Northern Services and Timetable Changes

I understand the dissatisfaction people have with local rail services and the anger being shown towards Northern, especially in light of the recent timetable changes.

Following a large number of constituents who use Davenport & Woodsmoor stations raising their concerns with the proposed timetable, I met with Liam Sumpter, Regional Director at Northern, and I was informed that the proposed timetable is a result of Northern having to rework their timetable around other operators, following Network Rail's failure to complete electrification on the Bolton line, which in turn would have opened up more time slots at Manchester Piccadilly. The same issue is behind the timetable changes at other stations in the area too, including on the Bramhall & Cheadle Hulme and Heald Green & Gatley lines.

Although we had a lengthy conversation, I was informed that despite their best efforts Northern feel there is nothing that can be done to change what has happened and they cannot offer an improved service. Needless to say I find this outcome to be extremely disappointing, and I will continue to be in touch with Northern ahead of their next proposed timetable in December, which again will be contingent on the Bolton electrification project. I will also be contacting Network Rail regarding the failure to complete the project on time.

I met with the Secretary of State for Transport on Monday 21st May and the Rail Minister on Tuesday 22nd May to discuss how to move forward in holding Northern to account and delivering a rail service which people can rely on. I understand that the Department for Transport is receiving hourly updates on the situation, and I will continue to monitor it closely myself. I understand that Northern are seeking compensation for having to change their proposed timetable due to the failure to complete the Bolton line electrification. Regardless of the reasons, if they do receive any compensation then some of that money should be spent on mitigating the impact of the changes on ordinary people who are suffering as a result.

However, it is important to note that rail in the north is going through a transformative period, with record levels of investment, and I will continue to meet with and stress to Northern that they must deliver an improved service, more in line with the needs of our area, as their modernisation programme continues.

I have also raised these issues in the House, which you can watch here:

Update - 29/05/18

Please see the attached letter from the Secretary of State for Transport, outlining what action has been taken so far. I will let people know any further information as soon as I receive it. Please do let me know about your experience via my contact page, and I will feed this back to the Secretary of State and the rail companies when I have had the chance to hear from them directly next week.

Update - 01/06/18

Please see the attached letter from David Brown, Managing Director of Northern. An interim timetable will be introduced, effective Monday 4th June until the end of July.

Update - 06/06/18

Passengers need certainty after the chaos of the past two weeks, however it’s disappointing that Northern have had to achieve this through cancelling services outright. Having been informed by Northern that changes couldn’t be made to the proposed May timetable, I can fully understand commuters frustration when it turns out changes can indeed be made, by removing services rather than addressing service gaps.

As you may be aware in January it was announced that there would be a delay in delivery of the electrification of the Manchester-Preston via Bolton Line, and as a result Northern were required to rewrite their timetable. This provided only 4 months of planning, as opposed to the 9-12 months rail operators have normally.

Delays and cancellations have caused huge disruption to peoples work and home lives and I welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement of compensation mirroring that offered to Southern Rail commuters.

The rail franchise debate in Parliament two weeks ago allowed me to raise this issue and since then I have met with the Secretary of State and the rail minister and impressed on them the scale and impact of this disruption on Cheadle commuters.

Following on from my meeting last night with Chris Grayling I arranged to meet with representatives from Northern and Network Rail this morning to discuss in detail what they are doing to address the situation.

I was informed that the emergency interim timetable, introduced last week to address the unacceptable delays and cancellations, is already showing signs of improvements with 80% of trains now running on time. In the short term, until the end of July, Northern will be running fewer services but still more than before the May timetable change. They will then get back to a full timetable service.

I also sought assurances that the electrification of the line and necessary infrastructure works, which should have been completed in December last year, will be complete by October 1st and will allow for an improved timetable to be implemented later this year.

Update - 14/06/2018

Attached below is a letter from the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson MP,  which provides an update on Northern's performance and the upcoming compensation scheme.

Update - 29/06/2018

See below for an update from the Rail Minister regarding a compensation scheme.

Update - 09/07/2018

I am aware of the following press release and other news reports regarding the December timetable changes:

Even when this May's timetable is fully functional, it offers a worse service to my constituents than before. I've been told that service gaps would be looked at in December and have relayed that in good faith, so I'll be in touch with Northern to clarify.

Update - 30/07/2018

Northern's emergency timetable has now ended and the full May timetable is now being rolled out. As I have said before, even the fully functional May timetable offers a worse service than before, and I await Northern's clarification that they will still look to address these service gaps at the nearest opportunity.

Update - 07/08/18

I know constituents are keen to have clarity as soon as possible regarding the December timetable, and I have chased a response from Northern today.

Update - 13/09/18

See below for Northern's response re: December timetable changes. I'm pleased that they still intend to address the service gaps and look forward to hearing further details in due course.

Update - 29/10/18

Many constituents have contacted me regarding the continuing unreliable services and train information being provided by Northern. I have written to the Secretary of State regarding this, to ask what action the Government is taking in relation to Northern and to stress the need for these issues to be addressed at the nearest opportunity, and have included this letter below.

Update - 26/11/18

See below for a letter from the Department for Transport regarding the new Rail Ombudsman Service. I'm pleased that this has been launched to give passengers more of a voice when they are making a complaint about poor service.

Update - 30/11/18

I'm glad that Northern and RMT are going to get back round the negotiating table at ACAS, but it's not just at weekends that people in Cheadle are suffering. Some stations in this constituency are rated among the worst for reliability and I'll continue pushing for a solution.

Update - 06/02/19

The RMT have agreed to suspend strike action and re-enter talks with Northern, meaning that weekend services can begin to return to normal.


Attachment Size
Chris Grayling - Northern Rail Timetables.pdf 264.85 KB
David Brown - Timetable Update.pdf 488.56 KB
Jo Johnson - Northern Update.pdf 89.35 KB
Jo Johnson - Compensation Update.pdf 48.82 KB
Northern - December Timetable Changes.pdf 113.27 KB
Letter to Chris Grayling 291018.pdf 670.45 KB
Launch of Rail Ombudsman 261118.pdf 579.36 KB