Back in January I wrote of my concern over the frequent use of short-formed trains for local commuter services. Many services that are scheduled to have 3 or 4 carriages are running with just 2. This is particularly bad for passengers boarding at Bromley Cross and Hall i’th’ Wood as there are only a limited number of services on that line.

Northern provided an explanation of the issues they were facing and steps that would be taken to help, focusing on the key 7:29 Bromley Cross-Manchester service.

7 weeks on there has been little in the way of improvement. Almost daily I hear from frustrated commuters who struggle with packed two-carriage trains, and people left behind on platforms because trains are just too full to board.

I’ve tabled some written questions to the Secretary of State for Transport about short-formed trains. I hope that the Government will hold rail operators like Northern accountable for failings.

I have also written to Northern again asking for an update. I can now share the response from their Regional Director, Liam Sumpter.

“Firstly I would like to apologise to customers that continue to face an uncomfortable journey on the line from Bromley Cross into Manchester. The Bolton corridor remains very difficult to manage with high numbers of passengers and a very tight timetable. The continued delays to the electrification project are extremely frustrating as they mean we keep having to put off the improvements to the timetable and fleet that would help to alleviate some of the issues your constituents are facing.

In terms of the 0729 service, in the month after we red-flagged it we did see some improvements with it being correctly formed 85% of the time, or 17 out of 20, mornings in the railway performance period (roughly the month of February). Unfortunately, performance since then has suffered with it being short-formed on 4 out of 11 days. The reasons for the deterioration this month are that we have been unable to get the third car to Blackburn in time for it to form the service. The mass protest/trespass at Piccadilly displaced units last Sunday and this service was a victim of that. Adverse weather has contributed to two more of the short-forms and the final one was due to late notice driver sickness.

This service continues to be a focus for us and I get a personal update every day on it to reinforce that. Assuming the weather finally relents then I am hopeful that we will return to the improving level of service witnessed last month though I will continue to focus on it regardless and look at how we can strengthen resilience further.”

I will continue to push for a better service. I’m always happy to raise concerns with Northern, so please get in touch if you have any more issues or questions.

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