A member writes ….
I’ve just finally got around to joining MCRUA, being a frequent user of the Mid-Cheshire line. I was wondering whether I could ask you about an issue which I suspect you may be aware of and which frequently affects me – indeed it did today.
The issue is the way in which the Navigation Road level crossing is managed. As you’ll probably know, there’s no footbridge at this station, and the crossing, used by both trams and trains, is controlled by Deansgate Lane signal box. What appears to happen is that, especially in the case of Manchester-bound trains, the signaller “sets the road” for the train before it has even arrived at Altrincham, even where it is due to wait for two or more minutes in Altrincham before continuing its journey towards Navigation Road and Stockport.
This means that the barriers stay down for up to four minutes before the train comes. It is not connected with Metrolink as it happens as often when no trams are approaching.
The upshot of this is that for any would-be passengers approaching from the west along Navigation Road itself, we are physically prevented from catching our train.
This is both exceptionally inconvenient – with the terrible hourly service we have one has no choice but to take Metrolink which itself adds almost an hour to a southbound rail journey – and also dangerous: people are encouraged to “run the risk”: one morning recently I witnessed a girl some way in front of me being injured by a descending gate striking her head as she tried to run across, four minutes ahead of the booked arrival of the Manchester-bound train. I once saw a near neighbour crossing the track at the non-crossing end of the platform to catch a (two-hourly!) Sunday train as she took the view she simply had no choice.
Clearly the only real solution is a footbridge. However, a solution which I would suggest could be implemented immediately would be an instruction (reminder?) issued by Network Rail (possibly in the first instance coming from Northern?) to the Deansgate Junction signaller not to “set the road” for a stopping passenger service to leave Altrincham until its actual timetabled departure time. This would have no effect on punctuality (the train would still be able to leave Altrincham even without this, as it would have a yellow signal), and would at least reduce this absurd situation to a maximum of two minutes (slightly less ideally) before booked train departure from Navigation Road during which time it would be impossible to reach the Northern platform from the west.
What do you think?
I very much look forward to hearing from you, as I think there is a potential “quick win” here. (Today I was nearly an hour late for a meeting as a result of the above!)