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‘Clowns’ on the line – and no compensation for many, despite rail chaos

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Staff at the region’s biggest rail operator were accused today of acting like “circus clowns” after another morning of cancellations and the revelation that passengers on many routes affected by the summer’s timetable chaos will not get compensation.

The latest embarrassment to hit Northern Rail came as all rush-hour services on the busy Wharfedale line from Ilkley to Leeds and Bradford were cancelled because of a broken-down train on the track. It was the second time in four days, for the same reason, that no peak services had run.

Commuters described farcical scenes as, with passengers still inside the carriages, staff argued about whether to push or pull the faulty train out of the way.

One woman, whose daughter was on the 7am service to Leeds, said: “It was beyond stupid. They were like circus clowns going through the carriages with torches, even though it wasn’t dark.

“There were three drivers, two conductors and one mechanic, all going mad. They send inept people and trains that break down, and for this to happen twice in a week is unforgiveable.”

Another passenger, who was delayed at Ilkley for more than two hours, said: “The broken down train was re-started. And then broke down again. No replacement bus service. Pathetic.”

He described one passenger being “visibly upset” at being late for a new job for the second time in a week.

But as tempers boiled over, customers were dealt a further blow as it emerged that the line – which has been badly hit by the summer-long timetable chaos on Northern – has been excluded from the compensation package agreed last month with the Government and Transport for the North. Season-ticket holders on the Harrogate and Skipton lines will also be ineligible.

All three routes are said to have not met the “agreed cancellation threshold” at the beginning of the crisis.

Ilkley’s MP, John Grogan, warned Northern that “patience amongst commuters on the Wharfedale line was “wearing thin in the summer heat”.

Mr Grogan said: “I have had a dozen letters and emails of complaint about the service this week, some from people who now say they will abandon the train for their cars. I shall seek urgent discussions with Northern Rail – they need to get this sorted before the big return to work and school in the first week of September.”

Asked by The Yorkshire Post to explain the latest delays and the lack of information to passengers, Northern issued only a short statement, with its spokesman declining to be interviewed.

It said the train halted today was of a different type to the one that had failed on Monday and that “from an initial view, it looks to be a different issue”.

The statement said: “We would like to apologise for the disruption this week. We aim to keep customers as updated as possible both on-board and via online and we are investigating the communications that was provided to see how we can improve.”

Last month it was announced that season ticket holders in Yorkshire would get less compensation than in the North West, where timetable disruption was at its worst. But Northern now says that only users of routes from Leeds to Settle, York, Selby, Barnsley and Manchester Victoria will be entitled to claim.