Why is WCML punctuality so terrible, and are there any times of day it runs well?

seagull

Member
Joined
28 Feb 2011
Messages
619
During the early Covid timetable reduction where Avanti trains did not run AT ALL north of Preston for a while, punctuality seemed considerably better all round. My experience of waiting at Preston often for southbound services is that they so often get delayed behind freight trains between Carstairs and Lancaster/Preston, which are either not looped when they probably should be, or are unable to be looped due to length. And late off Preston means picking up delays the rest of the journey, often.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Llama

Established Member
Joined
29 Apr 2014
Messages
1,952
Not really sure a running brake test would knock a train for 1-2 minutes, maybe 30 seconds at the most.
 

tbtc

Veteran Member
Joined
16 Dec 2008
Messages
17,316
Location
Reston City Centre
It's probable only a minor thing, but could the autumn weather be more of an issue on the WCML than the ECML, given how flat the ECML is (IIRC the highest part on the Kings Cross - Waverley service is Grantshouse, which is hardly mountainous, whereas the WCML trains have to negotiate Shap and Beattock), so any slippery conditions are less likely to impact upon the ECML?

Plus we've done a few things recently to improve reliability of fast ECML services (e.g. the Sheffield - Scunthorpe stopper was chopped at Doncaster so that's two fewer services crossing the main line on the flat, all the money spent at Kings Cross)?

London - Glasgow is a longer journey too (approx five hours versus approx four hours to Edinburgh) so more scope to be delayed by five minutes?

Or just coincidence - any two lines will have slightly different stats, it may be nothing to do with the operator or the trains but just a couple of delays will skew the figures a little bit, dunno!

How it always used to be done. Separate Glasgow-Birmingham (two-hourly, whatever) and Birmingham-London (every 20 minutes) services

The two problems there would be:

1. Is there a spare path for an hourly New Street - Wolves service (since the VT changes meant that they went from running an hourly London - New Street - Wolves service and an hourly New Street - Wolves - Scotland service into one combined train, but I don't know that the path remains to permit these to run separately) - unless you're suggesting no through trains from the Black Country/ Wolverhampton to London?
2. Is there room at New Street for a Scottish service to lay over (previously these WCML services ran through to Bristol etc, before being linked to the Euston service instead - platforms in Birmingham are at a premium - hence Wales'n'Borders running through to International rather than blocking a New Street platform for ages - so what do you do with the Scottish trains when it arrives at Birmingham?
 

markydh

Member
Joined
30 Jan 2011
Messages
245
Location
Newcastle upon Tyne
Typing as a leisure user of the WCML between Carlisle and Lancaster, I can say that I very rarely arrive on time at Lancaster in the southbound direction even if the train left Carlisle on time *at any time of the year.* It’s usually worse in the northbound direction. It’s a very rare event indeed for an Avanti service to be on time leaving Lancaster at the times I tend to travel regardless of whether it was direct or via Birmingham.

Looking at yesterday’s northbounds, only 3 of 22 services left Lancaster on time and the train the runs through without stopping (1S69) was also 5 minutes late. Only 2 of 24 southbound services arrived at Lancaster on time.
 

Bald Rick

Veteran Member
Joined
28 Sep 2010
Messages
21,937
It's probable only a minor thing, but could the autumn weather be more of an issue on the WCML than the ECML, given how flat the ECML is (IIRC the highest part on the Kings Cross - Waverley service is Grantshouse, which is hardly mountainous, whereas the WCML trains have to negotiate Shap and Beattock), so any slippery conditions are less likely to impact upon the ECML?

Yes that is a factor - it’s wetter on the WCML and trains do struggle more to get away / get up hill. In particular the freight services do, which delay the passenger services.


London - Glasgow is a longer journey too (approx five hours versus approx four hours to Edinburgh) so more scope to be delayed by five minutes?

Not really. IIRC Standard time for the Glasgow via Trent Valley is c4h30, the fast Edinburgh on the ECML is 4h22.
 

janb

Member
Joined
16 Jul 2008
Messages
563
A report a couple of years ago showed that a staggering 79% of departures from Lancaster were deemed to be late (the on-time ones were presumably to Morecambe).

Arriving from Morecambe perhaps, but leaving Lancaster most likely not. Morecambe services are the lowest of the low in the pecking order at Lancaster so routinely regulated for late running Avanti services. I long to see the day when 9S44 is on time at Lancaster.
 

Bald Rick

Veteran Member
Joined
28 Sep 2010
Messages
21,937
I doubt you'll have London-Birmingham-Scotland services via New St once HS2 comes in.
Either you will be on HS2 services or use regional trains to connect with it.

you will, they are in the proposed service plan. Hourly.
 

The Planner

Veteran Member
Joined
15 Apr 2008
Messages
12,323
Doing some digging, looks like some running times are being tweaked north of Preston for May 22.
 

Oxfordblues

Member
Joined
22 Dec 2013
Messages
420
Dec 08 didnt really go through the snagging phase. It needed tweaking but the majority of the writers didnt fancy Milton Keynes and its slowly been tinkered/eroded over time. Dec 22 will be a different animal.
I'm glad to hear that from May or December 2022 the timetable will more accurately reflect the times that trains actually run. The current schedules on the WCML-North represent the triumph of optimism over experience! (I was in the Western Region Train Planning Unit at Swindon. All the best and most experienced planners refused to relocate to Milton Keynes.)
 

D6130

Established Member
Joined
12 Jan 2021
Messages
2,454
Location
West Yorkshire/Tuscany
(I was in the Western Region Train Planning Unit at Swindon. All the best and most experienced planners refused to relocate to Milton Keynes.)
I'm reliably informed by ex-colleagues in Scotland that the same applied to those in Glasgow. Therefore it's probably fairly safe to say the same for Crewe, York and Waterloo.
 

Bald Rick

Veteran Member
Joined
28 Sep 2010
Messages
21,937
I'm reliably informed by ex-colleagues in Scotland that the same applied to those in Glasgow. Therefore it's probably fairly safe to say the same for Crewe, York and Waterloo.

I know, personally, many excellent planners who did relocate. None came from Swindon, Crewe, York or Waterloo though, as those Timetabling offices had gone some time before the MK move. In any event:

1) the 2008 timetable was planned before the move to Milton Keynes.
2) timetable planning (for NR) has been at MK for over a decade now, which is more than enough time to gain the relevant experience
3) the timetables are actually written by the TOCs, NRs job is to stitch them altogether in a way that works, and is usually a mastery of compromise.
 

OverSpeed

Member
Joined
13 Nov 2017
Messages
50
Location
Rugby
They often end up stuck behind slow local stopping services.
I travelled from Birmingham international this afternoon to Rugby, and there was blockage between there (bhm international) and Berkswell southbound, but it was the other way around though.
An avanti pendolino service had an issue/fault near berkswell (that service got delayed by 25 minutes) which caused the lnw service i was on (which was going to Northampton) to depart about 23 minutes late, which eventually arrived at Northampton 23 minutes late.

And because of that blockage, That lnw service which formed a service back to new street, departed Northampton 14 minutes late and looks like it was only 7 minutes late arriving into new st in the end.

But just goes to show that between Coventry and Birmingham is such a narrow section and it doesnt take much to cause a bit of a knock on, let's hope hs2 erradicates this sort of thing.
 

The Planner

Veteran Member
Joined
15 Apr 2008
Messages
12,323
I'm glad to hear that from May or December 2022 the timetable will more accurately reflect the times that trains actually run. The current schedules on the WCML-North represent the triumph of optimism over experience! (I was in the Western Region Train Planning Unit at Swindon. All the best and most experienced planners refused to relocate to Milton Keynes.)

I'm reliably informed by ex-colleagues in Scotland that the same applied to those in Glasgow. Therefore it's probably fairly safe to say the same for Crewe, York and Waterloo.

I know, personally, many excellent planners who did relocate. None came from Swindon, Crewe, York or Waterloo though, as those Timetabling offices had gone some time before the MK move. In any event:

1) the 2008 timetable was planned before the move to Milton Keynes.
2) timetable planning (for NR) has been at MK for over a decade now, which is more than enough time to gain the relevant experience
3) the timetables are actually written by the TOCs, NRs job is to stitch them altogether in a way that works, and is usually a mastery of compromise.
Indeed, we were down to three prior to 2010 and had been for a while, Birmingham, Leeds and Paddington. Western was done by Paddington but Brum took it on towards the end.
 

pnepaul

Member
Joined
11 Sep 2012
Messages
101
A few days ago I was on the 14.40 from Glasgow to Carlisle. We departed on time. We were slow through Sheildmuir, then a slow approach to Motherwell, the usual tsr through Carstairs, a slow approach to the Quintinshill loop and Carlisle station, we were 8 minutes late on arrival at Carrlisle.
 
Joined
25 May 2015
Messages
132
Location
Cumberland
The situation/level of service between Glasgow/Edinburgh and Preston these last couple of weeks has been nothing short of disgusting on the WCML.

Cancellations through the roof and delays are a daily occurence.

Nearly every trip in the last fortnight has resulted in some form of delay repay claim.

Needs to improve pronto!!!
 

voyagerdude220

Established Member
Joined
13 Oct 2005
Messages
3,003
Part of the punctuality problem is the often over-tight timings between stations. For example the standard running time for the 21 miles from Preston to Lancaster start-to-stop is just 13* minutes, requiring an average speed of 97mph. To achieve this involves rapid acceleration, sustained high-speed running and last-minute braking. But of course Avanti drivers relieve their colleagues at Preston and therefore must undertake a statutory running brake-test after Fylde Junction, losing at least a minute, often two. Add to this seasonal adhesion issues and defensive driving techniques (ie early braking) and the result is that almost every arrival at Lancaster is at least a minute late. Public perception isn't helped by trains being advertised as departing Lancaster at the very moment they arrive (eg 19:55-19:55) so even an on-time arrival will be followed by a "delayed" departure. A report a couple of years ago showed that a staggering 79% of departures from Lancaster were deemed to be late (the on-time ones were presumably to Morecambe). Avanti West Coast management seem quite happy with this lamentable performance.

(* the 21:43 from Preston is advertised to take an impossible 12 minutes!)
A similar situation occurs southbound from Preston as well, where the fast Euston via the Trent Valley departures and also the Euston via Birmingham departures are often timed in the public timetable to arrive and depart both Wigan at the same time. The same is also the case at Warrington. These small delays are usually recovered though through the extra time they're given south of Warrington.
 

route101

Established Member
Joined
16 May 2010
Messages
9,086
Used to always get delayed coming into Glasgow following local services. I haven't been on any services recently to find out if thats improved.
 

L401CJF

Member
Joined
16 Oct 2019
Messages
606
Location
Wirral
One thing I have experienced a few times heading North, is a late running LNWR service to Liverpool calling all stations (Winsford, Hartford, Acton Bridge) being pathed in front of the Avanti service at Crewe causing the Avanti service to sit behind it and lose time.

The last time this happened by the time my Avanti service finally arrived at Wigan North Western, I would miss my connection to Barrow-in-Furness at Lancaster and the one an hour behind was cancelled so had to abandon journey and return home. I did get a full refund from Avanti hassle free though.
 

Dr Hoo

Established Member
Joined
10 Nov 2015
Messages
3,015
Location
Hope Valley
One thing I have experienced a few times heading North, is a late running LNWR service to Liverpool calling all stations (Winsford, Hartford, Acton Bridge) being pathed in front of the Avanti service at Crewe causing the Avanti service to sit behind it and lose time.

The last time this happened by the time my Avanti service finally arrived at Wigan North Western, I would miss my connection to Barrow-in-Furness at Lancaster and the one an hour behind was cancelled so had to abandon journey and return home. I did get a full refund from Avanti hassle free though.
I think that this would be more correctly described as 'regulated' (by the signaller, in real time) rather than 'pathed' (which implies the timetable plan).

It does seem rather odd for this to occur on a regular basis, given the scope for overtaking both south of Winsford and in the Hartford Junction area.
 

Peter0124

Member
Joined
20 Nov 2016
Messages
1,098
Location
Glasgow
During the Hamilton Circle diverts this week, the Avanti sometimes followed a Larkhall stopper between Cambuslang and Hamilton Central, slowing the service down.

 

Peter0124

Member
Joined
20 Nov 2016
Messages
1,098
Location
Glasgow
In the early morning the north WCML seems to work very well
I've always wondered why that service departs at 4.22. Seems rather pointless considering it's overtaken by the 4.28 and is 1hr 51m to Carlisle. Why not just be timetabled to depart later?
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
6,399
I've always wondered why that service departs at 4.22. Seems rather pointless considering it's overtaken by the 4.28 and is 1hr 51m to Carlisle. Why not just be timetabled to depart later?
Does seem (for the initial part of its run) to be an ECS move operating in public service. Does of course (normally) arrive in Manchester at a useful time during the weekday morning peak, and for anyone joining at Glasgow Central, as it departs there just before 0430, you'd of course be able to use a walk-up off peak ticket.
 

Esker-pades

Established Member
Joined
23 Jul 2015
Messages
3,679
Location
Beds, Bucks, or somewhere else
I've always wondered why that service departs at 4.22. Seems rather pointless considering it's overtaken by the 4.28 and is 1hr 51m to Carlisle. Why not just be timetabled to depart later?
This is to run ahead of morning freight services out of Mossend which were 'there first' (introduced into the timetable). The Dec '22 recast gives an opportunity to change this, so we'll see what happens....
 

adrock1976

Established Member
Joined
10 Dec 2013
Messages
4,042
Location
What's it called? It's called Cumbernauld
I've always wondered why that service departs at 4.22. Seems rather pointless considering it's overtaken by the 4.28 and is 1hr 51m to Carlisle. Why not just be timetabled to depart later?

Regarding the journey time to Carlisle, I believe this is to still allow it to depart Carlisle on time should if any part of the route is closed for engineering works.

Albeit unscientific, when I used National Express many years ago for a journey somewhere, the journey time by road from Buchanan via Glasgow Royal Infirmary, M8, M74, and A6 was around that time that the 04:22 Glasgow - Man Airport takes.
 

Falcon1200

Established Member
Joined
14 Jun 2021
Messages
1,275
Location
Neilston, East Renfrewshire
During the Hamilton Circle diverts this week, the Avanti sometimes followed a Larkhall stopper between Cambuslang and Hamilton Central, slowing the service down.


That particular case looks to have been Wrong Regulation, with the Larkhall service (2L14) signalled before the express, unless there was another factor involved ? Although the performance of 1M16 was not helped by around 13 minutes station overtime at Lancaster !
 

Top