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After yesterday’s excitement about the arrival into service of the new trains, today’s been back to business very much as usual with lots of late running, trains terminating short and cancellations. I popped down to Sowerby Bridge for an hour to see what was happening. It wasn’t great. Several Leeds – Southport and Chester services were cancelled with some Southport trains terminated at Wigan Wallgate. Here’s a look at some of the days services.

195119 worked 1E60, the 1124 Chester to
Leeds which was one of the few trains I saw that actually ran to time. The 195s superior braking and acceleration should help when there’s only a few minutes delay involved, as there was on this service earlier in the run.
This service wasn’t so lucky. 195107 passes at speed whilst working 2M14, the 12:18 Leeds to Manchester Victoria. It got as far as Hebden Bridge before being cancelled with a door fault. Door problems appear to be a recurring theme with the new units. This seems to be a mixture of mechanical and human problems. Hopefully, the bugs will be ironed out quickly.
The next 195 to appear was 2-car 195002 which had been allocated to 1D77, the 12:38 Leeds to Chester. It also suffered from late running, arriving at Sowerby Bridge 3 mins down. It dropped another 5 mins before arriving in Manchester.
Another service with problems was 1J10, operated by a pair of 2-car Class 158s, 158859 and 158851. This should have been the 11:24 from Southport to Leeds but it was terminated at Wigan Wallgate on its Westward run, so formed an 11:57 Wigan Wallgate to
Close on the heels of 1J10 was 195007 working non-stop through Sowerby on 2E15, the 12:58 Manchester Victoria to Leeds which was running 10 minutes late. On its return it formed a Chester service.
The last observation of my short stint was 195111 non-stop on 2M16, the 13:18 Leeds to
Manchester Victoria which was only a minute late!

As this is early days and there’s always teething problems with new fleets I’m hoping these issues will be sorted out quickly. What’s harder to sort out is the cancellations and delays that have nothing to do with the new trains. After the heartache and hassle passengers and businesses have suffered over the past few years due to the rail strikes, punctuality needs addressing as a matter of urgency. It’s easy to see how the Northern TOC can become a political football when the service is so unreliable. It could be very tempting to politicians desperate to curry favour and secure a ‘cheap win’ and political plaudits by taking back the franchise. Add in the fact that Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd are due to lose many of their services from the December timetable (I understand they’re due to be cut by a third during the week and by half on Sundays) and you can understand local displeasure.

It’s disappointing on another level too. Network Rail have invested in the route, having spent over £100m on new signalling track upgrades and line-speed improvements in the past few years, but this isn’t reflected in punctuality improvements. Why? What’s the route cause of the problems? I’d love to know…