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MORE INFO ABOUT THE New Trains - some here, Successfully tested and accepted, going into service and publicly launched by northern this week (26 June 2019) with tV and press coverage.

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At Last!

There are going to be  101 brand new trains , comprising  around 300 carriages.  Just over half are diesel-powered.  The rest are electric.  Some of the diesel units have 2 carriages, some 3 carriages.  Some of the electric  units have 3 carriages, some 4.  All of the units came be coupled with other similarly powered units to make a single longer train.  But the individual units can't be broken into shorter trains.

Who is making them?

An established train manufacturer in Spain called CAF.  Those are the letters of its name in Spanish, which roughly translates as  " Rail Vehicle Manufacturing Company" - very prosaic when put in English!

Why couldn't the trains have been made in the UK?

Possibly because the British factories at the time of the tendering had full-fish order books or may not have been able to deliver as quickly as Northern needed.  But Northern will have accepted their bid as the best one overall across a range  of factors, including price as well as delivery times.  However the Company has since won a number of contracts for new trains with other British operating companies and has in fact now built a new factory in Newport, South Wales to assemble trains in this country.  IT IS THEREFORE THOUGHT LIKELY THAT SOME OF THE FUTURE DELIVERIES OF  THESE NEW NORTHERN TRAINS WILL BE ASSEMBLED THERE TOO

Will they be reliable?

There is no need to think not. The Company is well-experienced and has built for the UK before - including the Paddington-Heathrow Airport trains and electric trains that have been working  local services out of Leeds for two decades.  They also have experience in building high speed trains and have been shortlisted for the first tranche of the trains for HS2. 

What's been happening?

There are now (end-June 2019) at least twenty of the trains here.  They have been based at a depot at Edge Hill, just outside the Liverpool City Centre. They have been running empty up and down the West Coast Main Line on acceptance testing and what is known as "mileage accumulation".  They have to complete a certain mileage without faults.  If they have a fault on test, the necessary repairs are done and  mileage clock gets turned back to zero! So when they have passed they should be OK.   The first had been expected to go into service from the middle of May.  But there were found to be some coupling faults and these have had to be remedied. 


This has happened and, as reported in "Latest News" above  public launches of the new fleet took place  this week at Preston and Doncaster with invited guests, press, TV people and stakeholders etc. (including the BRUG Chair) were taken on a journey on the trains after the public ceremonies. The Preston train was a 3-car diesel. and was named "Proud to be Northern".  The journey from Preston was to Manchester Victoria and the train passed through Bolton on its way. Our Chair reports that the journey was smooth and quiet, comfortable and fast.   


It will take time to test all the new units as. thy arrive, although they will undergo a much shorted mileage accumulation.  They will of course need to be concentrated on a limited number of services until numbers increase sufficiently.  There is also a significant amount of training and familiarisation to do.


We are assured that Bolton will have some of the new trains.  But we  can't be sure we will have them in Bolton straightaway. Our guess (and that's all it can be at the moment) is that we might see some of them on Bolton services by the end of the year.

What are the trains like?

They are attractive - see the photo above left, taken at Preston station while on test.  That is an electric unit but all types look similar.  You can tell the electric ones through the current-collecting pantographs on the roof of an inner carriages.  The interior is shown in the wide rectangular photo at the top of this page.  One of our members was able to view the trains at close quarters in the depot earlier this year  (legally - by invitation).  He had only one word to describe the trains - "fabulous"!

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FIRST ELECTRIC TRAINS IN BOLTON - (DECEMBER 2019)

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Wires Go Live

On Sunday  9 December 2018 the current was switched on.  The danger notices about 25KV electricity cables, a hundred times the voltage of the wiring in our homes, now mean what they say - KEEP OFF.  Messing with these risks people's lives.   


Static tests will have followed, checking for leakages and circuit breaker trips etc. The way was then clear to run an electric train and find out whether everything worked satisfactorily.

Pendolinos

The first train left Preston around midnight on Wednesday 12 December 2018 bound for Manchester Piccadilly via Chorley and Bolton.  It passed through Bolton at about 0050 early on what was now Thursday morning and proceeded to Manchester, from where it returned to Preston by the same route.  It then did that all again on the following day.  So far as we know, there were no problems. Network Rail say there will be some more test runs in January, at speed. 

The Train

This was interesting.  You might have expected the test train to be one of the Class 319 everyday electric units that came from the Thameslink system in the south east.  These are currently running on the lines from Liverpool to Manchester, Wigan, Preston and Blackpool and are destined also for the Bolton line.  But no.  It was one of the 125mph, nine or eleven carriage tilting trains that  are used on the express routes between London Euston and Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and Scotland!  


The only Pendolinos seen in Bolton previously, and only rarely, have been trains diverted from the West Coast main line as a result of engineering works,  hauled by a diesel locomotive.


There were a number of theories as to why Pendolinos were used for the test.  Network Rail have not yet publicly stated why.

What happens next?

When they get the all clear from Network Rail following the tests,  Northern are planning a gradual introduction of electric running of appropriate Bolton line services with the Class 319s.  Presumably this will now only start in January following the remaining test running.  


However, until Northern receive the expected diesel/electric bi-mode conversions of the Class 319 (numbered Class 369 and given the name "Flex"), the only electrically powered trains through Bolton will be on services from Blackpool, Preston, Buckshaw Parkway or Chorley that go to Piccadilly or the south or to Victoria and not beyond.


One benefit of the 319s for Bolton is that Northern have a significant stock of them and they consist of four carriages which are not capable of being divided.  Therefore we should be suffering less from short-formed trains.

STOP PRESS - GUARDS DISPUTE - END IN SIGHT?

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REPORTS IN RAIL TECHNICAL MAG SUGGEST TRANSPORT SECRETARY MAY ALLOW CONTINUED TWO PERSON OPERATION

This is a sticking point that Northern couldn't get round because of a requirement in the Franchise Agreement with the Department for Transport



If the report is right, the Northern and the RMT could presumably get round the table and sort this.



Meanwhile, for further Information about travel on strike days:

Northern Rail

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Guards dispute - latest information on strikes

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Dates

Currently notified as every Saturday in December

Travel Situation

On strike days, Northern attempts to run as many trains as possible.  They publish on their website details of the services they expect to operate on each day and hope this will amount to a reasonable proportion of daytime services.  But passengers need to check on line on the day or the day before,  if timing is critical  for them.

The Dispute

The RMT union wants a guarantee of double staffing of all Northern trains. 

Previous News

Further Information

For further information including details of the trains that  Northern are hoping to run, visit their website:

Northern

Info to be supplied

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Previous News - Still current

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Industrial Action - Guards Dispute

Northern have, like some other operating companies, undergone many days of industrial action by members of their guards staff in relation to the control of train door operation and the possibility of guards being re-deployed as on-board supervisors. The strikes have gone on for many months now and they are likely. to continue until the dispute is resolved.


If there is further industrial action we will do our best to keep you informed of the date(s) beforehand.  There are likely still to be some train services on strike days, but the number will be reduced from the normal timetable.  Details of the services which are expected to run will be posted on Northern's website a few days before.


As a Group, we are strictly neutral so far as the dispute is concerned.  We hope that the parties may be able to reach some amicable resolution and wish both sides well.


Previous News - History

First Annual General Meeting

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The Group held its Second Annual General Meeting on Tuesday  22 May 2018 at the Friends Meeting House in Silverwell Street, Bolton. 


In addition to the normal items of an Annual General Meeting, the Group agreed to amend the Constitution to facilitate the exercise of station adoption functions at stations in the Borough where there is  no Friends Group.  There is currently a pilot project for Bromley Cross station.  The Group is prepared to consider similar activities in other stations if there is local support and involvement.


In addition, the meeting considered the current interruption of normal services through the failure of Network Rail to complete the electrification of the main Bolton line, and the consequent shortage of trains, leading to timetable alterations at a late stage and cancellation and late running of services.


The meeting discussed the situation and agreed that at an appropriate stage when the problems are resolving the Group should seek a high level meeting with Northern to press for a sufficient number of carriages and trains to be provided under the next timetable and the return of the Manchester Airport and Southport services lost in the current new timetable.

   

People

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At the Annual General  Meeting on 22 May 2018, the members present re-elected Jeff Davies as Chair of the  Group,  Adrian Golland as its Membership Secretary and Sue Haworth as the Treasurer. Preva Crossley and Adrian Schofield were re-appointed as members of the Executive Committee.

There are still some unfilled vacancies.  These are for the positions of Deputy Chair and Secretary of the Group and three places on the Executive Committee. The Chair agreed to fulfil the duties of Secretary until an appointment can be made. 

New 2018 Timetable

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On Tuesday 9 May 2017, Group Officers met with Northern’s Central Region Director Liam Sumpter and other Northern staff members to discuss the current proposals for Bolton in the new, restructured May 2018 timetable.  The changes applied across the whole Northern region and were to be made possible by the availability of new trains and the cascade of existing trains following electrification in Northern and elsewhere. The changes were part of the “transformation” required under the new franchise agreement and were designed to increase the number of trains and provide new additional services.

The Group Officers felt that the proposals for Bolton as currently drawn up would not achieve those things and doubted that they would adequately address the gross overcrowding problems. A detailed discussion took place about the draft timetable and what it could mean in practice.  Northern explained the limitations under which they had to operate, while stressing the importance of the Bolton line and its services to them. They also stressed that  the current proposals were only a first draft.


The outcome of the discussion was that Liam took note of our views and arranged for the staff to go back to do some more work to find a way to make some improvements on what was currently proposed. The Group awaits hearing further from Northern in due course.


NOTE:  IN VIEW OF THE MAY 2018 TIMETABLE COLLAPSE, IT HAS NOT BEEN POSSIBLE TO PURSUE THESE DISCUSSIONS FURTHER.  BUT WE PLAN TO TAKE THE SUBJECT UP AGAIN WHEN POSSIBLE.



Electrification - Progress

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The electrification of the Manchester - Bolton - Preston line is an important feature of the strategy to improve our trains and services.  It has been a long time coming, but still seems to be on track for December 2017.

With overhead electrification, there is a great deal of preparatory work to be done beforehand. For us, this included the building a new tunnel at Farnworth, complete and opened to traffic in December 2015.  There were many other works to make room for the power cables on varying scales, ranging from small footbridges to the large Orlando bridge reconstruction near Bolton station.

More recently (May 2017), much work has been done during the night which is crucial but leaves not much to see in the daylight.  Foundations have been put in for masts and portals over long lengths of track, involving much concrete and piling.  But all there is on the ground seems to be circular areas of concrete the size of a dustbin lid -  with bolts sticking up out of them to fasten the masts and portals to.  There are places now however, e.g. between Moses Gate and Bolton stations, where steelwork has been put in quickly onto the laboriously created foundations over reasonable lengths of track.  It is happening and will seem to speed up.



NOTE: THE ELECTRIFICATION, IN WHICH THE NEW TUNNEL HAS PLAYED A VITAL PART,  IS NOW COMPLETE (DECEMBER 2018) AND THE TUNNEL HAS BEEN OPERATING SUCCESSFULLY WITHOUT INCIDENT OR PROBLEM.

Station Reconstruction

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North of Farnworth tunnel, works of a different kind have had to be carried out.  


Because of the number of overbridges it was easier and cheaper to lower the track instead of raising the bridges.  But this necessitated new platforms at Farnworth and Moses Gate stations.  In the case of Farnworth, the tracks and platforms are on a slightly different alignment from before, in order for trains to get a clear, straight run into the tunnel.


Here is Farnworth Station, with the reconstruction nearly complete and the new tunnel complete and in use.


Station Adoption - Bromley Cross

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Building on the work of station “Friends” and other groups under the previous franchise, the present Northern have pursuant to their franchise agreement with the Department for Transport and Rail North introduced a general scheme for the adoption of stations by voluntary community bodies generally. Under the scheme, the bodies apply to Northern to take on responsibility for improving and maintaining the amenities of a station, by measures such as planting, flower baskets etc. They can also apply for grants to cover their costs out of a fund set up by Northern under a specific provision in the franchise agreement with the Department for Transport and Rail North.


As a pilot project, the Group has taken advantage of the scheme, adopted Bromley Cross station and obtained grants from Northern. It has since been carrying out some planting and beautifying works there, with a member of the group supplying voluntary labour.  The work is in its early stages and is expected to make a greater impact on the visual amenity of the station as the work proceeds.


If any other members of the Group or other members of the local Bromley Cross community would like  to take part and help with the work, they are welcome to speak with the project leader, Adrian Golland, who is also our Membership Secretary.  He can be contacted on 01204 461103 or mail@adriangolland.plus.com .


Anyone not already a member of the Group could of course become one at no cost, provided that they use the train, however frequently or infrequently.


NOTE: THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE TO VOLUNTEER TO HELP IS STILL OPEN.


More about the Works

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Plenty going on now.  Portals and masts erected south of Bolton Station.  New line being installed , presumably leading to what will be the restored Platform 5. Amazing what Network Rail get up to in the night and at weekends!  

[Photo by courtesy of AndyBTravels]


NOTE: THERE'S BEEN AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF HARDWARE PUT UP SINCE THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN -THIS WAS EARLY DAYS.  JOB NOW DONE. (DECEMBER 2018)

More about the Trains

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This is the new image for Northern's trains.  Mainly white, with Royal Blue cab end areas - Arriva style of course.  The existing trains that are being retained are to be refurbished internally, "as new".  The first brand new Northern trains, some diesel, some electric, were completed at the factories of CAF in Spain in the first quarter of 2018. and the rest will follow.  The trains are expected to begin to enter service in 2019.


NOTE: THE NEW LIVERY IS ALL OVER THE PLACE NOW AND IS AN IMPROVEMENT ON THE OLD.  THE NEW TRAINS ARE STILL ON SCHEDULE FOR 2019.  THE FIRST HAVE ARRIVED AND ARE ON OUR TRACKS ON TEST. (DECEMBER 2018)