We don’t know what’s caused the problems on local trains recently, perhaps a combination of the annual leaf fall season, staff shortages caused by winter colds and flu, and a surge of passengers out for Christmas shopping and revels, but one things for sure – the last 3 or 4 weeks have been grim for passengers at Walkden.
It’ll be interesting to see the train company’s official statistics for November, but for commuters and weekend travellers alike it’s been a month of late running and severely overcrowded trains. In fact we can’t remember a worse service since Northern took over 9 years ago.
The bad news is that things might be about to get even worse as the winter timetable begins on Sunday. A number of Transpennine services that currently run through Bolton will start to use the newly electrified route from Manchester to Scotland via Chat Moss and Wigan instead. This will reduce the number of trains and seats on the Bolton to Manchester line, a prospect that has alarmed both Transpennine Express and Northern Rail because the trains are already extremely busy and (to quote the Northern Rail website) “We have looked at all possibilities to acquire extra carriages to minimise the impact on services; however, there are no suitable diesel trains available and our current fleet is already used to maximum capacity“.
Fewer trains means increased overcrowding on the Bolton line that’s likely to spill over and affect trains from Walkden as travellers from Wigan, Westhoughton and the Bolton area look for alternative routes to work.
Things may improve in a year or two when the Transpennine services are switched to full electric operation and diesel trains can be released to secondary lines like ours, but in the short to medium term it looks like things may be worse before they get better. Our best advice is just to be prepared for over-crowding and allow more time for your journeys.