Since the timetable change, on December the 15th, the performance of TPE and Northern has been dreadful between Stalybridge (SYB) and Manchester (MAN or MCV).
I would estimate that there probably wasn’t a day that didn’t have over %10 of peak time trains cancelled! (Trains between 10am to 2pm and trains after 8pm were generally ok and helped to bring the late/cancelled averages down.) Northern hasn’t “managed” to run a train to/from Stalybridge for months on a Sunday! (These are now removed from the RealTimeTrains website as scheduled cancellations (being replaced by buses) are not included – these cancellations have nothing to do with “engineering work” as TPE are using both routes to/from Manchester on Sundays.
Excuses have been “issue with train crew”, “Late inbound service” and “a problem on the train”. Other excuses are much less commonly used :- “a broken down train in front”, “a police incident” or “a signalling fault”.
My own observations would give:- “Lack of train crews” to fulfil current commitments with a planned and unplanned absences factored in – ie bad/very optimistic management of resources; “Pathing/congestion” on the route – it really looks like they are trying to run a railway with everything being perfect and requiring no spare anything – ie in theory only; and to a much lesser extent “some teething problems” with new equipment – ie new trains.
On occasion the cancellations at peak periods go well over %25!
On at least four occasions I have been affected by 3 cancellations in a row with the result that 4 trains worth of passengers are attempting to get on next working train. These, as you can imagine, resulted in dangerous overcrowding on both the platform and train. It is VERY clear that the controllers are much more interested in preserving/returning to timetabled “paths” across the Pennines than in crowding issues building up on the platforms. It is only a matter of time before an incident occurs where passengers are pushed onto the tracks in a Hillsborough1989/Glasgow1971 type crowd failure type situation – especially with the frequent platform alterations (anyone fancy 3 platform changes in 3 minutes with no lifts, a pram and your leg in plaster? (That guy actually snapped at a recent incident at MCV I witnessed – which resulted in even more disruption to the chaos already ensuing but they blamed everything on the loud mouthed angry and in pain individual.)
On two occasions, after the two preceding trains were cancelled, a 2x3car TPE train came into the overcrowded platform. Once again the passengers relief was quashed when it was announced that one of the units was going to be “locked out of use” as there was not a member of staff (guard) to man that section for safety reasons! What are these “safety reasons”? I did have a think:- 1/ vandalism concerns; 2/ lone (female/vulnerable) passenger safety. Northern has no such concerns as (still) a vast proportion of there trains consist of at least one class142. Neither of these “reasons” count when the train is that over-crowded that you can’t even lift your arm up over your head! The crushing crowd is a far greater risk.
This is not all a whinge, oh no, since the Christmas Holidays I have only noticed 2 trains cancelled in several days total – well done. Even Northern has not appeared to have cancelled a train since the 1st of Jan (not including the blanket cancellation/replacement of all trains to/from Stalybridge this Sunday).
..and in even better news (for totally selfish reasons) I can now get loco hauled travel on my commute to and from Manchester.
So, “Problems on the Pennines”.
I have outlined (some of) the problems at Stalybridge, (there are more), but I am sure other places are suffering too:- Overcrowding (everywhere), cancellations (“Turnbacks” are a particular problem with passengers as controllers cancel services before there terminating stations so that the train can resume their return paths across the Pennines. (I wonder how Redcar has fared since the new timetable, and trains to Manchester Airport DO cause particular worry for passengers as trains are cancelled because of congestion on platform13 at Manchester Piccadilly…)
Here is "Lord President" about to depart Manchester Victoria's Platform 4, for Liverpool Lime St, after just coming from Stalybridge on the 10:37 1F58 on Sunday the 22nd of December 2019.