Home | News Archive for 2020
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Christmas and New Year Travel
As usual, train services will not be running on Christmas Day or Boxing Day; on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve the service will close down early. Be sure to Check before travelling. For details of local buses over the period see the Stagecoach website.
Message from Transport for Greater Manchester
As I’m sure you’re aware, Greater Manchester will enter Tier 3 (very high) local Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday 2 December. Ahead of that change, I would like to reassure you that public transport services continue to operate as normal, and that you can and should continue to travel in Greater Manchester – for work, to shop, to socialise outside in public spaces - and for many other reasons.
We would ask though that while travel in Greater Manchester is fine, you look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible. You should also avoid travelling out of or into Greater Manchester except where necessary, for work, education, medical reasons or caring responsibilities, in line with government guidance.
30 November 2020
Bridge maintenance at Whaley Bridge
The section of railway between Hazel Grove and Buxton is closed on 7-8 November for bridge maintenance work at Whaley Bridge. Bus replacements will be provided: Timetable here Update: work is over-running, re-opening now hoped for sometime on Monday.
Covid-19 situation (update)The Government advice on travel during the current four-week 'lockdown' period can be found on their website. There is no mention of 'key workers', nor any distinction between car, train or bus travellers. The list of valid reasons for travel reads:
Travelling to work where this cannot be done from home;
Travelling to education and for caring responsibilities;
To visit those in your support bubble - or your childcare bubble for childcare;
Hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health;
To buy goods or services from premises that are open, including essential retail;
To spend time or exercise outdoors - this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space);
Attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services;
Both on trains and on stations, face coverings should be worn, social distancing riles followed, and peak periods should be avoided where possible.
6 November 2020
The 309/310 circular routes ceased to operate from 30 August, even though they appeared to be reasonably well patronised; there is now no bus link between Davenport and Cheadle, although the revised 374 covers the Garners Lane part of the route after a fashion. See our item on Twitter. Above, a Stagecoach 'Solo' crests Garners Lane on 29 August heading for Stockport.
30 August 2020
There's good news to report about progress with the closed business premises on Bramhall Lane. The expanded 'Monkey Coffee Company, now at 175-177 Bramhall Lane, and the new pub at no. 179, to be called 'The Milliner' are now open and apparently doing good business.
At the other end of the 'parade' things are also happening: the bank building at 229-231 has finally been taken on, by a Preston-based form called 'Fuse Investments' and building work has begun. The ground floor is to be re-divided into two, while the portland stone frontage applied by Williams Deacons Bank will be retained, with the door which apparently once led to the manager's upstairs flat opened up again. On the Ground floor, No. 229 will be a retail shop and No. 231 an office. Upstaits there will be three 'studio flats', two at first floor level and a third in the roof, lit by roof-lights; the Conservation Officer apparently did not approve a proposal for dormer windows.
Meanwhile, No. 227 has been transformed into one of the 'E-Cig and CBD' stores that are springing up everywhere. A bright new facia has been added, over the original frontage which we assume remains behind.
You can read about the history of the buildings in our local history section: 175-179 at 'Cabinets to Coffee' and 'Williams Deacons Bank' for 225-231.
30 August 2020July 2020 Update
We are back - after a 'lockdown' pause, with a slight layout change which should make the text easier to read.
As relaxation of the virus restrictions continues, Northern and other transport companies are easing their rule that only essential journeys can be made by public transport. We understand that anyone making a journey, essential or otherwise, should 'consider other options such as cycling, driving and walking' before choosing the train, but may travel, subject to social distancing rules and compulsory wearing of face covering when on board. It's advisable to avoid the peak periods when making non-essential journeys. The Conductor will not be selling tickets: you should buy 'mobile tickets' , book online or use the ticket machine. The ticket office at Davenport remains open until lunchtime on weekdays.
The weekday service at the moment is much the same as it was before the ill-fated 2018 changes, with one Hazel Grove - Blackpool service and one Buxton - Manchester service each hour. The last train from Manchester is 21:44 from Piccadilly, 21:40 from Oxford Road. On Sundays there is a very limited service, a two-hourly Buxton - Manchester service closing with the 20:49 Manchester - Buxton and the 20:37 departure from Davenport towards Manchester.
09 July 2020Bus upheaval
Several changes to the bus services around Davenport are (if agreed at a meeting on 10 July) to be implemented from 26 July, resulting from the collapse of the 'Manchester Community Transport' organisation which, as the lowest tender, had been awarded a number of contracts to run subsidised services. The 'Diamond' buses seen of late are the result of a temporary contract to keep the service running.
Route 372, Stockport - Woodsmoor - North Park, which has been dwindling for some time, is to be abolished with the result that the section along Woodsmoor Lane loses any bus service - which has only been served in the Stockport direction recently. The North Park Road area will be served by a revised version of route 374 which will also divert to serve the Range Road - Adswood area (missing the stops at the Hallam Park Cale Green Park) and also divert in Hazel Grove via the Fiveways to the station.
Route 312, the largely useless service from Stockport station to Handforth which supposedly replaced the 'free bus' is cancelled, replaced by an extension to the 378 Stockport - Davenport - Bramhall to the Handforth area, where it will serve the Handforth Dean shopping area, which is quite useful for Davenport residents. I will make a loop around Handforth, with the reverse service numbered 379.
In addition to the above, Stagecoach has decided to close the 308/309 Stockport - Cheadle circular service. It will be partly replaced by the 374 but there will no longer be any service between Davenport and Cheadle village.
The operator of these routes is yet to be determined. A real deterrent to bus use is that passes issued by Stagecoach are not available on subsidised services run by other companies; a more-expensive all-operator pass has to be bought. This really needs resolving, but there is no sign that it will be.
We have made a downloadable PDF extract of the Committee Report which includes the routes mentioned. The full document is on the Greater Manchester Transport Committee website.
09 July 2020
Local History news
There are two new articles in our Local History section: no. 34. 'Selwood': an early Davenport House and its residents, and no.35, Yew Tree Farm.
09 July 2020
Something for the ChildrenNorthern have provided us with a “Stay home. Stay safe” rainbow colouring sheet, ss a bit of fun for children. Download it here:
22 April 2020
News from Northern
The design for a special livery version which has been applied to four Northern trains as a tribute, with the text 'key workers supporting key workers.' However, enthusiasts are asked not to venture out to see them.
Northern also tell us that 'We are well underway in the process of deep cleaning our train fleet – In order to do this we are using new pieces of equipment for the first time, for example, dry fusion machines'. Special attention is also being given to handrails and buttons that passengers have to touch.
The May timetable change (which did not affect our line in any case) has been postponed to later in the year, as has the introduction of the Class 769 'bi-mode' trains on the Alderley Edge to Southport service. These are four-coach electric units of the same type that ran the Hazel Grove - Blackpool service until recently, but fitted with diesel engines so they can run on the non-electrified line to Southport via Atherton, while using the overhead lines where available. The project has been delayed over a year or more due to difficulties in doing the modifications; currently six of the eight ordered have been accepted, but drivers cannot be spared to train on their operation. In theory, these could also operate on the Buxton line, but sadly there no plans for this at present.
Meanwhile the reduced service on our line continues to run quite reliably, no doubt due to the freedom for congestion in Manchester and the old adage 'we could run a perfect service is it wasn't for all those passengers.' On 22 April, for example, the 14:08 Manchester - Buxton departed Piccadlly nine minutes late and managed to arrive at Buxton two minutes early.
We understand that the last of the Class 142 'Pacers' have now been taken out of service; some have been taken over by 'heritage railways', while the rest will be headed to the scrapyards. At present, all the heritage railways in the country have ceased operations, which is going to seriously damage their finances. Many are asking for donations (including the East Lancashire line); it's not unlikely that some will eventually find themselves insolvent.
24 April 2020Stepping Hill Military Hospital: new history feature
A new piece for the local history section, inspired by an old postcard and with a tribute to all hospital staff, is now online.
'Lockdown'We haven't updated this page for a while, while continuing our Twitter feed, but it's worth recording the current situation regarding the railway. Currently Friends Groups have been told to cease their gardening and other activities on stations, and our picture displays cannot be viewed as the waiting room is closed because of 'social distancing' issues. The plants will have to look after themselves, hopefully there will be some rain! Trains continue to run, to a restricted timetable on our line which resembles the two-per-hour service that applied before the changes in May 2008, and a two-hourly service on Sundays. Most other lines have an hourly train.
However, it's important to note that the service is for 'key workers' and 'essential travel' only; use of public transport for 'leisure' purposes is not allowed. Transport Police and Northern's enforcement offices will be patrolling to enforce this requirement. Cash payments on the train are not allowed.
The Government have temporarily suspended the franchise system for all operators, funding the train service directly until further notice, as income from passengers is now almost negligible.
10 April 2020
We have updated our feature about James Shepherd and Shird Fold to include new information and images, and there's a new feature, Dynamo Close: The story of McClure and Whitfield.
10 April 2020
Goodbye to Arriva NorthernFrom 1 March 2020, Northern train services cease to be provided by German state railways subsidiary Arriva North, and pass to an 'Operator of Last Resort' owned directly by the Department of Transport. Nothing will change immediately, and all advance and season tickets will continue to be valid. The company will be known as 'Northern Trains' -see their website.
Our own final Arriva journey: Whaley Bridge, 29 February
The sorry tale of Northern goes back to 2015 when the Department of Transport were considering the specification for the new franchise which would start in May 2016. In consultation with a newly-created advisory body called 'Transport for the North' and Transport for Greater Manchester, it was decided that an improved timetable with many more trains would be devised for Northern, and for the long-distance operator TransPennine Express, which would take advantage of the newly-built 'Ordsall Chord' which permits trains from Yorkshire to call at Manchester Victoria, then proceed to Oxford Road, Piccadilly and the Airport, although the proposed extra platforms 15 and 16 at Piccadilly have not materialised. It was also planned that a new fleet of trains would be leased, to indirectly replace the un-loved 'Pacer' trains. (Although Sir Philip Rutnam, recently in the news, but then at the Department of Transport, tried to argue against this.) The line from Deansgate to Blackpool via Bolton was being electrified, which would allow new electric trains to operate.
Initially everything carried on as before; along with all the staff, Managing Director Alex Hynes was retained in post, but when the actual timetable pattern proposed for the Manchester area, supposed to begin in 2017, was made public, we and other observers of the railway began to have grave doubts. Hazel Grove to Manchester was to have four trains per hour, one continuing to Buxton and another to New Mills Newtown. The Manchester - Chester via Northwich and Manchester - Macclesfield were to have service doubled from hourly to half-hourly, even though TransPennine was also bring extra trains though platform 13/14 at Piccadilly, and the timetables of other companies through Stockport with its archaic signalling system had to remain the same. Meanwhile, the Blackpool electrification project was suffering delay due to ground conditions and other matters. Alex Hynes left the company to take up a role in Scotland, and David Brown, from Transport for the North, took over.
When Northern and Network Rail finally came up with a consultation timetable to start in May 2018, it was clear that many of the improvements which Arriva had signed up for were impossible to fit in, and the ones they had added would create congestion in the Deansgate area. Macclesfield and Chester remained hourly, and our line was to have just three trains per hour, and not evenly spaced. Only two per hour would call at Davenport and Woodsmoor, and 'skip-stopping' at other stations would make many journeys between intermediate stations impossible. After help with many representations from local train users, we managed to get some of these skip-stop decisions reversed, but the timetable remains unsatisfactory, especially in the morning peak period. The tradition of extra trains in peak periods has been replaced by some longer gaps in the peaks.
In addition to the new trains, old 'pre-owned' trains from other parts of the country have been added to the fleet, and refurbished to meet the 2020 deadline for disability access. The new livery with its large areas of pale grey has been applied, but a number of trains have survived to the end still in the colours of the previous company. Cleaning of trains, inside and outside, has been less than thorough, which is apparently to be remedies by the new company at an early date. Carillion, who were given the contract to clean stations, collapsed and the previous company had to be re-hired.
The delivery of the new trains from CAF in Spain, and therefore the training of staff to work them, was heavily delayed, and chaos often reigned in the Manchester Piccadilly area, while another franchise requirement, to remove guards from trains, led to a long series of strikes by the RMT union. Middle managers from all parts of the staff were were called upon to train as guards and work trains every Saturday, which led to some leaving the company. The Department of Transport eventually backed down and agreed to a safety-trained conductor on every train, but by then there were other cancellations as drivers were trained on the new trains.
Inherited from British Rail days was a policy that Sunday working by train staff was voluntary overtime; in recent times fewer people were willing do this, leading to many cancellations on Sundays and the permanent removal of the extra trains introduced on our line in 2018. This has now been resolved, but there is no sign of the half-hourly Sunday service returning in the May 2020 timetable which is unchanged from the present one.
Increasingly, as 2020 dawned there were loud calls from local politicians for Arriva to be 'stripped of the franchise' although in truth many of the problems were not of Northern's making, except perhaps that they should have studied the proposed extra services more carefully before signing on the dotted line. The change is really more of a rescue mission than a 'stripping' - Deutsche Bahn had already tried to sell Arriva, but found no buyers. What many passengers may not realise is that Northern had been receiving around £280 million in subsidy from the taxpayer to run the service; the terms of the contract were that this subsidy would be reduced annually to a figure less than £100 million by the end of the franchise in 2025. How this would be achieved was never clear, but the huge rise in off-peak fares and the irritating evening peak restrictions were intended to go some way towards it.
Davenport, 29 February
On the positive side, we do now have the new electric trains on the Hazel Grove service, and as station friends groups have had better access to Northern management than previously; how we 'get on' with the new owners remains to be seen.
- Charlie Hulme, 29 February 2020.
Another shop in our shopping parade lies empty since the year following the closure of the 'Badged by Davenports' shop at 227 Bramhall Lane. Their principal business, the provision of school uniforms, has been merged with that of Monkhouse, who have shops in Stockport town centre and Cheadle Hulme Precinct. The Davenport shop is interesting in that it has retained much of the detail of the frontage that was built when the row of houses was turned into a shop by Williams Deacons Bank around 1919: see our Williams Deacons Bank feature.
2 February 2020
Northern Franchise - a message from David Brown, MD of Northern
(As received by Friends of Davenport Station)
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has today announced that on 1 March 2020 the ownership of Northern will transfer from Arriva to the Department for Transport's Operator of Last Resort Holdings Limited (DOHL) The website address is www.northern.olrholdings.co.uk. The new company will be called Northern Trains Ltd.
The need for a new approach to operating rail services for customers across the North of England is something we have supported and, as such, we have been working closely with Government for several months. As the Transport Secretary has made clear in his Statement today, well documented external factors outside of Northern's direct control meant that the franchise was no longer financially sustainable. Arriva has been firmly committed to transforming rail services in the North.
Please see the statement below from Chris Burchell, MD of Arriva UK Trains.
Chris Burchell said: "We had a clear vision for the Northern franchise that would better connect the cities of the North with more frequent, reliable and modern services and unlock economic growth. It was clear however that, largely because of external factors, the franchise plan had become undeliverable. A new plan is needed that will secure the future for Northern train services. As such, we understand Government's decision today.
"I would like to recognise the hard work of the 6,000 strong team at Northern who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to deliver improvements to local rail services in the North, at times under extremely difficult conditions.
"The scale of the challenges we faced outside of our direct control were unprecedented, particularly around delayed or cancelled infrastructure projects and prolonged strike action. Despite the challenges, the team has introduced brand new trains onto the network for the first time in a generation. They have introduced more than 2,000 extra services per week, refurbished trains and stations, and created hundreds of new customer-facing jobs as part of a £600 million investment programme for the North.
"We recognise however that overall service improvements have not come quickly enough, and passengers deserve better. For that, we wholeheartedly apologise. We now stand ready to support Government and the Operator of Last Resort to ensure a smooth transfer for our passengers and colleagues alike.
"I am confident that as a result of the determination and hard work of the Northern rail team, they have helped set strong foundations for future improvement on the network."
Northern Trains Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of DfT OLR Holdings Limited ('DOHL'), which was established by the UK Government's Department for Transport to fulfil the Secretary of State for Transport's requirements under Section 30 of the Railways Act 1993. Section 30 legislation places a duty on the Secretary of State for Transport to continue to provide rail services if a franchise is terminated.
As the Secretary of State has highlighted, it is important to note that establishing an Operator of Last Resort does not remove the significant challenges that Northern is facing. Issues such as infrastructure and timetabling services will continue to require a collaborative approach with industry partners and Network Rail.
Arriva is committed to working to ensure a smooth transfer for customers, colleagues and stakeholders and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support.
29 January 2020