York, Huddersfield, Sheffield and Leeds among UK's worst-performing railway stations - as region's smaller stops also suffer

More than two-thirds of trains serving two of Yorkshire's busiest railway stations have arrived late or been cancelled in the past six months - making them the worst in the country, new figures have revealed.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 24th November 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 24th November 2018, 1:34 pm
Passengers in Leeds await the arrival of a service to Manchester.
Passengers in Leeds await the arrival of a service to Manchester.

Just 29 per cent of services have been on time at both York and Huddersfield since the botched rollout of a new national rail timetable on May 20, according to data from performance tracking website On Time Trains.

Yorkshire's six months of rail chaos exposed: Thousands of services cancelledThe figures - combined with 2,130 cancelled services at York (three per cent of the total services) and 1,641 cancellations in Huddersfield (three per cent) - mean the two stations are the two least reliable large stations in the country to catch a train from.

The Yorkshire Post says: Why is Chris Grayling still in post?Sheffield has fared little better, with only 37 per cent of services arriving on time and 1,714 cancellations (two per cent), while in Leeds 43 per cent of services were on time, with 3,498 cancellations (two per cent).

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Sheffield railway station has been among the Yorkshire stations beset by problems in recent months.

Many of Yorkshire’s smaller stations are even less reliable. Slaithwaite in the Colne Valley has the worst record in the country, where the number of on-train times - five per cent - exactly matches the number of cancellations. Almost one-quarter of services have arrived over 10 minutes late. Ravensthorpe, Batley, Dewsbury and Malton also feature in the bottom 10 performing stations from more than 2,600 across the country.

Conservative MP for Pudsey and Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said today: “These figures are not good enough. We are seeing record investment in our railways and new rolling stock with an ambition of more frequent services but it seems that time and again the benefits are being lost by poor management of areas like this. We need rail companies and the network to redouble the efforts to sort this out so that hard-working passengers and constituents get the service they expect and deserve.”

Problems have followed the botched rollout of a new national timetable on May 20, which particularly affected Northern services and had a major knock-on effect on other operators. A report by the Office of Rail and Road in September found “systemic weaknesses in the planning and delivery of major network changes” - with the issues following on from a failure to complete rail electrification work in the North West over Christmas.

Earlier this week, passengers in Slaithwaite and the nearby village of Marsden told The Yorkshire Post their hourly services were being “sacrificed” by TransPennine Express, with late-running trains between Leeds and Manchester frequently missing out their stops to make up time.

Similar complaints have been made about services to and from Scarborough.

Conservative MP Robert Goodwill, who represents Scarborough and Whitby, asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling this week when passengers can expect “a return to normality” following a summer of delays. “Because of drivers’ hours, many trains have been terminated at York, leaving passengers waiting an hour for the following service, if it not also delayed,” he told Parliament.

Labour MP Mary Creagh said it had taken one of her constituents six hours to get from Wakefield to Scarborough by train, “which, with a good wind, I could have achieved on a bicycle in the same time”.

Mr Grayling said additional Scarborough services would be introduced “in the coming months”, while it is hoped an independent review will lead to improvements.

Tory MP for York Outer Julian Sturdy said today: “As a regular user of York station, I can certainly sympathise with those who have endured poor levels of service. From speaking with constituents I am aware that there have been persistent problems with east-west journeys and I agree more needs to be done to address this.

"However, it is quite clear that this does not solely reflect problems with the station itself. Whilst there are capacity issues at peak times this alone cannot explain the poor punctuality score.

"The York Central development and High Speed 2 offer a unique opportunity to bring forward the much needed upgrades to the station; boosting service capacity and enhancing the passenger experience. I was encouraged by the high level of interest shown in the recent public consultation on the station front project, this shows the importance of rail services to our city. Now it is time for Network Rail and operators to play their part in ensuring that York does not act as a bottleneck and congestion is addressed further down the line.”

Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough Labour MP Gill Furniss said: “I am not surprised by the data. We already know about the unreliability of train timetabling throughout the UK and that is why Labour has pledged to renationalise this vital service.”

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said service levels from the town’s station had been “absolutely dire” in recent months.

Rail bosses today said they are working to improve services - and hope planned changes next month will make a contribution to that.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “We again express our sincerest apologies for letting passengers down with May’s timetable troubles, which were caused by several factors which span the industry. A whole system approach to timetable planning must be the way ahead and we have already started on that path, with the new winter timetable due in December that will see some modest improvements. This approach will continue as we look to ensure that passengers see the benefit of record investment and new services, welcoming them with confidence rather than concern.”

A TransPennine Express spokesman said: “Since the May timetable change, some of our customers who use our north route have experienced disruptions to their journeys. We have been working with the rail industry since these issues came to light to try and rectify this and improve the reliability of our services. This is why the upcoming December timetable change will largely be a rollover of our existing timetable, so we can continue to focus on the resilience of services for customers.

"Our Leeds to Manchester local service will split at Huddersfield which will improve performance at intermediate stations along the route such as Slaithwaite, Marsden and Dewsbury. This will also allow more opportunities for express services to overtake, also improving their reliability.”

A spokesman for Northern said: “According to the Rail Industry Regulator, the ongoing delays by Network Rail in delivering their engineering upgrades led to the severe timetable disruption felt by our customers during 2018. We are truly sorry for all the inconvenience caused by these engineering delays and have put in place a number of measures to stabilise services. Northern is investing £500 million in new trains – and we are refurbishing the rest of our fleet by 2020 to provide more, better and faster journeys for our customers across the North.”

Worst of top 100 busiest stations:

1. York

2. Huddersfield

3. Manchester Oxford Road

4. Bath Spa

5. Preston

6. Manchester Piccadilly

7. Sheffield

8. Newcastle

9. Manchester Victoria

10. Peterborough

Worst of all stations:

1. Slaithwaite

2. Mossley

3. Ravensthorpe

4. Acklington

5. Pewsey

6. Batley

7. Chilworth

8. Dewsbury

9. Malton

10. Greenfield