Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

Northern Rail announce 22 new carriages for Manchester routes to relieve 'sardine journeys'

Northern Rail announce 22 new carriages for Manchester routes to relieve 'sardine journeys'

By Andrew Nowell

Rail commuters on some of the most overcrowded routes into Manchester could have their train journeys made more comfortable after Northern Rail announced the purchase of extra carriages.

A total of 22 carriages will be introduced into the North West fleet in order to relieve ‘sardine journeys’, starting in December.

Particular attention has been focused on the Bolton to Manchester route, which has a reputation for being notoriously overcrowded.

The carriages introduced will not be new, but second-hand carriages from London Midland and First Great Western.

They will be allotted to lines based on Department for Transport research into which lines are perceived as being most overcrowded.

Northern Rail has already attempted to remove from service some of its oldest stock, such as the Class 142s, with carriages from Arriva Trains Wales, London Midland and Virgin Trains.

However, travel campaign groups say the new measures will not be enough to relieve the problems of overcrowding.

Peter Garvey, publicity officer for the Greater Manchester Transport Campaign, said: “The total number of carriages is a drop in the ocean.

“It’s a step in the right direction but a very small one, because Northern Rail have 31 lines.

“It’s not just Bolton, either. Probably the worst route of all is the Calder Valley route, between Rochdale and Manchester. The service there is awful.

“They are all Class 142s on that route. Statistically, Northern currently has 74 per cent of the country’s total stock of these units.

“They’re the ones rather like a bus body on a rail chassis, and one of the things that gives them such a bad riding quality is their single axles. They squeal a lot because the axles are not flexible.

“Heaven help us if there was ever an accident when those are crush loaded.”

In contrast, though the Bolton-Manchester route also suffers from overcrowding, especially at peak times, there are three intercity services serving it: the First TransPennine Express service from Glasgow and Edinburgh, the services from Blackpool North, and the Barrow in Furness route, all of them travelling through to Manchester Airport.

In addition, older trains run local services travelling through Bolton to Manchester Victoria from Blackburn or Clitheroe.

In addition, the majority of these services use brand-new Class 185 units, either in a standard three-car unit or doubled up to make a six-carriage train.

Mr Garvey said: “They all come through Bolton. Providing you’re not crush loaded, at least they are new units. Compared to them the 142s are less than third class travel.”

Mr Garvey assured passengers that the Greater Manchester Transport Campaign would continue to battle for a better deal for the region’s rail travellers.

He said: “It has and will continue to be a long hard slog. There’s been a lot of work put into it.

“We recently published a photograph in our magazine taken by one of our committee members on the Manchester Victoria to Atherton service, and there were so many people on the train he said: ‘Would anyone mind us taking a photograph, because you should not have to travel under these conditions.’”

Northern Rail is currently one of the fastest-growing rail companies in the country.

Since the franchise began in 2004, passenger numbers have grown by 30 per cent, making it the best performing train operating company in Britain.

In further good news for the region’s rail travellers, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the Government is committed to electrifying the tracks from Manchester to Preston.

This would allow the route to run the Virgin intercity services from London to Blackpool.

Currently the Virgin intercity services from the North West to Scotland, which used to run through Bolton and Preston, have been lost to the Warrington Bank Quay-Wigan North Western route.

Commuters cautiously welcomed the new carriages.

Paul Williams, 41, said: “Commuters have got a choice between being stuck on a congested train and being stuck on a congested motorway.

“If you are more flexible with times you can find quieter, emptier trains but unfortunately not everyone has that luxury.

“It would be good to have longer trains or double decker trains like they have in Europe.”

Alex Jenkins, 23, who commutes on the Blackburn to Manchester Victoria route, said: “In the last couple of months we have had three carriages instead of the usual two, so you've got enough space now for the first time in goodness knows how long.

“I don't think we need any more on that route. Three carriages at peak time, that's fine. It's when there's two carriages and it's raining and everyone thinks: 'I'm getting the on the train today' that there's no space at all.

“However, the TransPennine trains are always packed and there's never any seats."

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'A sardine special': Commuters frustrated at crammed carriages