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Conditions count against us

November 14, 2010

FOWS performed our annual passenger count on Thursday morning but the weather conditions – and an assault on the platform – made it our most difficult count yet.

FOWS have been counting passengers on and off morning trains the second Thursday in November since 2007, during which time we have recorded proof of passenger numbers climbing over 25% – in 2008 alone the rise was 18%. Full details of previous counts can be seen on our website.

This year’s count got off to a bad start after a night of wet and wild weather left soggy leaves all over the tracks. When the first train of the day tip-toed into Walkden at 6.37 it was 13 minutes late but the delays were about to get much worse than that. In fact almost every train until 10am was 20-30 minutes late, and twodid  not even stop at all.

With the service pattern so disrupted year-on-year comparisons of train numbers became meaningless as passengers gave up waiting or ended up on completely different trains to the ones they intended to take.

Between 0750 and 0830 there were no trains to Manchester and the platform was unsurprisingly heaving with waiting passengers – far too many for our lone volunteer to count.

Matters took a turn for the worse when two drunks arrived at the station and started being abusive to staff and passengers. When one of them hit a passenger our volunteer abandoned counting to go to the man’s aid and clear the drunks from the station (after calling British Transport Police). We hope CCTV pictures will lead to a successful prosecution of the attacker.

Drawing detailed conclusions from the count is impossible under the circumstances. We can say that off peak numbers – which we were able to collect accurately – were down on last year, but it is hardly surprising if there are less leisure travellers on a foul day when the trains are badly disrupted.

Our total number of passengers is up on last year – 595 instead of 524 – but this year’s total includes very rough estimates for two of the most extremely over-crowded trains. However, even if our estimates for those two trains are reduced by 25% we still find a slight increase on last year’s total.

It appears the only things that can be concluded with a fair degree of certainty are:

  • passenger numbers appear to have grown again this year
  • falling leaves can cause serious disruption
  • abusive drunks are a curse !
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