BOSSES at under-fire rail operator TransPennne Express have admitted that a 15-year-old teenage girl may have been left stranded miles from home because a train driver did not know where to stop on one of the region’s busiest routes.
The extraordinary admission comes after the troubled rail firm sent an apologetic letter to Nicola Robinson after she submitted a formal complaint about her daughter Chloe’s plight.
Details emerged just days after Thelma Walker, the MP for Colne Valley, persuaded Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to agree to meet local campaigners who have been highlighting persisting problems on the main line between Leeds and Manchester.
Despite repeated calls and emails from The Yorkshire Post to the TransPennine Express press office, the company did not offer an explanation for the saga which took place on September 29.
Mrs Robinson’s daughter had travelled from Slaithwaite to Leeds that day with friends to spend money that had been given to her for her 15th birthday. She then caught the 13.41 train back home.
Even though the family says that passenger information screens confirmed that the train was due to stop at the Slaithwaite, and that this was backed up by National Rail Enquiries in a subsequent phone call, the first Mrs Robinson realised there was a problem was when she received a frantic call from her panic-stricken daughter.
She said Chloe was in tears as the train passed Slaithwaite without stopping – and then the telephone line went dead as passengers passed through one of the long tunnels alone the line.
She was able to get off the train at Stalybridge, on the outskirts of Greater Manchester, before facing an anxious wait on her own before catching a train back home in order to begin her Saturday job at a local shop.
The family complained to TransPennine Express and a member of the operator’s customers relations team replied this week: “I have investigated this journey for you, and I have been able to see that the train failing to stop was in fact due to an operational issue.
“I could not tell you specifically why this has happened, although it may be due to the driver not being fully informed of whereabouts to stop along that route, and if this is the case you have my most sincere apologies.”
She enclosed £3.70 to reimburse the Robinson family for the cost of the ticket and a £10 rail voucher valid for 12 months which “can be used anywhere on the UK rail network excluding the London Underground and the Heathrow Express”.
More than 750 trains serving Slaithwaite and nearby stations have either been cancelled since new timetables were introduced earlier this year – or seen late-running trains ordered not to stop at Pennine communities in a bid to make up lost time between major towns and cities.
Many commuters say they’re being forced to make alternative travel plans while local businesses claim the unreliability of train services is hitting tourism in the Colne Valley.
Local MP Thelma Walker said: “The situation that my constituents have had to face over the last several months with rail provision is unacceptable. Journey times have been extended, commuters can’t get to work on time, they have had to sacrifice time with their families and have struggled to make childcare arrangements to cope with the chaos.
“Since the May timetable changes, there have not been two consecutive days without cancellations affecting Slaithwaite and Marsden. Furthermore, there are accessibility issues at Marsden station, making it incredibly difficult for disabled rail users to use the services.
“While the quality of provision has rapidly deteriorated since May, fares continue to rise, and the compensation scheme in place does not reflect the extent of the disruptions. Many of my constituents have reluctantly decided to travel by car, and local businesses are also being impacted.”
Meanwhile Mrs Robinson describes the company’s latest excuse as “pathetic” and said passengers of all ages should expect to receive reliable information at stations – and on trains.
“There’s the safety aspect – Chloe was left very upset – but the thing that annoys me most of all is that the conductor checked her ticket,” she added.
“Why didn’t he tell her that the train was not stopping at the station?
“It can’t carry on like this.”
After this story was published online, TransPennine Express sent an email to The Yorkshire Post. It said “In regards to the enquiry this morning, we would be happy to get in touch with the complainant directly about this matter. Could you pass this onto her so we could reach out to her on Monday?”
TRANSPORT SECRETARY Chris Grayling has agreed to meet members of Smart – Slaithwaite and Marsden Action on Rail Transport – to discuss the persistent problems facing passengers on the trans-Pennine line.
Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker has been inundated with complaints and met Mr Grayling earlier this week to put these to him as the number of services cancelled at short notice continues to mount. “The Government must answer for this chaos,” she said. “The Transport Secretary seemed to be listening, but now needs to meet with the rail user groups who have been campaigning so actively since May.”