How Arriva Rail North’s industrial action will affect passengers east of the M60 motorway
Next week shall see one of Northern England’s biggest rail strikes. Possibly the largest rail related industrial action since 1989’s nationwide rail strike. The biggest after rail privatisation began since Arriva Trains Northern guards went on strike in 2001 and 2002. On Monday (13 March), Arriva Rail North guards and drivers will begin a one-day strike. Their concern is the introduction of DOO – Driver Only Operation. Its introduction is part of Arriva Rail North’s franchise agreement with the Department for Transport.
In addition to Northern’s strike, there will also be industrial action involving the guards and drivers at Southern Rail and Merseyrail Electrics.
A brief overview of DOO
Driver Only Operation has been in use on some routes in the South East of England and London. It was introduced on the Bedford to London St. Pancras line in 1982. With Driver Only Operation, he or she is responsible for the safety of the passengers as well as driving the train itself.
DOO is a feature of Greater Manchester’s Metrolink system where drivers use CCTV cameras to inspect the lines and platforms. Sometimes, Driver Only Operation may involve Train Despatch Crew at key stations.
Unlike Metrolink, where the trams are all the same model (Flexity Swift M5000), the Northern franchise has a hotchpotch of ageing diesel trains and a few modern electric trains. These include the notorious Pacer family of diesel multiple units, derived from Leyland National bodywork on a goods wagon chassis. Recent arrivals include Class 319 electric trains – a youthful 25 to 30 years of age.
Whereas every Metrolink station has access for wheelchair users (ramps and/or lifts), the same cannot be said of Northern’s stations. Not all stations have full access for less able passengers. For example: wheelchair access to Hyde North on the Manchester platform is fine, but try getting to Rose Hill Marple – almost impossible.
On the Metrolink system, platforms are level with trams; even in Greater Manchester, let alone the rest of Northern’s territory, not so. The height of train entrances in relation to platform heights vary. Hence trains having ramps beside the entrance. The person who would place the ramp from carriage to platform is the guard.
Imagine the scenario under DOO if practised at Salford Central, where the gap from carriage to platform edge is at least a foot. The driver would have to stop the train at Salford which gives him or her a fair walk. A modest walk with a 2-car unit; less so with a 4-car unit. This would increase dwell time at stations.
Where safety is concerned, DOO could increase cancellations. Especially if antisocial behaviour affects the service. Trains could be cancelled if the driver needs to stop the train causing further delays along the network. Imagine if it kicked off on a match day: who would support the driver? What if the flashpoint occurred in an unstaffed or partially staffed station (for example: Marsden and Greenfield), without ancillary staff available for despatching the trains?
Without DOO, a Saturday journey with the Rail Ale Trailers in full cry is a nightmare for some passengers. Imagine the same with DOO in full flow: the thought of which could be unspeakable.
How Northern’s services will be affected by the strike
Only 40% of their usual timetable will be running on Monday, 13 March 2017. Bus replacement services may be in operation instead of trains. There will be no Northern trains before 7am and after 7pm. In most cases, skeleton services have been put in place on lines with few alternative forms of public transport.
Our area east of the M60 motorway
In our area, east of the M60 motorway, passengers from Littleborough to Manchester Victoria will have a limited service to Leeds via Halifax and Bradford Interchange or Dewsbury. There will be a limited service on the Hadfield line calling at all stations up to Guide Bridge, then Ashburys prior to reaching Manchester Piccadilly station. From Marple to Reddish North, a limited service to Piccadilly, though no stops at Ryder Brow and Belle Vue stations.
Similarly on the Hadfield line, there will be no trains from Fairfield, Gorton and Ardwick stations. Hyde North, Hyde Central, Woodley, and Rose Hill Marple will have no services.
On Huddersfield-bound services from Manchester Victoria, there will be no stopping trains at all. Therefore, Ashton-under-Lyne, Mossley, Greenfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite stations wil be closed. Transpennine Express services, including those which call at Stalybridge, will run as normal.
Alternative methods of transport
If your nearest station will have no services on Monday, here’s our list of alternative ways to get to Manchester, Huddersfield and Marple. Please note that season tickets along affected routes will be valid on Metrolink trams and any Arriva bus service (plus Yorkshire Tiger routes).
- Ashton-under-Lyne: rail season tickets will also be valid on Metrolink services between Ashton and Manchester City Zone stops. Plus, there’s oodles of 216s and 219s (Stagecoach Manchester) to Piccadilly Gardens. If you’re heading towards Stalybridge, First Greater Manchester’s 348 is your most direct route. Stagecoach Manchester’s 236 and 237 services are a good choice too. For Mossley and Greenfield (First Greater Manchester’s) 350, 353, and 354 services are worth considering.
- Belle Vue: Stagecoach Manchester’s 201, 203, 204, 205, 206 and 207 services continue to Piccadilly Gardens (a Stagecoach Day Rider may be a good option, as well as a good book and a fully charged smartphone). For journeys to Marple, Romiley, and Bredbury, the 203 to Stockport then a 383 or 384 could be a good option. Or you could get a 203 to Reddish North and try for the skeleton service to Marple.
- Fairfield: Stagecoach Manchester’s regular 219 service is a good alternative. In the morning peak, there are four Manchester-bound journeys of the 221 service from Dukinfield (three in the evening peak in the reverse direction).
- Gorton: as with Fairfield, the 219 and 221 services are a good shout. Or you could walk a little further in the opposite direction for the 201, 203, 204, 205, 206 and 207 services.
- Greenfield: the easiest way of getting to Manchester, besides the train, is a 180 or 184 bus straight to Piccadilly Gardens. Alternatively, you could alight at Mumps Bridge and change over to a tram. First Greater Manchester’s 184 service offers an hourly connection with Marsden, Slaithwaite, and the other Colne Valley villages without a station. Travelling to Ashton-under-Lyne and Mossley means First Greater Manchester’s 350, 353 and 354 services. The 353 and 354 also call at Stalybridge bus station.
- Hyde North: for Manchester Piccadilly, you could try the skeleton service from Flowery Field station (supposing the wooden platforms can take the weight of the extra passengers). Alternatively, you could get a 330 to Ashton-under-Lyne and change for a tram, or walk along Johnson Brook Road for the 340 (after 7pm), 343, or 389 buses to Stalybridge and change for a Transpennine Express service.
- Hyde Central: Stagecoach Manchester’s 201 service is a viable alternative. You can also catch the 204 (after 7pm), 206 and 207 (peak hours only), though they offer a less direct route than the 201.
- Marsden: First West Yorkshire and First Greater Manchester have buses every ten minutes to Huddersfield in the daytime. The 184 from Manchester and Oldham is only once hourly.
- Mossley: there are two ways of getting to Manchester on Monday (though one of them isn’t the 153 route: that was withdrawn in April 2005). You can get the 340 (after 7pm), 343, 353, or 354 into Stalybridge for Transpennine Express’ journeys. Or you could take the 350, 353, or 354 into Ashton-under-Lyne for a tram. Travelling to West Yorkshire is more finicky: you need to get a 350, 353, or 354 to Uppermill for the 184 service to Huddersfield (plus Marsden and Slaithwaite).
- Slaithwaite: a few miles east on the A62, Slaithwaite benefits from the same high frequency corridor of buses as Marsden.
- Strines: your next nearest station is Marple, where Northern’s skeleton service will start from. A taxi or short drive may be needed, especially as the 358 bus stops some distance away from Marple station.
- Woodley: try Stagecoach Manchester’s 330 service to Bredbury station for the skeleton service into Manchester Piccadilly. As the 389 bus hasn’t served Woodley since April 2009, a journey to Romiley or Marple may be best done on foot along the Peak Forest Canal.
Before You Go…
Allow extra time for your journey. In other words, keep your digital devices fully charged (that free WiFi access will come in handy), take a good book with you as well. On the skeleton services, expect them to be busier than usual. Likewise with the trams and the buses, though Metrolink may be providing reinforcements on Monday (more trams and/or longer trams).
Useful References and Resources
Feel free to download our map of how the Northern strike will affect our area east of the M60 motorway. For further updates on the strike, Northern’s website and Twitter feed will stand you in good stead for Monday.
- Industrial Action is about the safety issues of DOO (Driver Only Operation), involving the RMT union with Arriva Rail North, Southern, and Merseyrail Electrics guards and drivers;
- Normal service on First Transpennine Express routes;
- Limited service on Northern routes, with some areas having no service at all (where alternative modes may exist);
- Normal service with extra trams and/or longer trams on Metrolink services;
- Season tickets valid on Metrolink trams and Arriva Bus bus routes (including Yorkshire Tiger services).
S.V., 10 March 2017.