Annual Report 2012/2013
The past twelve months have seen momentous progress. First Metrolink opened to Oldham Mumps in the summer, then in December 2012 to Shaw and finally to Rochdale Railway Station on 18 February 2013. The opening to Rochdale was twelve months behind schedule. Work is well advanced on the extensions through Oldham Town Centre and to the Rochdale Town Centre terminus. Road traffic in Rochdale and in Oldham in particular has been hard hit by the diversions imposed as work proceeds. The replacement bus services to/from Rochdale station for Milnrow, New Hey and Shaw residents became a farce and for two years now there has been no bus service nearer to Rochdale Railway Station than about a quarter of a mile.
Significant numbers of passengers are already using the Metrolink service which is restricted to a 12 minute frequency until the Second City Crossing opens when from Shaw onwards to Manchester it is planned to be a 6 minute frequency. Also the new yellow trams cannot yet be used in multiple because of TfGM's inept handling of the Mosley Street stop which is still scheduled for closure despite the wealth of expert advice to the contrary. Peak hour congestion is already being experienced. The service has unfortunately suffered from time to time from signal equipment failures. The stations are bright, new and attractive but hopeless in keeping passengers dry or out of the cold winds. At most stations beyond Failsworth the temperature is always an overcoat colder than in the centre of Manchester. When the service opens through Oldham Town Centre there could be significant overcrowding.
Since December 2012 the number of overcrowded trains at Littleborough, Rochdale and Mills Hill has dropped as travellers who switched to rail when the Oldham line closed in October 2009 have started to use the Metrolink. Standing is however the norm on most peak hour trains.
Onto Conventional Rail matters. Bus substitution for engineering work could be a lot better. The information available from the Customer Information screens during service disruptions and engineering work also leaves a lot to be desired.
STORM is still perplexed as to why peak rail fares between Rochdale and Manchester on a distance basis are so much higher than from other stations in Greater Manchester and than comparable commuter journeys elsewhere. Councillor Ian Duckworth of Rochdale Council and Rochdale's MP, Simon Danczuk, have been asking pointed questions without, so far as we know, getting any answers. Peak Metrolink fares between Rochdale and Manchester are significantly cheaper.
Local services had to be amended for ten days whilst the new signalling and layout at Stalybridge was commissioned last October. Some Trans Pennine trains called at Rochdale and Todmorden to compensate for cancelled Northern services. The official Northern leaflet setting out details of the amendments was a masterpiece of gobbledegook. Trains were not shown in the order they departed from Leeds or Manchester but in the order that they arrived at their destination! STORM produced localised leaflets setting out departure times for individual local stations or pairs of stations. These were distributed at Station Booking Offices and also handed out to passengers at the unstaffed stations. We received numerous comments as to how much clearer they were than the official booklet. Thanks are due to the STORM members who carried out this job. As an aside here, we have certainly missed not just the willingness to volunteer but the unfailing cheerfulness of longstanding active member, the late John Murray.
The likely shape of refranchising, probably combining Northern and TransPennine services is being closely watched. Financial approval for the whole of the Northern Hub project has been given by HM Treasury which should significantly improve services locally and across the North.
For seven Fridays in the summer we saw a steam hauled excursion bound for Scarborough call at Rochdale, diverted from the Stalybridge route because of the engineering work on that line. We had one of the largest express steam locos on five days, 46233 "Duchess of Sutherland" and on the other two a streamlined A4, 60009 "Union of South Africa".
For Rochdale passengers generally the best item of news is the large dedicated Car Park on Hare Street behind Rochdale station. Accolades are due to Rochdale Council and Peter Rowlinson, Head of Planning, for finding the site, insisting that it be for Rail as well as Metrolink passengers, insisting it be open when Metrolink arrived and also that the rear entrance to Rochdale station -- the subway from Miall Street -- be opened up as soon as ever possible.
Frank Salt's "STORM MATTERS" a weekly e-magazine, courtesy of Rochdaleonline is widely read and has developed a good reputation for its content and newsworthiness.
A couple of weeks before the AGM, longstanding local Northern liaison manager, Mark Barker, is due to retire. He has been a popular regular attender at STORM AGMs and helpful in progressing STORM's suggestions wherever possible.
Finally our thanks to members for their support. We could do with more regular rail and Metrolink passengers reporting on their journeys for the purpose of the STORM stats. Many of our previous contributors have retired and the number of regular reports has dropped. It doesn't take a lot of time -- please volunteer. Simply contact us through our website www.stormrail.info
Richard S Greenwood, Rochdale April 2013