Rail users in the Bolton area have for some time been dealing with the combined problems of a reduced Northern Rail service, short-formed trains, industrial activity by rail staff and rail replacement buses at weekends. To compound these problems, today was the first ‘working day’ of a period of a ten-day period in which buses will replacing all local train services. This is happening as part of the upgrading program on the Manchester-Preston rail corridor, to allow installation of overhead electric cables. Train services will not return to local lines until Monday 3rd September.
The buses inevitably take longer to reach their destination, but feedback at the beginning of this prolonged period without trains has generally been quite positive, with commuters reporting that Northern staff have ensured that things are well-organised and that the service has not caused undue delays or confusion.
One notable exception was on services for the line from Clitheroe and Blackburn, on which Manchester-bound trains call at Bromley Cross and Hall i’ th’ Wood stations. Frustrated commuters complained via social media that half-hourly three-carriage trains were being replaced by a single hourly bus.
Sir David Causby, MP for Bolton North East contacted Northern and received a reply indicating that if any rail users thought they had to wait another hour for a replacement bus it was because they had not been informed that supplementary buses were on stand-by to attend in the event that a bus became full, or that passengers were waiting.
The letter provided further clarification to the effect that:
From tomorrow, at peak times, buses will come in convoys of two double-decker buses, with a further two or three buses on standby.
Passengers unable to board a replacement bus should speak with on-site staff or station ticket-office personnel at staffed stations, or called Northern’s customer team on 0800 200 6060 or online via Twitter to @northernassist.