Transport in the North 'no longer acceptable' Northern Rail boss admits - after Meadowhall service is cancelled

Rail transport in the North is “no longer acceptable”, according to the managing director of the Northern Rail franchise.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 11:53 am

David Brown, who has overseen the contract since 2017, admitted to the company’s failings in an email exchange with the dad of a commuter whose service was delayed by more than two hours.

He wrote: "There are huge improvements coming to the railways here in the North, with new trains here now and operating. And as important the roundly unpopular Pacer trains, which are no strangers to Elsecar, are going, which is so important as not only are they slow and uncomfortable they are so much smaller than the trains that will replace them.

"They also say something about rail travel here in the North, which I firmly believe is no longer acceptable.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Northern Rail

Mr Brown has previously described Northern’s Pacer trains, which the company say will be phased out by early 2020, as “old, outdated and not popular with our customers”.

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis was also copied into the email correspondence. In a statement following Mr Brown’s comments, he said: “Our transport network in South Yorkshire isn’t fit for purpose. Huge improvements need to be made to our rail infrastructure.

“With our £220million Transforming Cities bid, we working to make it fit for the 21st century. Now that Northern Rail have accepted that their services aren’t good enough, we need to see urgent and decisive action. I’ll be raising the issue of the Northern Rail franchise with the Transport Minister early in the New Year.”

Paul Downend’s son planned to catch the 18.51 train home to Elsecar after finishing work at Meadhowhall at 6pm on Sunday.

But that service, as well as the next train at 19.45, was cancelled due to a "large amount of sickness" at late notice and the unavailability of reserve conductors and drivers, Mr Brown said.

He added: "In such circumstances we will endeavour to get replacement road transport, but this is not always available and this sadly was the case on Sunday."

Having spotted the delay on Northern Rail's "fictitious timetable", Mr Downend's son explained the situation to his line manager and was allowed to leave work early to catch a different train. Mr Downend, who labelled Northern’s service “shambolic”, said his son is "fortunate to have an understanding boss".

A Northern spokesperson said: “Northern is delivering the transformation of the North’s railways and improving customers’ experience. We are delivering the biggest transformation of local rail for a generation, with 52 of our 101 new trains in service and driver training taking place on dozens more trains right now.

“Alongside 2,000 extra services per week, this is part of a £600 million investment in improving customers’ experience; we are continuing to invest in better stations, better offers for customers and more recruitment.”