Archive for November, 2013

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Passenger count: 7% increase from 2012

November 23, 2013

FOWS’s annual passenger count took place this week and recorded a 7% increase in the total number of passengers using the station up to 1.30pm, taking usage levels back to 2011’s record high.

Total Passengers using Walkden station before 1.30pm on a sample Thursday, 2007-2013

Total Passengers using Walkden station before 1.30pm on a sample Thursday, 2007-2013

Increasing Manchester-bound travel

Interestingly the number of passengers travelling from Walkden towards Wigan fell by 14%, whereas passengers from Walkden to Manchester rose 15%. It seems possible that Manchester-bound travel is being boosted by commuters avoiding the roadworks on the East Lancs.

Punctuality

In keeping with the recent poor punctuality, only 2 of the 31 trains arrived at their scheduled times, and 1 was cancelled. The average delay was 6 minutes.

Over-crowding

Several trains were “full & standing”, even during the mid-morning “off-peak” period, and 15 passengers were left behind when the 0759 was too crowded to board. Adding insult to injury, the delayed express arrived at Walkden 7 minutes later with plenty of room on board but passengers couldn’t board even though the train spent several minutes within sight of the platform waiting for a signal.

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Northern “No” to extra trains during East Lancs roadworks

November 23, 2013

Northern Rail have replied to Cllr Iain Lindley’s suggestions for additional services from Walkden during the East Lancs roadworks. Unfortunately they do not believe they have the trains or operational flexibility to make any changes.

Northern say they haven’t observed a significant increase in volumes of peak hour passengers, although the trains do seem somewhat busier than usual to us.

Northern’s reply provides considerable detail about the decision and the challenging constraints they face when trying to modify services, and deserves to be shared:

Thank you for your  e-mail concerning the A580 works and for bringing the potential implications for Walkden station to our attention. My apologies for the delay getting back you. We have been looking into the potential issues that you have raised and monitoring the situation to see what impact has emerged, hence the delay getting back to you.  In terms of train loadings at Walkden station, we are not currently aware of any significant increase in volumes of peak hour passengers as a result of the road works

To specifically address your suggestions, unfortunately we are not in the position to run additional peak services on the route as there are currently no trains available to do this. All our trains are fully deployed during peak services and there no others available to accommodate arrangements similar to those you refer to in Scotland.

Regarding the specific services, the 0649 Southport – Victoria cannot accommodate an additional stop at Walkden and be timed later into Manchester Victoria, due to the conflict this would create with following services through Salford Crescent. In addition, it cannot depart any earlier from Wigan due to a conflict with a train off the line from Bolton at Crow Nest Junction. Whilst there may have been signalling changes on the route, operational bottlenecks at key locations still remain.

In the evening, the 1707 to Southport is closely  followed out of Victoria by the 1710 to Kirkby, which is formed of 4 cars and calls at all stations, including Walkden, along the Atherton line. The Southport service is more heavily loaded than the Kirkby service and an additional Walkden stop in the Southport train would increase the pressure, as existing Walkden passengers on the Kirkby train are likely to move to the earlier service.

The same concern exists with regard to the 1740 to Southport service with  passengers migrating from the following 1745 to Kirkby service.

As a critical increased passenger loading impact does not seem to have emerged from the A580 works, we are reluctant to make changes to stopping patterns that could generate a further passenger loading problem on the Southport services – especially as making timetable alterations of this nature does have an iterative effect on other services in heavily used corridors such as into Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly.

However, you can be assured that with a programme of works that is going on as long as that for the A580, we will continue to monitor the impact and review what, if anything, needs to be done if the situation changes.

Yours Sincerely,
Don Jary
Client & Stakeholder Manager West

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Tis the season to be jolly ….

November 23, 2013

… or maybe not if you’re a passenger or employee of Northern Rail, as the annual pre-Christmas season of weekend over-crowding begins.

A Pacer arrives at Walkden stuffed like an Xmas turkey. Passengers were unable to board this train or the next one.

A Pacer arrives at Walkden stuffed like an Xmas turkey. Passengers were unable to board this train or the next one.

After dozens of disappointed travellers were unable to board 5 successive trains last Saturday, today Northern have provided Rail Replacement buses between Walkden and Victoria. Nobody will be happy about having to take a bus when they wanted to travel by train, but credit to Northern for coming up with a solution which at least means people can still travel.

We understand passengers at Atherton, Moorside and Swinton were not so lucky, and didn’t have buses provided.

The same situation develops every year at this time, and regular passengers have learnt to expect the worst when trying to travel towards Manchester on a Saturday or Sunday between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Less frequent passengers are visibly shocked that the trains are too busy for passengers to squeeze on.

A replacement bus waits outside Walkden station to take passengers on to Victoria

A replacement bus waits outside Walkden station to take passengers on to Victoria

Apart from passengers, the other victims of the chronic under-investment in trains are local Northern staff who have to deal with the fallout.

While passengers are understandably angry when trains are late or full, we ask you not to take it out on Northern’s front-line staff who (if you ask them) will tell you how frustrated they are with the lack of carriages too.

Only the government, and perhaps Northern’s top bosses, can address the problem of insufficient carriages on the railways, but until electric trains start running on the Eccles and Bolton routes there is little prospect of the situation at Walkden improving.