Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Northern Rail goes all Kafka on us (updated)

Friends of Rose Hill station make the place so appealing, what are Northern playing at?
I wrote over the weekend about the proposed new timetable for Rose Hill station, at the end of a branch line in the bottom right corner of Greater Manchester. In there, I expressed my delight at the new timetable in May and how half hourly services throughout the day, up until after 9pm were a massive improvement on the status quo.

However (and there's always a however with Northern Rail, the train operating company), there is no train at the absolute peak time. Instead, at 17:34, a train will leave Manchester Piccadilly, go to all the usual stations on our line, stop at Woodley for NINE MINUTES then divert into Marple instead (source, Real Time Trains). At first I put this anomaly down to a data error, but no, it's apparently because they *might* need to park a works train sometime between 1800 and 1810.

I've tried to offer Northern a chance to respond, but they clearly don't care about some berk with a blog. I got the bureaucratic fob off of a 20 day response time to my "complaint".

It isn't a complaint. It's an enquiry.

They told me to phone. I did, I got cut off. I phoned again. No one answered.

Our local heroes, the Friends of Rose Hill Station have done some digging and have had a reply. It actually defies belief. I'm going to quote directly from a note I was copied in on.

It is because Network Rail have a Railhead Treatment Train (RHTT) path on the Rose Hill branch between 1800 and 1809. Note, it is a PATH, not a TRAIN.

It has apparently always been there but the proposed new timetable departure at 1734 would conflict with it. This is why the 1734 departure will travel to Woodley, sit for ten minutes there and then pootle on to Romiley and terminate at Marple, 40 mins after leaving Piccadilly!! This is so surreal that I find it difficult to get my brain round it. It poses the following questions (and I'm sure there are more questions):

1. Why has Northern Rail waited until now to raise this? The 1734 Monday to Friday departure was in the May 2018 consultation timetable issued last year.

2. Has an RHTT ever traveled up the Rose Hill branch? Have any neighbours ever seen or heard a railhead treatment train on the Rose Hill branch around 1800 Mon-Fri? Does anyone else have any knowledge of such a train?

3. Would the good folk of Surbiton or Bromley calmly accept such a pathway for a phantom train to prevent one of their peak time trains from being timetabled? I think not and nor should we.

4. Why can't Northern Rail shift their phantom RHTT path to 2140, after the last Rose Hill train will have been and gone? Most RHTT's run at night.

5. Has Network Rail got it in for Rose Hill? After their five year unjustifiable refusal to give us permission to clear part of the disused platform, it feels like an anti-Rose Hill vendetta.
We need to reverse this stupid decision. Who is this railway run for?

UPDATE: Northern Rail have officially confirmed this account to be true, but say they hope to have the problem sorted in time for the December timetable change.

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