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Northern chided into recovery plan amid rail chaos

Transport for the North and the Department for Transport, acting through the Rail North Partnership, have agreed a plan with train operator Northern in response to this week’s severe travel disruption.

Barry White, chief executive of TfN, said: “We are extremely disappointed and concerned with the inadequate performance of Northern. We have received a timetable recovery plan from Northern to address these concerns and improve the rail experience for passengers.

“Both Transport for the North and the Department for Transport, through the Rail North Partnership, will be monitoring progress against the plan on a daily basis.”

Northern’s action plan includes:

  • Improving driver rostering to get more trains running now.
  • Increasing driver training on new routes to get more services on line as quickly as possible.
  • Additional contingency drivers and management presence at key locations in Manchester.
  • Putting extra peak services in the timetable along the Bolton corridor, including between Buckshaw and Manchester Victoria, and Preston and Manchester Oxford Road.

The Rail North Partnership said that it will be focusing on the following key measures:

  • Calling on Northern to improve early communication of service disruptions to the public.
  • Strengthening resources within The Rail North Partnership Team to ensure Northern’s Action Plan can be closely monitored throughout its implementation.
  • Daily calls between the train companies and Network Rail to manage the operational elements of running the new timetable.

This week is the first of a new timetable season, with train operating companies throughout the UK promising better and more frequent services. However, in the North West in particular, the week has been beset by issues, with availability of drivers being one of the causes blamed for a series of cancellations and late running services, with the Preston-Manchester service coming in for especially heavy criticism.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has been among the vocal critics of the transport regime. Even before the changes were made, Burnham wrote to TfN to highlight Northern’s performance, saying he had been “bombarded” with complaints about the operator’s performance and calling for an investigation into whether it is in breach of its franchise agreement.

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Barry White, please change our lives.

By Huey

The sheer incompetence of Northern Rail should have TFN considering the future of their contract with Northern Rail and setting a proper timetable for recovery and implementing the penalties of the contract. The statement is weak, lacks decision and any leadership. How much longer do we have to put up with this wholly inadequate transport partnership!

By John D

What is the timetable for this, and what are the impacts of non compliance with the changes

By Caroline

Laughable how politicians, media and business grandees keep banging on about the “northern powerhouse” as if by repeating the name it will become a reality. There will be no northern powerhouse until you can get millions of journeys across the north undertaken on frequent fast efficient train services. Instead we have to sit back and watch billions spent on HS2, Crossrail and other upgrades for London and the SE and make do with a marketing slogan for the north.

By A Developer

Possibly the worst rail service ever, with some of the new timetable offerings totally impractical. Can confidently say >90% of my journeys are late. Other issues are antiquated trains, regular overcrowding, short of carriages or cancelled altogether! TFN should seriously consider Northern’s future as operators of the franchise.

By Thomas the Tank

This won’t do much of anything as I don’t see anyone tackling the real issue.

Northern Rail’s rest day working agreement with its drivers came to an abrupt end recently, which means that there are now regularly not enough drivers to drive. The only thing which has been regular as clockwork are the cancellations. Liverpool to Manchester airport, Liverpool to Preston/Blackpool, etc, etc, etc.

The disturbing suggestions made in the media suggest that there might be no real appetite on either side to resolve the matter.

If there is no compulsion to recruit a load of new drivers, then how can there be any real end in sight? If we end up with staff relocated from elsewhere, then all that will mean is the area that shouts loudest gets more cover, while everywhere else still goes to pot.

The new timetable is only making matters worse, while providing something convenient to blame. The issues have been going on well before the timetable switch over.

By Mike