New railway opens, new service starts. We need “Northern Hub” finishing with more platform capacity, more seats for commuters, and better timetables.

Good to celebrate opening of the Ordsall Chord in December, linking Manchester Victoria station with the lines going through Piccadilly. Northern now extends a few  Calder Valley trains weekdays (all-day Sundays) round to Deansgate and Oxford Road. It’s a stepping-stone to a full service linking our line with Manchester Airport — soon.

Ordsall was just one aspect of the “Northern Hub”, now seen as part of the Great North Rail Project. Also promised were two extra through platforms (15&16) at Manchester Piccadilly station to improve capacity and performance, creating the physical space for a better timetable for a diverse mix of local, regional, intercity and freight trains — including our trains to the Airport. But we don’t yet know if the Department for Transport will give P15&16 the go-ahead. We say the promise must be kept, the job completed.

Meanwhile, our commuters continue to suffer serious overcrowding on trains that obviously need more carriages. We hear stories of trains unable to shut doors because of the crowds, of tempers raised, passengers taken ill.  What is the economic cost of people arriving to work stressed, day-after-day, by these travelling conditions? Brand new trains are coming from later this year. 37% more peak capacity is promised across the Northern franchise by 2020.  Can nothing be done before then? And will it be enough?  HADRAG has questioned the current programme of taking trains out of service for refurbishment when there is such an obvious shortage of rolling stock. With new stock already displacing old in other parts of the country dare we hope for relief without having to wait yet more years?

Northern expects to reveal its timetable for 20 May early in March. From what we have seen online, we continue to have serious concerns.

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