Buxton guards keep busy
I am an occasional user of off-peak services between Buxton and Manchester, and wish to record that my experience is different from that found by Steven Beesley ( Open Access, RAIL 839).
As a mainly leisure user, I am often on the first off-peak service from Buxton. Invariably, the guard is on ticket checking/selling duty all the way from Buxton to Hazel Grove. There are often passengers on this train who take advantage of the ability to talk with the guard, for reassurance about their travel arrangements.
As a casual observer, I would suggest that the main problem with the arrangement is the need for the guard to return to the rear cab to operate the doors on both the Class 150 and Class 156 units used on this line.
If the guard is in the middle of a ticket transaction when a station is entered, there can be at least a 30-second delay (if not longer) between coming to a standstill and the doors opening. Thus, there is often a need to make use of the
recovery time built into the timetable at Hazel Grove.
To keep to time (and possibly to remove the recovery time), there would seem to be three potential solutions:
The guard does not check/sell tickets. The driver operates the doors. The units are modified to allow the guard to operate the doors from any door on the unit.
We do seem to default, on occasion, to the first solution on peak trains from Manchester to Buxton (the other solutions not being currently available).
However, I suggest that the chance of fare evasion in this direction is less likely than going towards Manchester, as most passengers without season tickets are probably using the second part of a return ticket. The extra delay at each station, as the guard makes his way through a throng of standing passengers, might also be excessive and could affect the running of other trains between Piccadilly and Hazel Grove.
As the Buxton-Manchester timing is virtually the same as the first-generation Class 104 DMUs (two out of three cars powered), it would seem that centrally controlled doors may have improved safety, but not performance.
Thirty-five years ago, the Sunday hourly service was run reliably with two units. Today, we require three units for the same level of service! And we do miss the wonderful views of the Peak District out of the front windows. Ron Sinclair, Buxton