Planned Replacement Buses – but still passengers wait on platforms expecting a train ….

Posted on October 9th, 2012, by The Chairman

We first blogged about this in Summer 2010.

Since then Northern have brightened up the design of the notices used on the Mid Cheshire line. We think these are far more eye catching.

Engineering Poster at Cuddington by the entrance gate

But still, we often find passengers are waiting on platforms expecting a train at the usual time when actually it’s a bus and at a different time. Along the Mid Cheshire Line this is exacerbated since the bus times can be very different to the normal train times (it takes a bus 2½ hours to get from Chester to Stockport, as opposed to only 75 minutes by train), at a number of our stations the bus stops are near but not at the stations, so someone at a station would not see the bus come and go, and only one of our stations, Altrincham has customer information screens (CIS). Those on the platforms don’t mention the replacement buses, just showing “Welcome to Altrincham” rather than something like “The 2246 train to Chester is tonight a replacement bus leaving at xxxx from the bus shelter alongside platform 4”.

MCRUA has discussed this many times and see this as a National problem. We noticed Anna Walker, Chair of the Office of the Rail Regulator seemed to be taking a particular interest in this, so we wrote to her – ORR_l1.

She wrote back back – ORR Reply.

This led to further correspondence and Anna offered to meet with me on one of the days I am in London for business meetings. It turned out none of the dates suggested worked, so Anna offered to come to Manchester to meet me. That was yesterday. Northern kindly provided us with a room. Anna was joined by Nick Layt, one of her project managers. Our committee member, David Miller from Cuddington who takes a special interest in replacement buses also joined us.

At Anna’s request, we started with an introduction to the Mid Cheshire line and MCRUA.

We all felt what followed was a useful meeting.

On planned replacement buses, we feel that until we find that passengers are not waiting on platforms for trains, we will not have succeeded. We see this as an issue for the industry as a whole, i.e. not just for the TOCs on our lines of London Midland and Northern.

As some of you know, I was in Switzerland and France last week. Whilst there, I took some pictures of what they do in Switzerland. The point my Swiss friends made was that posters for replacement buses are not put in poster cases, as passengers don’t read these, thinking they are the normal adverts. Instead they use a different type of display at the entrances to platforms/stations. Here are some examples at Geneva’s main station, Cornavin.

At local stations where there are no specific entrances as such (in Switzerland, the railways aren’t fenced off in the same way ours are), they use a notice on top of a post set in concrete. I’m sorry this is such a blurred photo, but I had only 30 seconds to jump out of the train, rush across the tracks to take the photo, then rush back to the train and jump on. It gives an idea, though.

They tell me they used to use A-boards, like TPE use at Piccadilly station. Apparently, all too often these ended up underneath trains, so this practice was discontinued.

In Germany they use a cartoon character called “Max the Mole” (Max Maulwurf) on notices relating to engineering work. Max is dressed in High Visibility (HV) overalls and often carries a shovel over his shoulder. Here’s an example David Miller found in a DB timetable.

Our meeting lasted for just over 1½ hours, Anna also bringing up other subjects and requesting our views. These included the Northern Hub, bikes on trains (it turns out she is a keen cyclist) and Pacer replacement, as well as other Mid Cheshire line issues such as the restricted timetable from December 2008 due to more and faster WCML trains, lack of ticket inter-availability with Metrolink, restricted through fares to/from Metrolink, tram-train, fare collection difficulties leading to inaccurate “footfall” figures, our restarted passenger counts and our good relations with Northern.

After the meeting and some pictures ….

…. we were joined by Northern’s and Network Rail’s station managers at Piccadilly. We had a conducted tour of the station discussing its operation, the complexity of the track layout, dealing with more than one train in each platform, difficulties in times of disruption and much more.

We look forward to hearing from Anna again once she and Nick have had a chance to consider what they heard from us and saw.

Please leave a comment

  1. Community Rail Officer Says:

    Sounds like an excellent meeting – I met Anna previously at a conference – she is a very astute lady; a supporter of community rail. I have a lot of time for her and am sure that she will have found the meeting very useful.

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