Archive for October, 2008

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A shout out for the staff !

October 22, 2008

Yesterday’s Booking Office closure was a reminder of how much un-heralded work is done every day by our local railway staff. The disgusting mess of chips, drinks containers and newspapers which greeted commuters is usually tidied away by Marian before the first passenger of the day arrives !

Once on board the guard was busy selling extra tickets, dispensing advice, and hurrying up and down the train – squeezing past standing passengers with her bulky ticket machine – in order to operate the train doors from the end of the carriage. No wonder if there’s an occasional delay of a few seconds after a train stops before the doors can be opened.

And finally at Victoria we have the Revenue Protection staff just starting their 12-hour shifts at 7.30am. Working on what you can imagine is pretty low pay these guys make a consciencious effort on a job, in the front line against fare dodgers, that I’m sure few of us would relish.

So let’s spare a thought for the men and women who keep our trains running day after day with – in my experience – mostly excellent humour and grace.

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A great Station Friends and Rail User Groups conference

October 19, 2008

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.

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Booking Office hours cut backs

October 17, 2008

From next Monday the Booking Office opening hours will be reduced, closing earlier at lunchtime and opening later on Saturday morning.

The reduction is particularly unfortunate considering the unprecedented growth in numbers over the last few years, and passengers will no doubt miss the opportunities to visit the office over the less busy lunchtime hours to make enquiries and purchase advance tickets.

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No trains next Saturday (18th October)

October 12, 2008

Due to engineering works there are NO TRAINS TO/FROM WALKDEN next Saturday. A bus replacement service will be provided – please see posters at the station or use the online Journey Planner for their times.

More details of the disruption can be found on the National Rail Enquiries website.

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Winter flowers planted by FOWS

October 12, 2008

The Manchester border, freshly planted up by FOWS.

The Manchester border, freshly planted up by FOWS.

This morning FOWS volunteers have been planting winter-flowering plants on the Manchester platform at Walkden.

The plants include cyclamen, pansies and violas, all of which have flourished in this border previously.

The untended space at the far end of the border is not yet gardened as we are waiting for the station’s overdue roof repairs to be done – the workers will need access over this plot of land.

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FOWS demand CCTV as vandalism continues

October 12, 2008

The local interchange information poster and case - ruined by vandals.

The local interchange information poster and case - ruined by vandals.

You may have seen the article in this week’s Salford Advertiser where FOWS called upon Northern Rail and GMPTE to secure Walkden station in the light of continued vandalism and anti-social behaviour at the station.

The picture shows the remains of the “Local Interchange” poster this morning. It’s destruction leaves first-time and infrequent users of the station without valuable information about local bus stops and amenities.

Now that over 95% of Merseyrail’s stations have CCTV and “Secure Station” status, and even idyllic Lake District halts like Staveley and Burneside have CCTV, we are left wondering why on earth a station with a history of problems like Walkden is left unprotected.

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Train drivers’ strike averted

October 10, 2008

The train drivers’ strike which threatened to severely disrupt all services next Monday has been called off.

This afternoon Northern Rail announced made the following announcement:

Northern Rail is pleased to announce that its drivers in the North West have suspended their planned strike action for Monday 13 October 2008 and a normal timetable will be in operation.

Train drivers working for Northern in the North West had been balloted over industrial relations, but agreement has been reached on all issues and the strike action has been suspended pending a meeting of the ASLEF Executive Committee on 14 October 2008.