The morning Tweets tell an all-too familiar tale for Leeds commuters

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The tweets will make frustratingly familiar reading for many early morning commuters and other rail users in Leeds and across the rest of Yorkshire.

From the Northern operator’s official Twitter account yesterday morning, one read: “CANCELLED: Due to a train fault 07:04 #Ilkley to #Leeds due 07:31 will be cancelled.”

Another, from the same account, told a similar tale: “CANCELLED: Due to a train fault 07:37 #Ilkley to #Leeds due 08:09 will be cancelled.”

Northern, of course, is not the only local rail operator where services do not always run smoothly or according to the timetable. Published in January this year, a report by the Passenger Focus watchdog indicated there was significant room for improvement on First TransPennine Express trains.

Just 61 per cent of those surveyed for the report said they were satisfied they were getting value for money. And only 59 per cent declared themselves satisfied with the room for passengers to sit or stand on First TransPennine Express services.

Since then, however, it has been all change for those in charge of Leeds’s trains.

New Northern and TransPennine Express franchises both kicked in at the start of last month, with promises of massive investment in the years to come.

Northern services are now being run by Arriva while FirstGroup has taken sole control of the TransPennine franchise.

And hopes are certainly high in the corridors of political power that both Northern and TransPennine Express will prove to be the real deal.

Coun Keith Wakefield, chair of the transport committee on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, today told the Yorkshire Evening Post’s special week-long focus on transport: “The introduction of the new Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises is good news for the fast-growing numbers of local rail passengers, who will be pleased that both franchisees are committed to introducing new, faster trains, reducing overcrowding at peak times and serving more places more often in the evenings and on Sundays.

“[Benefits for] West Yorkshire passengers include a 52 per cent increase in the number of seats on the TransPennine Express trains serving Leeds during the morning peak, thanks to longer trains and more frequent services. There will also be a 40 per cent increase in the number of passengers that can be carried on Northern trains.

“Other benefits will include staff at more stations, free Wi-Fi on trains, better customer information on-board and at stations, support for West Yorkshire’s MCard travel smartcards tickets and automatic compensation for season ticket holders when things go wrong.”

But it is not just the firms responsible for running Leeds’s trains that are in the process of ushering in a new era.

Plans were recently revealed for the transformation of a huge part of the city centre into a rail hub for the entire north of England. The proposals would see high-speed HS2 lines running from the south across the River Aire close to the existing Victoria Bridge and stopping at platforms forming a ‘T’ with the current east-west lines at Leeds City Station. And, albeit on a smaller scale, trains are due to start calling next month at the new Kirkstall Forge station – a step transport bosses say will ease congestion on the busy A65 road route.

There does, then, seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel for rail users in Leeds.

The city-bound passengers left waiting on the platform in Ilkley yesterday morning will be among those hoping that the reality finally lives up to the contents of the brochure.

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