Yorkshire’s biggest train operator saw the number of complaints about its services rise by nearly 300 per cent last autumn, following months of delays and cancellations in the wake of a botched timetable introduction, new figures reveal.
The company also emerged as the second worst at resolving grievances within the industry standard time of 20 working days, with only Hull Trains faring worse.
Northern, which last month escaped a fine from the Office of Rail and Road, the official industry regulator, for the way it relayed information about the delays, was said by the same organisation yesterday to have seen its complaint rate rise in the space of a year from 13 to 52 for every 100,000 journeys.
But one passenger in four was made to wait a month or more for an answer, the ORR said.
Hull Trains was said to have answered only five per cent of its complaints within the mandated time, although the regulator suggested the company’s data may be wrong.
The firm was beset by breakdowns on its fleet last year.
The consumer group Which? said public trust in train travel has fallen to 20 per cent, the lowest since it launched its consumer insight tracker in 2012.
Alex Hayman, its managing director of public markets, said the latest figures were “unacceptable”, adding: “It’s little wonder trust in the rail industry is worryingly low.”
Another Yorkshire operator, TransPennine Express, saw the third biggest increase in complaints, the ORR said, with a figure above the national average and nearly 80 per cent higher than last year.
The punctuality and reliability of Northern trains were the most complained-about aspect of its service, accounting for 40 per cent of the total, it said.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train companies, said they were all “determined to improve punctuality and tackle delays”.
Its regional director, Robert Nisbet, said: “We know that services on some routes weren’t good enough last year.” He said some operators had introduced automatic refunds, but the consumer group Which? has called for them to be made mandatory for all services.
The former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams is carrying out a Government-commissioned review of the railways. The Department for Transport said: “When things go wrong people must be compensated fairly.”