Ismail Mulla: My top five Northern and TransPennine Express rail fails

I've been commuting into Leeds from my hometown of Dewsbury everyday for the past four years.

It’s almost become a tradition that our busted rail network will let us down. In fact, in recent months I’ve decided to leave an hour early as an insurance policy against the incompetence of the likes of Northern and Transpennine Express.

Even then I’m cutting it fine or simply arriving late to work.

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Leeds City Railway station. Pic: Tony Johnson.

However, there is humour to be gleaned from the pathetic situation us commuters in the North have to face.

Given that today marks six months since the launch of the One North campaign, demanding urgent improvements to our rail network, I’d like to share the five rail fails I’ve witnessed on my travels over the past couple of years.

1 - Driver’s seat has collapsed

We’re used to anodyne Tweets and announcements from rail companies brushing off their incompetence.

Although there was one instance where the announcement was simply blockbuster. Crammed, late one Friday evening, on a Northern service from Leeds we were all told to get off because ‘unfortunately, the driver’s seat has collapsed’.

The irony of people stood on each other’s toes was not lost on passengers.

2 - The only seat in the house

Sometimes, if you ever get on a busy Transpennine Express or Northern service, you’ll see a passenger making a B line for the toilets.

Ordinarly, you’d think that person had an urgent need to answer the call of nature. But that’s not always the case.

One morning, we all piled onto the train with faces planted in sweaty armpits and our backsides tucked in to avoid being jammed in the doors as they closed. The standard.

As we trundled along and arrived at one of the calling points between Dewsbury and Leeds, the gentleman stood against the toilet door lost his footing as the door gave way.

From the cubicle emerged a passenger who had simply decided to spend the greater part of his journey locked in the toilet. Cue the laughter.

An ingenious way to travel if you ask me. As funny as this is, it happens quite often.

3 - Put your back into it

Ever since the recent timetable change Transpennine Express has started calling at smaller stations such as Batley and Cottingley.

Great news for passengers getting off there...if they can get off that is. For, there are some smaller stations where the doors on certain carriages simply won’t open.

There have been times where the train guard has advised passengers to impersonate Liam Neeson and pull open doors with their own hands.

I’ve had to do it myself and I can tell you you certainly need a level of Liam Neeson brute force to wedge those doors open manually.

But the funniest door fail has to be the time when we arrived at Leeds one morning and the door just wouldn’t budge.

One passenger, who looked like he was born in a Gold’s Gym, tried and even he couldn’t get it open.

As we exited from the next carriage, the Transpennine guard started booting the door from the outside. It was like watching an 80s action film live.

4 - The ghost train

Overcrowding is a huge issue. It’s exacerbated by the constant delays causing a pile up during rush hour as passengers clamber over each other to get to their destination.

Last week, as usual the 17:40 trundle in to Leeds, inevitably it was delayed but our eyes lit up in joy.

Transpennine Express had actually sent six carriages instead of the usual three. Christmas had come early. Except it hadn’t.

We weren’t allowed onto the rear three carriages. Despite the dangerous overcrowding, we were all packed in tightly like stuffing in a turkey.

All the while there was three empty carriages being towed from station to station.

5 - Riding in the cockpit

Perhaps one of the greatest acts of kindness was when a ticket inspector allowed us to stand in the driver’s cabin to allow as many passengers as possible to get on.

He expertly pirouetted amongst the sea of passengers to open the doors at each station while also allowing people to purchase tickets.

Off the top of my head these are just some of the rail fails that I’ve encountered on my daily commute.

I’m sure there are many more that I can’t recall or other passengers in Yorkshire have had to endure.

If you’ve had a rail fail that’s made you chuckle drop me us a line and we’ll share it with the world.

We’re at a point where it can’t get any worse can it? I mean surely they’re not going to rip out all the seats, lay down some straw and get a donkey to tow us from town to town?