0717 Manchester to Chester – Mid Cheshire’s busiest train ….

Posted on November 27th, 2012, by The Chairman

The busiest (most crowded) train on the Mid Cheshire line is the 0717 from Piccadilly to Chester. The most crowded section is into Knutsford, and then later on into Greenbank.

We know from the passenger counts that our volunteers are carrying out that it loads to around 260 into Knutsford, where around 190-200 get off and another 55-60 get on.

Those getting off at Knutsford are around 130-150 going to Knutsford Academy, 30-40 going to Barclays Bank at Radbroke Hall, with the balance going to shops and offices in Knutsford. There’s a free connecting coach from the station to Radbrook Hall, but it doesn’t wait if the train’s more than 5 minutes late as it has to get to Radbroke Hall and then to Crewe for a run back to Radbroke Hall later. Hence some of anguished faces some days on the Barclays’ staff who know if the bus has gone, the next one’s at 0820, but it’s only a small bus.

The 55 getting on are mainly going to the schools and the college adjacent to Greenbank station and to Northwich. 5 more get on at Plumley, another 25 at Lostock Gralam and another 35 at Northwich, where 20 get off. Around 145 then leave the train at Greenbank.

All a serious squeeze on a 2-car class 150 (seating 130), and on the rare occasion it is a 2-car class 142 Pacer (seating 108-130 depending on the type), people are sometimes left behind at Hale, Ashley and Mobberley unable to board – next train one hour.

This morning the 0717 was cancelled at very short notice, we understand due to unavoidable reasons. (The return working, the 0903 back from Chester was also cancelled).

Mark Barker, Northern’s Client & Stakeholder Manager for West of the Pennines swung into action, ringing up the schools and colleges involved and also Barclays at Radbroke Hall, and producing this leaflet ….

…. which has been sent to those contacted to distrubute to those affected.

We hear there is to be a high level meeting at Northern tomorrow to discuss what steps could be put in place to cope with even last minute events that jeopardise the running of this train. We hope they come up with a good plan.

We’ve already asked they consider how to provide extra coaches for this train, even though we know they have no more coaches to run. We’ve made some suggestions.

The sooner this is a 4-car train the better. Giving the line the half-hourly service it deserves in this direction in the morning peak would be even better!

Please leave a comment

  1. Edd Says:

    While there’s pathing problems with running additional services from Manchester, could there not be an 08:00 Stockport-Chester service? The unit off that service could then be stabled at Chester for later on, removing the need to tag on a spare locked out of use unit to the 09:17 Manchester-Chester.

  2. Conductor Says:

    We all know there won’t be any extra carriages any time soon. This could form part of the reason as well that there isn’t 0800 train from Stockport. Not to mention sourcing extra train crew

    It would also be virtually impossible to path at around 0800. You’ve got to go from either Platform 1 or 2 (normally 2) at Stockport and cross the Down Fast and Down Slow lines at Edgeley Junction. Then path for the single lines at Northenden and Mouldsworth.

    The following trains would conflict with it at Stockport station arrival times from the south, departure times for trains heading north:

    0745 XC BHM to MAN
    0747 NT to MAN
    0753 TPE to MIA
    0754 ATW to MAN
    0758 NT TO STOKE (P2 and uses Up Fast from MAN)
    0757 NT to MAN
    0802 NT TO MAN
    0803 VT to EUS
    0810 NT to MAN

    There is a 7 minute gap between 0803 and 0810 but it takes about 3/4 minutes to follow the Euston train into P2 at Stockport, then add on 2 mins dwell time and you depart at 0808 and create a conflict at Edgeley with the 0810 arrival from Buxton into P4.

  3. Jen Says:

    An alternative to an extra Stockport-Chester service could be to use a pair of units on the 06:59 Chester-Manchester on departure from Chester with 2 x drivers and 2 x conductors. On arrival at Navigation Road move everyone to the front unit, detach the rear unit and use it to run something like an 08:05 Navigation Road-Chester service. Obviously that would mean the 06:59 would need to depart slightly earlier to allow time for the units to be split and would be less efficient for usage of units and crews.

  4. Conductor Says:

    You then have to pay for an extra Driver and Conductor. The railway runs on business cases, although it does sound like common sense it would cost far too much money for the sake of a 10-15 min journey from Navigation Road – Knutsford for the bulk of passengers using the line, in case a 142 shows up instead of a larger 150 or 156.

    Think about the additional time it would cost for staff to go from Piccadilly to Chester and return. Hours of wasted potential productive work elsewhere.

    The Signalling at Navigation Road and Altrincham isn’t permissive so would not permit splitting of trains. I don’t even think Stockport is permitted to have trains splitting there any more.

  5. PaulW Says:

    Metrolink turn trams at Navigation Road.

    If late running, I have seen some double units enter Navigation Road from Manchester, driver makes announcment to passengers on board to vacate, then swops end, telling passengers on platform, this tram for Bury or Piccadilly!

    Seemed to happen a lot during Olympic football at Old Trafford in the Summer with double M5000 yellow trams, rather than use the Timperley turnback and have to climb down onto ground to swop ends?

    Presume Metrolink Control speaks with Deansgate Lane signal box to authorise, thus not crossing the Navigation Road level crossing.

  6. Jen Says:

    Conductor – given the chairman has quoted passenger numbers of 260 wanting to use the service and the target stated in Northern’s passenger charter is the standing number should equate to a number no more than 35% of the seated number at peak times, then even if a 156 turns up (the service is booked for a 150) then the train has 60 more passengers than the target maximum. It’s hardly a case of the booked single Sprinter being sufficient for the service.

    Another way of getting an extra unit to Altrincham that would have more productive use of crews would be to run an additional 07:10 Chester-Altrincham/Navigation Road service but only calling at Greenbank, Northwich, Knutsford, Hale and Altrincham.

    Once electric units are operating on Chat Moss TfGM should be trying to get one of the released units either for strengthening the 07:17 Manchester-Chester or an additional service. Getting the school children resident in Trafford to school is the responsibility of Trafford council’s transport department, which passes on to TfGM.

  7. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    Trains and trams can reverse on either single line at Navigation Road because the whole area is under the control of a single signal box.

  8. Old Codger Says:

    Don’t worry, relief is at hand. The DfT knows what is best for us and by 2017 we should have a brand new road from Knutsford to Bowdon, costing between £137 million and £212 million.

  9. Conductor Says:

    It’s not the point of trams or trains turning around. I’m fully aware of trains been capable of been turned around at Altrincham and Navigation Road as what normally happens with engineering works and disruption. Although I’m certainly no signalling expert, it’s splitting them in the platform that’s the problem. At certain stations you can’t do it without ‘permissive working’. i.e. more than one separate train in the platform. You can split trains at stations like Oxford Road. This was a similar answer when a question was asked about splitting trains at Stockport (unless authorised due to a technical fault).

    Jen, I can think of several trains that regularly have more than 35% people standing. I honestly don’t think that charter can be relied upon. In off-peak it states that no passengers shall be standing unless they decide to when seats are available.

    There were rumours of receiving Class 317 stock to replace a few 142 diagrams on electric routes such as Crewe, Macclesfield and Alderley Edge but nothing came of it presumably because of training costs. Some rumours of loco hauled stock returning until 2014 too.

  10. Jen Says:

    Conductor – Yes I’m aware there are other trains which exceed the maximum standing given in the passenger charter. The charter does effectively say that when that figure is exceeded Northern will do what they can (in conjunction with relevant PTEs) to provide extra capacity. Obviously before 2014 that’s not a lot but after that it should be one of the highest priority services for extra capacity.

    There is now two additional rumours relating to what EMUs will operate on Chat Moss. A recent Southern press release said the following

    Southern is pleased to announce two significant developments. Firstly, with the approval of the Department for Transport, it intends to exercise an existing option for 40 new Electrostar carriages from train manufacturer Bombardier, a run on to its 130 carriage order announced at the end of last year.

    The procurement of 40 new carriages will enable additional capacity on the Southern network as well as a cascade of rolling stock around the wider network.

    The 40 vehicles will be in 5 car formation with dual voltage configuration, will cost c£60 million in total and it is expected that they will be delivered during 2014 for service entry in December of that year.

    That’s led to the following suggestions:
    1. Some of the dual voltage 4 carriage 377s currently with Southern will be subleased to Northern.
    2. Some of the dual voltage 4 carriage 377s currently with Southern will be subleased to FCC, allowing the first of the 319s to be released ahead of the first batch of new Thameslink units being delivered.

  11. Jen Says:

    It might interest people to know that a list of the ten most overcrowded services has been published in some papers today. Although, a quick calculation means that the 07:17 Manchester-Chester was operated by one of the former First North Western 150/1s it would put the 07:17 Manchester-Chester as the second most overcrowded train in the country ahead of the 0732 Woking-Waterloo which the papers have listed as the second most overcrowded train.

  12. The Chairman Says:

    Thanks, Jen!

    I wonder how the DfT work these things out.

    I see 8 out of their most crowded 10 are into or out of London, with the most crowded being at 180%. Am I correct in thinking 100% is considered to be number of seats plus 30 or 35%?

    I’m surprised not to see some of the services into Victoria on the list. If it’s seating plus 35% = 100%, you probably can’t get more than about 150% on their trains on this basis before people get left behind. All somewhat misleading.

    From our continuing passenger counts, we know our most crowded trains Monday to Friday during term time are: –

    0717 Piccadilly – Chester, normally a 2-car class 150. Loads to 260 into Knutsford, then later on 160 into Greenbank

    0659 Chester – Piccadilly, also normally a 2-car class 150. Loads to 190 into Hale, then later on 170 into Stockport (though only 135 to Piccadilly).

    It’s pretty clear the 0717 would have many more on it if it weren’t for the crush conditions and with the next train 1 hour later. We know of people who used to use this train, but now drive instead of risking being left behind, which sometime happens when plans go wrong and a class 142 turns up.

  13. Jen Says:

    Yes the DfT say it’s usually 135% of the seated capacity in standard class (first class passengers and sections aren’t included.) There are some exceptions though.

    1. If there’s more than 20 minutes between stops then 100% of the seated standard capacity is used instead.
    2. If the train have been fitted with a low seating capacity to allow extra standing such as London Overground trains then a higher percentage is used instead.

    They also say the overcrowding figures represent those arriving in major cities in the weekday morning peak and those leaving major cities in the weekday evening peak, so counts for trains arriving and leaving stations such as Altrincham aren’t included, neither are the crammed Saturday trains.

  14. Jen Says:

    Bad news for anyone travelling this afternoon – the 15:07 Chester-Manchester has been cancelled due to staff shortages. The 16:07 will likely be very busy, even if formed of 4 carriages, as a result.

  15. The Chairman Says:

    Hi, Jen!

    We hear it’s due to a shortage of drivers and that the 1607 ran as a 4-car.

  16. Jen Says:

    In an earlier post it was said that carriages cannot be split at Navigation Road but today they were joined up there. The 10:17 Manchester-Chester was terminated at Navigation Road (apparently due to signal malfunctions) and the 11:17 Manchester-Chester was attached to the train that terminated short. Although, it did obviously cause a delay with the usual dwell time at Navigation Rd not being long enough to join up two units.

  17. Another Conductor Says:


    These trains were attached as an emergency measure and it is not standard practice nor allowed for trains to be joined at Navigation Road. To do so requires permissive signalling which Navigation Road does not have. The 1117 which joined onto the rear was authorised to do so as a ‘assisting train going to rescue a failed unit’ which is one of the emergency exemptions. (Although I am aware it wasn’t a unit failure as you rightly state). It also requires special measures to be carried out by one of the train crew before it happens which is why it took so long!!

    Kind regards

  18. Jen Says:

    According to Northern Rail’s Twitter account they are in talks with DfT about getting additional electric carriages in time to use from December 2013. If some services like the Crewe to Oxford Road which currently get a pair of DMUs in lieu of a EMU gets an EMU from December then hopefully it will free up a train for Northern to run the 07:17 Manchester-Chester as 4 carriages.

  19. Conductor Says:

    Sounds like a mistake to me. Considering the amount of tweets with spelling mistakes on due to the sheer volume of replies the twitter team in York have to make in a short space of time. I presume they meant December 2014 which makes sense with the electrification work and delays to Thameslink stock.

    I’d be surprised to see any EMUs appear this year. Traincrew are already short and I can’t see their been enough time between now and December for a weeks course and traction handling for Piccadilly men. This is on top of having to learn a GSM-R course. Also if they are the EMUs we are thinking off then they are set up for DOO operation and would need to be modified for a Conductor to use.

    Crewe – Oxford Road was extended in May to go to Salford Crescent and then onwards to Newton Heath. So the only DMUs freed are the early morning from Macclesfield – Manchester Piccadilly.


  20. Mike Battman Says:

    Aren’t the electric units more likely to be used for driver training on the newly electrified line to Liverpool?

  21. Jen Says:

    Mike – The tweet did say additional electric units in operation by December 2013. Only the eastern end of Chat Moss electrification will be ready by then.

    Conductor – If it’s December 14 won’t that cause a different problem? TransPennine Express are moving the Scottish services via Wigan from December 13. However, the morning peak southbound services and evening peak northbound services will remain via Bolton until the May 14 timetable change. If Northern don’t run additional peak time diesel services via Bolton from May 14 then either Bolton will be short changed or the additional North TPE service won’t be introduced in May 14 as planned.

    I didn’t realise they had extended the Crewe to Oxford Road service to Salford. However, just looking at the timings for that and the arrival time at Piccadilly is within a couple of minutes of the 06:58 Chester to Manchester so maybe with minimal changes the 06:58 Chester to Manchester could run to Salford Crescent instead.

    I do agree, however, that Northern sometimes put unreliable information on Twitter. In response to a question asking why they publicise the Yorkshire show so much but ignore the Cheshire show, someone responded that Northern don’t run services to Cheshire. They actually put ‘to’ Cheshire not ‘in’ Cheshire, making it sound like they thought Cheshire was one station.

  22. The Chairman Says:

    Since the new term started in September, our “Sardines Express” – 0717 Piccadilly to Chester – seems to have become even busier. It is normally formed of a class 150 2-car unit, though twice so far this term a class 142 has turned up with, we understand passengers left behind having to wait an hour for the next train.

    There’s a good write up in this week’s Knutsford Guardian – http://www.knutsfordguardian.co.uk/news/13803270.Train_bosses_say__no__to_Mid_Cheshire_carriage_switch_around/?ref=mr&lp=5

    You’ll see the Knutsford/Northwich Guardian asked Northern why the train couldn’t be made longer. The response – this is for “logistical reasons”.

    We know Northern have in effect 7 more two car units available to them for use in the North West from December, once more ex-Thameslink class 319 units come into diagrams from Liverpool to Manchester/Preston/Warrington. We’ve asked Northern for this 0717 service and the 0659 Chester to Piccadilly services to be strengthened, both very busy with lots of standing.

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