Tracks of our fears: new train timetable signals rail ‘chaos’

RAIL bosses have apologised and announced plans for an independent report after predictions of “havoc” and “chaos” over new train timetables proved accurate.

Some of the train delays or cancellations seen at Greenfield train station

Hundreds of Northern ran services have been cancelled or partially cancelled since the contentious new timetable was launched on Sunday, May 20.

Two days of strike action by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union also added to the confusion and disruption.

TransPennine Express (TPE), who run the majority of trains from Greenfield and Mossley stations, have also been criticised by a local rail action group.

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams spoke to frustrated commuters at Greenfield and Manchester Piccadilly during visits on Whit Friday.

Many passengers using the station on Shaw Hall Bank Road have been greeted with information boards showing cancellations or delays with trains regularly late arriving and departing. 

That impacted on commuters travelling to Manchester Victoria who now have to change at Stalybridge and wait for a connecting service.

Prior to the new changes Mrs Abrahams said the timetable would “play havoc with the family lives of commuters using Greenfield station.”

She now says: “Across the country there have been cancellations and delays as new rail timetables have been introduced.

“My constituents in Greenfield have also faced delays and re-routings particularly during the morning commute.

“Even a few minutes delay can lead to missed connections or a late start at work. 

“I’ll continue to raise this with Trans Pennine and the Government.” 

Mark Ashmore, chairman of Greenfield Rail Action Group (GRAG), said: “We are disappointed TPE haven’t lived upto their promise of a faster and more reliable service.

Some of the delays seen from Greenfield

“In particular, it is unacceptable that TPE dropped passengers at Stalybridge with no concern how they were going to continue their journeys to Manchester.”

Mr Ashmore said Northern were in “total meltdown” and highlighted a sizeable drop in passenger numbers using Greenfield in the first three days of the timetable upheaval.

The timetable changes are designed to boost capacity with better trains and more services in the long-term.  

But rail bosses now admit services have fallen well short of an acceptable standard. 

Network Rail and Northern say customer groups, transport and Northern stakeholders will be invited to contribute to the commissioned report.

They admit the changes haven’t delivered an acceptable service for customers, especially on routes around north Manchester extending up to Blackpool.

Martin Frobisher, managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “We recognise how tough it has been for customers, particularly since the May timetable change and we’re sorry for that. 

“We are working hard with Northern to get service back to where it needs to be. We will work as one team to achieve this.

“The independent report will ensure lessons are learned and that there are no repeats of current problems as we prepare for the next major timetable change in December this year.”

David Brown, managing director of Northern, said: “We are doing everything we can to minimise cancellations and delays and keep our customers informed. 

“It has been difficult for many of our customers and I am truly sorry for this.

“There is urgent work to do to fully understand what did and didn’t work on all aspects of planning and delivery of the new timetable.

“We are committed to working with Network Rail and Northern stakeholders to deliver the services our customers expect and deserve.”


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