DfT Imposes Evening Peak Restrictions on Northern Rail Users

Price of a cheap day trip set to double in September

  • Evening Ranger tickets face abolition;
  • Blow for Northern English nighttime economy;
  • Changes set to boost Metrolink patronage and increase road congestion.
Class 142 Pacer DMU, Manchester Piccadilly, post-rush hour
See this Pacer unit here: you’ve paid for this when it was one of many Leyland’s Nationals from Workington. Then you paid for British Rail to convert it into a DMU. Guess what? From early September, you’ll be paying even more for it if you wish to travel after 4pm!

From the 08 September, the price of a short train journey between 4.00 to 6.30pm is set to double on weekdays. Passengers wishing to travel by train throughout the Transport for Greater Manchester, Metro West Yorkshire and Travel South Yorkshire will be unable to use Off-Peak Day Return tickets during the evening peak.

At present, Off-Peak Day Singles and Day Returns are valid after 9.30am on weekdays, and all day Bank Holidays and weekends. The only Integrated Transport Authority which enforces evening peak restrictions is Merseytravel PTE, for journeys within their boundaries. In line with MPTE’s policies, a quick trip from Stalybridge to Bolton, at 4.30pm will trigger an evening peak restriction. Likewise between Stalybridge and Huddersfield, Meadowhall to Wombwell, and Batley to Keighley.

In order to reduce the amount of subsidy to Northern Rail and railway services funded by Integrated Transport Authorities, the Department for Transport has imposed evening peak restrictions on Northern English rail users. With Northern England being at the sharpest end of the coalition’s spending cuts, this announcement will come as a kick in the teeth for casual rail users.

The restrictions is likely to have a huge affect on the North’s tourist economy and its citizens’ employment prospects. In Greater Manchester, its loss of evening fares is likely to have a negative affect on its nighttime economy. Lancashire – particularly Ashton-under-Lyne – has been hardest hit by pub closures. Abolishing cheap evening fares is likely to make pre-loading and staying at home a more attractive option.

Affected journeys:

  • All journeys made within TfGM, Metro West Yorkshire and Travel South Yorkshire boundaries;
  • Alderley Edge – Manchester and Salford stations via Stockport or Styal;
  • Burscough Bridge – Manchester stations;
  • All trans-Pennine journeys between Manchester and Leeds (stopping and express services);
  • New Mills Central – Manchester and Salford stations;
  • Warrington stations – Manchester stations (via Birchwood or Earlestown);
  • Skipton – Bradford Forster Square/Leeds;
  • Knaresborough – Leeds;
  • Newcastle Central – Hexham (4.01pm to 17.59pm).

As well as off-peak singles and returns, the changes will also affect off-peak rover tickets. It is stated that the changes may affect:

  • The Greater Manchester Rail Ranger;
  • Northern Rail’s Northern Duo tickets;
  • System One’s Bus/Train, Bus/Train/Tram and Train/Tram day saver tickets;
  • Metro West Yorkshire’s MetroRover tickets.

Another victim of the DfT imposed restrictions is Greater Manchester’s evening fares. Launched to get people returning to Manchester after the IRA bombing on the 15 June 1996, they have proved to be a popular alternative to taxis. On the other hand they may have had a negative affect on subsidised evening bus services.

Changes to the evening peak will not affect holders of Concessionary passes and TfGM’s Wayfarer tickets for the foreseeable future. However, changes from the 08 September is set to make the Metrolink a more attractive option. With the trams having no evening peak restrictions, there could be a marked increase in tram usage between Eccles and Manchester, and Manchester to Ashton-under-Lyne.

Changes in fares:

How the DfT’s changes to fares will hike the cost of a weekday excursion. Supposing we left our chosen stations at 10am and left our destination at 5pm on a Tuesday, here are the details as follows:

05 September 2014:

  • Bradford stations to Morecambe: £22.70;
  • Doncaster to Cleethorpes: £19.00 (or £10.00 – two Advance singles);
  • Mossley to Marsden: £6.20;
  • Bolton to Blackpool North: £13.40;
  • Newton-le-Willows to Chassen Road: £10.30;
  • Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester stations: £3.30;
  • Batley to Todmorden: £6.60;
  • Wombwell to Meadowhall: £4.70.

08 September 2014:

  • Bradford stations to Morecambe: £22.70 (no change)
  • Doncaster to Cleethorpes: £19.00 (or £10.00 – two Advance singles (no change));
  • Mossley to Marsden: £6.20 (no change);
  • Bolton to Blackpool North: £13.40 (no change);
  • Newton-le-Willows to Chassen Road: £10.30 (no change);
  • Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester stations: £5.80 (up £2.50);
  • Batley to Todmorden: £6.60 (no change);
  • Wombwell to Meadowhall: £4.70 (no change).

So, do these above figures mean that the other Integrated Transport Authorities have not informed National Rail amended fares, or did they already reduce their subsidies before now?

If you’re travelling from Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester, the Metrolink is now a more affordable option for peak hour travel, as is the trusty though more likely to be traffic-clogged 216 and 219 services. With the price of a bog standard weekday shopping trip up £2.50 for Ashtonian rail users, the right to a ten minute journey to ‘town’ could be the preserve of landed gentry or CountyCard holders (unless you hold a concessionary pass).

Furthermore, cost-conscious Ashtonians wishing to leave Manchester at 4pm – after boarding a train from Bolton for example – may need to wait till 7pm or walk. The 216 and 219 – in spite of its longer journey times becomes a more viable proposition. Though Metrolink doesn’t serve Bolton, the option of a Train/Tram ticket remains viable so long as he or she is at Victoria or Piccadilly station before 4pm – and uses the tram part of his or her day rover ticket.

Ashton – Manchester fare comparisons after 08 September 2014:

Again, based on our passenger leaving at 10am and returning home during the weekday evening peak:

  • Train: £3.30 (after 9.30am, then before 4.01pm and after 6.30pm) or £5.80;
  • Bus (Stagecoach Manchester’s 216/219/231 services): £4.00 (Dayrider ticket – £1.80 less than peak hour rail fare – no peak hour restrictions);
  • Metrolink (off-peak return fare): £3.80 (£2.00 less than peak hour rail fare).

As with casual bus users, those who travel farthest are rewarded better than those who make a short journey. Whereas passengers who make cross-boundary journeys are set to see no discernible change, anyone travelling inside the TfGM boundary may be best off rediscovering the bus or the car keys. Unless, of course, they can travel on weekends and Bank Holidays.

Quite a Scene at 6.30: post-weekday evening peak trains from a selection of Greater Manchester railway stations:

Manchester Piccadilly:

  • 6.30pm: Carmarthen;
  • 6.35pm: London Euston;
  • 6.35pm: Rose Hill Marple (via Guide Bridge);
  • 6.37pm: Liverpool Lime Street(via Warrington Central);
  • 6.38pm: Alderley Edge;
  • 6.41pm: Hull Paragon;
  • 6.43pm: Norwich Thorpe;
  • 6.46pm: Stoke-on-Trent;
  • 6.46pm: Blackpool North (via Bolton);
  • 6.46pm: Hadfield;
  • 6.47pm: Manchester Airport;
  • 6.49pm: Sheffield Midland;
  • 6.49pm: Buxton;
  • 6.49pm: Alderley Edge;
  • 6.50pm: Chester General (via Warrington Bank Quay);
  • 6.52pm: Manchester Airport;
  • 6.55pm: London Euston;
  • 6.55pm: Liverpool Lime Street (via Warrington Central);
  • 6.57pm: Middlesbrough;
  • 7.03pm: Manchester Airport.

Manchester Victoria:

  • 6.34pm: Blackburn (via Salford stations and Bolton);
  • 6.35pm: Liverpool Lime Street (via Newton-le-Willows);
  • 6.39pm: Wigan Wallgate (via Farnworth and Westhoughton);
  • 6.45pm: Wigan Wallgate (via Swinton and Atherton);
  • 6.48pm: Leeds (via Rochdale and Halifax);
  • 6.52pm: Newcastle Central (via Huddersfield);
  • 6.56pm: Todmorden;
  • 6.57pm: Huddersfield (via Ashton-under-Lyne, all stations).

Manchester Airport:

  • 6.35pm: Middlesbrough (via Huddersfield);
  • 6.40pm: Liverpool Lime Street (via Warrington Central);
  • 6.46pm: Manchester Piccadilly;
  • 6.55pm: Cleethorpes (via Sheffield and Doncaster);
  • 7.00pm: Barrow-in-Furness (via Bolton).

Stockport:

  • 6.30pm: Chester (via Altrincham);
  • 6.35pm: Bournemouth;
  • 6.35pm: Buxton;
  • 6.37pm: Manchester Piccadilly;
  • 6.43pm: London Euston;
  • 6.44pm: Bolton (via Manchester Piccadilly);
  • 6.50pm: Manchester Piccadilly;
  • 6.51pm: Alderley Edge;
  • 6.53pm: Manchester Airport (via Manchester Piccadilly);
  • 6.54pm: Norwich Thorpe;
  • 6.55pm: Stoke-on-Trent;
  • 6.56pm: Manchester Piccadilly;
  • 6.58pm: Manchester Piccadilly.

Bolton:

  • 6.32pm: Wigan Wallgate (via Westhoughton);
  • 6.38pm: Manchester Victoria;
  • 6.41pm: Blackpool North;
  • 6.42pm: Manchester Victoria;
  • 6.45pm: Southport;
  • 6.49pm: Manchester Victoria;
  • 6.53pm: Blackburn;
  • 6.56pm: Hazel Grove.

Stalybridge:

  • 6.41pm: Huddersfield;
  • 6.46pm: Wigan Wallgate (via Westhoughton);
  • 6.50pm: Liverpool Lime Street;
  • 6.54pm: Hull Paragon;
  • 7.10pm: Manchester Victoria.

Rochdale:

  • 6.42pm: Manchester Victoria;
  • 6.46pm: Leeds (via Brighouse and Dewsbury);
  • 7.02pm: Leeds (via Halifax);
  • 7.06pm: Manchester Victoria.

Guide Bridge:

  • 6.46pm: Manchester Piccadilly;
  • 6.47pm: Rose Hill Marple;
  • 6.56pm: Hadfield;
  • 6.57pm: Manchester Piccadilly.

Eccles:

  • 7.09pm: Liverpool Lime Street;
  • 7.10pm: Manchester Victoria.

As detailed from our sample of key railway stations in the Greater Manchester area, cost-conscious passengers wishing to travel outside the evening peaks will be in for a long wait. This is all the more critical with smaller railway stations. The worst example from our sample is in Eccles where the first post-6.30pm journey to Manchester is at 7.10pm! Cost-conscious casual passengers who wish to be flexible may be best off getting the tram to Manchester, and giving the train a miss altogether.

If travelling from Manchester Victoria, the cost of celebrating Whit Friday in Greenfield is set to soar. Say for instance you wish to catch an earlier train for obvious reasons owing to the restriction; likewise with the lack of an evening return fare for the 6.41pm journey from Stalybridge (6.36pm from Ashton).

*                                         *                                        *

East of the M60 Comment: Leisure Travellers Will Be Hardest Hit

Imagine it’s Summer 2015. You have two children to keep occupied during the school holidays. You wish to treat them to a rail journey, on a Wednesday. You could go for the easy option of a trip to MoSI or take them to Southport or Blackpool. Part of your plan involves leaving the desired destination at 5pm.

Then you find the trip to Blackpool or Southport is more attractive. Unless you live near a Metrolink line, a trip to MoSI by rail is a dear do if you wish to leave Manchester at 4.15pm. You could choose to spend the difference on the peak hour rail fare at a well known burger joint, but you can’t afford their extra value meals. You could wander around Manchester Arndale rather aimlessly till 6.30pm.

Changes to the evening peak will affect casual train travellers, rather than the converted, more. Especially if the journey is within TfGM boundaries or inside any of the other Integrated Transport Authority boundaries. Rather than the family travelling from Stalybridge to Southport, it’ll affect the family going from Stalybridge to Greenfield. Given that most schools finish around 3.00pm to 3.30pm, it’ll penalise the schoolchild (with parent in tow) if he or she needs to see their Grandma at Greenfield. That is supposing that he or she prefers the train from Stalybridge to the 354 service.

Casual train users may be harder to please. If quoted an unfair fare, they could eschew train travel in favour of the car. Perhaps more so than reliability and cleanliness.

I can understand the case for the amelioration of overcrowding on our railways, but introducing an evening peak is probably the wrong way to go about it. The most obvious method lies in building more carriages and trains, though with greater cross-subsidisation to Northern England’s railways from London and South East to fund this. The neoliberal, and motorist-friendly approach of shifting the expense of train travel rail users is spiteful. Do we force motorists to contribute a bit more? With road tax we do, though also from our income taxes and council taxes. Do we have a pay-as-you-go NHS? Thankfully at this moment in time, no and hopefully never.

If the railways work for Britain’s benefit, a more pluralist approach is needed. That is why the Integrated Transport Authorities and Transport for Greater Manchester have offered cheap evening tickets or similar rover tickets. Besides keeping cars off the road, evening fares discourage drink-driving and pre-loading at home. The Department for Transport imposition stymies the ITAs’ and TfGM’s obligations under the 1968 Transport Act.

By the end of this year, expect to see far more traffic on the roads. Expect to see longer bus journeys in the evenings. Could Metrolink be given a boost between Ashton and Manchester, given the cost of post-08 September 2014 local rail fares?

If an evening peak hour curfew is needed, I would say that 4pm is too severe. 5pm to 6pm is better, though not quite as good as no evening peak curfew at all. 4pm to 5pm is a popular return time with day trippers. Shops and cafés could suffer as people are forced to leave earlier to avoid being screwed by peak hour fares at 4.01pm.

The right to fast travel between Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester, not only Manchester and Leeds, should be enjoyed by all seven days a week. Not only by an elite grouping of season ticket holders, which seems to be the direction that DfT wishes to take.

S.V., 11 August 2014.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “DfT Imposes Evening Peak Restrictions on Northern Rail Users

Add yours

  1. Stuart,

    There is no need to increase any fares at all. I have had four free journeys on Northern Rail trains in the last month simply because the guard could not be bothered to come to collect my fare. I did not attempt to avoid payment, but if Northern Rail can’t put any effort into collecting my fare, I’m not going to seek out an opportunity to buy a ticket retrospectively.

    Northern Rail are contemptuous of their passengers. Rather than make the effort of collecting fares effectively, they prefer to hike the prices their existing passengers pay. The DfT may wish to reduce Northern Rail’s subsidy, but it should not be at the passenger’s expense when the company is so indifferent to collecting the revenue it already attracts.

    This is a reprehensible move by a reprehensible company.

    Like

    1. Hi Paul,

      I too disagree with the changes, being counterproductive to low-income families and the personal security of women and younger passengers. Ticket barriers could be a good alternative, but these are only effective in staffed stations (automatic barriers and unstaffed stations = an absolute no-no on accessibility grounds in my book).

      Part of me thinks they may have been forced by the DfT to ‘mission creep’ the McNulty proposals. The changes, besides causing increased road traffic, would mean emptier trains in evenings. That would – supposedly – solve overcrowding in two ways: 1) by forcing passengers to stagger their working hours; and 2) deter casual evening passengers after 1830 (no special evening fares). Result: fewer trains needed, in the near future no evening local services, more pub closures, and less demand for local buses or taxis to and from the railway station. Cue shrunken nighttime economy in the small towns as well as in Manchester city centre.

      Penalty fares throughout PTE areas could be a viable alternative. Again this is only effective where stations are staffed and/or have automatic barriers. Where stations are unstaffed, this could mean random spot checks as seen on the Metrolink system.

      This leaves us with another option: introduce parking charges. That I would say is a more just option than having an evening premium. Furthermore, offer free lockers for cyclists, which could form part of TfGM’s Cycle Hub network. If I was the chief of Northern Rail, I would have gone along with that, and the introduction of penalty fares (so long as suitable measures are put in place for spot checks).

      From the 09 September, don’t be surprised if you see any of the following:

      1. Increased road traffic;
      2. A Greater Manchester equivalent of the Freedom Riders, though with commuters rather than concessionary pass holders;
      3. Gross overcrowding in train toilets and a surge of people filing out after 1830;
      4. A boost for Metrolink patronage on the East Manchester Line from Ashton to Eccles;
      5. More anger directed at guards, drivers and the G4S inspectors.

      What’s worse is the changes affect non-Northern Rail journeys. A trip from Stalybridge to Manchester stations (First/Keolis Transpennine Express as well as Northern Rail services) will be affected by the evening curfew as it affects fares set by TfGM. Therefore, cross-boundary fares and loopholes may become more attractive. A trip to Huddersfield from Stalybridge (on standard fares) will offer better value for money than one from Stalybridge to Wigan Wallgate.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

  2. i now have to find a new job and leave the
    company i have worked for 8 years i work three half days a week travel from leeds to huddersfield finish work 5.30 so either have to sit in station for an hour or leave work before 4 as use a daily train and bus ticket

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: