A few quick wins which will improve rail service
IT’S gratifying that the Mayor of Greater Manchester is urging significant improvements in local rail services. However it will obviously take quite a lot of time before most of them can be achieved.
There are a few quick wins which he would do well to pursue for early progress. Victoria station can be overwhelmed by the number of trains using it due to the insufficient number of platforms. Thirty years ago the size of the station was considerably reduced.
Railwaymen say that there is room beneath the Arena for at least one platform and line backing onto the current platform 6, possibly even for a second. Investigating whether this is the case or not should be undertaken as a matter of great urgency.
At the moment there are five or six freight trains, each over a quarter of a mile long every day, which joining the line towards Rochdale at Miles Platting at a maximum permitted speed of 10 miles per hour, block both up and down lines as they slowly cross the junction.
Until 30 years ago there was a connecting line from the westernmost track from Victoria to Newton Heath which passed behind the platforms at the old Miles Platting station. This line could easily and rapidly be re-instated and reduce the impact of the slow moving freight trains by 50 per cent by allowing down passenger trains to continue while the slow freight wends it way across the junction.
The Saddleworth area, Mossley and Greenfield are the worst served commuter areas in the county if not the country. The railway approaching Diggle tunnel (where long ago there was a station) was four tracks wide. Today most of it is only two. With such a wide area it should be possible to provide a turnback siding between the main lines (rather like has been done at Rochdale station with the new platform 4). This would enable a frequent service of stopping trains to serve Greenfield and Mossley.
They would immediately follow a fast train from Stalybridge and be clear of the next fast train by going into the turnback siding.
Every time there is flooding in the Walsden/Todmorden area, which happens with monotonous frequency, the trains serving Littleborough and Smithy Bridge stations are abandoned.
Earlier this month these important stations were without a train service for almost 24 hours.
There is a provision in the infrastructure to overcome this but it is 50 years old technology and requires Network Rail to send an operator out to the site of the Summit West Emergency Crossover to work it manually. In practice Network Rail is never able to provide such a person.
Surely it’s high time to update the technology so that the crossover can be operated remotely by a signaller so that service can be retained at Littleborough and Smithy Bridge. Richard S Greenwood, Rochdale
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