Unreliable rail services in the North of England ‘ruining people’s lives’ | Transportation


Commuters and local leaders across the north of England have denounced the “ongoing fiasco” of canceled and delayed trains, which are “ruining people’s lives”.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said users of the Avanti and TransPennine Express train services were greeted with “a shrug” when complaining about the services.

“And we cannot allow that to happen,” he said, speaking to LBC.

“I was a minister and I would rightly have been dragged over the coals if it was the performance of a service for which I was responsible.”

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh also criticized the rail companies.

The government should ‘claw back’ taxpayers’ money used to subsidize trains that are not running, Haigh said, after a third of TransPennine Express trains were canceled on Tuesday.

Haigh said: ‘This ongoing fiasco is causing real damage to the public, passengers and the economy.

“Ministers need to stop washing their hands of responsibility and step in.

‘They should demand a TransPennine Express plan for the urgent improvement and restoration of vital services, and recoup taxpayers’ money handed over for trains that are no longer running.’

Brabin said Tuesday’s train cancellations were ‘typical of the daily hardships faced by commuters in the north of England’ and his own TransPennine Express return train was cancelled.

She said: “We are tired of being pushed around by a failing rail network that does not meet our needs. This is especially unacceptable when our economy needs all the support it can get.

She called on the government to intervene “urgently”, but said “nationalization is the only real answer”.

Adam Major travels between Scunthorpe and Leeds a few times a week to visit his girlfriend.

He said: “Before it was two per hour, then it was reduced to one per hour. And now it’s an hour if you’re lucky. Sometimes there could be two consecutive cancellations. So you’re stuck in the station for three hours.

“I would be at a train station waiting for him to arrive and he appeared on the board saying ‘cancelled’. The only reason they give is a last minute timetable change. Nobody really knows what that means .

The couple will move to Australia early next year “because we’re fed up with this whole situation, to be honest,” he said.

Some commuters try to find workarounds to make sure they get to their destination.

Sam Babrovskie said she moved to Stalybridge for an easy commute as her train is expected to take 14 minutes to get to Manchester. But she now travels to Ashton-under-Lyne and takes the tram – a journey that takes more than double the time – as the trains are unreliable.

“It took me three hours to get home by train a few weeks ago, and that’s when I gave up.”

Babrovskie saw people crying at Manchester Piccadilly station because they couldn’t get to the airport and would miss their flight.

She added: ‘I always joke with my friends that the Victorians would turn in their graves with what we did to the railways.

It comes as a plan to set up a public sector body to oversee Britain’s struggling rail network has been delayed.

Great British Railways, which would take over from infrastructure management company Network Rail and be responsible for distributing rail contracts, will not go ahead in 2024 due to the abolition of the transport bill.

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express said: ‘A track fault at Huyton continues to disrupt our services between Liverpool and Manchester, with the impact also being felt further afield on our network – as far as Newcastle and Glasgow.

“Coupled with this, sustained high levels of illness and a training backlog as a direct result of Covid continue to affect our services and these factors have resulted in a number of ongoing same-day or ‘next-day’ cancellations.

“Under normal circumstances, we have enough people to fully operate our scheduled schedule, but the combination of all of these factors has placed unprecedented pressure on our ability to operate a consistent service.”

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