COMMUTERS were confronted by “chaos” following what has been described as the biggest post-war shake-up of the rail system.
And it was especially bad at Stalybridge where passengers were left behind due to overcrowded trains according to Andrew Holstead, secretary of the Friends of Mossley Station.
Mr Holstead was joined at Mossley Station on Monday, May 21 by local MP Jonathan Reynolds to monitor the impact of the changes.
He said: “We watched the first few trains leave Mossley and the overcrowding was not as bad as expected.
“There was a lot more traffic around Mossley Station as more people appeared to be catching the train there instead of Greenfield.
“Later a lot of trains were very late and then there were a number of TransPennine Express trains from Hull to Manchester Piccadilly terminating at Stalybridge because of the delays.
“There were a lot of fun and games at Stalybridge as everyone piled off trains to fight for places on trains going to Manchester Victoria and the scenes were described as chaotic.”
Mr Holstead added he tracked all the trains leaving Mossley Station until 10.30pm on Monday and not one had left on time.
And it was a similar story of Tuesday morning when the 6.32am Mossley to Manchester Piccadilly and 6.48am TPE from Mossley to Piccadilly were both cancelled and the 7.17am was late and terminated at Stalybridge.
“It has been fairly chaotic. I understand there will be some settling in, but this is more than that,” explained Mr Holstead.
The problems were anticipated at a meeting of the Stalybridge to Huddersfield Rail User Group at the George Lawton Hall.
And commuters were requested to provide “live experiences” of the new timetable that has seen 60 per-cent of the nation’s trains re-timed.
The repercussions locally are huge with many services no longer terminating at Manchester Victoria, instead reaching journey’s end at Piccadilly.
SHRUG is collating information from passengers about their journeys after the new timetable was introduced on May 20.
Passengers are asked to relay issues on Twitter to mscrow, Facebook to either Friends of Mossley Station or Greenfield Station Rail Action Group or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Holstead told the 60 commuters who attended the Mossley meeting: “It is very important you give us feedback and we need to know your experiences for when the planning process begins for the next timetable.
“It is already in progress for December and also for next May so we need your comments so the next timetable will be better and then the one after that.
“Without feedback, it is all supposition and thought and we need fact to find out what is actually happening.
“I think it will settle in time and the rail companies will strengthen the service.
“I am concerned about the pain passengers will go through in the short term and the implications for people’s ability to travel to work, education and leisure.
“People’s livelihoods are on the line along with family commitments.”
Rail bosses representing TPE, Northern and Transport for Greater Manchester were told in no certain terms how disruptive the new timetable is expected to be for locals.
Previously there were four stops between Huddersfield and Stalybridge, but now there are ‘skip stops’ as trains only do so at two stations alternatively.
Peter Myers, from Northern, said: “I can’t stress how big this is. Hardly any service will not be changing.
“I understand changes cause problems as people base their lives around our schedules.
“This timetable is the first step for the railways in the north and by 2020 you won’t recognise the service.”
Passengers were unconvinced, however, and raised concerns about connectivity, capacity planning, accessibility, mobility, platform changes at Stalybridge, Ashton’s principal town Ashton having no direct service and no through services to Salford Central and Salford Crescent.
It was feared there would be problems with trains not stopping at all stations and this could cause parking problems at both Mossley and Greenfield.
And Mr Holstead said work colleagues told him they won’t be able to use trains so will have to commute by car, which defeats the objectives of TfGM to get vehicles off the road.
TfGM added a new 356 bus service was being introduced this week from Delph and Dobcross to Greenfield station to feed into the rail service.
There were claims by several commuters that if the trains don’t function properly their jobs and livelihoods could be on the line.