FOWS have been looking through the weighty tome that is Network Rail’s Northern Rail Utilisation Strategy – a public planning document that outlines their high-level objectives for the next 5-year control period.
As may be expected details on our minor line are few, but we have noted the following points which relate to Walkden services:
a) There is a firm recommendation to lengthen the 8.18 and 8.35 services from Walkden (the 8.00 and 8.13 from Wigan Wallgate) to four cars. Network Rail have assumed that the 8am service is already operating as four cars. There’s also a strategy “suggestion” later in the document that in addition to this, “several other peak services” will need to be three-car equivalents
b) It’s clear that there are no plans to electrify the Walkden line within the scope of the document. Indeed there is a specific reference to continued DMU usage. Happily there are no mention of tram-trains either.
c) The Airport to Scotland service are “expected” to be diverted via Chat Moss and Wigan once that line is electrified. As these trains no longer stop at Salford Crescent anyway, this would improve connectivity (changing at Wigan, rather than changing at Crescent and Bolton).
d) It is not immediately clear that electrification will improve connectivity at Salford Crescent, at least in the peak hours. The implication appears to be that any additional trains will run into Victoria. The strategy section goes so far as to suggest that a peak-hour train to Piccadilly could be removed and run into Victoria. This need not be a bad thing, as our quibbles are with timings rather than volume, but we will have to see.
e) The Liverpool to Leeds TPE services will run via Victoria and Chat Moss once the Ordsall Chord and improvements to the Stalybridge-Victoria line are completed. Good news for people commuting from Walkden to West Yorkshire !
Network Rail appear to believe all stations on the Atherton are already capable of holding 4-carriage trains. Of course this is not the case at Walkden where only the shorter class 142 “Pacer” trains can fit 4-carriages within the authorised length, and FOWS have fed back this correction to Network Rail. We will also be suggesting to Network Rail that when the platform is lengthened (as it will have to be) this would be a tremendous opportunity to raise the level of the new section to solve the problem of the dangerously high platform gap.
The PDF of the Strategy can be downloaded from Network Rail’s website