking to next Sunday 6 January, at the moment, broadly speaking a normal service is shown, and even the Clitheroe <> Hellfieild trains are shown as running at the moment. But is this too optimistic?
 

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Matt_pool

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Those are only the "planned cancellations".

The Liverpool - Manchester Oxford Road/Manchester Airport services have had "unplanned" last minute cancellations every Sunday for god knows how long!

One example was on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago I was planning on getting the 20.25 from Lime Street. Was in the pub finishing my pint and checked on Live Departures at 20.00 and it had been cancelled. The 21.25 was still showing as running, so I had another pint. Checked at 21.00 and that had also been cancelled!
 
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rg177

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Northern have a habit of only announcing the next Sunday's cancellations midway through the preceding week so I suspect that the Dalesrail service to Hellifield service will end up cancelled again along with others.

Which is, really, part of the problem. On social media all they say is 'planned cancellations' leaving people rather bemused as to why, in many areas, their rail service has been reduced to 5 days a week!
 

Eccles1983

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Their is a very simple solution to the Sunday chaos.

Either pay the contract up to include sundays or pay Sunday's as rest day rate.

Overnight they would eliminate the problem. But they won't. It's a sign of arriva being penny pinching in the wrong areas.

As it stands, I will not work a Sunday that isn't booked - the jobs are horrific, and not worth my time.
 

philthetube

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Penalties for cancelling trains are obv not severe enough, cancelling should involve far higher costs to tocs than the costs in providing adequate cover.
 

bionic

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Go to the railway jobs and careers page on here and you'll see how many people are desperate to get on the railway as guards and drivers. The bulk of applicants don't get a look in yet we have these ludicrous situations where trains are cancelled due to shortage of crews. The solution is simple... Recruit enough crews to cover the work ON THE ROSTER, bring Sundays inside the working week (ASLEF is in favour of this), and stop provoking staff to take industrial action.

The way some people (none of them in the grades affected, funnily enough) go on about rail staff taking strike action you'd think it was something people do for a bit of a laugh. Anyone who has ever been on strike themselves would know different.
 

Starmill

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What is the balance of the shortages that is causing these problems? Is it more a shortage of drivers than guards, or is it equally balanced? Which depots are facing the most significant shortages? The cancellations imply the problems are around Manchester depots, Liverpool, Wigan and Blackpool. Are these all affected equally? Are there any others?
 

Starmill

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At the moment there are no service changes posted on Northern's website for 6 Jan, aside from those due to long planned engineering works.
 

northernchris

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I don't know what proportion the shortage of crew is between drivers and guards. It has been endemic for some time - at least six months - and seems to significantly affect North West England. The trains which are cancelled are different every week and go up and down in scope and scale. Exactly what the cause is has been open to debate

I understood the issue was the May timetable change brought an increase in Sunday services, but due to the contracts not including Sunday working, there is a shortfall in available crew. I do think some depots are short on crew anyway, such as Blackpool where cancellations are common most days. There's also the overtime payments to drivers which are supposedly more generous to work weekdays than Sundays

It's completely unacceptable though, and combined with the lack of a proper Saturday service it is effectively a 5 day railway across the North West although I can't see how this can be resolved
 

theblackwatch

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Please can I remind people that this thread concerns Sunday crew shortages - there are plenty of other threads concerning strike action without trying to turn this into another one on the subject. Thanks!
 

Starmill

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I understood the issue was the May timetable change brought an increase in Sunday services, but due to the contracts not including Sunday working, there is a shortfall in available crew.
Most of the Sunday service increases actually happened last December. Things seem to have got much worse since then.
 

driver_m

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That's the gist of it Northernchris. Alienating the very workforce you want to work o/t on a Sunday. This simply will not change in the short term. The public are losing out because there is no plan to either fix or break the strike, and as a consequence people will not help out the company.
 

ainsworth74

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If anyone wants to talk about strike action in detail do it on another thread. This thread is not an opportunity for the usual suspects to espouse the same tired talking points on yet another thread. Any such posts will be deleted as off-topic.
 

Jezza22

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I remember when the football was on back in July 2018 and a lot of Northern Rail services where cancelled then due to shortage of crew as they booked it off to watch the match, I was staying at a friends in Manchester and needed to get back to Liverpool and it was only early hours Sunday morning they announced that all Manchester - Liverpool trains where cancelled. Have seen that there are quite a lot of cancellations on Sunday's due to shortage of train crew
 

jizzer

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Its not one single issue.
Drivers are paid about £36 an hour to work a rest day and to work a Sunday is time plus 2 hrs. So they would rather work a rest day during the week than work at the weekend, don't blame them for that.
They earn a basic of about £47000, which is decent money and some of the drivers can quite happily live on that and don't want or need to work any overtime.
They don't get enough volunteers to work the sundays that are uncovered due to sickness, traction and route knowledge, covering STP diagrams etc.
Don't know if upping the payment would make much difference really.
Just think people want to spend time with their families if Sunday is their only day off.

The only long time solution would be to have them as part of the working week like they do on the east side of the business.
If rest day working finished the Sunday issue would probably go away but that will be around for around 2 years with all the traction training and route training for new drivers coming up.
They are trying to run a 7 day railway with 6 day terms and conditions.
 

bionic

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All the while Sunday is not inside the week you can't blame staff for not working it. Sundays are voluntary overtime. Companies that have Sundays inside the 4 day week do not struggle to cover the Sunday work (any more than they struggle to cover the other days) because all the jobs are booked on the roster. When it's your booked Sunday you work it or swap it out. Simple.

As far as I can see the only sticking point is money... It must be cheaper for TOCs to run the job on voluntary overtime and cancel trains than it is to have a seven day roster and employ enough crews to cover all the work contained in it. ASLEF are in favour of bringing Sundays inside the week.

If it was cheaper to have Sundays inside the week they'd be inside. If it was cheaper to fully staff all depots with enough crews to cover all the work rather than relying on voluntary overtime then there'd be far more people employed as train crew in this country and far less cancellations as a result.
 

jizzer

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It's late because the Sunday roster is produced Wednesday evening and it's only by Thursday that they see how bad it is and after no doubt a few conference calls they decide on the planned cancellations. To get Sunday in the working 4 day week they would have to employ more drivers and obviously this costs money..

Northern's problems is it isn't a massive revenue earner as average fare is only about £3/4 pound but they have a lot of trains and a lot of drivers.

Another issue is the eastern drivers get paid about £3000 more and they have sundays in the working week but those sundays are worth more than £3000 now. So say you offered the western the drivers an extra £5000 to have sundays in the week the eastern drivers would get a £2000 pay rise for nothing.

It could be done as ASLEF want it but the company don't as they probably can't afford it.
 

Shaw S Hunter

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It's late because the Sunday roster is produced Wednesday evening and it's only by Thursday that they see how bad it is and after no doubt a few conference calls they decide on the planned cancellations. To get Sunday in the working 4 day week they would have to employ more drivers and obviously this costs money..

Northern's problems is it isn't a massive revenue earner as average fare is only about £3/4 pound but they have a lot of trains and a lot of drivers.

Another issue is the eastern drivers get paid about £3000 more and they have sundays in the working week but those sundays are worth more than £3000 now. So say you offered the western the drivers an extra £5000 to have sundays in the week the eastern drivers would get a £2000 pay rise for nothing.

It could be done as ASLEF want it but the company don't as they probably can't afford it.

Perhaps what is needed is for the DfT to realise that it's in the interest of neither the country in general nor Northern itself for them not to afford to pay the cost of a proper 7 over 7 working week!
 

Starmill

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It's late because the Sunday roster is produced Wednesday evening and it's only by Thursday that they see how bad it is and after no doubt a few conference calls they decide on the planned cancellations.
Random, unplanned cancellations, announced at the last possible minute, are as bad as it gets for the customer and the company reputation. Perhaps the solution here is to arrange semi-permenement bus replacement to apply on some routes on Sundays, to reduce the random and unplanned nature of the cancellations. For example on lines with a notionally hourly service, the Sunday timetable could be changed to alternating bus and train each our. This would suit say the Colne branch.

Is it worse now because trains are running through Bolton on Sundays too?
 

bramling

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All the while Sunday is not inside the week you can't blame staff for not working it. Sundays are voluntary overtime. Companies that have Sundays inside the 4 day week do not struggle to cover the Sunday work (any more than they struggle to cover the other days) because all the jobs are booked on the roster. When it's your booked Sunday you work it or swap it out. Simple.

As far as I can see the only sticking point is money... It must be cheaper for TOCs to run the job on voluntary overtime and cancel trains than it is to have a seven day roster and employ enough crews to cover all the work contained in it. ASLEF are in favour of bringing Sundays inside the week.

If it was cheaper to have Sundays inside the week they'd be inside. If it was cheaper to fully staff all depots with enough crews to cover all the work rather than relying on voluntary overtime then there'd be far more people employed as train crew in this country and far less cancellations as a result.

It isn’t quite true to say that having Sunday in the working week don’t struggle to cover Sundays. Most places will typically always have more uncovered duties at weekends for various reasons, especially as popular times like school holidays, football fixtures, et cetera. Many people simply don’t want to work weekends, and I don’t think that’s going to readily change.
 

scrapy

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Random, unplanned cancellations, announced at the last possible minute, are as bad as it gets for the customer and the company reputation. Perhaps the solution here is to arrange semi-permenement bus replacement to apply on some routes on Sundays, to reduce the random and unplanned nature of the cancellations. For example on lines with a notionally hourly service, the Sunday timetable could be changed to alternating bus and train each our. This would suit say the Colne branch.

Is it worse now because trains are running through Bolton on Sundays too?
One of the biggest problems is that Northern have promised increased services on many routes but had no plan how to staff this. They also seem to have no idea how they are going to staff the hourly Manchester to Stoke and Mid Cheshire services that should have started last year before we get onto the new Northern Connect services that are due to start this year.
 

scrapy

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It isn’t quite true to say that having Sunday in the working week don’t struggle to cover Sundays. Most places will typically always have more uncovered duties at weekends for various reasons, especially as popular times like school holidays, football fixtures, et cetera. Many people simply don’t want to work weekends, and I don’t think that’s going to readily change.
The big problem is that even if Sundays are in the working week, when you change weekly from earlys to lates, you can still only have half the staff able to be rostered as the other half will have finished late on Saturday and be starting early Monday.
 

Greenback

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I agree with you there, scrapy. There are other practical considerations involved with Sunday rostering. Bringing Sundays inside the working week is not a magical cure for all the problems that exist at the moment.

I reckon it will help, though. As I see things from my chair in my house, Arriva don't want to incur all of the expense for doing that as it will end up costing them more money than the current situation is costing them. They most probably don't think that the benefits to them are going to be worth it. As usual, the interests of rail passengers aren't that much of a concern.
 

bionic

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The big problem is that even if Sundays are in the working week, when you change weekly from earlys to lates, you can still only have half the staff able to be rostered as the other half will have finished late on Saturday and be starting early Monday.

Is there anything that says staff have to be on a set early/late weekly pattern and always on the same shift as their half of the depot? In many other industries and workplaces they seem able to cope just fine changing from lates to earlies at other points in the week than Sundays. I know it's traditional on the railway to roster like that but as long as shifts are split fairly and evenly I see no reason why they can't swap some roster lines over between earlies and lates at different points in the week.

Why can't some lines be lates up to say Monday, then three rest days then come back in early turn on the Friday?
 

driver_m

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Is there anything that says staff have to be on a set early/late weekly pattern and always on the same shift as their half of the depot? In many other industries and workplaces they seem able to cope just fine changing from lates to earlies at other points in the week than Sundays. I know it's traditional on the railway to roster like that but as long as shifts are split fairly and evenly I see no reason why they can't swap some roster lines over between earlies and lates at different points in the week.

Why can't some lines be lates up to say Monday, then three rest days then come back in early turn on the Friday?

The week of rest days is the primary reason for the Saturday changeover. The way of working youre suggesting is more akin to that of a 4 day week pattern. A 5 day week usually has 104 rest days guaranteed and the week of rest days every 5 weeks is the main benefit of it. You work more hours in a normal week to accrue the time off in that 5th week. There's the facts, I'll say no more otherwise it's red post time again......
 
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