The rubbish state of our region's railways

Commuter chaos at Sheffield Train Station
Commuter chaos at Sheffield Train Station
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Reporter Alana Roberts joined travellers at Sheffield station to find out firsthand how bad train services really are

Making my way down to Sheffield train station at yesterday morning, I was surrounded by commuters rushing to catch their train hoping to make it to work on time.

Nottingham passengers faced misery following a train cancellation

Nottingham passengers faced misery following a train cancellation

Upon entering the train station I could see people frantically hurrying up the stairs and to the platform, checking the departure boards on their way through.

The stress was apparent on many people's faces, and it's understandable following the recent issues many have faced with Northern Rail.

Thousands of train services have been cancelled, and over 100 services have been axed.

It was passengers hoping to travel on the 8:03am to Nottingham who were the unlucky ones yesterday, as the tannoy announced the service was cancelled.

Only one train was cancelled, with numerous other delays

Only one train was cancelled, with numerous other delays

This was 'due to more trains than usual needing repairs at the same time', with passengers facing half an hour wait for the next one.

Other rail users were also subject to delays as the 7:47am to Leeds arrived a few minutes late, leaving some passengers frustrated.

They eventually filed onto the train, only to face a packed carriage with many having to stand.

The misery continued as another train to Leeds was delayed, with no word on the expected arrival time.

However, speaking to some commuters, this isn't always the case.

Northern Rail customer Mark Leach, 53, of Meersbrook, uses the train to reach his job as a Lawyer in Leeds.

He said: "I've been commuting a couple of months now and I have not noticed a massive problem with Northern Rail services, they're always on time. It's always on my way back on the Plymouth train it's always late.

"If it got any worse I'd just end up driving to work, they're always a fairly rubbish service anyway.

"It's always packed, just a bad service. If fares increased I'd stop using the train altogether."

It begs the question, is the problem only with Northern Rail?

The thought crossed my mind as the tannoy announced the 7:53am Cross Country service to Plymouth was delayed by 12 minutes, due to congestion on the tracks.

Speaking to Kerrie Bates, 33, an optician based in Nottingham, she told me that she uses the train daily, but hasn't faced any issues herself.

"Whenever I'm passing through I have no issues. I've not been affected personally by the issues with Northern Rail," she said.

"I've been using trains regularly for the past year. However, I know it has affected my colleagues and one can't attend a meeting because of the trains. For me it's so far, so good."

Another rail user, Sam Rose shared his frustration on Twitter under the hashtag #OneNorth. He said :"Had an instance yesterday where I was almost an hour and a half late for work.

"The new timetables mean that even if I'm as little as 5 minutes late on my first train, I will always miss the connecting one to get me to work. Confusing process to claim compensation too."

Andrew Dyson, director of Platform 5 Publishing, a UK based railway magazine publisher, believes that Northern aren't solely to blame for the broken railway.

"I have some sympathy with Northern because many of the problems it now faces are not of its own making," he said.

"The May timetables were planned on the basis that electrification of the line between Manchester and Preston via Bolton would be completed early in 2018, thus allowing the introduction of electric trains on that route.

"That in turn would allow diesel trains to be cascaded to other routes across the Northern network. Network Rail’s failure to complete the electrification has necessitated continued use of diesel trains on the Bolton route, causing a general shortage of diesel trains and making it impossible for Northern to implement its new timetables as originally planned.

"However there must be a question mark over Northern’s planning and contingency arrangements. It has been clear for months that the Bolton electrification was not going to be completed by May, yet Northern was still planning its timetables only a few weeks before they were due to come into operation. Furthermore, the number of train cancellations indicates a lack of robustness in the new timetables.

"Despite these problems, I believe Northern is working hard to improve and we will see the benefits over the next couple of years. Brand new trains are under construction and will start to be delivered later this year.

And he says some Northern routes are always experiencing better services.

"For example the Hope Valley Line between Sheffield and Manchester has seen the very welcome introduction of an hourly stopping service during the day; a vast improvement on the previous two-hourly frequency."

John Cridland, Chairman of Transport for the North, said they are standing firmly with passengers across the North.

"They expect and deserve better," he said.

“The patience of residents, businesses and visitors in the North has been tested. They have been inconvenienced and disrupted and need a rail service that they can rely on.

He says, as a voice for the Northern civic and business leaders, they are calling for Northern to ensure any services in total are at least as good as they were before the introduction of the new timetable.

They are also calling for Northern to provide clear communication to customers so they can plan journeys with confidence and reduce the cost of journeys for customers experiencing disruption.

They say Northern should compensate passengers who have bought advance or season tickets for the next two months, given the reduced level of service and arrange for their tickets to be accepted on other rail operators and modes of transport, to provide passengers with an alternative route.

As a group they want Northern to engage businesses and northern leaders on any future changes that may impact passengers.

He added: “We are deeply disappointed that – two weeks in from the timetable change – we are not yet seeing more improvement. We will scrutinise, challenge and track services over the coming days.

“We, as a group, commit to communities in the North to speak on their behalf and demand a service that is fit for purpose.”

Hearing of the delays that many rail passengers have faced I'm sure most would welcome this action.