Dale Haslam's train blog: All I want for Christmas is reliability

The Bolton News: Dale Haslam Dale Haslam

Reporter Dale Haslam, pictured, today starts a weekly blog on his daily train-faring experience. It comes following the Prime Minister’s promise to take on board the issues of the Bolton News’ Let’s Get Back On Track campaign to get the axed peak-hour carriages reinstated and tackle problems of overcrowding.

IT takes about 15 minutes each morning for a train to whisk me from home in Chorley to work in Bolton (or 25 minutes if I take the stopping service) — at least that is what is supposed to happen.

But all too often, something goes wrong and I start the day with a frown on my face, wondering why I spend £6.10 a day (that is about £1,500 a year) just getting to and from work.

The latest gaffe was a new one for me.

Last Thursday, a Northern Rail service due at Chorley at 8.02am arrived 15 minutes late and had four carriages, but only two were in service.

Not only did it mean I, and the several hundred other passengers, had to fight for oxygen in a pen suitable only for battery hens, it also meant about 50 or so fully paid-up customers were left stranded on the platform at Horwich Parkway and Lostock.

So why were these carriages closed? It was down to the lights.

A Northern Rail spokesman said: “Two of the four carriages were locked out of use due to an on-board engine fault. This meant there was no lighting in these two carriages.”

He added: “As this service passes through various tunnels, it would have been unsafe for us to allow passengers to travel in these carriages.”

He went on to apologise to customers for the fault — but, hey, at least the apology came from a real-life human being rather than the automated apologies you get at train stations, which cannot possibly be sincere.

I complain, but when it does run well, the railway is less stressful than staring at brake lights through a car windscreen en route to the M61, and it can be very relaxing too when you travel further afield.

But please, Santa, all I want for Christmas is a reliable service.

Is it too much to ask from Northern Rail and TransPennine Express?

  • Sign our petition in our town centre office and in shops and newsagents around bolton, or online.
  • Sign our petition here.

Comments (5)

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10:37am Mon 16 Dec 13

filthy6 says...

Reason the carriage was so full was due to BN finally jumping on the bandwaggon
Reason the carriage was so full was due to BN finally jumping on the bandwaggon filthy6

10:58am Mon 16 Dec 13

MarkAllRead says...

If that's the first time Dale's seen that, then he can't have been travelling that route for very long! I bet I've seen the closed carriage situation about 6 times in the last 18 months. The one time I've asked they told me that because the carriages have no power, the doors cannot open. Obviously these doors can open manually, but they don't want to know. It's clearly a case of Northern Rail penny-pinching and not maintaining their trains properly.
If that's the first time Dale's seen that, then he can't have been travelling that route for very long! I bet I've seen the closed carriage situation about 6 times in the last 18 months. The one time I've asked they told me that because the carriages have no power, the doors cannot open. Obviously these doors can open manually, but they don't want to know. It's clearly a case of Northern Rail penny-pinching and not maintaining their trains properly. MarkAllRead

11:14am Mon 16 Dec 13

MarkAllRead says...

Also, I've occasionally been on a carriage that has no lights and the engine isn't running (so that it's dark, cold and strangely quiet). It's being dragged along by the other three carriages. I know I'd rather be sat on a carriage like that than stood at the platform for 30 minutes waiting for the next train to hopefully arrive on time.
Also, I've occasionally been on a carriage that has no lights and the engine isn't running (so that it's dark, cold and strangely quiet). It's being dragged along by the other three carriages. I know I'd rather be sat on a carriage like that than stood at the platform for 30 minutes waiting for the next train to hopefully arrive on time. MarkAllRead

2:23pm Mon 16 Dec 13

The Righteous One says...

So he wouldn't have experienced the fun this morning.

7:43 Bolton to Manchester Victoria (NR) CANCELLED
7:55 Bolton To Hazel Grove via Piccadilly (NR) - 5 minutes late and only 4 Class 142 coaches (now each coach is 1/3 less than normal coach sizes so when they say 4 coaches they actually mean 2 2/3 coaches) - many were left behind.
It finally left Bolton at about 8:05
7:59 Bolton to Manchester Victoria (NR) arrived 3 minutes late (like it does every day so why has the timetable never been changed to show this?) people who couldn't get on the 7:55 also boarded and we left 10 minutes late. Thsi train also calls at Moses Gate, Farnworth and Kearsley who has their 7:43 cancelled so anyone can guess what the train was like when it reached Salford Crescent when even more people got on to get to Victoria!!!! I was literally pushed up againt the door, being squashed and was fighting for air - I was more than relieved when we reached Salford Central as I literally fell of the train, gasping for air!!!
I have it written from teh bosses of Northern Rail that what happened today and happens virtually every other work day doesn't actually happen!!! It seems to me the bosses haven't got a clue as to what is happening and how dangerously overcrowded the trains are!
8:08 Bolton To Ocford Road Non-stop (TPE) crammed full with no seats and again everyone was squashed up (I have a friend who catches that service and they say its like that every day even more since the new timetable!)
So he wouldn't have experienced the fun this morning. 7:43 Bolton to Manchester Victoria (NR) CANCELLED 7:55 Bolton To Hazel Grove via Piccadilly (NR) - 5 minutes late and only 4 Class 142 coaches (now each coach is 1/3 less than normal coach sizes so when they say 4 coaches they actually mean 2 2/3 coaches) - many were left behind. It finally left Bolton at about 8:05 7:59 Bolton to Manchester Victoria (NR) arrived 3 minutes late (like it does every day so why has the timetable never been changed to show this?) people who couldn't get on the 7:55 also boarded and we left 10 minutes late. Thsi train also calls at Moses Gate, Farnworth and Kearsley who has their 7:43 cancelled so anyone can guess what the train was like when it reached Salford Crescent when even more people got on to get to Victoria!!!! I was literally pushed up againt the door, being squashed and was fighting for air - I was more than relieved when we reached Salford Central as I literally fell of the train, gasping for air!!! I have it written from teh bosses of Northern Rail that what happened today and happens virtually every other work day doesn't actually happen!!! It seems to me the bosses haven't got a clue as to what is happening and how dangerously overcrowded the trains are! 8:08 Bolton To Ocford Road Non-stop (TPE) crammed full with no seats and again everyone was squashed up (I have a friend who catches that service and they say its like that every day even more since the new timetable!) The Righteous One

7:56pm Mon 16 Dec 13

BWFC71 says...

Firstly I have to Thank David Chadwick for his quick assistance and response with regards to the rains and the response from Northern - which is very laughable.....

As you are already aware Northern Rail services on the Bolton corridor are effectively unchanged from the timetable change on Sunday. It is TPE services that are being diverted away via Wigan North Western.

However, we have been working with TPE to make passengers at Wigan Wallgate and Preston aware that the new services going via Wigan North Western offer a viable and faster alternative to the services they currently use. You will no doubt be aware of the joint publicity and additional representatives at Bolton and Wigan talking to our passengers.

The aim of this strategy is to encourage people to migrate to the new services and thereby generate extra capacity at Bolton. The intensive publicity and information campaign at stations along the route is both aiming to reinforce this message and ensure that all our current passengers understand the changes. We have already seen some passengers starting to experiment with alternative service options. From Monday, both TPE and Northern will be actively monitoring the peak flows of passengers, with managers out art all the stations affected, to determine how successful the strategy has been and whether there are more actions required. We hope that **** sees that the impact of the changes are not as severe as he believes.



From the Northern perspective we have little or no flexibility to provide additional carriages/services on the route before the timetable change next May and even that will be limited. However we have strengthened the 1803 Manchester Airport to Southport service from next week to fill a gap resulting from the TPE service diversions and we are putting a very high profile on maintaining the correct formation of trains on the key morning and evening peak services through Bolton. In terms of acquiring additional trains, as I think you are also aware, there are currently no available diesel multiple units. In addition to this Northern is limited in the amount of strengthening possible because most of our key trains are already formed of two units and more carriages would exceed platform lengths at many of our stations.



In terms of the travel experiences **** had last Friday (not last Friday but it was about 2-3 weeks ago), I can only apologise that the 1720 service from Manchester Victoria was short of carriages because of a train failure. You can assure **** that we do not just allow such situations to occur in the peak periods on key trains without our people on the ground and our Control doing whatever is possible to rectify the situation. However there are times when this cannot be done. I believe that **** has slightly underestimated the importance of providing additional coaches on the other services he refers to. They are equally busy at stages throughout their journey. However, in association with your Officers at TfGM, services are regularly reviewed to see whether the trains that have additional strengthening are warranted when matched against the loading data that we collect through the Automatic Passenger Counting system (APC).

(again laughable as the trains he means are the 1710 from Salford Central Southport via Walkden and the 1712 from Salford Central Kirkby via Walkden - both operating within 4 minutes of each other along the same line and calling at same stations!!! Southport should be 4 class 15x's whilst the Kirkby should be 4 class 142's - as it is the Kirkby is often 4 class 15x's and is often less than half full whilst the Southport is often overcrowded - but nowhere near as bad as the Blackpool service which I catch back to Bolton)



What has recently put extra pressure on early evening services, has been the increases in off peak travellers coming to Manchester for the Christmas shopping experience and then joining these trains. The additional seasonal volumes were also the prime reason for the problems **** had last Saturday, coupled with the Rugby League World Cup Final and a heavy football programme. We had planned for the provision of an additional 6000 seats on services into Manchester on Saturday and over 8000 on Sunday (as service frequencies are lower). Additional shuttle services operated into Manchester Victoria from Bolton and the Eastern side of the city on Sunday. The volume of passengers who actually decided to travel was way in excess of both the estimates for this weekend and compared against last year. At Manchester Piccadilly the station footfall on Saturday was double a normal Saturday and 80% higher than equivalent pre-Christmas levels last year. This was replicated around all the Manchester routes. We believe that volumes attending the Christmas markets are up by over 20%. On Saturday, Northern responded by re-allocating capacity and effectively provided 11000 extra seats across the day. All our available trains were deployed. I understand that other train operators also experienced similar problems.



I know that this doesn’t in itself detract from the bad experience **** had, however I would strongly refute the implication from him that Northern doesn’t care about our passengers. Far from it. We put extensive time and effort into trying to plan to alleviate heavy loadings on trains and provide a reliable service. Over the past summer we have successfully managed a wide range of special events in both Manchester and Liverpool, often on the same weekend. However we have a finite number of vehicles that we can deploy.





Then see my last post (The Righteous One) from today and it is very laughable. The only trains that have to be careful of size are those that call at Moses Gate as the platforms have been butchered down to take only 3 normal size coaches (or 4 Class 142's coaches) otherwise all other stations on the Bolton line can take up to 6 normal size coaches (including the recently extended Salford Crescent!)
Firstly I have to Thank David Chadwick for his quick assistance and response with regards to the rains and the response from Northern - which is very laughable..... As you are already aware Northern Rail services on the Bolton corridor are effectively unchanged from the timetable change on Sunday. It is TPE services that are being diverted away via Wigan North Western. However, we have been working with TPE to make passengers at Wigan Wallgate and Preston aware that the new services going via Wigan North Western offer a viable and faster alternative to the services they currently use. You will no doubt be aware of the joint publicity and additional representatives at Bolton and Wigan talking to our passengers. The aim of this strategy is to encourage people to migrate to the new services and thereby generate extra capacity at Bolton. The intensive publicity and information campaign at stations along the route is both aiming to reinforce this message and ensure that all our current passengers understand the changes. We have already seen some passengers starting to experiment with alternative service options. From Monday, both TPE and Northern will be actively monitoring the peak flows of passengers, with managers out art all the stations affected, to determine how successful the strategy has been and whether there are more actions required. We hope that **** sees that the impact of the changes are not as severe as he believes. From the Northern perspective we have little or no flexibility to provide additional carriages/services on the route before the timetable change next May and even that will be limited. However we have strengthened the 1803 Manchester Airport to Southport service from next week to fill a gap resulting from the TPE service diversions and we are putting a very high profile on maintaining the correct formation of trains on the key morning and evening peak services through Bolton. In terms of acquiring additional trains, as I think you are also aware, there are currently no available diesel multiple units. In addition to this Northern is limited in the amount of strengthening possible because most of our key trains are already formed of two units and more carriages would exceed platform lengths at many of our stations. In terms of the travel experiences **** had last Friday (not last Friday but it was about 2-3 weeks ago), I can only apologise that the 1720 service from Manchester Victoria was short of carriages because of a train failure. You can assure **** that we do not just allow such situations to occur in the peak periods on key trains without our people on the ground and our Control doing whatever is possible to rectify the situation. However there are times when this cannot be done. I believe that **** has slightly underestimated the importance of providing additional coaches on the other services he refers to. They are equally busy at stages throughout their journey. However, in association with your Officers at TfGM, services are regularly reviewed to see whether the trains that have additional strengthening are warranted when matched against the loading data that we collect through the Automatic Passenger Counting system (APC). (again laughable as the trains he means are the 1710 from Salford Central Southport via Walkden and the 1712 from Salford Central Kirkby via Walkden - both operating within 4 minutes of each other along the same line and calling at same stations!!! Southport should be 4 class 15x's whilst the Kirkby should be 4 class 142's - as it is the Kirkby is often 4 class 15x's and is often less than half full whilst the Southport is often overcrowded - but nowhere near as bad as the Blackpool service which I catch back to Bolton) What has recently put extra pressure on early evening services, has been the increases in off peak travellers coming to Manchester for the Christmas shopping experience and then joining these trains. The additional seasonal volumes were also the prime reason for the problems **** had last Saturday, coupled with the Rugby League World Cup Final and a heavy football programme. We had planned for the provision of an additional 6000 seats on services into Manchester on Saturday and over 8000 on Sunday (as service frequencies are lower). Additional shuttle services operated into Manchester Victoria from Bolton and the Eastern side of the city on Sunday. The volume of passengers who actually decided to travel was way in excess of both the estimates for this weekend and compared against last year. At Manchester Piccadilly the station footfall on Saturday was double a normal Saturday and 80% higher than equivalent pre-Christmas levels last year. This was replicated around all the Manchester routes. We believe that volumes attending the Christmas markets are up by over 20%. On Saturday, Northern responded by re-allocating capacity and effectively provided 11000 extra seats across the day. All our available trains were deployed. I understand that other train operators also experienced similar problems. I know that this doesn’t in itself detract from the bad experience **** had, however I would strongly refute the implication from him that Northern doesn’t care about our passengers. Far from it. We put extensive time and effort into trying to plan to alleviate heavy loadings on trains and provide a reliable service. Over the past summer we have successfully managed a wide range of special events in both Manchester and Liverpool, often on the same weekend. However we have a finite number of vehicles that we can deploy. Then see my last post (The Righteous One) from today and it is very laughable. The only trains that have to be careful of size are those that call at Moses Gate as the platforms have been butchered down to take only 3 normal size coaches (or 4 Class 142's coaches) otherwise all other stations on the Bolton line can take up to 6 normal size coaches (including the recently extended Salford Crescent!) BWFC71

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