MP: Time to axe arrogant rail firm
Northern’s ‘over-crowded, dirty and increasingly unreliable’ service
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