Rail North Partnership (RNP) asked the rail industry to assess and recommend options to improve the reliability of services for customers from the end of Northern’s interim timetable, which finished on Sunday 29 July. RNP manages the Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises on behalf of Transport for the North and the Department for Transport.
RNP approved the industry’s recommendation which included the option of a phased reintroduction of all services. This phasing enables the industry to focus on further service improvement work across Greater Manchester.
Northern, which removed 6% of services (168 a day) from its timetable on 4 June, reinstated 75% of these from 30 July, and plans to introduce the remaining 25% in September.
David Brown, Managing Director, Northern said: "The May timetable caused significant disruption for customers on some routes on our network and we’re truly sorry for that. We introduced an interim timetable on a number of routes from 4 June, and that has enabled us to accelerate our driver training, stabilise service levels, improve performance and significantly reduce last-minute cancellations."
"Whilst we are ready to reintroduce all 168 daily services, given the need to drive further improvements across Manchester, we have agreed to a more gradual reintroduction of our services. A phased introduction is the right approach to ensure a more stable and reliable service for customers."
If you are affected by the temporary timetables and your journey is cancelled or delayed find out more about delay repay.
What caused the problem?
Northern’s new timetable was designed to provide extra services, making use of our growing train fleet and infrastructure upgrades including the Ordsall Chord, at Liverpool Lime St and between Manchester and Blackpool. However, the timetable had to be planned and delivered in four months compared to the normal 9-12 months.
This was because in January 2018 it was announced that there would be a further delay in delivery of the electrification of the Manchester-Preston via Bolton line, bringing the delay to two years. As a result of this announcement we had to totally rewrite our timetable plan and then plan and deliver significant levels of complex driver training on new routes and to operate different trains. This has caused us to have a reduction in availability of drivers to run our scheduled train services whilst they complete their training, and this has resulted in the significant number of last minute cancellations.
One area we want to clarify is the position on train drivers, and to explain that we actually have more drivers than we need to run a full timetable in normal circumstances. We currently have 1,529 train drivers, 180 more than when we started the franchise.
We are having to complete a significant amount of driver training as a result of the delayed Blackpool electrification programme, and a large number of additional last-minute route changes as a result of the May timetable. The interim timetable will enable us to accelerate the completion of this training.