I’d like to wish all readers a Happy New Year.
For commuters and travellers across High Peak, 2019 will be much happier if train services improve.
With all the disruption on rail our lines, you’d think prices should drop. But Northern’s franchise entitles them to increase fares by the Retail Price Index of 3.1% – far more than wage rises – so New Year always means new rail fares.
It’s slightly lower than last year’s 3.4%, but still £92 extra for an annual season ticket to Manchester from Buxton, now a colossal £3,036 a year.
From Glossop it’s £32 extra for an annual season ticket to Manchester, now £1,188 a year, as well as the £3 a day parking charges. So more Glossop people feel they have to drive, in spite of all the traffic, which gets worse.
Even at New Mills Newtown, which benefits from Greater Manchester prices (thanks to the late Sir Martin Doughty), a day return at peak times is £10.50 and an annual pass £1,220.
People wouldn’t mind the increase so much if they were guaranteed decent services, but trains are delayed or cancelled with little notice, passengers crammed into insufficient carriages, and the Saturday strikes show no end.
Guards are disputing Northern’s proposal to end their vital safety role which came about due to the company’s franchise requiring half of services to be run by ‘Driver Only Operation’ by 2022.
Although services such as London Underground can run without a guard, our stations don’t have roll-on, roll-off carriages like the underground. Some have steep drops, such as at Whaley Bridge, or shorter platforms, as at Dinting.
The Rail Safety & Standards Board have agreed that driver-only trains “may increase the likelihood of an (undesired) event occurring or increase the severity of its consequences.”
Although they are fed up with the inconvenience of the strikes, most passengers who contact me want to keep guards on our trains, particularly as cases of violent crime on railways are increasing.
Disabled passengers also need a second person on a train to assist them as most of our stations are unstaffed most of the day.
I’ve met with local guards on the picket lines through awful weather and I support them for their stance, forgoing their wages to protect passengers.
I also meet regularly with Northern who say they can’t afford to change their plans. The company are apparently seeking a government bail-out. So whilst other rail companies have reached agreement over guards, Northern show no sign of doing so.
I believe the government need to end Northern’s franchise as the company have been so incompetent and shown so little regard for passengers. It’s a far cry from the efficient service run by the company’s owner – German state rail.
Taking rail franchises back into government control would be the best way to ensure proper planning for our railways, and make sure any profits are invested in our own rail network.