Last week, the Transpennine Route Upgrade entered a very busy period of work, with a nine day rail blockade at Morley Station, meaning disruption for passengers and closures of stations, routes and the use of rail replacement buses.
As the rail passenger watchdog, we were out and about observing many of the temporary changes that passengers experienced. Travelling on a set route over two separate days to encounter disrupted services and rail replacement buses started poorly, with the first planned connecting train across the Pennines already cancelled. Cue a 6am quick study of alternatives, which isn’t made that easy on the various rail journey planning websites. National Rail, Northern and Transpennine Express websites on this occasion saying different things. Not good, but at least one offered an alternative so our journey could start.
Over two days we travelled on eight trains and six rail replacement buses, so some useful insight into what is happening. Following our observations we have challenged the project to make improvements that have been welcomed and will be acted upon. These include:
Clear, obvious destination signage needed on all rail replacement buses
Punctuality of rail replacement buses as important as ever for connecting services
Online train information needs to be consistent and helpful across different websites and apps
Ticket checks are still needed on rail replacement buses
Good levels of staff at most stations to help passengers, however smaller stations like Morley need more helpful information where staff are not present.
An intense couple of days travelling on different services and rail replacement buses. Providing checks and challenges in this way provides evidence that can be acted upon, further improving the service offered. There is plenty more happening on the Transpennine Route Upgrade in the weeks and months to come, and we will be ever busy checking what is happening for passengers.