Greater Manchester passengers getting ‘raw deal’, Which? analysis of busiest transport hubs shows

Greater Manchester commuters are still enduring more delayed and cancelled trains than passengers in the busiest transport hubs around Britain after last year’s chaos on the rail network, new Which? research reveals.

In a 12-month comparison of some of the busiest commuter hubs around Britain the consumer champion found passengers using Greater Manchester stations had to endure more unreliable trains in every single month of the year at peak times.

This unacceptable disruption is continuing to have devastating consequences on people’s lives – with passengers telling Which? intolerable train journeys have led them to quit work, left them unable to visit sick relatives or struggling with the impact on their physical and mental health.

In the last year, more than two thirds (68%) of Greater Manchester peak services – in and out of Piccadilly (66%), Victoria (48%), Manchester Airport (60%), Oxford Road (80%), Bolton (73%), Stockport (72%) and Wigan (62%) – arrived or departed at least one minute late or were cancelled.

This compares to around half (51%) of services on average for Britain’s other busiest commuter hubs in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Edinburgh.

Passengers at four London stations saw just under half (48%) of services late or cancelled, Leeds had six in 10 (58 per cent) and Birmingham New Street two-thirds (68%), while in Edinburgh just over half of services (51%) were late or cancelled and in Glasgow two in five (42%) were affected.

That poor performance in Greater Manchester is partly explained by May’s timetable chaos and the punctuality problems that followed in November, but in January Manchester passengers were still being hit by up to 28 per cent more delayed and cancelled trains than the average for commuters using the other transport hubs in the analysis.

Passengers travelling to and from Manchester Oxford Road saw almost eight in 10 (78%) of trains failing to arrive or leave on time in January 2019. This was followed by Stockport at seven in 10 (71%), Bolton at two thirds (68%) and Manchester Piccadilly at around two thirds (64%).

Wigan North Western passengers experienced one of the better performing stations in the region, but still saw more than half (52%) of trains cancelled or delayed, higher than average for Britain’s busiest commuter hubs outside of Manchester which was half (50%).

John Storton, 36, from Warrington, told Which? how the unreliability of his Northern train service affected his career.

He said: “I left my full-time job in Manchester because of the constant difficulties with the stressful commute. What should be a simple journey is a constant struggle on the Northern services. Delays or cancellations made me constantly late for work. The platforms at Oxford Road are far too crowded and often I was spending far too much time waiting around and battling to get on trains.”

Which? also looked at the performance of commuter services on popular routes into Manchester city centre.

John used the Warrington Central to Manchester Oxford Road route, identified as the second worst route in Greater Manchester in January, which saw eight in 10 (81%) of its commuter trains arriving late or cancelled.

The worst route was the Huddersfield to Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly, where more than eight in 10 (84%) trains were delayed or cancelled last month.

Which? is today calling for the voices of northern commuters to be heard loud and clear during the Government’s rail review.

The consumer champion last night (TUES) hosted a listening event with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and its Mayor Andy Burnham, to provide a platform for passengers to voice their concerns, frustrations and hopes in order for them to be fed into the rail review and help make trains run for passengers, not just the industry.

However the rail review should not be used as an excuse for the rail industry to delay improvements. Where changes can be made immediately to improve passengers’ experiences on the trains today – for example through automatic compensation – these should not be delayed further.  


Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said:

“Thousands of rail passengers are being hit by unacceptable levels of disruption – and those in Manchester seem to be getting a particularly raw deal. For these people the daily commute has become a daily torment.

“If the Government rail review is to have any hope of restoring faith in the system it must ensure the views of these passengers – which have too often been an afterthought – are heard and acted upon.

“Train companies should not use the review to delay action. The industry must start listening to passengers to address the chronic issues they are facing.”


Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said:
“This new research from Which? confirms once again just how badly passengers here are being served.

“The chaos last year exposed fundamental flaws with the current rail industry model. That’s why is critical that we have our say in the Government’s rail review and Greater Manchester takes more control of our rail system.

“By working with consumer champions Which? we are making sure that the voices of passengers here are heard loud and clear by Ministers and train company bosses.

“I’ve been clear that the train operators are in the last chance saloon. Regardless of this review – if they don’t rapidly improve their service in the coming months then I won’t hesitate in calling for them to be stripped of their franchise.”


Notes to editors:

  • This research has been compiled by rail performance-tracking site On Time Trains which collates National Rail and Network Rail data to provide passenger tools such as station rankings and delay repay lookup. Passengers can see how their own station’s performance compares to others on the On Time Trains website.
  • The figures are based on the period 1 February 2018 through 31 January 2019 inclusive. It also looks at specific months within this time period. Manchester was chosen as a focus for the research after Which? received a large volume of complaints about services in the city and previous analysis showing Oxford Road to be the least punctual of Britain’s busiest stations.
  • In this research, any train arriving or departing a minute or more after when scheduled is considered late. However, currently train punctuality, or the public performance measure (PPM) for train companies is measured by whether a train arrives at its termination station within five or 10 minutes of its scheduled time. Network Rail is improving the way it reports on punctuality by considering delays at every stop, though it only covers arrival delays – not departure delays.
  • Proportion of trains delayed or cancelled for main stations in Manchester compared to selection of other major UK stations:


  • The 8 busiest Greater Manchester stations, 4 busiest London stations, and 4 busiest stations in the rest of Great Britain were selected for this analysis based on passenger counts in the Office of Rail and Road’s 2017-18 station usage report.
  • Of the train companies serving Manchester Oxford Road station in January,  East Midlands Trains’ passengers experienced more than nine in 10 (94%) of trains delayed or cancelled, while Transport for Wales, TransPennine Express and Northern passengers experienced delays or cancellations of 88, 82 and 73 per cent respectively. Services from all operators were included in the analysis, but in our operator breakdown we only considered those with an average of at least four services per day at a station.
  • Which? also looked at some of the most frequent commuter routes which passengers travel on – and how they performed last month.
  • A number of the problems have been as a result of Network Rail issues.
  • The analysis considers the performance of every service stop/ origination/ termination at a station, including those which were unscheduled.
  • To reflect the full extent of any performance issues, delays were assessed based on the worst of any arrival or departure delays for each service stop. For example, a service arriving five minutes late and departing 10 minutes late was considered 10 minutes late overall for that stop. If no observed timing data was available, the last forecast time has been used instead. If either arrival or departure were cancelled, the stop was considered cancelled.
  • Network Rail’s equivalent national punctuality figure was 66% – peak and off-peak -for a similar period (6 January 2019 – 2 February 2019). This is because our analysis selects the worst of arrival and departure delays at each stop, whereas Network Rail only looks at the arrival delay at each stop (or departure delay at the origin).
  • Service stops on weekdays between 07:00 and 09:59 or 16:00 and 18:59 were considered peak.

Demand a better rail service by signing the Which? petition and vent your frustration on social media with the hashtag #TrainPain

Press Release: , , , , , ,