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Last Friday I met with Northern Rail, Transpennine Express and Network Rail at my office on Chorley Old Road to discuss the many ongoing issues with our local trains.

I can’t cover every detail of the meeting, or this blog would be significantly too long for anyone to read, but I hope that you find the information below useful/interesting.

As usual I was offered a series of promises that things will be better a few months/years. I hope these prove accurate but I will believe it when I see it.

Electrification

It’s clear that the two year delay to the electrification project has been very disruptive. Not only does the ongoing work require the line to be shut during quieter periods but it hinders the ability of the rail operators to take action to improve the service.

After the collapse of Carillion a new contractor was found and an entirely new management team installed to refocus the project.

Under the current schedule late June is a key target, foundations should be set for all the steel columns along the line by then. There will be other less-disruptive work after that and in September they should be testing everything ready for launch.

The next timetable change for Northern is due in December and Network Rail say that even if their plans are delayed somewhat everything should be ready to go by then.

Carriages

Local commuters will be well aware that there are not enough carriages on local services. Our peak-time trains should not be running with only two carriages. I outlined the awful day to day experiences of my constituents and made it very clear that the current situation is unacceptable and addressing this needs to be the priority.

Once electrification of the line is completed Northern are due to introduce new electric trains for local services. This should in turn free up diesel carriages for other parts of the network, including the overcrowded line through Bromley Cross.

Northern are also currently waiting for other rail franchises, like ScotRail, to reach the end of their arrangements with rail leasing companies. Northern will then be in a position to lease more carriages and further boost capacity on the Northern network. This should happen in stages between now and 2020.

Delay Repay

I’ve written previously that lots of local residents have had problems with Northern’s “Delay Repay” compensation scheme. Many have been left waiting for months with no response.

I have finally been able to find out why. The scheme was subcontracted to Carillion, who collapsed at the start of the year. It’s taken time to bring this back in house and start to work through the backlog.

Infrastructure

I also took the opportunity to raise concerns about local infrastructure. The lack of parking at Bromley Cross puts pressure on local residents and causes greater numbers of people to make car journeys to Hall I’th’ Wood or Bolton station putting more strain on our road network.

The franchising system discourages rail operators from investing to address issues like these, but Network Rail agreed to engage with Transport for Greater Manchester and the local Council to find ways to tackle this problem in the long term interest of passengers.

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I will continue to engage with the rail operators, Network Rail and the Government on a regular basis to push for improvements and hold them accountable for the failings that are making daily life unnecessarily difficult for so many people.

Challenging the train companies

Last Friday I met with Northern Rail, Transpennine Express and Network Rail at my office on Chorley Old Road to discuss the many ongoing issues with our local trains. I...

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Sadly there seems to have been no reprieve for local commuters as problems continue to plague our local trains.

Some months ago, in an email to one of my constituents, the Northern Rail Regional Director who covers our area said that he looks after 14 different lines on the network and yet 90% of all complaints come from Bolton.

I continue to engage with the rail operators to ensure that my constituents know what is happening and why, and to push them to improve the quality of services as quickly as possible.

This morning my Twitter is filled with messages like these:

 

People depend on services to turn up so that they can get to work, and nobody should ever be forced to spend a trip into Manchester squashed into a toilet with two other people.

I have written to Northern this morning to raise specific concerns about the way people have been treated today.

On 20th April I will be meeting representatives from Northern, First Transpennine Express and Network Rail. I’m certain we will discuss issues like electrification, overcrowding, reliability, short-formed trains, the loss of our Scottish services, and customer service/information.

I will be asking for clear steps to resolve the problems that Bolton residents face every day. Long term promises about improvements five years from now might sound nice, but I’ve been hearing promises like that for the last twenty years, local residents need real help now.

 

Update: 16:15 17/4/18

I have received the following message from Liam Sumpter, Regional Director at Northern, following my complaint on behalf of local residents about the terrible service this morning.

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Cancelled or packed - Bolton's trains

Sadly there seems to have been no reprieve for local commuters as problems continue to plague our local trains. Some months ago, in an email to one of my constituents,...

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Last month I wrote a blog to highlight the Delay Repay scheme. If your train journey is delayed by 30 minutes or more, for whatever reason, you are due compensation. You can find details of the scheme here - https://www.davidcrausby.co.uk/get_a_refund_for_your_delayed_train_journey

However, several local residents have also raised some concerns about the way Northern run their scheme.

I submitted questions to the Transport Secretary, and I have now received answers.

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Local commuters who use System One travel cards, entitling them to travel on both trains and buses, have been repeatedly told by Northern that they are not eligible for the Delay Repay scheme. This clear statement from the Minister says that they should be paid. I have now raised this with Northern directly and I hope that they will adjust their processes as quickly as possible.

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The biggest complaint about Northern’s Delay Repay scheme is that it can take months to have a claim processed.

Our local commuter services are not ones where you would typically buy an advance ticket for a set travel time, so the automatic compensation scheme mentioned does not reflect the experience of most rail users.

Northern need to get a grip on these long delays and ensure passengers receive the refund they are entitled to in a timely fashion.

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I am aware that some rail franchises are looking to implement a 15 minute standard for Delay Repay (DR15), while Northern currently says you need to be delayed by 30 minutes to qualify.

While I am pleased that new franchises will have this written into the contract, Northern’s current franchise will last until at least 2025 so it will be of little comfort to Bolton residents. I hope that Northern and the Department for Transport can come to an arrangement and introduce DR15 much sooner than that.

I will continue to pursue these matters and push for better local rail services. In the meantime, I’m always happy to raise concerns so please get in touch if you have any issues or questions.

UPDATE: Problems with Delay Repay

Last month I wrote a blog to highlight the Delay Repay scheme. If your train journey is delayed by 30 minutes or more, for whatever reason, you are due compensation....

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