Line News & Events

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ATW tries again for Manchester Airport

18th November 2015

Last year Arriva Trains Wales applied for the paths to run North Wales services beyond Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport, and were refused, even though paths had been agreed. Autumn 2015 sees another application in progress.

Here are some extracts from the document, which can be found (PDF) at this link.

[Network Rail's case paraphrased]

Network Rail does not support Arriva Trains Wales’ application for track access rights to extend any more of its North Wales/Chester-Manchester Piccadilly services to Manchester Airport.

Network Rail initially validated and offered the Train Slots to Arriva Trains Wales. In December 2014 Network Rail’s Sale of Access Rights (SOAR) Panel decided that Network Rail would not support Arriva Trains Wales’ request for track access rights to underpin those validated Train Slots. The Train Slots were withdrawn from the May 2015 Timetable in February 2015. Network Rail subsequently rejected Arriva Trains Wales’ Access Proposal for identical Train Slots for the December 2015 Timetable. The Train Slots were bid for a third time for the May 2016 Timetable.

At a Timetabling Panel Hearing of the Access Disputes Committee on 6th October 2015, the Panel found that Arriva Trains Wales was entitled to have its Access Proposal for the December 2015 Timetable accepted by Network Rail, subject to the normal processes of the Network Code. Taking into consideration the short time before the start of the December 2015 Timetable, the Panel did not direct Network Rail to accommodate the Train Slots in the December 2015 Timetable but did direct Network Rail to accommodate the Train Slots in the May 2016 Timetable, again subject to the normal processes of the Network Code. This application is for track access rights to commence from May 2016.

[The Panel] cited performance and reputational grounds for declining to support Arriva Trains Wales’ request for track access rights. These were reiterated at the recent Timetable Panel Hearing and are summarised as follows.

Performance between Manchester Piccadilly and Slade Lane Jn. Network Rail LNW Route believes that performance between these locations is particularly sensitive and that an extension of Arriva Trains Wales’ services would likely affect train performance in the area and also likely further afield. It cited TransPennine Express’ ‘fifth path’, an additional hourly service between Leeds and Manchester, that has had a severe impact on the operator’s PPM with knock-on effects to other lines and operators. It points out that, with a number of services already running to the Airport, the introduction of additional services will result in tighter headways and a reduction in turnaround times for existing services. It cited the Blackpool North to Manchester Airport service which would have 8 minutes’ turnaround time compared to the current 14 minutes.

The industry’s reputation if services are withdrawn when the rights expire. LNW Route states that there is broad agreement with DfT over the outputs of the work at Manchester Airport (specifically the new 4th platform) in relation to the wider Northern Hub programme, which would enable a new service to run to the Airport from the Calder Valley route via the new Ordsall Chord and the Castlefield Corridor. LNW Route considers that Arriva Trains Wales’ requested rights would have to be removed at that point and so the service extensions would be withdrawn, creating a reputational risk to Network Rail and the wider rail industry in the area.

Arriva Trains Wales comments:

Performance. Network Rail has made several assertions about performance but has not shared any performance analysis which has made it difficult for Arriva Trains Wales to assess Network Rail’s claims. We have been able to consider the performance of our North Wales/Chester-Manchester Service Group as a whole: the Moving Annual Average 0-5 PPM figure for arrivals at Manchester Piccadilly from North Wales/Chester is currently 93.7% which includes longer-distance trains from Llandudno and Holyhead. Network Rail has not elaborated on the relevance of the TPE ‘fifth path’ which we understand was fully supported by Network Rail when it was introduced. The validated Train Slots that Network Rail originally offered Arriva Trains Wales were fully compliant with Train Planning Rules and we expect the same to be the case for May 2016.

Reputation. Network Rail appears to have concluded that capacity exists between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Airport for a new service to operate from the Calder Valley upon completion of the Ordsall Chord. Arriva Trains Wales does not believe that Network Rail’s apparent wish to reserve capacity can be a valid reason for Network Rail to make any decisions on whether to support operators’ requests for access rights. We do not know on what grounds the SOAR panel chose to consider this issue when it is not one of the terms of reference of the Panel. Unused capacity is currently available and so passengers would immediately benefit from the additional journey opportunities that the service extensions will provide. Passengers in the wider Manchester area are likely to experience many changes to services over the next few years and we should not be holding back from delivering a worthwhile improvement to journey opportunities out of a suggested nervousness of possibly confusing people should timetables change in the future. Many of our stakeholders in North Wales and Cheshire have strong aspirations for better connectivity with Manchester Airport to support both business and tourism in the region, and we are keen to make the most of this opportunity to help facilitate this.

What will happen? Who knows. These procedures are 'Byzantine' in the extreme. Arriva's attitude is understandable, since the timetable for the Manchester service was designed some years ago on the assumption that trains would run to the Airport, but this is only permitted in the early morning and late evening. The rest of the day, valuable rolling stock and crew sit in the siding outside Piccadilly for 45-50 minutes every hour.


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