Reduction to Heaton Chapel train services from May 20th
Northern Rail have recently announced a reduction to the number of services which will call at Heaton Chapel heading north towards Manchester Piccadilly starting on May 20th 2018
Heaton Chapel is the busiest two platform station in Greater Manchester, with 750k passengers each year. That number continues to increase yearly at an average of 9%, and those using the station at peak times will testify to the uncomfortable conditions on the morning commute into Manchester.
The reduction is being blamed on further delays to the electrification work on the Preston line. That work is currently forecast to finish 2 years behind schedule in December 2018.
The knock-on effect of the delays to the work around Preston is that fewer trains will run along that line, and so fewer trains will pass Heaton Chapel at times when they're able to stop.
Levenshulme, who saw 600k passengers last year—a 15% increase on the previous year-will also receive a reduction in train services.
Once the work is complete on the Preston Line, the timetable will be reviewed and updated once more.
The final timetable, which will come into force from 20th May, has yet to be officially released. Norther Rail are still making tweaks to it.
There is a campaign on Change.org which currently has around 1800 signatures, hoping to make Northern Rail find capacity for a train between 40 and 20 minutes past each hour.
They claim that a wide scale consultation took place in 2017, although both the Friends of Levenshulme Station and Friends of Heaton Chapel Station say they were not included in.
Some are reporting that the reduction will only be during off-peak hours and the peak service will remain at four trains per hour.
Some are suggesting that peak trains will be impacted, and even worse, the three remaining trains will call at the station at 20, 30 and 40 minutes past the hour. This could leave those starting work at 9:30 in the city centre with a conundrum, and all commuters struggling to squeeze onto even fewer carriages.
We won't know until Northern Rail makes the final timetable public, which will be in the next seven days.
"The times are currently in the process of being uploaded to the national systems - they should all be available by the end of next week"
What that have confirmed is the phasing out of the old bus trains, or pacers, thanks to them sourcing 13 (pre owned) Class 150s, which are the trains you will know as the trains which are slightly more comfortable than the pacers.
Stockport MBC are clear about their opinion. They're sceptical about previous service reductions and are clear that the capacity of Heaton Chapel will need to be steeply increased in years to come to cater for demand.
"The reasoning behind some of the scheduling decisions are unclear, but the fact that services from Chester are no longer calling at Heaton Chapel suggests that there might have been a decision by Northern to acquiesce to demands from Mid Cheshire Rail User Group to skip Heaton Chapel. If this is the case and the driving force is to speed up journey time, we would suggest that given the difference in footfall between Heaton Chapel and the majority of Mid Cheshire stations, the service decision needs revisiting"
Some are reporting there may soon be a need for crowd control measures at Heaton Chapel during peak times. This would resolve the safety issues of the crowded platform, but would be highly likely to infuriate those using the station and paying premium rates for travel cards and tickets.
The long term solution to the popularity of Heaton Chapel, and its potential for revenue for Northern Rail can only be the scheduling of sufficient trains to allow all those who want to travel now, and in the future, a comfortable journey to Manchester Piccadilly at peak times.