Train Running Performance returning to previous highs ….

Posted on June 10th, 2012, by The Chairman

MCRUA has been working with TOCs since January 2000 helping to monitor and improve train running performance along the Mid Cheshire line.

1 April marks the beginning of a new (Railway) year and performance is starting to (hopefully) return to its previous highs, so we’ve decided to create a new post.

For those interested in the history of how we’ve done over the last few years, click here for the previous post.

We have a summary performance table that we add to each 4 week period. It’s below and will be added to as periods progress.

For those new to this, PPM is “Public Performance Measure” which is a measure each period incorporating percentage of trains running (reliability) and trains arriving at destination within 5 minutes (punctuality). The current target is 92.2%; back in the early 2000s we were wallowing around 70-75%. The MAA is the Moving Annual Average. I’ve added an “acronym buster” at the base of the table.

You’ll see the highest we have achieved was 91.57% in February/March 2011. Since then we slipped due to traincrew shortages, a higher number of unit failures and a string of infrastructure failures. We’ve been back on the “up” since March this year, hopefully to continue.

We’ll add comments to this post as each period’s figures come through ….

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Mid Cheshire line – Summary Performance from 2010/11 for PPM/MAA

2012/13
Period 13 PPM 89.87% MAA 87.83% SRT issues, unit flrs, sig probs
Period 12 PPM 88.90% MAA 88.08% SRT issues, unit flrs, inf probs
Period 11 PPM 84.62% MAA 88.39% SRT issues, inf probs (mainly cracked head defect EY2 pts18), unit flrs
Period 10 PPM 81.31% MAA 88.78% inf probs (mainly flooding Skelton Jn), SRT issues, unit flrs, pax loadings
Period 9 PPM 80.08% MAA 88.99% leaf fall, unit flrs, inf probs, dvr shrts, pax loadings
Period 8 PPM 86.07% MAA 88.96% leaf fall, unit flrs
Period 7 PPM 89.04% MAA 88.91% SRT issues, inf/sig probs (mainly flooding Skelton Jn)
Period 6 PPM 86.97% MAA 88.99% unit flrs, SRT issues, inf probs (mainly OHLE probs SPT)
Period 5 PPM 90.28% MAA 88.96% unit flrs, SRT issues, inf/sig probs
Period 4 PPM 86.58% MAA 89.12% pwr flr GBK, unit flrs, SRT issues
Period 3 PPM 90.56% MAA 89.43% SRT issues, unit flrs, inf flrs
Period 2 PPM 93.55% MAA 89.53% unit flrs, pax loadings, SRT issues
Period 1 PPM 93.44% MAA 89.44% unit flrs, MAN dvr shrts, tcf/cable flrs PLM-CUD

2011/12
Period 13 PPM 93.26% MAA 89.32% unit flrs, pts 18 flrs EJ, MAN dvr shrts
Period 12 PPM 92.89% MAA 89.23% unit flrs
Period 11 PPM 89.48% MAA 89.34% unit flrs, NN single line flrs
Period 10 PPM 84.53% MAA 89.53% leaf fall, pwr flrs GBK, unit flrs
Period 9 PPM 79.92% MAA 89.52% leaf fall, dvr shrts, pwr flrs GBK, cows CUD
Period 8 PPM 85.45% MAA 90.01% leaf fall, pwr flrs GBK, dvr shrts, unit flrs
Period 7 PPM 90.04% MAA 89.56% inf flrs, dvr shrts, unit flrs
Period 6 PPM 86.56% MAA 89.99% lighting strike MT, dvr shrts, unit flrs, poss overrun
Period 5 PPM 92.23% MAA 90.58% inf flrs, dvr shrts, unit flrs, bridge 54 strike
Period 4 PPM 90.60% MAA 90.73% poss overrun, dvr shrts, cond shrts, pwr flr GBK
Period 3 PPM 91.91% MAA 90.93%
Period 2 PPM 92.32% MAA 91.03%
Period 1 PPM 91.71% MAA 91.19%

2010/11
Period 13 PPM 92.12% MAA 91.35%
Period 12 PPM 94.36% MAA 91.57%
Period 11 PPM 91.91% MAA 91.33%
Period 10 PPM 83.94% MAA 91.16% tcf MT-MLD, pax ill CTR
Period 9 PPM 85.96% MAA 91.16% leaf fall, tcf MT-MLD, tcf CUD
Period 8 PPM 79.46% leaf fall
Period 7 PPM 95.88% MAA 91.48%
Period 6 PPM 94.16% MAA 91.09% pts flr HTF(E), DBS freight flr
Period 5 PPM 94.26% MAA 90.87%

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Acronym Buster

cond – conductor
CTR – Chester
CUD – Cuddington
DBS – DB Schenker
dvr – driver
EJ – Edgeley Junction (just south of Stockport)
flr – failure
GBK – Greenbank
HTF(E) – Hartford East
inf – infrastructure
MT – Mickle Trafford
NN – Northenden
pax – passenger(s)
PLM – Plumley
poss – possession
pts – points
pwr – power
shrt – shortage
SRT – Sectional Running Timings
tcf – track circuit failure

Please leave a comment

  1. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve updated the performance figures above to include Periods 3 & 4.

    We’ve yet to do the detailed analysis of these, though we know the major factor in Period 4 was the loss of power to signalling in Greenbank and Plumley for a whole evening, so I’ve added this in, as otherwise we’d have been just below the 90% mark.

  2. Jen Says:

    I noticed according to the a TfGM report from last week the worse performing train in the South Manchester group is the 17:07 Chester-Manchester, the 3rd is the 17:09 Manchester-Chester, the 4th is the 10:17 Manchester-Chester, the 8th is the 08:17 Manchester-Chester and the 9th is the 18:07 Chester-Manchester. That certainly doesn’t look good for our line to fill up half of the worse 10 spaces.

  3. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Jen!

    I reckon it may be good! This depends on the reasons ….

    5 out of 10 for the whole of South Manchester is quite an achievement!!

    My take on these specific trains is as follows: –

    1707 Chester – Manchester. This train is formed of a single class 142. It loads well from Northwich at 1737 and heavily from Knutsford at 1749 with a lot of the passengers detraining at Altrincham and at Stockport. Consequently it regularly exceeds its 1 minute “dwell time” at Knutsford and Altrincham and the ½ minute dwell times at many other stations. This leads to it leaving Altrincham late. It is due to leave at 1804, but often leaves at 1808 or later. It is due into Navigation Road at 1808, whilst the 1758 Stockport to Chester is due on the single track at Navigation Road at 1812. Thus it is often held awaiting the 1758, leading to a late arrival into Piccadilly.

    1709 Manchester – Chester. This train is also formed of a single class 142. It is well loaded from Piccadilly and more so from Stockport and Altrincham. Despite its heavy loading, this train is only given 83 minutes to get from Piccadilly to Chester whereas the standard timing along the line is 88 minutes. It is also regularly held at Cheadle Village Junction awaiting access to the Northenden single line due to the 1607 being late for similar reasons to the 1707. Expecting one of the heaviest loaded trains along the line to get to Chester 5 minutes quicker than other trains and given the single line conflict, this doesn’t work!

    1017 Manchester – Chester. The standard hourly timing is for trains to leave Piccadilly at xx17 and arrive in Chester at xx45. For some reason some trains are expected to get there more quickly, the 1017 being one of those and expected at 1143. The Sectional Running Times (SRTs) along the line were highlighted at the Performance Quality Improvement Team (QIT) as an issue to be resolved back in March 2010. This is only just being worked on, see below ….

    0817 Manchester – Chester. This is a heavily loaded train as far as Knutsford normally being formed by a class 156 unit. Despite its heavy loadings, this is another one that is expected to get to Chester 2 minutes quicker at 0943. As you’ve noted, this doesn’t work either.

    1807 Chester – Manchester. Again a class 142, this train is regularly delayed at Mickle Trafford awaiting the slightly late running 1658 from Stockport. The 1658 is itself delayed by the late running 1607 from Chester which is a single class 142 and is heavily loaded with much standing from Knutsford. What regularly happens is the 1607 leaves Altrincham late at around 1709 instead of 1704. The 1658 is held for it, then leaving Navigation Road 5+ minutes late. This means it comes off the single line at Mickle Trafford late, and this knocks back the 1807 from Chester.

    A long answer, but you did ask!

    There’s 3 factors here.

    Firstly, the Sectional Running Times (SRTs) along the line have been subject to a lot of discussion since the introduction of the December 2008 “Very High Frequency” (VHF) timetable. In short, the drivers think the SRTs are not robustly achievable. I’m pleased to state that Northern have recently drafted a Heaton-based class 156 onto the line which is GPS-fitted. You may have seen it – 156454. The initial sets of timings received are currently being analysed. I understand these suggest the drivers’ views are supported. 156454 has returned to Heaton, being replaced by 156438. This is gathering more sample timings for analysis. The Performance QIT should have these figures within 3-4 weeks.

    Secondly, the passenger loadings along the line are well up compared to when the December 2008 timings were put together, possibly by as much as 40%. This makes the ½ minute dwell times at many of the stations unrealistic. As an example, one of our busiest stations during the day is now Delamere. This has been transformed by the newish Forestry Commission camp site nearby with great cooperation from the Forestry Commission, the Community Rail Partnership and Northern in promoting the use of the line to campers for trips to Chester and elsewhere. Knutsford, Northwich and Greenbank are also well up. Even our least used station, Ashley often now provides 2 or 3 passengers for a train, whereas a few years ago it produced few.

    Thirdly, the rule introduced last December of conductors having to close the doors on the train from the rear door (rather than wherever on the train they happen to be) is tending to increase dwell times. Most conductors don’t like to see passengers travelling without tickets. It’s a difficult balance for them between keeping the train on time and selling tickets. We all know how long credit/debit card sales can take using the AVantix ticket machines.

    What the timetable needs is a recast. The results of the timing runs are going to be interesting. Even more interesting is going to be how to get it all to work given the 3 single line sections along the route, the limited slots available at Edgeley Juction to get our trains on/off the main line, and also the standard ATW arrival into Chester being at xx52, meaning that adding 5 minutes to ours to arrive at xx50 would conflict with these.

  4. Jen Says:

    Whenever I’ve used the 15:17 Manchester-Chester or 17:07 Chester-Manchester on a weekday I’ve found it to be usually a 150 rather than a 142. Although a 142 has turned up on occasions.

    Does late running on platform 13 have an effect on departures from Piccadilly platform 11? Recently on two separate occasions I’ve arrived at Piccadilly on a late running arrival at platform 13, to transfer to the Mid Cheshire service departing from platform 11 to find the Mid-Cheshire train has been held until around 23 minutes past before being allowed to depart. Although, on both occasions the train was only around 2 minutes late by Knutsford.

    A later arrival at Stockport wouldn’t be good for onward connections unless the timing of the connecting trains also change. Even making the arrival just 2 or 3 minutes later would lose the official connection with the Liverpool and Cleethorpes trains. One day when I changed between the train from Chester and the train to Cleethorpes at Stockport I noticed around 3 other people who didn’t seem to be together doing the same.

  5. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Jen!

    Late running on platforms 9, 10, 12 & 13 affect platform 11. The timetable is structured to normally cope with this as our train is due into Stockport at xx27 and out at xx30, so we normally recover from any 2-3 minute late Piccadilly departure unless there’s other late-running around.

    A later arrival into Stockport from Chester is unlikely to be an option due to the lack of alternative paths until the whole timetable is recast. What’s more likely is an earlier departure from Chester, but still an arrival into Stockport at xx21.

  6. Conductor Says:

    Common problem at Piccadilly around about this time. Like mentioned everything is virtually filtered through from P9-13/14 onto the slow lines. The usual problem is the Piccadilly – Airport all stoppers that leave from Platform 9 at xx14. Because of the tight timings and high demand diagrams these diagrams, occasionally they arrive late at around xx14. By the time the traincrew are set up and ready it may not be until xx17 when the wheels turn and it leaves the platform. Because the Styal line is quite intensive with trains going to the Airport, I’ve been told everything needs to be in the right order for platforming reasons at the Airport, so the Chester suffers until the Airport has gone. Once the Chester departs at xx20 or xx21, then the Hazel Grove or Buxton train at xx21 on P13 has to wait a few more minutes. Delays and congestion are made worse by late running trains or engineering works taking out a few key sets of points.

    Like The Chairman mentioned, trains are waiting at Stockport for 3 minutes anyway and can easily catch up time especially with a decent run across Slade Lane!

  7. Edd Says:

    Overall I don’t think punctuality on the Mid Cheshire line is too bad. Most trains I use are less than 5 minutes late and with the recovery time added in they arrive at their final destination ‘on time.’ Although, saying a train arrived on time on Manchester Piccadilly isn’t much use for people who alighted at Altrincham 5 minutes late but that’s a common problem across all lines.

    I think the mention about 5 of the worst 10 trains for punctuality needs to be looked at in context. If one train was always 15 seconds late and the others were always on time then would the passengers on the train that was always 15 seconds late really be bothered? Also Chester-Altrincham-Manchester is one of the longest South Manchester services so there’s more chance of a delay occurring.

    I wonder if some new 172s could not only help with current problems but speed up services through having wider doors, faster acceleration and a higher top speed.

  8. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Edd!

    “On Time” for our line means within 5 minutes of the timetabled arrival time at the point of destination. Thus you’ll see we have 5 of the worst 10 performing trains in the South Manchester group that arrive 5 or more minutes late at destination, that’s mainly Chester or Piccadilly.

    The problem with 5 or more minute late running is passengers miss their connections, that’s mainly at Chester, Stockport and Piccadilly. This can have quite a bad effect on passengers with two or more connections in a longer journey.

  9. Jen Says:

    If the line speed is raised on the Leftwich viaduct to 50mph could the time saved on the Leftwich viaduct be used to increase dwell times, something like the below:

    Chester xx:07
    Greenbank xx:32
    Northwich xx:35
    Knutsford xx:48
    Altrincham xx:04
    Stockport xx:21

    Stockport xx:30
    Altrincham xx:46
    Knutsford xx:00
    Northwich xx:14
    Greenbank xx:17
    Chester xx:45

  10. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Jen!

    The line speed over Leftwich Viaduct is currently scheduled to be increased to 20/50 (i.e. 20 for freight trains, 50 for passenger trains) once the points at the Greenbank end of the viaduct are renewed, scheduled for 2013/14, when to track at the Greenbank end will be realigned to allow for 50 mph running. The intention is the leave our service timings the same with the extra 1½-2 minutes gained used to make the service more resilient.

  11. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve updated the figures in the post, above up to the end of Period 5 (18 August).

    You’ll see that sadly we’ve slipped below a Moving Annual Average of 89% for the first time for over three years. The main factor pulling us back behind what had previously been the norm is the increased passenger loadings leading to trains being unable to keep to the unrealistic sectional running times. For example, this was 22 out of 109 late or cancelled trains in Period 5.

    My simple sums suggest that if those 22 trains had been “On Time” (within 5 minutes), then we’d have been near a reasonably acceptable 92%.

    As noted above, the Performance QIT should be looking in October at the timing figures following the runs of the Heaton GPS-fitted class 156s along the line.

  12. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve added the Period 6 (19 Aug – 15 Sept) figures in above. The MAA continues at just below 89%.

    I’ll have a greater analysis at our next QIT meeting on 7 November which will also cover Period 7.

    Meanwhile, we’re expecting more information on the sectional running times runs in mid-October.

  13. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve added the Period 6, 7 and 8 figures in above. The MAA continues to hover just below 89%.

    From the analysis, it’s clear around a quarter of the incidents relate to the Sectional Running Times (SRTs) being too tight for the passenger loadings which continue to grow at in excess of 10% a year. My take on this is if the SRTs were correct, we’d be getting an MAA in the 91% area, rather than in the upper 88s. Meanwhile, we’re getting clearer about the passenger loadings overall and by train from the excellent work our 14 passenger counters are carrying out.

    Northern have been analysing the running times produced from September’s and October’s class 156 SRT runs. This shows that the running times are more or less correct, but the station “dwell times” are insufficient for the passengers loadings now being carried. I am assured the revised timings will be implemented for the May 2013 timetable change.

  14. The Chairman Says:

    Period 9 figures added above. MAA remains just under 89%.

    We next meet in January after the end of Period 10 to analyse the delay/cancellation reasons.

  15. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve added the figures and details for Periods 8-10.

    You’ll see our MAA has dropped to the worst since we started keeping records 3½ years ago. Pity about the title of this Blog post!

    The largest factor in the change by far is the increased passenger loadings along the line and the related SRT issues. Thus, for example, in Period 10 (9 December 2012 – 5 January 2013) these two items between them made up 27% of the recorded delays/cancellations. Yes, it did affect cancellations as on a number of Saturdays before Christmas trains were leaving passengers behind due to being so full, next train one hour later, and then leaving them an hour later again due to being so full, as well as omitting stations due to being unable to pick up any more passengers. These count as a part-cancellations.

    Potentially, there’s good news on the horizon. We hear it is likely, though not confirmed that our timetable will be adjusted from May to provide greater “dwell time” at a number of stations along the line to reflect that the current ½ minute dwell time at a number of our stations including Greenbank and Hale is insufficient. This should improve the performance figures and give our passengers a greater chance of making their expected connections.

    We also understand that Northern have been asked by DfT to look at which services they have which should be strengthened and equally at which services run strengthened which do not need it. We’ve asked that our 0717 MAN-CTR and 0659 CTR-MAN are considered for strengthening as the current cramped conditions on these two main peak hour services are constraining growth; we’ve also suggested the 0635 CTR-SPT could be reduced to a 2-car. We’ve asked as well that the 1607 and 1707 from Chester be operated by bigger trains than a single class 142.

  16. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    I’m fairly sure that the 0635 Chester to Stockport is a 4-car because it goes ECS from Stockport to Hazel Grove to form a busy service from there to Manchester.

  17. The Chairman Says:

    You’re right, Andrew. The stock off the 0635 goes ECS to Hazel Grove and then forms the 0832 Hazel Grove to Preston.

    I understand this is thought to load to only around 100 into Piccadilly (0852), be similarly loaded until it gets to Salford Crescent (0904) and then to be very lightly loaded to Preston. I hear that further passenger counts are to be made prior to any decision.

  18. Jen Says:

    How are loadings on Saturday services fairing now the Christmas shopping and markets have finished?

  19. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Jen!

    We had a meeting of our Passengers Counters last week.

    We’ll have a better idea of how to answer year question once their January figures are in. I’ve not heard of any crush loadings so far this January, though.

  20. Charles Frankland Says:

    I’m not sure that a solution of lengthening journey times due to overcrowding can be classed as good news. Add 10 minutes and most journeys would then be on time! The real answer is to provide the appropriate number of carriages and reduce journey times. From Mouldsworth to Altrincham is less than 25 miles, but takes over three quarters of an hour. This will take even longer next May.

  21. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Charles!

    Interestingly, when the class 156 timing runs were carried out, the result was the timings were fine, but the “dwell times” were unrealistic given the passenger loads. We hear it is most likely that it will be 3 minutes that will be added.

    We believe the increased passenger loads justify a more frequent service along the line with the “extras” stopping only at the busier stations, though we haven’t defined which stations are “less busy”. This would answer your “Mouldsworth to Altrincham” comment.

  22. Edd Says:

    I remember what used to be the Northwich-Blackpool service formed of 2 x 156s. Every time I caught that service it seemed to arrive at Edgley Junction early so I wonder what effect extra carriages could have on improving punctuality.

    From my personal experience I would say the busy stations between Chester and Stockport are Northwich, Knutsford and Altrincham followed by Greenbank and Hale. Although some of the other stations like Mobberley can have healthy patronage at certain times but be very quiet at other times.

  23. Harry Boardman Says:

    If the proposed extra dwell times were introduced would Manchester bound trains still be stopping at Heaton Mersey and Levenshulme? If so I would be concerned that we increase the overall journey time between Chester and Manchester. This would be a backward move.

  24. Mike Battman Says:

    Is it time to reintroduce the ‘request stops’ ??

  25. Jen Says:

    Wasn’t it proposed the speed limit would be raised on the Leftwich viaduct which could decrease journey times by two minutes? If so Altrincham-Chester could still be done in the same amount of time even with extra dwell time, although I imagine Knutsford-Altrincham would take slightly longer.

    I think it was a bit rich that after TfGM said the Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme calls on Buxton services meant the journey time between Buxton and Manchester was too long, that they added the calls to services from Chester instead with Northwich-Manchester having a worst average speed than Buxton-Manchester.

  26. The Chairman Says:

    Harry – the way the timings were and are, so long as our trains leave Stockport on time, the stops at Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme do not make our trains late due to the amount of pathing time previously in the schedule between Slade Lane Junction and Piccadilly.

    In practice, these stops seems to affect the 0807, 1607 and 1707 worst, this because they are late leaving Stockport as the services are operated by class 142s and struggle to cope with the loadings between Northwich and Altrincham. This is why we suggested the Sectional Running Times (SRTs) should be sorted out and implemented before the introduction of the HTC and LVM stops. However, it was decided to continue with the plan to add the stops before the SRTs were sorted and without putting larger capacity units on these trains to aid by reducing actual dwell times.

    Mike – we know from our current passenger counting that there are few stations, not even Ashley, where there are regularly no passengers getting on/off trains. We now carry well over 50% more passsengers than in the days when the request stops were introduced. We know request stops worry passengers and also worry conductors due to concern about overcarrying. When the practice was discontinued many conductors were very relieved. And with conductors now having to close doors of our trains from the rear, having to go through the whole of the train each time passengers joined would likely lead to even more delay and less ticket sales.

    Jen – we were told around a year ago that the speed limit increase over Leftwich Viaduct is scheduled in to coincide with the replacement of points 208 and 209 at the Chester end in 2013/14 and then track realignment to allow for 50mph running for passenger trains only, i.e. freights would continue at 20mph.

  27. Edd Says:

    The 17:37 departure from Northwich for Manchester (the 17:07 from Chester) is normally a class 150 train these days. A few years ago it was usually a class 142 but these days (fortunately) they aren’t that common on that service – although a late running one did operate that service today. This was apparently because the unit scheduled to operate the previous Chester bound service failed so a unit swap occurred causing a delay. If I’ve worked it out correctly the 07:17 Manchester-Chester and 17:07 Chester-Manchester are part of the same diagram.

  28. Jen Says:

    The Chairman – Sorry I’ve noticed you already said the same thing in this very thread but quite a while back. I remembered it had come up before but hadn’t read the whole thread back so missed it.

    Just to add something on request stops. I found when Mobberley and Ashley were request stops it was quite a common occurrence for the trains to stop there regardless due to the conductor being busy selling tickets on approach to the stations.

  29. Mike Battman Says:

    I don’t like request stops as infrequent travellers don’t realise what they have to do.

    About 10-years ago we were going to Chester Races on a packed train; their was a group of guides going to Delamere and the train sailed passed without stopping.
    I do partly blame the guard as he had sold/checked the tickets.

  30. Conductor Says:

    The request stops were a pain, it was great if the train was empty because you could always get a few minutes back but it was more hassle than it was worth.

    Despite announcements and full ticket checks there would be one with the iPod in not listening, the family that have never heard of request stops, people with tickets to Chester but would break their journey at Delamere. In summer I stopped there regardless because it was too much of a pain to explain how they work, particularly given they would have to wait at Cuddington for nearly 2 hours to go back to Delamere! You could virtually guarantee someone would alight.

    Then there was the problem for drivers. A driver would ‘whistle up’ and slow down to approximately 10mph entering the platform, the guard would give two on the buzzer to indicate no one getting off. As you go past the shelter I would see several people stood in the brick shelter as you went past. There was a poster as I recall to ensure that passengers made themselves visible on the platform as the train approached.

    SRT needed sorting after the request stops were removed. You can never gain any time back if you left Chester a few minutes late until Stockport. Trains carry more and more buggies and bikes now which take slightly longer on the dwell times. Think my record was 4 minutes at Delamere awaiting for bikes and buggies to get on and off. At Mouldsworth I got an earful off a couple complaining that the train was late and they would miss their connection at Chester!

    The Mid-Cheshire is an unusual line at times! 🙂

  31. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve added Period 11 PPM/MAA figures above. Sad to say, these continue to decline.

    Although we won’t be carrying out the Period 11 analysis until April, the main reason for the decline is believed to continue to be the increased passenger loadings meaning dwell times at stations are exceeded.

    We still haven’t had confirmation of the revised dwell times from May, hopefully to be confirmed soon.

  32. Lord Harry of Sodor Says:

    The dwell times at stations is not just due to passenger loadings.
    On many occasions when an efficient revenue collecting Conductor is on board the dwell time increases when he is at the front of the train collecting fares when the train reaches a station. He then has to go to the back of the train to open the doors. Although I didn’t agree with it at the time and still don’t I am aware of why and when this practice was introduced, but are there are plans to go back to the old system where the doors could be opened from both ends of the train?

  33. Conductor Says:

    No plans to revert to that I’m afraid due the sad loss of the girl at James Street in Liverpool and the subsequent prison sentence for the highly unfortunate Mr McGee the guard.

    I regularly work to Chester, I believe the dwell times, particularly on Saturdays between Knutsford and Chester is the main problem, even if the train is continuously worked from the rear doors.

  34. Rail user Says:

    I’ve noticed some very punctual class 150 trains on the Mid-Cheshire line in the last couple of weeks, arriving at Knutsford and Altrincham 30 seconds before their scheduled departure times in both directions. I wonder if services were mainly run using class 172 trains whether we could get better punctuality without adding in extra time and if it’s actually Pacers with only 3 doors on either side holding the line back.

    The most recent delay I encountered on the Mid-Cheshire line was a train that was on time became 4 minutes late due to catching up a late running freight service.

    The doors can be opened from both ends but if the guard opens them from the front he/she must walk to the back to close them. At stations like Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham etc. doing that might save time but probably not at the stations like Ashley and Plumley.

  35. The Chairman Says:

    We’ve had confirmation of the revised train running times from the May timetable change (19 May 2013) to take into account that the increased passenger loadings along the line are having an adverse effect on the punctuality figures (currently the worst for over 4 years).

    An extra 3 minutes is being added between Stockport and Chester and vice versa. Trains will leave Stockport at the same time as currently, in the main arriving in Chester 3 minutes later. Most trains from Chester will leave 3 minutes earlier, arriving into Stockport at the same time as currently scheduled.

    For the “leaf fall timetable” a further 2 minutes will be added in both directions between Stockport and Chester.

    Since a lot of the trains that are currently “late” (5 minutes or more late) are only just 5 or more minutes late, we are very hopeful that from May we should see our performance figures rising from the current 88% levels back to the 91% levels seen a few years ago.

  36. Mike Battman Says:

    Hmm…. I suppose that is one way to improve punctuality figures, but it is surely missing the point. They could add 20-minutes and 99.9% would be on time.

  37. The Chairman Says:

    Yes, Mike, but not really.

    After the train running trials last autumn it was found the train running times were correct, but the station dwell times were too tight given the increased passenger loads. These dwell times are 30 seconds at most stations apart from Northwich, Knutsford and Altrincham. With the increased passenger loadings, this is not now enough at stations like Greenbank and Hale, or indeed on some trains at Cuddington and Delamere.

    Thus, it’s only the dwell times that have been increased.

    Interestingly, they’ve found that average dwell times in Northern, Area West are much less than those in Area East.

  38. Mike Battman Says:

    Would the introduction of (say) class 170’s help? They appear to be alot quicker off the mark.

  39. Edd Says:

    Mike – I think the answer to your question lies in this post: http://www.mcrua.org.uk/chairmansblog/2012/08/06/report-for-gmpte-on-tram-train-to-greenbank-2007/ If a class 170 is used it is envisaged as requiring 26.9 minutes to do Altrincham-Greenbank calling at all stations which should in theory allow for the extra dwell time without increasing the overall journey time. Then if the speed limit is raised on the Leftwich viaduct it should then in theory be possible for longer dwell times as well as a faster overall journey time. The door arrangements on a 170 compared to a 142 or a 156 should also assist with faster loading and unloading at stations. I also understand a class 172 has better acceleration than a class 170.

  40. Lord Harry of Sodor Says:

    Well at least that will be an improvement between Altrincham and Greenbank which will have taken over 50 years to implement as it took 31 minutes in 1961 i.e.the same as today.

    It is a very sad reflection on today’s running times on the Mid Cheshire Line when back in 1961 the timings from Altrincham and Bowdon stopping at all stations to Chester was exactly 60 minutes. Today it is has improved to 59 minutes but after May it is going to exceed 1961 timings.
    The Saturday only from Manchester Central which also stopped at Stretford and Sale took only 1hr 19 mins to Chester compared with today’s 1hr and 28 mins from Piccadilly stopping at Stockport and Navigation Road.
    There might have been lighter passenger loadings, I don’t know, but as loadings increase so should every effort be made to move passengers faster between Manchester and Chester not make them sit longer on a nearly 30 year old “Nodding Donkey”. And you could travel First Class in 1961 if you could afford it.

  41. Jen Says:

    Just had a look at online journey planners for post May 20th and I’ve observed in the Manchester direction the trains generally leave Chester 3 minutes earlier but the 12:07, 20:07, 22:48 departures keep their current timings and the additional Chester-Stockport services leave Chester 2 minutes earlier opposed to 3.

    In the Chester direction the Stockport departure time remains the same but the Delamere departure times are 3 minutes later. The Chester arrival times are still generally quarter to the hour though. The exceptions being the 07:17 Manchester-Chester and 08:17 Manchester-Chester which are given extra time.

    I wonder if arriving at Chester at xx:48 for the standard pattern and xx:50 in leaf fall season would exceed the maximum permitted time Northern are allowed to take for Manchester-Chester journeys without applying for a revision to the ORR. I don’t know the exact maximum timing they are allowed to timetable but I think it’s less than 93 minutes.

  42. The Chairman Says:

    I’ve added the Performance figures above up to the end of the Railway’s financial year of 31 March 2013.

    The bad news is that our PPM has dropped a further percentage point to 87.83%, the worst for well over 4 years. There also seems to be a worrying trend of traincrew shortages increasing.

    The good news is that (at last!) we have the extra 3 minutes SRT dwell times requested coming into the timetable from 19 May, though not for all Chester-bound trains. Given that the SRT issues are making up around 25% of incidents, from 2013/14 Period 3 we should see the PPM starting to climb again back towards the 91.57% it was in February 2011.

    Since we’re now into a new Railway financial year, I’ll start a new Blog post for the next set of figures.

  43. Jen Says:

    I’ve noticed quite a few occasions recently a service has been delayed or cancelled due to a train fault and it seems to be a class 142 Pacer each time. Although, I’ve also noticed that there seems to be more Pacers appearing on services which were usually operated by Sprinters – the 16:58 Stockport to Chester is a good example of this.

    The 16:58 Stockport to Chester is also a good example of a service which gets quite a few cancellations due to crew shortages. To make matters worse if it’s a conductor shortage the train can actually turn up at platform 2 at Stockport and then leave the platform at the correct time not-in-service and run empty towards Northenden, so the train is being wasted rather than being available to strengthen another service or to fill in for a failed train elsewhere.

  44. Conductor Says:

    There isn’t much you can do once the unit is on Platform 2. It’s got to go somewhere as I’m not sure that Stockport can handle “permissive workings”, i.e. trains coupling and uncoupling on the station. Even if it did Network Rail don’t want Stockport been blocked with 2 car commuters units at evening peak..

    Empties to Chester is the usual option. Although it has been known for trains to go onto the single line at Cheadle to reverse back into Stockport. Pathing is a major issue as we all know in peak time from Stockport to Manchester. I doubt that a path could be created to get the unit into Manchester for the 1707. There is also a severe lack of time too.

    Sometimes the cancellation is preplanned before the unit has even left Newton Heath because there is always a chance that train crew can be found last minute which does frequently happen.

  45. Jen Says:

    I understand only booked workings need an actual path and an unscheduled working can sometimes run even when there is no official path. At least that’s the response I got when Arriva Trains Wales were able to divert a peak Llandudno time train through Stockport even though there are no paths available for Northern to operate a half-hourly peak time service to Chester.

    There is a slight variation on the option Conductor suggests if the unit that should have done the Stockport-Chester can be sent to Piccadilly. Two of the three units left at platform 5 at Piccadilly could be used for the 17:09 Chester service and the unit for the Stockport-Chester could be attached to the remaining one for the 17:23 Chinley via Hazel Grove service, giving a bit longer for the unit to reach Piccadilly.

    Obviously the best solution is for the empty train to not run to Stockport if no guard is available. What’s actually the longest the unit could stay there if a guard is available but he/she misses the Alderley Edge service that the guard usually gets to Stockport?

    From the Northern Twitter feed it seems that some of the crew shortages are due to errors in the Rostering opposed to there actually being an insufficient number of crews.

  46. Jen Says:

    Today the 08:17 Manchester-Chester was actually ready to depart Knutsford at 08:59 – usually that one of the late runners departing Knutsford – but it had to wait until 09:00 to depart due to the timetable change.

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