The Anonymous Widower

A Chaotic Morning Peak Across The Pennines

I had intended to ride in one of TransPennine Express’s new trains that are formed of a rake of Mark 5A coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

As they run between Liverpool Lime Street and Scarbough, I thought it best to buy a return ticket between Manchester Victoria and Leeds.

Problem Number 1 – Northern’s Ticket Machine

Northern’s new ticket machines are fine when they work, but for some reason they wouldn’t respond to my fingers.

I find this with some touch screens, which are mainly in Sweden or IKEA in the UK.

So I bought a ticket from the ticket office intending to catch the next Scarborough train.

This had also happened the day before at Leeds.

Problem Number 2 – The Scarborough Train Didn’t Arrive

As the Scarborough train didn’t arrive, I gave up and took the Newcastle train towards Leeds.

Problem Number 3 – Overcrowding At Huddersfield

I took this picture of the crowds at Huddersfield.

My phone was telling me that the Scarborough train was behind my Newcastle train, so I decided to change at Huddersfield.

But I made a mistake and got on a very crowded train, that was going to Hull via Leeds.

I had to stand to Leeds, but at least I got a roomy and safe standing space.

Problem Number 4 – Class 185 Trains

.The Class 185 trains are just three-cars and totally inadequate for the route.

The  trains were ordered in 2003 and were delivered in 2006-2007.

If you read the section entitled Overcrowding And Passenger Feedback, in the Wikipedia entry for the trains., you’ll see from the early days, these trains did not have enough capacity for the route.

I blame the Treasury under Gordon Brown, who specified the trains and as with Class 700 trains, which were also specified by the Treasury, there are serious shortcomings.

Considering that among other routes at this time, the London and Norwich route was being run by eight car trains, what in heaven were they thinking about.

But it was only the North of England! And not London or Scotland!

Problem Number 5 – Crowded Leeds Station

Leeds station was crowded as ever, but it wasn’t helped by an escalator being broken down.

I had hoped, that I would have enough time to go to Harrogate, but I felt as it was all so slow, that it was best to go back to Manchester Victoria station, grab something to eat and then go on to Liverpool Lime Street station, which was my intended destination.

Problem Number 6 – Ticket Machine At Leeds Station

I needed a Single from Leeds to Liverpool Lime Street and try as I might, I couldn’t find it on the machine, so I resorted to the Ticket Office again.

Problem Number 7 – Train Failure At Manchester Victoria Station

The train from Leeds to Manchester Victoria was another Class 185 train and I did get a seat.

But where was the new five-car rake of Mark 5A coaches and a Class 68 locomotive?

I did successfully split my journey at Manchester Victoria station, but there seemed to be problems, so I thought I’d go on immediately to Liverpool and arrive in the city with an hour to spare for my meeting.

As if things could be so simple!

A Class 185 train had failed in the platform and it was nearly an hour, before I got away to Liverpool in a train, that arrived in the bay platform 2, which to get to the West, had to come out of the station and reverse. I suspect TransPennine Express were using a driver in both cabs or driving it from the Liverpool-facing cab at all time.

Problem Number 8 – Late Arrival Into Liverpool Lime Street

I arrived in Liverpool about fifteen minutes late for my meeting, with the rain chucking it down, after it being dry in Manchester.

The weather in itself must be unusual!

My Observations

I was having a text conversation with a friend in London and these were my observations to him, with a few other points added by hindsight.

1. Northern’s Ticket Machines

These need reeducation and the dry-finger problem that I suffer with the screens must be fixed.

2. Northern’s Ticket Offices

Northern needs to open more ticket office windows.

3. Where Is The London-Style Contactless Ticketing?

London has proven, that contactless ticketing based on bank cards increases passenger numbers and revenue and has a high level of passenger satisfaction.

\The area of the North between Liverpool and Blackpool in the West and Leeds and Sheffield in the East is in terms of passenger numbers smaller than London’s contactless ticketing area.

I think there are two reasons, why it doesn’t exist now or in the near future.

  • The trains are not big enough to cope with the increased traffic.
  • It will result in a reduction of ticket offices and their staff and those in charge are frightened of the RMT.

So visitors like me have to suffer an inadequate ticketing system because of timid management.

4. Buying Tickets In The North In The Future

In future, when I go to the North, I’ll plan my journey in detail and buy my tickets from the intelligent and extremely customer-friendly ticket machines in Dalston Junction station.

It’s strange that both Northern and the London Overground are run by Arriva. How can one get it so right and the other so wrong?

Perhaps it’s because the London Overground only deals with one organisation; Transport for London and Northern deals with a myriad rabble of councillors, MPs, pressure groups, all fighting their own corners.

5. All Trains Must Be At Least Six Cars

More capacity is needed and as there is a lack of train paths across the Pennines, because of lack of investment in the tracks for decades, starting with that enemy of the train; Harold Wilson.The simplest way to increase to increase capacity is to make all trains at least six cars.

But I would go father than that.

  • Trains running across the Pennines should all be identical.
  • Capable of at least 100 mph.
  • Capable of 125 mph, when the route includes the West or East Coast Main Lines.
  • Fast acceleration away from stops.
  • Identical door configuration with wide double doors on all trains.
  • Level access between train and platform.
  • Short dwell times in stopping stations.

Identical trains improve timekeeping and give a better service to passengers.

If you look at the Paddington and Oxford service it is now run virtually exclusively using Class 800 or 802 trains. I feel as an occasional passenger that it has improved dramatically, in terms of capacity, comfort and reliability for passengers.

6. What Idiot Decided To Buy Three Different Fleets For TransPennine Express?

The sister company of TransPennine Express is Great Western Railway.

Great Western Railway’s main line services are run by two fleets of trains.

As some of the Class 387 trains are being converted for Heathrow Express and Crossrail are taking over London and Reading services, I can see a time, when all fast services that go to and from Paddington through Reading will be run by the Hitachi trains.

Consider.

  • West of Heathrow, the fast lines are reserved for the 125 mph Hitachi trains.
  • The 110 mph Class 387 trains to and from Heathrow, don’t get in the way of the faster Hitachi trains.
  • Applying digital signalling to increase paths on the fast lines is easier with identical trains.
  • Driver training and rostering must be simpler.

It’s not perfect, but it’s an arrangement that can be made to work well.

If a unified fleet is so good, why did TransPennine Express buy three separate fleets?

Class 802 Trains

Nineteen Class 802 trains will be used for these services.

  • Liverpool Lime Street to Edinburgh Waverley via Newcastle (from December 2019)
  • Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle (until December 2019)
  • Manchester Airport to Newcastle

This seems to be a sensible and obvious choice.

  • A five-car Class 802 train has eighty percent more seats than a three-car Class 185 train.
  • A five-car Class 802 train is shorter than a pair of Class 185 trains.
  • The trains are 125 mph trains, that can be upgraded to 140 mph with digital in-cab signalling.
  • FirstGroup must have a large amount of experience of running Class 802 trains.
  • Class 802 trains have an automatic split and join facility.
  • East Coast Trains, Hull Trains and LNER will be running similar Hitachi trains on the East Coast Main Line.

In addition the fleet is future-proofed in two important ways.

  • If the TransPennine route is ever electrified, their diesel engines can be removed.
  • Extra cars can be added to Class 802 trains to increase capacity

Using Class 802 trains is an excellent choice.

Class 68 Locomotive And Mark 5A Coaches

Twelve rakes of four Mark 5A coaches between a Class 68 locomotive and a driving van trailer, will run these routes.

  • Liverpool Lime Street to Scarborough via Manchester Victoria.
  • Manchester Airport to Redcar Central (In 2019).

I wonder why these services aren’t going to be run by another twelve Class 802 trains.

Consider.

  • Pollution would be reduced and the air improved in the electrified Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Airport and Manchester Airport stations,  if TransPennine used Class 802 trains on all services from the station.
  • Drivers on the routes across the Pennines would more often be driving the same trains.
  • The Class 802  trains are in service on the East Coast Main Line, which must make timekeeping better.
  • The Class 802 trains can be upgraded to work at 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line.

It’s rather strange!

Class 397 Trains

Twelve Class 397 trains will be replacing ten Class 350 trains.

  • The extra two trains are to provide a Liverpool and Glasgow service.
  • The Class 397 trains have an extra car over the Class 350 trains.
  • The seating capacity of both trains is 296.
  • The Class 397 trains are 125 mph trains, which can mix it with Virgin’s Pendelinos.
  • The Class 350 trains are only 110 mph trains, which must get in the way of the Pendelionos.
  • I suspect that the Class 397 trains can be upgraded to 140 mph in the future.

The Class 350 trains needed to be increased and replaced with a 125 mph train.

But why aren’t they being replaced with more Class 802 trains?

  • The Class 802 train is already in service.
  • The Class 802 train has 326 seats as against the 296 of the Class 397 train.
  • TransPennineExpress are already buying nineteen Class 802 trains.
  • If required, an all-electric version could be ordered.
  • West Coast Rail plan to run Hitachi trains on the West Coast Main Line.

It’s rather a puzzle, why TransPennine Express has ordered Class 397 trains, as everything suggests that Class 802 trains could run West Coast services.

All Three Fleets Use The Castlefield Corridor

Believe it or not, but TransPennine Express plan to run these services through the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Manchester Airport and Glasgow/Edinburgh – Class 397 trains.
  • Manchester Airport and Newcastle – Class 802 trains
  • Manchester Airport to Redcar Central – Mark 5A coaches.

Three routes and three different trains!

Was this timetable chosen to confuse staff and passengers?

Possible Reasons For Three Fleets

The only valid reason is that the Hitachi trains can’t work in Scotland.

But it is more likely to do with production schedules at Hitachi or that the fleets were bought by accountants, with very little brain!

I did notice this statement in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 397 trains.

An option for up to 22 extra units was available to TransPennine Express, but it was not exercised.

As 22 trains is close to the nineteen Class 802 trains that were ordered, were TransPennine Express trying to buy a totally-CAF fleet?

7. Track Speed Should Be Improved

Track speeds are slow compared to say the the Great Eastern Main Line,

Improving the track to allow faster speeds may be one of the best decisions to take.

8. There Should Be Better Platform Access At Manchester Victoria And Leeds Stations

These two stations don’t have the best access to the platforms..

They should be improved with more escalators, so that passengers changing trains don’t miss their connections.

Conclusion

Money needs to be spent to remove some of the chaos and constipation in the North.

 

 

 

 

I

 

November 6, 2019 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. In regard to your points: –
    1. I found the same, but put it down to the machine being wet as a result of being outside the station in the rain, but they are chronically bad, taking ages to buy even a simple return.
    2. Use Traksy or similar to locate your train.
    3. Northern run station – nuff’ said. Northern ruined MCO with ticket barriers and other botches.
    4. Northern are gradually replacing 185’s with Nova 1/2/3. They also sometimes double up 185’s on the busiest routes. This might increase are more are released.
    https://youtu.be/oGqgXRy4kew
    5. Network Rail this time, but at least the builders are in.
    6. All part of Northern’s cunning scheme to have their grippers rob you of a penalty fare because you could not even buy the right ticket.
    a. Obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception contrary to s.30 Theft Act 1968.
    7. Odd that, the more usual reason is that the [RMT] guard does not turn up (as happened to me at MCO on Friday night).
    8. Some of Manchester’s legendary rain never makes it that far.
    Agree about track speed – line speed on the straight flat Styal line (MIA / Wilmslow to Piccadilly) is 90mph, with only three aspect signalling.
    :
    and escalators – Man’ Victoria and Piccadilly 13/14 are a PITA in this regard.
    Regards
    Mark
    mclayton@btinternet.com

    Comment by Mark Clayton | December 8, 2019 | Reply

    • Your comment about Northern’s penalty fare policy is so different to Arriva’s policy on the London Overground, which they also run. But then the Overground is totally contactless ticketing. So perhaps the North could be greatly improved by going as soon as possible to contactless ticketing by bank cards?
      Most stations on the Overground have three ticket machines and there is always someone helpful on the gate line.

      Comment by AnonW | December 9, 2019 | Reply


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