Archive for December, 2013

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2014 fares rises announced

December 24, 2013

The January increases to rail fares from Walkden can now be found on the National Rail Enquiries website Journey Planner – simply enter a date after 1st January for your journey and press Check Fares.

The main commuter fare from Walkden – the Peak Return – is going up 20p to £6.30, that’s a rise of 3.3%. The 1 month season ticket seems to have escaped the worst of the increases, up “just” £1.50 or 1.6%.

Here’s a few of the more common fares from Walkden:

Peak Return to Mcr Off Peak Return to Mcr Peak Single to Mcr Off Peak Single to Mcr 1 Month Season Ticket
Old fare £6.10 £3.80 £4.00 £3.70 £93.00
New fare £6.30 £3.90 £4.10 £3.80 £94.50
increase 3.3% 2.6% 2.5% 2.7% 1.6%

The rises are lower than in some recent years, but 3% is still much higher than the average increase in wages.

If you have a long-term season ticket (3, 6 or 12 months) you may consider renewing on or before Jan 1st to beat the price rise which comes into effect on Jan 2nd.

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Xmas and New Year service changes

December 24, 2013

There are significant changes to the regular train service from Walkden over the Xmas and New Year period.

As usual, there will be no trains at all on Xmas Day or Boxing Day.

Services finish early (around 8pm) on Christmas Eve and start later than normal on Friday 28th.

From Friday 28th Dec until Jan 1st no trains will run in to or out of Manchester Victoria. Network Rail are performing major engineering works as part of the northwest electrification programme, including”wiring up” the tracks through Victoria and lowering the tracks under Cheetham Hill Road bridge to make room for overhead wires.

During this period trains to/from Walkden will run to Salford Crescent and then either terminate at Salford Central or Oxford Road (some people might consider this an improved service !). Bus replacements will be available to ferry passengers between Salford Central and Manchester Victoria.

For full details please check at nationalrailenquiries.co.uk or northernrail.org/ManchesterVictoria

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Northern run Xmas relief trains via Walkden

December 22, 2013

We would have blogged this news in advance but we didn’t know Northern were going to do it … yesterday 4 extra trains ran on the Walkden line to relieve the strain on over-crowded scheduled services.

We don’t know how they managed to find extra coaches (perhaps deferring some weekend maintenance ?) but credit to whoever organised the initiative as it made a far more pleasant journey home from town for hundreds of passengers yesterday.

Well done Northern ! Just a bit more publicity next time ?

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Bus replacements next week

December 14, 2013

bussignThe last train out from Victoria (the 23.20) is replaced by a bus each evening next week from Monday (16th Dec) until Thursday (19th Dec).

The usual warnings about the bus apply – it’s slower, has no toilets, and is not being able to carry bicycles, non-folding prams, wheelchairs  etc .

Only the last Wigan-bound train of each evening is affected by bus replacement – all other services are due to run normally.

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Bolton – Wigan to be electrified by 2017

December 14, 2013

Yesterday the government announced that the Bolton to Wigan line, running through Westhoughton and Hindley, will be electrified by 2017 as part of the Manchester-Preston electrification scheme.

Electrification generally allows for faster, cleaner services, and should free up diesel trains for unelectrified lines (like Walkden), so it’s great news for travellers using those stations.

FOWS are campaigning for Network Rail and the government to include the Walkden line in their north west electrification plans or else we fear becoming an isolated and neglected piece of old diesel railway whilst newer electric trains serve all places around.

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TPE changes have minimal impact on Walkden services

December 14, 2013

It seems like a long time since we had any good news to report, but we can perhaps celebrate an absence of bad news in one area: the overcrowding on the Bolton-Manchester route caused by the re-routing of some Transpennine services does not appear to have spilled over to affect our line too badly.

Indeed the new TPE services direct from Wigan to Manchester seem to be very popular and are probably taking some demand off our services.

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1 in 5 Northern trains “late” in North Manchester last month

December 14, 2013

Northern have released performance figures for the 4 weeks to 7th December and anyone who suffered the daily delays, overcrowding and cancellations during that dreadful period will be surprised to read that in Northern’s words “all our service groups exceeded the required levels“.

The figures report that 1 in 5 trains was late in the North Manchester area, but using the DfT’s perverse guidelines allows Northern to count delays of up to 10 minutes as “on time” .

Trains are also only timed at their final destination, so a bit of judicious padding at the end of the timetabled journey is a commonly used ruse to massage delay statistics in train companies favour (timetables show trains take 3 minutes from Victoria to Salford Central, but anything from 5 to 8 minutes in the other direction).

Undoubtedly there were some difficult weather conditions to deal with during the month but these cannot be blamed for the lack of carriages, staff shortages, and lack of information passengers had to endure.

For everyone’s sake we hope never to experience a month like that again.

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2014 fare increase capped at Retail Inflation rate

December 7, 2013

Finally a little bit of good news for train travellers – in his statement to the House of Commons on Thursday Chancellor George Osborne announced that this year’s fare increases would be capped at an average of 3.1%, rather than the 4.1% that had been expected. In effect it means fares will go up on Jan 1st by just the rate of retail price inflation instead of the threatened RPI+1 formula.

Government rules will still allow the train companies to raise some fares by upto 5.1%, so long as the average is kept at 3.1%.

Northern’s new fares should be published on the National Rail Enquiries website soon, and we’ll report on the changes to the most popular fares from Walkden on this blog.

If you buy monthly or longer season tickets it’s worth considering whether you can defer the price rise by renewing your pass early (before Jan 1st).

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Brace yourselves … things may get worse before they get better

December 3, 2013

We don’t know what’s caused the problems on local trains recently, perhaps a combination of the annual leaf fall season, staff shortages caused by winter colds and flu, and a surge of passengers out for Christmas shopping and revels, but one things for sure – the last 3 or 4 weeks have been grim for passengers at Walkden.
It’ll be interesting to see the train company’s official statistics for November, but for commuters and weekend travellers alike it’s been a month of late running and severely overcrowded trains. In fact we can’t remember a worse service since Northern took over 9 years ago.
The bad news is that things might be about to get even worse as the winter timetable begins on Sunday. A number of Transpennine services that currently run through Bolton will start to use the newly electrified route from Manchester to Scotland via Chat Moss and Wigan instead. This will reduce the number of trains and seats on the Bolton to Manchester line, a prospect that has alarmed both Transpennine Express and Northern Rail because the trains are already extremely busy and (to quote the Northern Rail website) “We have looked at all possibilities to acquire extra carriages to minimise the impact on services; however, there are no suitable diesel trains available and our current fleet is already used to maximum capacity“.

Fewer trains means increased overcrowding on the Bolton line that’s likely to spill over and affect trains from Walkden as travellers from Wigan, Westhoughton and the Bolton area look for alternative routes to work.

Things may improve in a year or two when the Transpennine services are switched to full electric operation and diesel trains can be released to secondary lines like ours, but in the short to medium term it looks like things may be worse before they get better. Our best advice is just to be prepared for over-crowding and allow more time for your journeys.