YP Letters: Why should we tolerate Northern's fourth-rate rail service?

From: Wayne Chadburn, Thurlstone Road, Penistone, Sheffield.

Should rail operator Northern be stripped of its franchise?
Should rail operator Northern be stripped of its franchise?

I WRITE this as a daily commuter on the Huddersfield to Sheffield line. The last two days (as I write this – it may turn out to be longer) have been the cherry on a particularly unpalatable cake dished up by Northern.

We’ve had two days of significantly reduced service where those of us that require to travel beyond Barnsley have to change trains and platforms and wait for trains to/from Leeds, adding time and inconvenience to our journeys. The reason for this? “More trains than usual needing repair at the same time”.

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Trains, like any other mechanical device, break down occasionally, but I ask that this scale of malfunction was surely something waiting to happen when we are subjected to old, decrepit and outdated rolling stock on this line. The state of the trains is nothing short of a disgrace. Pacer trains are still a regular and very uncomfortable inconvenience on this line.

Add to the mix to severe deterioration in reliability and punctuality on this line since the timetable changes in May and regular strike action by guards – every Saturday until the New Year – and the suitability of Arriva Northern running a rail franchise must surely be questioned.

My experience is predominantly on one line, but my conversations with fellow sufferers on other routes operated by Northern echo my experiences. I can probably count on two hands the number of punctual journeys I have experienced between Penistone and Sheffield since May.

Regularly the service is terminated at Barnsley or Meadowhall mid-journey in order to avoid the return service starting late and affecting Northern’s punctuality figures. The delay-repay system in place by Northern also discriminates against regular commuters as opposed to the occasional commuter. The Government intend spending billions on a HS2 programme that will have no real economic benefit but plenty of inconvenience for residents of South Yorkshire, all to cut minutes off a journey time to London. This money would be far better invested in improving the current infrastructure and rolling stock in the North.

I have written to my MP and Northern directly voicing my concerns – I ask all others hit by the poor service to do the same.

Why should we have to put up with this fourth-rate service? I also believe questions need be asked of Northern by those in positions of responsibility as to whether they should hold a franchise at all.