Preston railway station saw the second highest number of cancelled trains in the North last year, according to figures released by a mobile phone app.
The Northern Fail app was launched by an angry commuter to keep track of rail operator Northern’s cancelled trains amid last year’s timetable chaos.
Coupled with a strike by train staff and over-running Network Rail work on the lines through Lancashire, thousands of services were cancelled or delayed during a nightmare summer.
The data shows between May 2018 and May 2019, Northern Rail cancelled 15,800 trains, and partly cancelled 18,696 more.
Northern Fail says this is in addition to an increase in the number of trains running with fewer carriages, with 28,198 trains implementing carriage reductions in the same period.
Overall, this means across the entire Northern Rail network, there were a total of 258,266 cancelled stops - the number of times a train failed to arrive or stop at a station as scheduled.
This timeline coincides with the debacle around the timetable changes last year, and which were due to come into force again at the weekend.
Rail operator Northern has defended itself against the data, saying it does not show the full picture.
The Northern Fail App was created by frustrated commuter Nick Mitchell, a software engineer at data and API integration specialist SPINR. Nick launched the Northern Fail App in May 2018, when he became fed up of constant delays and cancellations on his daily commute into Manchester.
To avoid this continuous disruption, Mitchell passed his driving test, bought a car and now drives to work every day.
Since then, Northern Fail has become a go-to source of information for the jilted commuter, with 16,000 app downloads. Using the latest data integration technology to aggregate, transform and prepare the data, SPINR has now made 12 months of data available on a dedicated web page that showcases statistics for users of the Northern Rail service.
Manchester Piccadilly was top of the leaderboard for cancelled trains with a total of 5,001 in the last year, and also appeared as one of the stations worst hit by services running with carriage reductions, totalling 7,202.
Northern Fail said: “Alarmingly, commuters travelling to and from Leeds appear to be experiencing some of the worst levels of service than at any other station.
“Leeds station comes fourth for train cancellations with 3,525 but is way ahead of all stations for trains running with carriage reductions at 10,508 – something that may come as no surprise to anyone who uses these services regularly.
“The data shows a falling trend for full service cancellations over the period, however, this is being offset by the growing trend for trains running with carriage reductions.
“This inevitably leads to ongoing levels of poor customer service in the midst of continued ticket price increases.”
The data used in the Northern Fail App for fully cancelled services is gathered from ‘announced’ cancellations, these are trains cancelled in advance of a service departing its maiden station.
However, the data does not account for delayed trains that are subsequently cancelled.
The figures for partly cancelled services do include in-journey cancellations, but this data does not take into account reinstated services, scheduling and timetable changes.
There were 47 strike days in the last 12 months and no data was collected during these days as no cancellations were announced.
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‘Problems beyond their control’
The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly aired its frustation at the rail disruption suffered last year.
It said recently: “There were clearly things that Northern could have done better to avoid some of the train delays and cancellations faced by passengers last year, especially around the shortage of trained drivers and a running dispute with the RMT.
“However, most of the problems were beyond their control and Network Rail must take most of the blame for overrunning maintenance and not phasing in the new timetable.”
Manchester Piccadilly is the Number 1 station for cancelled trains
Top 5 rundown:-
1. Manchester Piccadilly
3. Manchester Airport
5. Manchester Oxford Road
Leeds is the Number 1 station for trains running with carriage reductions
2. Manchester Victoria
3. Manchester Piccadilly
4. Salford Crescent
‘96% ran as planned’
A spokesman for Northern said: “During the past year we operated around 866,000 services, carrying 100 million people on journeys across the North.
“The figures show that more than 96 per cent of our services ran as planned, with 1.8 per cent fully cancelled over the 12 month period.
“Our cancelled and seriously delayed rates are below the national average. Many of those cancellations were as a result of the introduction of the new timetable in May last year and, together with colleagues across the industry, we have worked hard to improve performance through the rest of 2018 and into 2019.
“Running trains is complex and many factors outside our control, such as mechanical issues, track/signal failings, weather conditions and emergency services incidents, can result in cancellations.
“We strive to keep the impact of such issues to a minimum and our focus is always on delivering the best possible service for our customers.”
Northern added that Northern Fail’s unverified data does not include services which were reinstated, having initially been designated as cancelled.
Partial cancellations affected 2.1 per cent of services.
It said Northern’s performance had improved significantly since the start of 2019 with PPM (trains arriving at destination within five minutes of scheduled time) reaching 88 per cent in April 2019.
Northern Fail says that during 12 months of Northern Rail service there were:
full service cancellations
part service cancellations - train not stopping at all scheduled stations
cancelled stops - number of times a train did not stop at a station as scheduled due to the above full or part service cancellations
reduced carriages - train services running but with reduced capacity
of cancelled services due to a shortage of train drivers