Memorandum by Ernest Godward Esq (REN
RAIL SERVICES IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND
1. I am submitting this memorandum to the
committee based upon personal travelling experience on rail services
in the North of England over the period July 1998 to the present
time. I used the following services to commute to and from work:
Doncaster to Sheffield (services
provided Northern Spirit/Arriva Trains Northern, Virgin Cross
Country and Midland Main Line).
Doncaster to Manchester/Manchester
Airport (services provided Northern Spirit/Arriva Trains Northern,
First North Western and Central Trains), and
Doncaster to Leeds (services provided
Northern Spirit/Arriva Trains Northern, Virgin Cross Country and
During the course of work I have used rail to
attend meetings in Liverpool, Hull, York, Wakefield and Blackpool
using trains operated by Arriva Trains Northern, Central Trains,
Hull Trains, First North Western and Virgin Cross Country. I have
made other journeys in the north travelling between Doncaster
and Driffield, Dent to Driffield, Manchester to Wakefield, and
Leeds to Bradford on trains operated by First North Western, Hull
Trains and Arriva Trains Northern.
2. In general, the franchise controlled
by Arriva Trains Northern does not provide good train services.
In the past I have experienced services where the trains have
had to be refuelled halfway through their journey causing significant
delay, journeys that have been cancelled at very short notice
particularly due to shortage of staff and rolling stock and journeys
that are heavily overcrowded because there aren't enough trains
in the timetable or because of cancellations.
3. If I can take a longer Inter City type
service I will take the Inter City service in preference to more
local services. The Inter City services provide a much better
standard of seating and space in comparison with regional or local
services. Since the new timetable, from 2 June 2002, my normal
homebound service will be a Eurostar set. These are the best trains
on the system and in my opinion the standards are significantly
above any other train set operating in the UK. I believe that
in order to attract passengers to the rail system, rail operators
in the North of England need to be thinking of providing trains
with this standard of accommodation.
4. The worst incident that I have suffered
during the period since July 1998 occurred on 26 February 2002.
The 17:19 Arriva Trains Northern from Manchester Piccadilly to
Doncaster was cancelled due to crew shortages. I therefore travelled
on the 17:43 Central Trains. The train was halted at Bamford as
the 17:09 First North Western Manchester to Sheffield had failed.
After a 50 minute delay we were asked to disembark and find our
own methods of onward transportation. It was a dark and stormy
night and only thanks to some passengers who were familiar with
the local bus timetable was I able to get to Sheffield. The total
journey time was four hours compared with what should have been
one hour 30 minutes. No apologies were given or compensation offered.
5. The following table provides an assessment
of my personal opinions and assessments of each of the operators
and the rolling stock they operate on the most frequently used
services and operators.
|Arriva Trains Northern
|Reasonable but uncomfortable if heavily loaded or you are forced to stand
|An internal refurbishment is overdue
|Arriva Trains Northern
|Class 142, 143, 144, 150, 153
|Acceptable for short journeyscan be uncomfortable if heavily loaded
|Internal refurbishment being undertaken on some classes
|Arriva Trains Northern
|3 + 2 seating is uncomfortable
|Overcrowding on peak hour services is unacceptable but a fact of life
|Arriva Trains Northern
|Arriva Trains Northern
|New trainsvery acceptable
|Public address can be a bit annoying after a whilevery high acceleration good for fast journeys but can be disconcerting if you haven't got handhold and you are standing
|Midland Main Line
|Virgin Cross Country
|Doncaster-Sheffield, Sheffield-York and Doncaster-York
|HST and Locomotive hauled coaches
|Some services can be very overcrowdedparticularly at peak times
Timings cannot be relied uponthe problem seems to be losing a path that then subsequently delays the train with worsening effect as the train proceeds
|Doncaster-York and further north and Doncaster-Leeds
|HST, Class 91 plus Mark 4 stock and Eurostar
|Eurostar very comfortable
|Mark 4 stock becoming in need of internal refurbishment
|First North Western
|Classic DMU, class 142
|Both types of rolling stock unreliable. Otherwise adequate
|Pity there are no services over this route on Bank Holidays
|First North Western
|Class 142, 150
|Adequate after refurbishment
|Uncomfortable if standing
|Comfortable new trains
|Class 158, 170
|Comfortable new trains. After refurbishment 158 are acceptable
|Overcrowding is a serious problem on peak hour services
6. I own an estate type car but I choose not to drive
during the week. I have calculated that our operating costs are
less than 8.5 pence per kilometre including tax, insurance and
depreciation. This compares unfavourably with some rail fares
that are charged in the region. The table below shows a ticket
types that are available for journeys within the region and the
range of kilometre rates.
|Ticket type (all classes)
|Range of rates per kilometre travelled (Pence)
|CAR (Used as a comparator)
|BUS (Used as a comparator) Single
|BUS (Used as a comparator) Seasons
|PTE Multi-modal cards (Including bus and tram)
|Cheap Day Return
Whilst rail fares compare favourably with bus fares it is
only on longer distance journeys that rail fares compare more
favourably with car travel. Longer dated season tickets and the
multi-modal cards provided by the Passenger Transport Executives
provide travel at lower costs that the car but only with a significant
up-front payment. With the latter type of cards the boundary problem
may arise where journeys cross the boundary between two executives
requiring two purchases. eg Doncaster to Leeds is within South
Yorkshire and West Yorkshire PTE areas.
7. The compensation schemes that currently exist in the
industry for delayed journeys are not well suited or acceptable
to many travellers. Few operators are inclined to offer passengers
compensation forms when services are delayed. For many travellers,
who have relatively short journeys, they will not be eligible
to claim as the delay will be less than 60 minutes. A delay of
more than 10 minutes on a short journey could actually have a
worse impact than say a 60 minute delay on a long distance service.
Season ticket holders and those holding other longer dated tickets
fare worst as they are only compensated if the total service falls
below certain punctuality and reliability limits. Where the PTE's
negotiated compensation this was limited to rail only cards not
the multi-modal tickets. The data presented here are from a personal
database of actual trips made in connection with ongoing research
on railway privatisation and reform.
8. The station provides the access link to the railway
system. It is here that the train operators Railtrack and others
create the impression of the system. Some of the stations in the
area are well designed and suited to current and future needs
whilst others reflect the standards of the late l9th century.
9. The visible sign that work is being done to the railway
is the modernisation of the larger stations, eg Sheffield, Leeds
and Manchester Piccadilly. Whilst not comprehensive rebuilds,
attention appears to have been given to overall improvement of
ambiance. Access is being improved but reliability of some systems-
lifts and escalators needs to be improved. Also in the redevelopment
of Sheffield little attention appears to have been paid to the
improvement of interchange between public transport modes. The
South Yorkshire PTE, despite having beacon status for interchange
has allowed the redevelopment of the rail station to proceed along
its l9th century design rather than taking into account its potential
for better interchange. Since the opening of the Sheffield Supertram
system passengers have had a very difficult interchange. Bus passengers
face a long trek. If the station had been redesigned with a more
northerly bridge public transport access would have been significantly
improved resulting in lower interchange times between the main
public transport modes.
10. In Leeds, the bus station is next to the main Leeds
to Hull/York line but the nearest station is over 10 minutes walk
away. There are longer term plans to build a station in the vicinity.
Also the Leeds Supertram system will pass the station but not
directly serve the station.
11. For smaller towns the legacies of late l9th and early
to mid 20th century design are apparent. Towns such as Doncaster
and York have stations close to the town centres but access to
the station centres principally around car based transport. Access
within the station leaves much to be desired. Both York and Doncaster
have less than appealing lift accesses and the one at Doncaster
is no more than a sop to good access practice being a converted
goods and mail lift. I have aged parents and a young family. Using
the lift at Doncaster is a positive turn off to travelling by
rail. Staff have to be called from other duties which may involve
a wait (on one occasion more than 10 minutes) and the decor is
appalling. There is good but inadequate car parking (in the sense
that there is not enough for rail purposes) at the station which
is relatively expensive compared with less convenient car parks.
Taxi ranks operate at both stations and the station operator appears
to encourage their use by placing in the most convenient location
at the main exits of these stations. York has fairly frequent
public transport access on the outside of the station. Only one
coach service directly serves Doncaster station. All other public
transport access at Doncaster involves walks of between five and
12 minutes to access local bus services at the two bus stations
or the streets where buses terminate. A new public transport interchange
is planned with significantly improved access to the rail station.
This is, realistically, some five to seven years away as the planning
seems to be bogged down in wrangling over retail floorspace and
shoppers car parking provision.
12. Smaller stations are not staffed and many lack adequate
information provision. Whilst most will have notice boards and
timetables few if any have real-time systems indicating the status
of train services that are seen in London and the South East.
A modern railway system requires this to reassure passengers who
travel less regularly. Means of contacting railway controllers/information
providers would also be useful (the incident of 26 February 2002
mentioned above comes to mind). Also, I live no more than 150
metres from the DoncasterLincoln line and 650 metres from
the East Coast Main Line. There are no local stations on either
of these lines. I would like to see a local station built but
recognise that there are difficulties in both situations, economics
being a prime consideration with the former and line capacity
in the latter.
13. The reform of the railways has brought about the
annual production of plans for investment in the railways. They
have been as follows:
Railtrack's Network Management Statements.
The Government's 10 Year Plan.
The Strategic Rail Authority's A strategic agenda.
The Strategic Rail Authority's The strategic plan.
These plans, whilst clear about certain committed large projects
are less certain in their assurances on small specific detailed
plans. The strategic plan was hyped as the cure all for the rail
industry's problems but there are many schemes that appear not
to have been included that might make a significant contribution
to solving the transport problems of the region, eg reopening
of Matlock to Buxton to provide a new strategic freight route
from the North West to the East Midlands as well as contributing
to the solution of more local freight and passenger problems.
Little reference was made to the aspirations of the local PTE's
through their emerging Rail Plans which, in comparison with the
strategic plan are quite detailed. It was only in the later NMS
of Railtrack and the more recent SRA documents that commitments
14. I think that I may have been lucky to experience
some of the benefits that have been included in these documents
The remodelling of South Yorkshire Junction, which
relieves congestion at Doncaster Station and increases flexibility
for services between Doncaster and Sheffield. The effect of this
was to remove delays to trains entering and leaving
Doncaster station. A problem still remains at
certain key times during the day due to lack of platform space.
The redevelopment of stations at Manchester Piccadilly,
Sheffield and Leeds will bring improvements when they are finally
completed. During the reconstruction phases there are obvious
disbenefits due to longer walk distances because of necessary
New trains between Leeds and the north-western
part of West Yorkshire.
Train interior refurbishments.
15. Unfortunately I have not benefited from faster or
more frequent services. It still takes nearly the same time to
get from Doncaster to Manchester (99 kilometres) as it does from
Doncaster to London King's Cross (249 kilometres). Service frequencies
are much lower compared to what might be expected in the South
East of England where 10-15 minute frequencies are the norm during
peak hours and 20-30 minute frequencies during the off-peak. Whilst
travelling from Doncaster to Sheffield the best service was about
5 trains per hour formed by a mixture of stopping, regional and
Inter City services but not on even frequencies. Even where a
frequency pattern is established there were variations to the
pattern each hour, eg the Doncaster-Leeds local stopping train
departure pattern goes as follows:
Doncaster-Leeds 06:25, 07:16, 07:51, 08:26, 09:14, 10:14,
11:22, 12:14, 13:20 14:14, 15:14, 16:14, 17:27, 18:27, 19:24,
20:34, 21:38 and 22:30.
The problem here would seem to stem from resource and capacity
constraints rather than for any good operational or market based
16. In the Leeds to Doncaster direction a more regular
pattern exists, departing at 21 minutes past each hour with the
exception of three departures per day, 07:26, 2 1:26 and 22:39.
Longer distance Inter City services also have similar problems.
However, it is not beyond the capability of modern technology
and systems to plan for regular departures at the same time each
hour. The Swiss and German railway systems accomplish this with
relative ease. Both systems also manage to ensure a good set of
connections between different sets of services. Unfortunately,
the different operators of rail franchises in the UK mitigate
against the possibility of this happening easily. Emphasis for
the future must be made by the infrastructure operator to ensure
that infrastructure is provided to match the traction specifications,
eg many classes of traction, of which the Class 91 and Eurostar
trains are the best examples, have a much higher speed capability
than the current infrastructure allows. A phased programme of
infrastructure upgrade is required in order to assist rail operators
in meeting the targets set in the 10-year plan.
17. Electrification of additional routes may offer some
benefits in terms of rolling stock fleets and utilisation, eg
Leeds to York and Leeds to Manchester. As an example of rolling
stock utilisation, currently, Arriva Trains Northern has to maintain
two electric fleets the class 321/9's for Leeds-Doncaster and
Class 333's for the Aire Valley Services. Logically, this must
add to the cost base. With further electrification fleets could
be larger and offer better utilisation.
18. Econometric modelling work undertaken for London
Underground and the European Commission of the impact of investment
in rail services and infrastructure shows that regions and areas
investing in good rail services have a greater impact on their
economy in direct terms than those areas not doing so. Prior to
the dismembering of British Rail and in conjunction with the local
Passenger Transport Executives significant and positive developments
were made to local rail services in the North of England. Some
of that impetus has been lost due to railway reform and the diminution
of the power of the PTE's.
19. The critical problems affecting the development appear
Poor delivery by certain franchise holders;
Poor station ambiance and quality;
High fares, particularly for shorter distances.
Longer distance journeys and the use of season tickets and multi-modal
cards appear to offer rates per kilometre less than either car
or bus travel
These problems can be overcome in part by:
Better accessibility at stations;
Better integration with other public transport
A better planning process bringing on board all
Further electrification allowing better utilisation
of rolling stock fleets;
Restart the new stations programme;
Better use of technology and systems to assist
with resolution of capacity and other constraints, and
A policy for the railways that clearly defines
what is required by whom and by when.
The railway provides an opportunity to solve some of the
many transport problems in the North of England. The solutions
to these problems are not "rocket science" but just
require a consistent long-term policy, objectives and budget framework.
Government in particular needs to bring on board the findings
of econometric studies carried out elsewhere. If it does not like
the answers that come out of such studies it should say why it
disagrees with them.