Manchester Christmas Markets 2013 – Trains struggle to cope ….

Posted on December 8th, 2013, by The Chairman

It’s that time of year again.

Manchester’s Christmas Markets are a great attraction, but our transport infrastructure and that includes the road system, goes slow or just doesn’t cope.

This year, there are even notices advising intending passengers that trains may be “heavily loaded”. Here’s Knutsford’s version.

Knutsford's version.

Forewarning passengers that they may not get on trains gives them a chance to make a choice.

Last year this “unprecedented demand” also happened, as we blogged on 2 December 2012.

This year it started earlier on Saturday 30 November. Look at comment 37 on the post above and you’ll see lots of passengers were left behind unable to board the 1002, 1102 and 1202 from Chester, in one case mothers with feeding babies spent over 2 hours at Knutsford station unable to board three trains in a row.

No train strengthening had been planned for the Mid Cheshire line despite last year’s experiences and those of 30 November. Then late on Friday afternoon we heard that Northern had managed to source two extra units to strengthen our service for the Saturday, such that around every other train would be 4 coaches instead of two.

1050 leaves Mobberley all passengers on - (c) Vince Chadwick

The 1002 formed of 142056 & 150114 leaves Mobberley, all passengers on – (c) Vince Chadwick

Observations on Saturday showed that this worked with no passengers having to wait more than another hour for a train after they could not get on the previous one. In the “morning”, the 1202 from Chester formed of 2-car Pacer 142058 was full with 96 standing leaving Knutsford and 10 more squeezed on at Mobberley. 15 passengers were left behind at Hale unable to board. At least they only had to wait an hour as the following train was 4 coaches.

We’ve received some reports on the evening return services, more to come. We don’t yet know whether they left passengers behind at Piccadilly, Stockport and Altrincham.

150145 on the 1102 from Chester with standing room only from Greenbank - (c) David Miller

150145 on the 1102 from Chester with standing room only from Greenbank – (c) David Miller

We’re suggesting to Northern that they amend their notices to show which trains on Saturdays are planned for 4 coaches. This way intending passengers could plan their trips to aim for the strengthened trains.

Please leave a comment

  1. Jen Says:

    There’s some ambiguousness on that poster, it refers to Friday and Saturday trains but only seems to list busy Saturday times (there’s no 17:17 service on Fridays.)

    Northern did list which services would be 4 carriages on this page: yesterday. In the Summer on Saturdays there did seem to 2 x 4 car diagrams on the Mid-Cheshire line and 3 x 2 car diagrams but they went back to 2 car diagrams in the Autumn with disastrous consequences on Saturday 30th.

  2. Mike Battman Says:

    It appears that Northern rail are having similar problems on the Chorley/Bolton line…

    The local MP tweeted the other Saturday (existing timetable) that he and his constituents were unable to board three trains on the bounce towards Manchester as they were “goosed” before arrival at Chorley:

    ‏@LindsayHoyle_MP 30 Nov
    third unboardable train through Chorley Station this morning. Who is charge of planning at Northern Rail?

    It will only get worse when the new electric trains are diverted via Wigan.

  3. Jen Says:

    I see that Virgin Trains are publicising that you can get between Chester and Manchester using their services via Crewe and have introduced a £10.50 return off-peak fare which undercuts both the Any Permitted fare and the Route: Altrincham fare.

  4. Watcherzero Says:

    I believe that fare offer is only running until something like December the 20th.

  5. Simon Barber Says:

    I don’t think the Virgin offer is of any assistance to Mid-Cheshire line passengers, with the possible exception of Chester to Stockport travellers, if there are any. Through Chester-Manchester passengers normally use the ATW service and our other destinations are only served by the Mid-Cheshire line.

  6. Jen Says:

    Watcherzero- It’s available for journeys in January currently unless you mean only for journeys booked before Christmas opposed to journeys made before Christmas.

  7. Jen Says:

    Simon Barber- I think there are a number of Chester to Stockport passengers who use Mid-Cheshire services but it’s partly due to Mid-Cheshire services providing good connections with trains to and from Sheffield at Stockport.

    Northern did introduce a Route:Altrincham Manchester-Chester fare which is currently £5 cheaper than the Route: Any Permitted fare at Off-Peak times. For two travelling together who can buy a Duo the saving is a massive £15.40 for travelling via Altrincham over two Route: Any Permitted return tickets. The Duo tickets aren’t available on weekends in December though.

  8. Simon Barber Says:

    Jen, that Northern deal – the via Altrincham fare in combination with Duo – is a very good deal, isn’t it. I haven’t seen the ‘via Altrincham’ offer for MAN-CTR and CTR-MAN publicised anywhere (I mean publicised in the sense of highlighting the difference between the Northern and ‘Any Permitted’ tickets), but it is shown in the fares database.

    I wonder whether there is any way we can find out how many people use it. It might make a difference to our loadings. (To complete the picture, there is also a £2.50 saving on a peak return but Duo is not available in the peaks. I don’t know whether a £2.50 saving is enough to make peak hour travellers choose the MCL over the ATW route.)

  9. Northern Rail user Says:

    Northern Rail usually promote their Duo fares with posters at stations and through flyers distributed by Royal Mail. I don’t know if they distribute those flyers in the Chester area.

  10. The Chairman Says:

    We hear that tomorrow the following strengthening plans are in place for Mid Cheshire:

    Subject to unit availability, the intention is that the following services will be formed of 4 cars tomorrow:

    0804, 0904, 1004, 1104, 1304, 1404, 1504, 1704, 1804, 2130, 2248 Chester – Manchester Piccadilly

    0717, 0917, 1117, 1217, 1317, 1517, 1617, 1917, 2017, 2317 Manchester Piccadilly – Chester

  11. Jen Says:

    Not a good start today:

    “09:17 Manchester Piccadilly to Chester due 10:45
    Will be formed of 2 coaches instead of 4.
    This is due to a train fault.”

    Followed by:

    “10:17 Manchester Piccadilly to Chester due 11:45
    This train is being delayed from Manchester Piccadilly.
    This is due to a train fault. “

  12. Ted Says:

    Some Manchester bound trains on Saturday ran Stockport to Manchester non-stop due to their being no room on the train for Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme passengers. The 10:04 Chester to Manchester was one train that did that.

  13. The Chairman Says:

    We had no reports of people being left behind last Saturday on the Mid Cheshire line. (We don’t count Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme, as they have trains from other lines as well).

    I’ll update this if we receive any updates on this.

  14. Mike Battman Says:

    I’m travelling to Plumley from Navi Rd on Saturday (12:44) and am doing the ‘pub crawl’ back to Hale, stopping at each station on the way.
    I’ll report back on Sunday

  15. Conductor Says:

    The majority of trains should be 4 car units this weekend. Usually a 150+142 or 142+142 to accommodate the shorter platforms. 156s sometimes appear in place of 142s to give a boost in capacity and travel experience!

  16. Mike Battman Says:

    The trains were busy yesterday but most were doubles; 13 of us travelled from Navigation Road to Plumley on the 12:44 (running about 15/20-mins late)a double 150.
    We then came back to Mobberley on the 15:42 (a couple of minutes late) this was a double 142.
    Then Mobberley to Hale on the 17:52 (a double 150) – is Ashley a request stop again; as the train slowed but did not stop?
    Finally we caught the 20:59 back to Navigation Road (a single 142)

    The disappointing thing was that we were not once afforded the opportunity to buy a ticket. 13 x £5.40 lost to Northern Rail!

  17. Jen Says:

    Based on what Northern put on the Journey Check site yesterday (Saturday) there were 2 diagrams with 4 cars and 3 diagrams with 2 cars on the Mid-Cheshire line. Out of the 10:04, 11:04 and 12:04 Chester-Manchester services mentioned on the poster here: only the 10:04 was strengthened.

    Today (Sunday) all but one of the Southport-Chester diagrams is operating as 4 cars.

  18. The Chairman Says:

    We’ve been talking early with Northern about Christmas Markets in 2014 and the Mid Cheshire Line.

    We’ve heard today “…. your enquiry about strengthening on the line during Xmas Markets. Train Planning confirmed that the vast majority of Saturday services are planned for 4 car operations with the exception of some early morning and very late evening services. On Sundays, services will be planned for a minimum of a 2 car class 150.”

    Good news!

  19. Mike Battman Says:

    I do worry about words and phrases like “vast majority” and “planned” but we shall see.

    Also, what is less than “a 2 car class 150”, are they bringing back railcars? I suppose they class a class 150 above a 142, what do they seat/carry each?

  20. Jen Says:

    Mike: If you look at they list services which are operating with less carriages than planned. Usually there are at least some short formed services every day. I also seem to recall it happened on the Mid-Cheshire one Saturday last December when a train fault meant a diagram operated with 2 carriages instead of 4.

    The Angel Trains website states a 150 has between 124 and 149 seats but the 124 seater trains are the ones with 2+2 seating, which Northern don’t have any of so the Northern ones should have 138 seats or more. On the other hand a 142 has between 106 and 120 seats. However, some of Northern’s 142s have had broken seats removed and not replaced. The 150s also have longer carriages so there’s more standing space.

  21. Mike Battman Says:

    Thanks Jen

    Where does it say how many carriages are planned?

  22. Jen Says:

    Not a good start for the first Saturday of the Christmas Markets as Northern are cancelling services due to staff shortages. Possibly this could relate to the problems between Northern Rail and the ASLEF union?

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