Hello. Posting this because it’s bound to get no attention from Northern Rail (or a very generic answer, at best) and it’s important that someone is able to take note of the problems associated with this company:
Bit of a formal-informal complaint here, mainly because it was requested by one of your team that works the twitter account. Essentially, I’m a frequent rail user, I’ve invested in a railcard and my monthly expenditure in rail fare is equal to, if not on par with, my meagre part-time salary I earn whilst reading towards my masters degree. Now, as a career student I am used to some divey places — hell, as a frequent Northern Rail user I am more than used to some divey places — but nothing quite compares with what I had to experience earlier today on my journey both to and from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Allow me to set the scene, if you may:
Seven’o’clock. I arrive at the station with all my gear packed and ready for work. Mornings aren’t my friends at the best of times and I’m already in a rush because the ticket office attendant is making sure that my rail card is definitely a valid one. I can appreciate this. Those rail-card pirates that go to such extremes as to fake a 16-25 ‘card and save the grand total of two pounds are really devaluing the Great British Rail Service. But alas, I make my train on time thanks to an extremely friendly conductor that realises my problem and halts the train for me. I really don’t have much to complain about in my outward journey and I now know one of the causes for the many, prevalent delays that we experience as users of trains: pedantic ticket attendant jobsmiths and accosted, frantic students (though let me point out that in no way is this a fault in my timing; your ticket offices open at seven in the morning and the train was scheduled to leave shortly thereafter).
The return journey, however, was more farcical than this complaint I’m lodging. This was the 5:30 train travelling back from Newcastle to Hartlepool in a scorching, albeit lovely, 27 degrees centigrade. Understanding it is the rush hour for commuters, I arrive at the train expecting to stand and be somewhat uncomfortable, but what I was not expecting however was to be lodged inside a dangerously packed carriage with other worktime commuters. Please see the first attached photo as proof of what we all had to endure on that ride back. People couldn’t even stand up; on more than one occasion a jolt from the horrendously outdated carriages’ suspension knocked someone from their feet. Luckily, though, because the train was that full they just kind of hung in the air, squeezed like a sausage in between two baps — I’m also bitter that I missed a BBQ today — due to the force applied to them by other passengers. Putting this into context, the stranger forced in next to me breathed (sensually, I’m sure) more onto my neck than my girlfriend has in the previous month. It is natural to assume that I have an underactive sex life because of this, but I can assure you that this is definitely not the case.
Alas, I digress. The train was packed up until Seaham, at which point most people disembarked (not quite by choice. The doors just opened and they flew out) and I found myself once again able to breathe. Unimpressed by the amount of sweat I had produced, though, I just kind of hid in the corner and awaited my stop. Free to reflect, I thought about what just occurred: not once had my ticket been checked, the train was too packed for the conductor to even leave her cabin, and I am certain the sheer amount of people onboard had gone overlooked. The consequences of this is not really something that can be sorted once this situation occurs, and the train’s supervision and safety is thus overlooked for the whole trip. Allow me to tell you, as someone that actually could overlook the carriages, that this was not a safe journey; the combination of people and the temperatures produced as a byproduct could have seriously harmed someone and I am surprised that the people tripping en route were not injured. It is not something, though, that I think is aptly addressed by telling passengers that “in older trains there is no air conditioning, we are sorry” as someone else was via twitter.
I understand it was an unusually busy time, I understand it was unusually hot, I understand the principles of a rush hour. However, what I do not understand is the negligence to provide a greater amount of carriages or alternative means of transportation, I do not understand why the train was allowed to run in the circumstances that it departed the station, and I certainly do not understand why there were no plans in place for this kind of situation (read: “sorry you have experienced this… We try to avoid [it] whenever possible” is not a good excuse). Given that I can get a plane to Belgium from Manchester for a cheaper price than I can get a train to Bradford from Newcastle, I would have thought that more effort would have been put into both taking care of passengers and preempting events like this. And further given that Northern Rail is a private company, I must be honest in saying I am terrified if a company equivalent to your own gains any contracts when the NHS is inevitably privatised. The only redeeming factor I’ve encountered so far is that your customer service teams are well trained, friendly and helpful (however this does somewhat answer my previous question of “what the bloody hell do you do with the money earned through this private enterprise?”).
Finally, though, the last station has been reached. Gathering my stuff and exiting the train, wet and disgruntled, though happy for not dying in the previous hour, I notice a man. He was not so lucky, and perished on the way back. You can see him in the second attached photo, four rows back on the right. If there is a moral to take from this, it is certainly that you should please improve your services. I don’t want more people to die, and I’m sure none of you do either.
Kindest Regards, I suppose,