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Northern Rail is a train operating company that has operated local services in the north of England since 2004. The franchise was won by a consortium formed of NedRailways (the English unit of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the state-owned train operating company of the Netherlands) and Serco, an international operator of public transport systems. This consortium had already won the contract to operate the Merseyrail network earlier in 2003. Serco-NedRailways was announced as the 'preferred bidder' for the Northern franchise by the SRA on 1 July 2004, and signed the agreement to operate the franchise on 19 October. However, the new operators did not actually commence ownership and take over from the previous incumbents (First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern) until 12 December 2004. Most of the former Arriva long-distance routes were separated out into the Transpennine Express franchise, won by First and Keolis; Northern was left with a mix of commuter routes around Liverpool, Manchester, West and South Yorkshire, and the North East, rural branch lines, and some longer-distance stopping services (e.g. York-Blackpool via Manchester Victoria), Leeds-Carlisle or Morecambe etc. Some services are supported by Passenger Transport Executives. Northern Rail leases a fleet comprised of diesel and electric multiple units and has not continued First and Arriva's practice of hiring locomotive-hauled trains.

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    9 Reviews
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      28.02.2012 14:02

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      Will avoid this service until customer service improves dramatically.

      I made a train journey last year on a weekday which started before 9:30 - as I was setting off from an unmanned station I had to purchase a ticket on the train. I tried to use my YP Railcard but was told that I couldn't as it was before 9:30 in the morning. I had checked the Northern Rail website previously and was sure that the ticket price for travelling that early included the YP Railcard reduction, but as I wasn't sure of the regulations I didn't want to be too confrontational, so paid the full fare.

      After making the journey I double checked online (I also contacted someone from Northern Rail customer services) who confirmed that as my journey had cost around £25, that I could have used my YP Railcard at that time of day. I then contacted Northern Rail customer services explaining the situation and referenced the conversation I had previously had with one of their representatives, asking for the difference between the full fair and the YP Reduced fair to be refunded.

      To date I have heard nothing back from Northern Rail. I can't fault the condition of the trains and the services haven't been delayed when I've used them, but the customer service and level of training of their employees is absolutely abysmal. Probably the worst customer service I have experienced from a company in my life (I don't usually complain publicly about companies but felt I had to in this instance!)

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      03.12.2011 23:05

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      Appaling

      I was about to board the train to the metro center,i was no more than 4 feet away from the door no exageration,and was told i could not board because it was too late.I could not have helped this as i had a connecting train.Also the train had lots of room and not many people were onboard.I waited a hour and when i boarded the next train there was only 2 carriages on with hundreds of people waiting,(which would of been expected for christmas time)we all got on with barely space to move blocking the aisles,which surely is dangerous in case of emergancys.Eventually i arrived at the metro center after a horrible journey.However on our journey back home there was once again two carriages which were completely full,we asked the driver what to do and he had a very unpleasant and ignorant attitude saying"what do you want me to do?make the train bigger"i was not at all pleased and nearly didnt get on the train.Luckily there was a small gap for me to get onboard,however many people were left at the station without a word of apology.We had to travel a extra 30minutes on top of the one hour journey, which once again made us miss our connecting train.Never again,next time i will be travelling with virgin.The worst rail company,Ridiculous!

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      30.08.2011 15:41
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      Very sad.

      I have used Northern rail 3 times in the last two years to adventure off to Leeds festival and back. I've only used the one line so I'm just going to review that. It is the Chester - Manchester Piccadilly line with a change onto Manchester piccadilly with Transpennine Trains.

      Our rail tickets cost the 2 of us £26 return (journey 1 on the Wednesday, Journey 2 on the following Monday) WITH RAILCARDS. We purchased them from The Trainline around 4 weeks in advance. The price is great but they were very early morning journeys. The day time journeys were revoltingly expensive.

      The Staff are approachable and will tell you what you need to know but they all look like they've lost the will to live. They've got no enthusiasm and no hint of happiness. They seem very lenient on tickets and they sigh a lot. I really feel sorry for them.

      the trains themselves look more like buses on the inside, the glass shakes really loudly when the train pulls off which gets very annoying. I dont want to know how often they clean those trains, the germs that are probably living on those seats and poles, I dread to think. However, theres pleanty of space for cyclists and wheelchairs to hop on which is good for us festival goers that have to pretty much take the kitchen sink.

      The outside of the trains make them look very old and the clunk and clank very loudly when they move. They really need better trains and a good cleaning schedule. Providing a better environment for their employees will make all the difference.

      The trains are on time if not already sat there waiting for you and get you to your destination on time. Northern Rail need to clean up their image, buy new trains and then there would be no complaints.

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      24.05.2010 23:16
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      Use if you have no alternative

      If you want a good, reliable and pleasant rail journey then look no further than Northern Rail....NOT. I use the service quite regularly not by choice though but because theres no alternative.

      Northern operates primarly in the North West and Leeds as well as some occassional services in the North East. I can safely say that everytime I have been on a Northern train it has been scruffy. The trains are obviously old rolling stock and have definetly seen better days.

      Too packed: In the morning rush hour in Manchester you'll be hard pushed to find and room to sit or stand and the trains are not very frequent at all so you've no choice but to try and force your way onto a packed train which can't be safe at all.

      The trains do have toilets but beware whats lurking around the u-bend usually an unflushed well you know.... and the floors are wet, I dread to think what that is. They can also smell really bad and on a hot summers day you will find yourself holding you breath it can be that bad (doesn't happen everytime but has been the case on more than one occassion).

      Trains also in winter are freezing cold and you can't warm up at all, they seem to have the heating turn off at all times so put an extra pair of socks on.

      I'd have to say that use it but don't expect it to be pleasant.

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      20.09.2009 15:10
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      Not bad I suppose for quick journeys

      Northern Rail (commonly known to Northerners as 'Northern') are the latest of operators to run the rail franchise for Northern England. It's a joint 50/50 venture between Serco Group PLC & NedRailways (NS Dutch Railways) and commenced services on 12th December 2004 after the old operator, Arriva, lost the franchise.

      Northern operate about 200 trains & run a mix of commuter routes, rural routes and some longer distance services in/out & around over 500 stations in Cheshire, County Durham, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumberland, Tees Valley, Tyne & Wear and Yorkshire. They manage 471 stations on behalf of Network Rail, some of which are rather run down but some are newly refurbished, with nice designs & ticket offices.

      Northern Rail's timetables are quite good, trains start early in the morning on most routes, operating right through until late evening 7 days a week for most journeys which is great, your never that long away from another Northern service. Infact Northern operate 33 timetables plus they operate the METRO system in West Yorkshire which is a comination of train services on behalf of Metro (the West Yorkshire Passenger Executive). The timetables are easy to use, and for those who are totally clueless theres a guide for you lot too at the front which tells you how to read it, they are numbered too so when new ones come out you know the timetable number for your route as it alway stays the same. Timetables can be downloaded from the Northern website, mixed with others at TravelNorthEast.co.uk or collect a printed copy from your local station.

      Fares are stupidly high, but they are set by the rail regulator, NOT Northern. Advance fares are better and Northern Rail do some great deals from time to time including their Duo ticket, the Duo ticket allows two passengers to travel for the price of one and is available during off-peak times on various routes, its a great way for a couple or two mates to get out by train. Railcards are accepted and I deffinately recommend getting one, they cost (unless you get a free one with your bank account like I did which sadly just expired 2 months ago), but I would deffinately say get one, especially if you intend to travel longer distance and/or frequently.

      Northern's trains are not all that great, infact, apart from some of those that operate the WYMetro routes, they are awful. They tend to be tidy, i.e. rubbish free but graffiti is a common sight on some of the oldest of the fleet and they are rarely clean, they arn't all that bad for quick journeys but they aren't the most pleasant of trains. Chairs are sometimes uncomfy, dirty and you never know whats on the fabric, I never dare use the toilets on Northern trains. The whole train fleet could do with a revamp, I am from North East (Tees Valley) area and now live in Manchester, it's a shame Northern don't bring the nicer trains they use in Yorkshire to us as more people would use them but it's not part of the franchise agreement to use new trains so I doubt they will waste any money on it.

      Overall, for a quick short journey i.e. Thornaby to Darlington, Newcastle to Metrocentre, Manchester Picadilly to Manchester Airport, they are not that bad but I would hate a 2 or 3 hour trip with them, the trains are old and should be replaced, or at least refurbished to make them a bit more pleasant considering the fares we pay. Staff arn't all that bad, some are pleasant but generally they can't be bothered with passengers.

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      13.03.2008 22:07
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      Bollywood, decomposing sheep and buses

      I thought I'd write something a bit different and talk to you about my journey to and from work - sounds exciting already doesn't it?!!!



      ---Introduction---

      I remember my first time on a Northern rail train. Shattered having come from a day at work in London, I got on the train at Carlisle and drifted in and out of sleep. I awoke to the train stopping. In a panic I rushed to the door only to be told:
      "It's Flimby. You really don't want to be getting off at Flimby!"
      Thankfully this stopped me from getting off before the next stop, Workington.

      It was the railway map which made me pick Workington as a place to live. Located between Sellafield and Carlisle it was within reasonable commuting distance of both, and since I don't really drive, this was important to me.


      Before I write my novel on Northern Rail I wonder who might end up reading this:
      1. Ciao and DooYoo members who will kindly read and rate this review and either tell me what an enjoyable read it is and give it a nice rating, or say that it's 'somewhat useful' because it waffles on for too long.
      2. A general member of the public who is searching for Northern Rail information. Perhaps like me you're thinking of commuting using Northern Rail and want to know more? Perhaps you are a trainspotter who wants to learn more about what goes on inside the train? (If you are a trainspotter please enlighten me - why???) Perhaps you're doing a school project on public transport? Whatever your reasons I hope you enjoy it.

      3. A Northern rail employee. Perhaps since you don't listen to my letters you might listen to my public announcement about your service? I won't hold my breath!




      ---About Northern Rail---

      Information about Northern Rail can be found at their website - www.northernrail.co.uk
      To quote from the site "Northern is the largest train operator in the UK, running over 2,500 services each weekday and providing safe, reliable and comfortable local trains across the North."
      The trains stop at 519 stations (20% of the rail network) which is quite a big chunk! Routes include Newcastle to Carlisle, Liverpool to Manchester, Sheffield to Lincoln, Hull to Scarborough and Leeds to Bradford - a map can be found here - www.northernrail.org/travel/networkmap

      A site for finding 'up-to-date' train times and prices can be found at National Rail - www.nationalrail.co.uk
      Please note neither sites are always exactly up-to-date when there are delays - this can be quite irritating.



      ---"Thank you for travelling with Northern Rail today"---

      It's not really much of a choice is it though? I'm hardly able to use a Virgin train to get to work! Buses tend to take longer and are less frequent, so I'm not using them. Driving is not really an option because firstly I HATE driving. Secondly we only have one car and can't afford a second one, not to mention the petrol etc. And of course there's parking in Carlisle which is almost half what my train fare is anyway. Plus I like to sleep sometimes on the way to and from work, and couldn't really do this if driving. Lift share isn't really an option as I don't know of anyone who comes to Carlisle via my house in a car, and always leaves work at exactly the same time I want to leave. And no, I'm not going to walk 35 miles...

      So, we've established (I hope), that's why I use the train.
      Although I have been on Northern rail trains outside of Cumbria (to and from Leeds for one, and looking at the network I realise I've done Hull to Bridlington a fair few times, although I don't remember it being Northern Rail), my knowledge and experience in this review is based on the Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle route, particularly focussing between Workington and Carlisle.

      I am very aware that service is likely to vary dramatically over the areas especially since it is such a wide network, so I cannot speak for the whole service, although I'm sure that my comments on Customer Service apply everywhere.



      ---The Timetable---

      The train timetable can be found online. It changes several times a year, but the train essentially stay the same - the 07:37 train for instance is currently 07:40, and the 06:53 is sometimes 06:54. These few minutes are quite important as I frequently have to run to the station. On the way home from work I get the 17:27 train most of the time, or the 16:34 if I fancy an early finish. Ok, I can't do 24-hour clocks; from now on it's am/pm! Please note, travel up here is not like a commute to London - miss a train, and it's almost an hour (longer when off-peak) till the next one.



      ---A normal day's travelling---

      It's 6am and I awake to the sound of a moose call. Hubby groans - he doesn't like the moose call. I don't know why, to me the sound is beautiful, it sounds of moose, calling. Initially I put my alarm on Snooze and then wake up 9 minutes later, and repeat - then it is 6:18am. At this time I seriously start to think about whether I am going to be able to make the early train or not. If it's a day where I'm not washing my hair (every other day) and just having a shower I can afford another 9 minutes sleep. If it's a day when I am washing my hair I will probably sleep for another 9 minutes anyway. If I'm going for the earliest train I will usually leave the house just after 6:45am with wet hair (on a hair wash day) and walk quickly to the station. If I have decided to go for the normal train (as I call it), I usually get distracted by e-mails and end up leaving the house just after 7:30am - again with wet hair. Thankfully my hair hasn't ever managed to freeze to my head.

      If I'm having a bad day, this usually means I've been drinking the night before. In which case I'll get the 8:20am train and phone in to say I'll be late - although since I work flexi-time it really doesn't matter. If I'm running late it's only me who misses out as it'll take me longer before I can have a flexi-day. However, this also has the problem that if the train is late, then it's still my flexi-time which I lose. I hate to stand and wait and watch my watch as my flexi-time slips away......



      ---Workington Station---

      On arrival at Workington station I pass Dilbert (not his real name, but if you're a regular at the station you'll know who I mean) who winks at me. I do not buy tickets off Dilbert as it proves to be a slow process, so I either buy them on the train or the day before it runs out in Carlisle. I generally buy either weekly (currently £31.40) train tickets or monthly if I'm not planning to have weeks off or anything (£120.60). (Please note, although there are signs saying that if the station has an office you must purchase your ticket before boarding the train, this is not the case on this line - conductors are perfectly happy to sell you tickets on the train, and they accept credit/debit cards.)

      I stand on the platform at Workington station and wait for the train, or if I'm running late and the train is on time (it is VERY occasionally slightly early) get straight on. Sometimes I exchange a word with a fellow commuter, but it is early in the morning. Once I missed the train I was intending to get, but only once - they will usually wait if they see you running over the bridge). I was told the other week that Workington station is a lovely station. I'm not sure which Workington they're talking about as lovely isn't the word I'd use. Aside from Dilbert (or whoever is working that day), a waiting room (which is rarely open - you have to request it from Dilbert) and some flower pots and a few seagulls and piegeons, there isn't really anything there. I mean, it's not like there's toilets, a shop or other such luxuries! But I suppose if we're comparing it to others then I suppose at least there is a person there, even if it is Dilbert who doesn't really have a clue what's going on. Staff seem happy to let you know if the train is going to be arriving in 2 minutes, but 5 minutes late or more and staff are nowhere to be seen - it's the same on the trains.

      Ah, here is comes. It used to make me laugh. It made my sister-in-law laugh when she saw it. The one-carriage train. Those of you in the south probably won't have seen anything like it - a one-carriage train. Occasionally it does have two or even three - in fact the 8:20am has two. But this isn't usual for the early trains. I used not to like the 8:20am train (aside from the fact that it is always late) as there was an old woman with a yapping dog on the opposite platform...but thankfully I haven't seen the old woman or the dog for a year or so - tragic.



      ---The Sites---

      There's lots of things to see on my journey (mainly sheep), although in winter there's nothing there as it's dark. I do sometimes wonder if the sheep actually cease to exist when I can't see them - perhaps they fly south for the winter? Talking of sheep, I once watched a sheep decompose outside Aspatria, it went on for weeks (it felt like months).....every day it decomposed more until finally it was removed. I really felt sorry for the other poor sheep in the field who had to watch this happen, it was bad enough and traumatic enough for me. Of course though this cannot be blamed on Northern Rail, this is the Aspatrian farmer's responsibility. There's also the sea to see (although the view is best between Whitehaven and Workington) and some beautiful sun rises and sunsets at the right time of year, more sheep, some cows, and well, more sheep really.

      Something which I didn't know about before I came to Cumbria was the concept of request stops. My train stops at Maryport and Wigton before reaching Carlisle. But it will also stop at Flimby, Aspatria and Dalston on request. It's very rare that it doesn't stop at Aspatria, and it generally stops at all stations on the busy trains. If you're on the platform you need to stick your hand out like hailing a bus - all very strange. If you are ever travelling on this line and need to get off at Flimby, in case the conductor doesn't warn you, there is a BIG gap between the train and the platform, you will need to jump.



      ---Carlisle Station---

      Finally, 50 minutes later (unless there are problems) I arrive in Carlisle at platform 2. I finish reading my book, playing on my DS (or whatever I'm doing) and make my merry way over the bridge, through Carlisle station and off to work.

      I haven't told you about Carlisle station. There's not a lot to say really - yes there's toilets (the ones by platform 3 are better than the others), there's also a (very small) WHSmiths, and a couple of coffee places, but they're not open all the time (very annoying). Very recently Carlisle station got a cash machine - about time. There is some excitement at Carlisle station....if you look above there is a wire mesh under the roof which collects dead pigeons. If you've ever got some time to kill at Carlisle station then have a look up, and try and count the dead birds. Or, you could stand and stare at the trainspotters and get angry - after all they are choosing to stand around at Carlisle station...whereas I am doing it because my bloody train is late.

      Actually there was a bit of excitement last year as scenes from the Bollywood movie "Mr Bhatti on Chutti" (holiday) were filmed at Carlisle station - you can read about it here and see some pictures of the station - http://www.northwestvision.co.uk/page/mr-bhatti-on-chutti-production



      ---Did I tell you about the time...?---

      Ok, so you've made it this far I hope you're enjoying the journey. You've had the excitement of Bollywood, but now I'm going to share with you some of the events which stand out from the past few years.

      Of course there was the time that our train was slightly late (nothing new there then) and as a result it was a freight train which hit and killed 6 cows who were stood in the middle of the railway just outside Wigton. If it had been our little one carriage train we might have derailed. As it happens instead we were delayed an hour or so, and got a bus to Carlisle (quite impressed they didn't leave us stranded). On the way home that night we saw the pile of dead cows, and I for one was most disappointed not to be compensated with a nice juicy steak!

      Earlier this year there was some flooding. Sure enough on the rail websites it said that normal service was running on my line. However, on arrival at Carlisle station at 5:15pm, the screen stated that the train was cancelled. This is not by any means the only time that something like this has happened, but I'll use this incident as an example. There are no Northern Rail staff at Carlisle station - this is very convenient for them. It means that when the train is cancelled, myself and the other commuters have to ask the Virgin staff what is happening. As nice as the Virgin staff are, unsurprisingly they don't know anything about what is happening with the Northern Rail trains. They have to put up with all the moans about Northern Rail, and this isn't fair - so my apologies to Virgin staff (on this occasion anyway!). Of course Northern Rail had no intention of putting on a replacement bus service. I met a couple of other commuters who were wondering what to do - although the rail staff had told us that the roads were impassable, we hedged our bets and walked to Carlisle bus station. On that day I'd actually left my purse at home (just had my train ticket in my bag) so literally had no money or way of getting money. Thankfully a fellow commuter kindly paid my bus fare. If it wasn't for that I'd have to have phoned hubby to come out and pick me up.

      As it happens the bus had absolutely no problem driving through the floods, and I got home fine. So much for the impassable road. The next morning I checked the website which said that there was a replacement bus service. I got the train through to Maryport, but no bus was waiting. We waited and waited, and then the nice commuter who paid for my bus fare the day before drove myself and two others to Carlisle. Restored my faith in humanity that there are some genuinely nice people in the world, but not my faith in Northern Rail. On writing a LONG (yes, you know me too well!) letter of complaint to Northern Rail they refused to reimburse my £4.40 bus fare as it's not in their passenger charter. They did give me a £5 as a 'goodwill' gesture. But that is NOT the point.

      Once again they did not even come close to reading my letter. For the millionth time, I am NOT complaining about the weather and I am NOT saying I'd rather be on a train which is not safe - I am NOT stupid. What I am saying is that Northern Rail need to start communicating, stop telling stupid lies about roads being impassable, and treat its customers with some respect.
      To be honest the events all roll into one after a while...the conductors also roll into one although they have their quirks. There's the skinny one who goes on and on and on apologises if the train is running 5 minutes late (which in my opinion constitutes normal service really), but then says nothing on the occasions when it's 30 minutes late. There's the one who announces that we have reached Carlisle - our final destination (always makes me think of the films), although this morning he slipped up and announced that we had reached our final destination of Lancaster. There's the one who has to lean over and touch my ticket even though he must know perfectly well I'm getting off at Workington. I think I must be boring you now!



      ---Complaining---

      I have complained to Northern Rail on a number of occasions. I write quite a good complaint letter, even if I do say so myself (although like my reviews, they tend to be long letters).

      The following though are a list of complaints which I HAVE NOT made to Northern rail - I have saved them especially for this review!What I dislike about the trains:
      *When it rains and there's a wind, the rain blows in through the top of the window. Therefore I have been known to get quite wet. Not a problem when the train's not busy as you can move to another seat, but if it's full then you just have to sit and get wet. I remember once the conductor came along with toilet paper to try and fit in the leaks around the windows.
      *Talking of toilet paper that brings me onto the toilet. Fortunately I have never been desperate enough to use the toilet on a Northern Rail train. I fear that one day I will have to. I'm reasonably happy to use toilets on Virgin trains (probably because I usually have a bottle of wine on a Virgin train), but would avoid Northern Rail ones unless the situation was dire. Sometimes the smell is so bad that you can smell it nearly to the other end of the carriage. To make matters worse, if there are drunk young men (it's always drunk young men I'm afraid), then they urinate on the floor - if there's a group of them then by the time the train reaches Workington then there is a great puddle which spreads across the floor. I am guilty of being drunk on a train, but I have NEVER urinated on the floor you'll be pleased to know.
      *In the winter either the heating is off and it is freezing, or the heating is on really high and almost burns my legs.
      *Sometimes all I want to do is get onto the train and sleep. However, every day you have to show your ticket which involves waiting for the conductor to come down and see your ticket - and you just know that he'll get to you just before the train stops at Maryport and he'll have to go and do whatever it is that they do with the doors.
      *That brings me onto the doors - it's not like a normal train where the passenger can open the door on their own. Oh no, you have to wait for the conductor to do something with a key on the door - it all seems a bit primitive to me.
      *Announcements from the conductor - either they are so quiet that you can't hear them, or they are so loud that even with my Ipod on full volume they deafen me. Just sort it out, please!
      *Sometimes the train is one of those carriages which is more like a bus - either you'll know what I mean or you won't. Either way, these silly carriages should be banned as they are stupid. If I wanted to ride on a bus I'd get on a bus.
      *Lack of forethought - Northern Rail must know it's going to be busier during school holidays, so why do they not put on an extra carriage?
      *When I worked in London and forgot my season ticket I could buy a ticket and then claim the money back later. It doesn't work like this with Northern Rail. If you forget your ticket you have to buy one, and you can't claim it back, even though you're supposed to be able to (trust me, it's not worth it). Although as a result I've only forgotten it twice in 3 years.
      *Screaming children - thank fully this isn't normally a problem, especially not if my Ipod is charged. And I can't blame this on Northern Rail anyway. It's not the children who annoy me though, it's the parents who scream and shout and swear at the children - is it any wonder that the poor kids are screaming?
      *While I'm ranting about passengers, people who barge onto the train before letting the previous customers get off. A lot of time this is groups of teenagers who want to barge on first. But, a lot of the time it's old couples (over 70s) who literally won't let the others off first. Absolutely disgraceful if you ask me.


      Moving onto what I REALLY dislike about Northern Rail, which is generally what fills my letters of complaint:

      * It's NOT the fact that there are delays which bothers me. I understand that sometimes these things can't be helped. Although I think a lot could be done to improve service in the UK as a whole - it seems that there's one flake of snow and the railway grounds to a halt.

      But, It's the fact that when there are delays, no one will tell us (the commuters) anything!


      Actually, that is pretty much it. I think I have said just about all I can on the subject. On the positive side I don't really mind my journey to and from work most of the time, and it's fairly reasonably priced for what it is. It has been rare that I haven't got a seat, and although I do moan, I am sure I'd moan if I had to use the roads to get to work as well.



      ---Finally...---

      You might be amused to hear that the other week I was drunk, and for the first time I managed to sleep through Workington. I woke with a jolt as the train came to a halt at Whitehaven. Hubby was not impressed when he had to come and pick me up (the last train back had already gone). But it could have been worse - thankfully that was last stop Whitehaven - if it'd been Barrow I don't think I'd ever have been forgiven!

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        21.02.2008 21:58
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        Northern have as much talent in running trains as Osama Bin Laden has in Stand Up Comedy

        Northern Rail (Formerly Metro) Operating out of Leeds for West Yorkshire is probably the most abysmal train service in the UK.

        I have lived and worked in Leeds, Bradford and Halifax over the past decade and it has to be said that the service was bad to begin with and it has remained bad. In fact it has never been even satisfactory whichever company had the franchise.

        The rolling stock is decades old, it is slowly being replaced, very very very slowly, however the new carriages are hardly comfortable with the seats being too narrow and an extremely annoying computer sending out public service announcements every two minutes. It also beggars belief that the new rolling stock is centred on the least crowded, parts of the network, while those trains that are full to bursting are still stuck with two carriages of crap, often packed so full that I reckon they are a hundred or two hundred over safe capacity. I speak of course of the Poppleton Line, it serves a number of commuter villages for Leeds and it's usage is increasing exponentially while the transport service remains the same and probably even declines as the trains are more likely to break down than actually leave.

        A lot of the staff are surly jobsworths. Although I don't tar everyone with that brush, I have travelled with several conductors on my route home who all strive to provide the highest quality service, and I have not a bad word to say about them. There are good people in any organisation. However I have also witnessed behaviour amounting to cynicism, arrogance, and even racism amongst certain of the staff.

        I don't know if Northern are in ownership of Leeds Station, but whoever are, they should shoot themselves. The station had a billion pound upgrade into a grey concrete and steel monstrosity that shuts out all natural light. It never fails to depress me when I approach. It is the most horrible building I have ever known. Not only that it is frequently filthy and acoustically appalling meaning you can be deafened by a large train even if you are 10/15 platforms away.

        If I might illustrate just how bad travel in West Yorkshire is. I once made a journey from Halifax to Bradford by train.

        A journey that took me 8 hours.

        Let me reiterate that. In 8 hours I could travel from London to Edinburgh by car. In 8 hours I could fly halfway around the world. I have even walked from Bradford to Halifax before now in just over 6 hours.

        A simple train took longer to ferry me from one town to another than the time it would have taken me to walk, and this is a good 15 miles.

        Oh, and the prices are so expensive I was actually priced onto the roads (at least until my scooter was stolen).

        If you wish to travel beyond 11.30 at night, say, after a few drinks. Forget it, you'll be getting a taxi for £20. Because despite it's claim to be a 24 hour city, Leeds Transport is far more conservative with its hours.

        Despite all that, if you need public transport then the trains are probably your best bet, if only because the buses in the county are, incredibly, even worse.

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        • More +
          22.01.2008 14:27

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          The worst rail service I have ever used in the UK. Should be disenfranchised

          I totally agree with Robert Msc.
          Metro stinks.
          I commute from Halifax to other parts of the country on a Monday - Friday basis. The chance of a train from Halifax on a Monday morning being a) available and b) on time seems to be about 50%. The chance of a train from Leeds on a Friday after 4.30pm being dangerously overcrowded is 100%.
          I have travelled, with other passengers, in the Guard's compartment before now because the overcrowding has been so bad.
          Given the increased use of rail travel in the region overr the past five years the use of two car trains at peak times beggars belief.
          Stock is at least 30 years old, filthy and possibly unsafe, I have known doors not to be operating.
          If this stock and this level of service were the norm in the South East of England there would be an outcry from passengers and in the press and media but somehow Northern/Metro deem it satisfactory to endanger the lives of their passengers on a daily basis.
          There is no excuse for this level of service. Frankly it appals, disgusts and frightens me that the operators have been allowed to continue for so long.

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          01.06.2007 15:48
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          Rubbish. Everything about it is rubbish in West Yorkshire.

          If I were asked to rate West Yorkshire Metro and their Partners, Northern, on a scale of 1 to 10 I certainly wouldn't be rating them any higher than a 4, and even that would be generous.

          I am a Metro Card holder and use this on buses and trains on my daily commute between Leeds and Halifax.

          I use the trains (trains and stations are operated I believe by Northern) between Leeds and Halifax on a daily basis and have been appalled by the level of punctuality and reliability. Trains are routinely late; it is very rare a train will be on time. The reliability of the services is poor as well and it can make commuters lives a misery. In the last 2 months, 4 of my trains have been cancelled and I have been made to wait for at least twenty minutes for the next one. The train that does come along is then woefully overloaded with passengers. It isn't a particularly complex network that is being operated and I think it is totally unacceptable that the service provided is so bad. My commute only involves travelling 2 stops (it amounts to about 12 miles "as the crow flies") so for the jounrey to some times take nearly 50 minutes is just pathetic. People travelled more quickly than that in the nineteenth century.

          The rolling stock is generally rubbish, consisting of trundling old diesels. Some times it feels like being on a crappy, old bus on rails. In fact, some of their trains seem to be pass-me-downs from Merseyrail as they haven't changed the livery on some of them. Any operator that is accepting 30 year old junk from other operators is obviously pretty desperate.

          MY MAIN GRIPE: The customer service is chronic. I made the silly mistake this morning of leaving my wallet in the house. My wallet contained my Metro Card. I was dropped off at the station today which is miles from home, and only then realised my awful error (how could I do such a thing!?) and so was effectively trapped there without any money or my Metro Card. There was no way for me to get back home and nobody I could call. I had no choice but to board my train and go to work in the hope that I could borrow money from colleagues to get back home. As it happens, the ticket inspector, despite being a bit grumpy and OTT at first, could see that I was genuine and simply trying to get to the office. At first he complained that I should have told him before getting on the train, but I explained that I was worried he wouldn't let me on. He simply said "I am not like that", which leads me to think that others are and wouldn't have let me on the train. He took my address and telephone number for some reason.

          Once I arrived at Halifax station I decided to visit the ticket office/information centre to try to find a solution. After all, I had paid my £82.00 Metrocard for the month and innocently left it, and my money, at home- surely there would be a way to get around this as a one off?

          I explained the situation to the guy in the ticket office. I'm not sure what his name was but he seemed to be in his twenties. His customer service skills were abysmal and I found him to be totally unpleasant. Considering the amount that I have to tolerate from WY Metro/Northern on a weekly basis, it would be nice if they could at least provide staff who are friendly and helpful. The staff in the Halifax station were not. It seems that this puss-filled blister of a company not only provides crappy trains, poor punctuality and unreliability, but also provides sour faced and truculent staff to add to the woes of their paying customers.

          I explained what had happened and asked the member of staff whether WY Metro/Northern have a database with customer details on. My reasoning was that any modern company would have a computer system containing such information. That way, somebody like myself who did not have their Metrocard and wallet (in my case out of human error, but in other instances people could be mugged or lose their posessions for some other reason) would be able to make some unqiue arrangement by proving they have in fact paid for their pass and therefore should be allowed to travel under the circumstances.

          Me: "... I don't have my wallet, I don't have my money, I don't have my pass.... so is there a database of some kind? Or is it possible for you to phone another department? I'm really desperate here, it's an innocent mistake. I've paid to use the trains, I just don't have the card."

          "No", he grunted back, with a gormless and unhelpful look on his face.

          "Well what can I do in this situation? I'm trapped here. I've paid 82 quid for my pass, is there not any way around this- an exceptional occurence?"

          "You have to buy a ticket, don't you?"

          "But I've just explained to you I have no money! Surely there is a system that registers customers who buy passes? I even paid with my debit card."

          "No."

          "Well I think that is poor."

          "Well it's poor that you left your wallet at home", he replied in an unpleasant and confrontational manner.

          "Yes, I'm aware of that!" I walked out of the station as this individual was clearly uninterested in helping me.

          Once I arrived in work I phoned WY Metro in an attempt to find out if there was a system in place for people who end up in my situation (as explained, there are various ways in which paying customers could end up in the position I was.) It seems that there is not. WY Metro/Northern, on top of everything else that they do badly, do not have the robust systems in place that are taken for granted in most other modern-day companies
          and organisations.

          Despite the fact that I gave address details etc when I registered for my Metro Card, no record is kept of these details by the company. You simply fill in a form for the sake of it and it is not recorded electronically. So even if you have paid for their over priced pass, if you happen to be dispossessed of it somehow, you can expect no help whatsoever.

          Am I the only one who thinks all of this is a bit poor for the twenty first century, in an advanced nation?

          Whilst WY Metro/Northern make plenty of mistakes on a weekly basis, and provide a generally substandard service, make damned sure you don't make any mistakes yourself, becuase you will not be helped and you will not be forgiven. Luckily for me I was able to borrow money at work to get back home. Annoyingly, the train home was late, and the one before it had been cancelled, so it was packed to the point of being hazardous and the environment was uncomfortably hot.

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      • Product Details

        Northern Rail is a train operating company that has operated local services in the north of England since 2004. The franchise was won by a consortium formed of NedRailways (the English unit of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the state-owned train operating company of the Netherlands) and Serco, an international operator of public transport systems. This consortium had already won the contract to operate the Merseyrail network earlier in 2003. Serco-NedRailways was announced as the 'preferred bidder' for the Northern franchise by the SRA on 1 July 2004, and signed the agreement to operate the franchise on 19 October. However, the new operators did not actually commence ownership and take over from the previous incumbents (First North Western and Arriva Trains Northern) until 12 December 2004. Most of the former Arriva long-distance routes were separated out into the Transpennine Express franchise, won by First and Keolis; Northern was left with a mix of commuter routes around Liverpool, Manchester, West and South Yorkshire, and the North East, rural branch lines, and some longer-distance stopping services (e.g. York-Blackpool via Manchester Victoria), Leeds-Carlisle or Morecambe etc. Some services are supported by Passenger Transport Executives. Northern Rail leases a fleet comprised of diesel and electric multiple units and has not continued First and Arriva's practice of hiring locomotive-hauled trains.