Yesterday FOWS attended an All-Northern seminar for Friends and Rail User Groups in the spectacular surroundings of the National Railway Museum in York. Northern Rail’s commitment to the community rail sector is second-to-none, with an annual Day Out and events like this.
In the morning we enjoyed presentations from the energetic & highly imaginative groups at Todmorden and Mytholmroyd (where vandalism has also been a headache), and some lively open forum debates, including one about the potential for Sunday services at Walkden.
After an excellent buffet lunch we had some very interesting presentations from Northern Rail’s upper echelons: Heidi Mottram (MD), Rob Warnes (Director of Performance and Planning), Stuart Draper (Acting Direcotr of Engineering) and Paul Salveson (Head of Government & Community Strategy).
Heidi’s presentation – Connecting The North – reflected on the fact that Northern are carrying 29% more passengers than when they started the franchise after being told to assume zero growth by the government. Looking ahead, Northern are introducing “Tram Trains” on the Huddersfield to Sheffield line as a novel trial, testing SatNav technology for trains on the Whitby branch, and planning for the best use of the extra 182 carriages they will receive over the next 2 or 3 years.
Among the topics covered by Rob Warnes was the massive timetable change coming in December caused by the additional trains being added to the Manchester-London route. The knock-on effects impact the whole Manchester area: some lines in south Manchester are losing through peak-hour services but overall around an extra 100 services a day are being added. The impact on Walkden will be looked at in another post but seems to be relatively slight and generally positive.
On the engineering front Stuart Draper confirmed that delays and cancellations due to train failures have fallen 15% since Northern took over, and the enlarged fleet’s availability for service has increased from 84% to 86%. The two types of trains most commonly used at Walkden – classes 150 & 142 – are starting a refurbishment programme at Newton Heath depot.
All in all a great day and really good opportunity to catch up with friends in other community rail groups and colleagues in Northern Rail.