Timetable booklets are a mess.

Sorry Northern (Arriva Rail North), we support all the good things you are doing and planning to do to improve services, but there’s no polite way to say this. Your new line timetable booklets are a dismally poor substitute for the excellent former Metro booklets. As expected, the train operating company has taken over publication from West Yorkshire Combined authority. There seems little point WYCA expending resources on duplicating a role given to the TOCs. Sadly, however, whilst WYCA/Metro’s single Calder Valley Line booklet showed all trains running on our line between Leeds and Blackpool/Manchester plus the Brighouse line, that information is now spread across three or four separate publications. Booklet 8 shows York-Blackpool services only. Booklet 36 shows Leeds-Todmorden-Manchester services.

New Booklet 45 shows all Northern services Leeds-Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge including Brighouse trains. This is a sensible idea. But there are no times shown for stations outside that area, through trains to York, Blackpool and Manchester being indicated only by footnotes with no indication of journey time or intermediate stops such as Rochdale or Blackburn. It’s good to see that Grand Central services are shown. But TPExpress trains on the Huddersfield Line are left out which means there is no timetable booklet showing the complete train service between Leeds and Huddersfield. Surely ridiculous. It’s doubly strange because we were told TPE and Northern would be cooperating, and because Northern’s Wakefield Line booklet (42) also shows East Coast and Cross Country trains. We’d actually like timetables that show all trains on a given route. A separate mini-timetable (44) shows Blackburn-Man Vic “Tod Curve” trains—one of three separate booklets needed to find all trains between the Lancashire towns of Accrington and Blackburn!  The  new format also means full-line posters are no longer displayed on West Yorkshire stations. And at the start of the new timetable Halifax station had only been supplied with local line booklets, not other WY routes. “MetroTrain” timetables served the county’s rail users well for over 40 years and were also available as an all-county book. What we have now is a confusing mess. We hope it can be sorted out for the May timetable change. It’s in our New Year message to Northern!

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Farewell, faithful timetable!

Under the new Northern franchise responsibility for producing timetable booklets “passes to the franchisee”. So, from this December timetable, the familiar West Yorkshire Metro A6-size booklets for “Calder Valley Line” and other routes will be replaced by Northern booklets. The all-county combined volume will, we understand, be no more. Avoiding duplication is one thing. But we say Northern needs to improve significantly on its current booklets. At present the company shows York-Blackpool and Leeds-Manchester trains in separate tables, and some local Northern trains on our line are not shown in any Northern booklet at all—that includes  more than half the trains serving Brighouse! Metro officers at West Yorkshire Combined Authority have been working with Northern “to ensure local rail passenger needs are maintained”. The booklet for any route must surely include all operators’ services, meaning Grand Central and the rest as well as Northern itself. We have expressed our concerns with both Northern and WYCA, and await the new booklets with nervous interest. The all-county timetable will be greatly missed by those who travel widely about West Yorkshire. We might even be prepared to pay a cover price for a wider regional volume. How about it?