Train boss slated for belittling passengers’ gripes in tweets
THE boss of Northern Rail has come under fire for ‘aggressive tweets’ in which he tells passengers they’re blocked, and belittles their failure to ‘grasp the basics’.
Amid months of strike action, delays and overcrowding, Liam Sumpter often has to deal with complaints on social media.
In many of his responses on his account @nettlecroft, Mr Sumpter, the Arriva Rail North director, explains the circumstances and background.
However, our sister paper the M.E.N. has received complaints regarding his replies in some cases. Northern say the boss ‘chooses to engage directly with customers’ and deals with ‘criticism and tough topics’, but Mr Sumpter’s account has since been made private.
One example came after GM Mayor Andy Burnham tweeted that he would be looking into a number of complaints of ‘poor service’ from the operator.
When a passenger informed Mr Burnham that Mr Sumpter never replied, Mr Sumpter tweeted at him: “Not to yours Simon as they’re pretty much nonsense and never ask a sensible question. So...I’ll just ●● Liam Sumpter and one of the tweets that have attracted criticism block you to save us both time. See Ya.” And during a Twitter row over operator profits and funding, he told a passenger: “As for profit fit and d subsidy, b id I’ I’m sorry to say your grasp of the basics is so, so limited that you should probably go and research it if you want tt to understand d t d it b bett ter.” He also wrote he would block another follower ‘so I don’t stumble across his vile idiocy again’.
Passenger Mike Smith, who commutes on the Bolton line, which has been plagued with overcrowding issues, has accused Mr Sumpter of ‘taking Northern’s customer service backwards’.
He said: “His aggressive and condescending nature when communicating with customers is frankly unacceptable.
“Like many customers, I am having to endure a terrible service at the m moment. Customers’ pa patience is being tested to th the limit, so do you hones estly believe that in his p position as a director of th the company, Mr Sumpter is truly representing N Northern in the best light by being rude and argum mentative with paying cu customers when engaging w with them on Twitter?
“I am sure if station staff sp spoke to people in this w way, it wouldn’t be tolerat ated.”
A Northern spokesman sa said: “Rather than rely on th the corporate Twitter handl dle, Liam chooses to engage directly with customers, making it clear in his profile that the views are his own.
“Through Q&As, videos and responding to enquiries and criticism directly, he deals with some of the tough topics such as strike action, disruption and delays. This openness is appreciated by many and these two examples are isolated and do not reflect the positive interactions he has with customers.”
Over the last year, Northern services have been blighted by strike action as staff dispute plans for driver-only trains. A SCIENTIST from Manchester has been awarded £80,000 to help fund her work into the serious auto-immune condition lupus.
Dr Tracy Briggs, of the University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, was one of three researchers to be presented with an Emerging Leaders Prize by the Medical Research Foundation.
Lupus is caused when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue.
It is most common in young women but in rare cases can affect children.
Dr Briggs, who focuses on the genetics of lupus, said: “Winning the Emerging Leader’s Prize means I now have funding for a technician to help with lab work and a bioinformatician to help analyse genetic data.
“I can start to ask new questions about the genetic drivers of lupus that I didn’t have the resources for before.” ●●
Dr Tracy Briggs