Archive for the ‘Over-crowding’ Category

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4% drop in total passengers in 2015 count

December 5, 2015

The total number of passengers using Walkden station between 0600 and 1330 fell 4% to 683 this year. Almost all of the decline was in the Off-Peak (after 0930) Manchester direction, and may be attributed to the wet and windy weather conditions which probably persuaded several leisure travellers to stay at home.

TotalPaxPerYear2015

Peak and Off-Peak Trends

“Pre-peak” (trains before 0730) and “Peak” (trains from 0730 to 0930) were virtually unchanged from the previous year with 16 more pre-peak travellers and one less peak.

But the main change was a drop of 20% (46 passengers) travelling on Off Peak services after 0930.

Inbound and Outbound Flows

Travel towards Wigan was virtually unchanged from 2014, but numbers into Manchester were hit by the drop in off-peak travel and fell by 32.

Punctuality

Continuing November’s trend punctuality was poor with only 1 of the 31 trains departing on time. The average delay was 5 minutes.

Northern Rail suffered particularly acute “leaf fall” problems this year due to still, damp conditions causing leaves to stick to lines longer.

Over-crowding

Seven trains were “full & standing” and 32 passengers were denied boarding.

More details

For full details and graphs giving a train-by-train picture of the passenger volumes at Walkden please see the FoWS website.

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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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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.

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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.

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Warning – East Lancs Roadworks

October 19, 2013

The A580 East Lancs will be reduced to a single lane in either direction between Old Clough Lane and Swinton for the next 16 weeks (the work is related to the unpopular Leigh Guided Busway scheme). We anticipate the inevitable congestion will encourage more motorists to use the train instead. We are therefore expecting already busy commuter trains to become even more crowded over the next 4 months.

Walkden South Councillor and FOWS member Iain Lindley has written to Northern Rail highlighting the likely uplift in loadings, and suggesting some simple steps to alleviate the problems Walkden passengers may suffer.

As we have learnt, providing extra services or even extra carriages on existing services is usually beyond the ability of our local rail system. Instead, Cllr Lindley has suggested it should be relatively easy to arrange for the following commuter services that currently skip Walkden to stop here during the period of the works:

  • 0649 Southport to Manchester Victoria
  • 1707 Manchester Victoria to Southport
  • 1740 Manchester Victoria to Southport

We will update this blog with news of any response from Northern Rail.