So I asked Liam Sumpter, Regional Director of Northern Railways, to travel with me and some of High Peak’s long-suffering commuters on an early morning train into Manchester, to see the problems for himself, and hear from regular travellers who have to put up with overcrowding and delays.
I took the chance to set out a long list of the problems that constituents have raised with me.
Overcrowding is the biggest issue, made worse when trains are delayed or cancelled. I am assured that 98 new trains and 289 coaches have been ordered to cover the whole Northern network and will start to arrive before the end of the year.
When the Bolton line has been electrified, we will also get some of the newer diesel trains to increase off-peak services on the Buxton line to two trains per hour – hopefully by September if the line upgrade has been finished.
I will be pressing very hard to make those trains come to High Peak and our commuters don’t have to go through another winter like this one.
It’s often hard to buy a ticket, and platform staff at Manchester can be very heavy-handed if you don’t have one. Northern have said they will install ticket machines at all High Peak’s stations and upgrade existing machines to sell season tickets. Work on the burnt-out ticket office at New Mills Newtown is finally starting this month and due to finish by April.
Car parking at train stations can also be a real problem. In some cases it may be possible to add extra car parking, and at Chinley, where the Rail Users Group have called for this, I have written to press Network Rail to sell some of their land so rail users don’t have to park on residential streets.
The parking charges at Glossop station have caused problems for commuters who have to find £3 in change every day, and for nearby residents where so many commuter cars are parking. Northern have promised to replace the car-parking machine with a card version to make it easier to pay.
I’ve asked the County Council about a residents’ parking permits. Although there would be a charge for setting up a scheme, and all households in the area would need to agree, if residents around Glossop station wish to look at this, I’d be happy to assist and support.
Some rail users moved from Glossop to Dinting station due to the parking charges so the owner of the car park at Dinting has installed a barrier and has started charging for parking.
Many cars now park along Dinting Road which is causing a crossing hazard, particularly for Glossopdale Community school children. This problem will get worse in September when the new school site will be open for all year groups. I have written to the County Council who are looking at a school crossing.
Passengers from stations with no ticket office shouldn’t be forced to buy an expensive single ticket to Manchester Piccadilly to buy their season ticket and I’ve asked Northern to look into this so they can be fair to regular travellers, who pay enough already.
I’ve also asked Northern to look at installing secure bike racks with CCTV so that cycling to the train is an option to reduce car parking.
There’s a full list of the actions Northern have agreed on my website www.ruthforhighpeak.co.uk
At least Northern have been more responsive than Transport Minister Jo Johnson (Boris’s brother), who seemed to fine the woes of High Peak commuters funny, and whom I have also asked to join me on a commute.
But please keep me informed of problems so I can raise them with both the company, and the Government.