Update on Northern Rail Performance Issues

On 27th April I met with senior officials from Northern Rail to discuss a number of performance issues which impact upon the many Calder Valley residents which use Northern Rail services on a daily basis. I invited a number of my constituents to the meeting who raised issues with Northern Rail in relation to their general performance; the new May 2018 timetable; communication and social media; pacer trains and fare increases. These issues are often raised with me by constituents and are raised by my office with Northern Rail on a regular basis.

I include an update on some of the issues raised with Northern Rail during the meeting, and their response to these points, below. If any constituents would like to raise specific issues with me in relation to Northern Rail, or provide feedback which I can personally pass on during my meetings with them, please contact me.

Northern Rail meeting – Friday 27th April

Main issues covered:

• Northern Rail (NR) performance
• Communication & social media
• May 2018 timetable
• Capacity & pacer trains
• Delay repay
• Fare increases

Information sheets which can be found as attachments:
A – Calder Valley Train Service Performance
B – Reasons attributed to performance
C – Station Investment Fund Calder Valley
D – ‘Northern Connect’ – Overview of new services (for information)
E – Summary of information about the new trains and pacer trains

Northern Rail performance

– Constituents raised concerns about the performance of NR in relation to arriving on time, cancellations, delays, etc. The performance was significantly poorer in comparison to the same period as last year.

– Northern Rail acknowledged that this was the case and apologised for the recent low performance rate. They provided a table of Calder Valley Train Service Performance [marked A] and a second table listing the reasons relating to this performance [marked B] – both attached.

– Northern Rail explained that new services for the Calder Valley were signed off in December 2017. This included additional diesel trains, adopted from the Bolton corridor due to its electrification programme. As there was a delay in Bolton’s electrification programme, this has had a knock on effect to the Calder Valley, in that, there is a delay in receiving the additional trains from Bolton. This therefore means that some scheduled new services needed to be deferred and the programme rewritten ready for December 2018 instead.

Communication & Social Media

– Constituents made several points in relation to the (lack of) communication from NR and questioned why there hadn’t been an update on the NR website/social media to explain the above points with regards to performance and the deferment of services for the Calder Valley line. Even though there was no news, as such, to report in terms of new services starting, constituents commented that people would rather be told what was going on rather than a vacuum of nothing.

– Northern Rail took this on board and accepted that they could communicate better with their customers. This would be fed back to the relevant persons at NR.

May 2018 timetable

– Constituents asked whether Northern Rail thought that the new May 18 timetable was overly ambitious and left very little flexibility for turnaround time at the end of the line. For example, the Manchester Victoria – Leeds service which arrives in Leeds at 08.20 and is due to depart back to MV at 08.23.

– Northern Rail stated that the new timetable was ambitious, but was based on the assumption that a certain amount of diesel rolling trains would be already on the Calder Valley line. Due to the delay of the electrification programme for the Bolton corridor, NR’s Train Planning Team have had to undertake a major review of the May 18 timetable to understand the impact the lack of infrastructure (that was previous assumed to be in place by now) would have on the planned service improvements. This significant piece of work is now being finalised.

Capacity & pacer trains – refer to attachment E

– The new trains will be introduced into service in December 2018. The train refurbishment plan will accelerate this year and there will be around 175 refurbished trains operating across the network by December. Likewise, the station improvement programme (see attachment C) continues to gather pace, building on the 100 stations upgraded last year with features including better lighting, newly designed seating and waiting areas, and improved customer information displays.

– Constituents suggested keeping some of the old pacer trains (due to be all phased out by 2020) for peak times where NR could add a pacer carriage onto the train which commuters could not board on/off at the station platform, but could use once boarded the train to help with capacity issues.

– Northern Rail suggested that the new trains have been built with capacity in mind and should be able to manage numbers at peak time without the need for additional carriages attached.

Delay repay

– Constituents raised the issue of the timeframe for the delay repay service. It should take no longer than 28 days, as quoted. However, it can take much longer than this at times with customers’ time and expectations not managed throughout this process. Whilst there is an auto reply already in place to acknowledge that a claim has been received by NR, constituents suggested providing a weekly update to claimants to inform them of how long their claim has left to be processed. Furthermore, the delay repay claim form is very rigid and does not leave room for ‘any other comments’ should the claimant need to provide a bit more information/explanation to their claim. The form simply bounces back if you try to elaborate on your claim. By adding an ‘any other comments’ box, this would make things easier for claimants.

– Northern Rail stated that this would be fed back to the relevant team to implement.

Fare increases

– Constituents stated that fares differed depending on whether you were travelling to Leeds or Manchester. For instance, Manchester fare prices are 16% cheaper at off peak times than at peak times. However, Leeds are 25% cheaper by the same comparison. Therefore, why is it cheaper to travel to Leeds from, say, Hebden Bridge, than to Manchester, when Manchester is closer in distance?

– Northern Rail stated that there is a boundary issue (from Yorkshire to Lancashire) when travelling to Manchester and therefore a ‘tunnel tax’ is in place. However, the boundaries are being closely looked at, with NR introducing a new flexible season ticket next year (2019), which will make crossing boundaries much easier and cheaper. Rail North are also looking at a ‘SMART’ card which will cover the whole of the Northern Rail area which will make both commuting and longer distance travel much easier. This is hopefully due to be in place by 2020.

A Calder Valley Train Service Performance

B Reasons attributed to performance

C Station Investment Fund Calder Valley

D Northern Connect Overview of new services

E Summary of information about the new trains and pacer train

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