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.