MP: Time to axe ar­ro­gant rail firm

North­ern’s ‘over-crowded, dirty and in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able’ ser­vice

Midweek Visiter - - Front Page -

CALLS have been made to strip “ar­ro­gant, out-of-touch” North­ern Rail of its fran­chise, af­ter an MP slammed the firm for its “dirty, over­crowded and in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able” ser­vice.

The trans­port gi­ant op­er­ates a num­ber of ser­vices across the North West, in­clud­ing the line link­ing South­port with Wigan and Manch­ester, and Liverpool with Manch­ester.

But frus­tra­tions have con­tin­ued to grow over fre­quently de­layed, can­celled or over­crowded trains, with a lack of driv­ers wiping out large num­bers of ser­vices this month.

Manch­ester Metro Mayor Andy Burn­ham says he has been bom­barded with com­plaints about de­lays, over­crowd­ing and can­cel­la­tions on North­ern Rail ser­vices and has writ­ten to Trans­port for the North (TfN) to see if North­ern Rail has breached the fran­chise agree­ment it needs to op­er­ate and what ac­tion can be taken.

Mayor Burn­ham high­lighted “an un­ac­cept­ably poor ser­vice in re­cent weeks” and said pas­sen­gers “de­serve so much bet­ter than the dire ser­vice they have been forced to en­dure in re­cent months”.

In his let­ter to TfN, he said: “How can it be right that North­ern pre­sides over a ser­vice on which dan­ger­ous over­crowd­ing in rush-hour is the norm, to such an ex­tent that we know pas­sen­gers have been taken ill?

“What ac­count­abil­ity ex­ists for an op­er­a­tor so per­sis­tently fail­ing in its duty to de­liver a re­li­able, safe ser­vice?

“The time has come to in­crease pres­sure on North­ern to start de­liv­er­ing for its cus­tomers.

“I am call­ing for TfN for­mally to as­sess whether North­ern is in breach of its fran­chise agree­ment.”

Wigan Wall­gate is on the line be­tween South­port and Manch­ester, and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy is so ap­palled at the poor ser­vice she is call­ing for North­ern to be stripped of its fran­chise, af­ter the Gov­ern­ment stepped in last week to re­move Stage­coach and Vir­gin from run­ning East Coast main­line trains.

Lisa Nandy told Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day: “North­ern pas­sen­gers were promised a bet­ter ser­vice when the fran­chise was awarded a cou­ple of years ago, but that ser­vice is dirty, over­crowded and in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able.

“Will the Trans­port Sec­re­tary join me, the Mayor of Greater Manch­ester and cross-party MPs, and, in the pub­lic in­ter­est, step in to strip this ar­ro­gant, out-of-touch com­pany of its fran­chise?”

Anal­y­sis seen by the Visiter high­lighted the ex­tent of prob­lems on North­ern as 21 of 28 ser­vices run­ning from South­port-Manch­ester Pi­cadilly have av­er­aged a late ar­rival time over the last four weeks.

Dur­ing that same pe­riod, more than a quar­ter of the ser­vices leav­ing at 08:23, 09:24, 11:23 and 13:23 each day have ar­rived on more than 20 min­utes late. South­port res­i­dents who rely on the net­work have also ex­pressed their anger, just weeks af­ter the num­ber of ser­vices link­ing the town to Manch­ester Vic­to­ria was dras­ti­cally slashed.

Chris Opher, who reg­u­larly uses the ser­vice with his wife and their 19month-old twins, de­scribed their ex­pe­ri­ence as “night­mare, can­cel­la­tion, af­ter can­cel­la­tion af­ter can­cel­la­tion be­yond a joke.”

Sarah Ed­wards, who stud­ies nurs­ing in Manch­ester, said: “I use this ser­vice reg­u­larly to come home some week­ends, a cou­ple of times now I have found my­self wait­ing hours on a Fri­day evening af­ter my shift for a train and, when it does even­tu­ally ar­rive, I have to stand when I’ve been on my feet al­ready most of the day.

“Re­cently I’ve found my­self stranded on a Sun­day un­able to get back to Manch­ester for my shift or univer­sity lec­tures on Mon­day, due to a short­age in train driv­ers.”

Craig Prescott said: I once met a friend in Manch­ester. We then went our sep­a­rate ways. He went back to Lon­don, I went back to South­port. My friend got home first.”

Pho­tog­ra­pher Wil Reed said: “No heat­ing in win­ter, heat­ing on full blast in sum­mer, 40 year old trains that shake you to death. Best thing about it, I pay over £3k per year for the priv­i­lege of us­ing them.”

North­ern Rail MD David Brown has writ­ten to Mayor Burn­ham say­ing re­cent prob­lems had been caused by driver short­ages and by de­lays in the com­ple­tion of in­fras­truc­ture work.

His let­ter said: “Dis­ap­point­ing cus­tomers is not some­thing we’re happy with, and we’d like to assure you North­ern is do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to get ser­vices back to an ac­cept­able level.”

Manch­ester Metro Mayor Andy Burn­ham says he has been bom­barded with com­plaints about rail ser­vices over the past few years – while, left, ser­vices out of South­port have been de­scribed as ‘in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able’

We’re try­ing to make things bet­ter – North­ern Rail MD David Brown

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