Rail network 'crippling the North': Leeds commuter's angry open letter about life as a Northern passenger

Leeds rail station.
Leeds rail station.

The rail network is “single-handedly crippling the North of England”, one angry rail commuter has said.

Jack Dart, 25, relies on operator Northern to get him from his home at Apperley Bridge to work as a recruitment consultant in Leeds.

But he has said frequent delays and ongoing strikes have had an impact on his professional and personal life.

Here, in an open letter to his Bradford East MP, Imran Hussain, Mr Dart describes the current frustrating realities of life as a Northern customer.

THE LETTER

Dear Mr Hussain

I’m writing to you as I am finally at the end of my tether with the continuing disruption of the Northern Rail service.

I am a member of your constituency and live in Apperley Bridge and work in Leeds. Earlier this week it took me over an hour to arrive at work, a journey which usually takes around 15 minutes because the service didn’t have enough carriages and we were not allowed to board the train, despite buying a ticket for it.

Surely they should not be allowed to continuously charge for a service which is not up to scratch. If you or I went to a restaurant and we were served our food 40 minutes late and it arrived cold, I am sure we would both feel well within our right to send this back or not pay as the service wasn’t up to scratch.

Does Northern Rail surely not break the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which states that a product or service must be as described (which it is not) of satisfactory quality (of which it’s not) and fit for purpose (which it’s not)?

Not only is a continued late service on a weekday incredibly frustrating and has led to me looking foolish in my place of work by arriving late and flustered, but it has also impacted my personal life with continued weekend strikes which I have seen have been prolonged into November.

This will now extend the strikes over three months which is ridiculous. If I want to travel into Bradford or Leeds, I am having to alter my plans or take alternative transport home and a taxi from Leeds city centre can cost upwards of £20.

This has led to issues in my personal life where I have not been able to keep up to date with friends as I have to leave after just a few hours of meeting them and also means that if I wish to attend a football game which starts at the regular 3pm kick off, I cannot make it back to the station on time to catch the last train home.

At what point will the government make a true intervention and either blame these strikes as unlawful or provide a different service which can actually fulfill the needs of the people who elect them?

People talk about the Northern Powerhouse and as a proud Yorkshireman, this is something I am desperate to see to avoid a brain drain to London and the South East, but given the state of the transportation network the Northern Powerhouse is nothing more than a myth created by Westminster to placate people of the North.

The transportation network is not fit for purpose and this is a fact. The transportation network in this country is single-handedly crippling the North of England.

Whilst I would love to do more business in Manchester and bring more money into the Yorkshire region, this is quite frankly impossible as I cannot guarantee that I will be able to punctually make meetings in the North West.

Again, at what point will the government intervene?

I hope you will take these concerns seriously as an elected member of parliament whose duty it is to represent your constituents as this has gone on for far too long.

Jack Dart

THE RESPONSE

Mr Hussain said: "Northern Rail passengers are being forced to endure a shockingly substandard rail service that isn’t just not what people expect, it’s also not what they need, with overcrowded, old, cancelled and delayed trains stopping them from getting to work and seeing family.

"Added to this is the double whammy of rising fares that sees passengers pay more for an increasingly poorer service.

“Instead of blaming others and pushing ahead with staffing changes which will put passenger’s safety at risk and reduce accessibility for disabled passengers, Northern Rail should concentrate on delivering the safe, reliable and value for money service that passengers across the region need.

“With the failed timetable changes and disgraceful service provided, it’s clear that the experiment of privatisation of our railways has been a disaster, and not only will Labour freeze fares on Northern Rail and end the dangerous reduction in staff on trains, we will bring the railways back into public ownership.”

Northern was approached for comment.

THE BACKGROUND

The continuation of strikes by union RMT is a “blow for our regional economy”, operator Northern has said.

The union held the 31st walkout in an ongoing row over the role of guards on Saturday and has announced further strikes on three consecutive Saturdays from October 27.

In a statement last week, Richard Allan, deputy managing director for Northern, said: “RMT’s latest announcement will mean that Northern’s customers have had to endure strikes every Saturday in September, October and now into November - this is incredibly frustrating and disappointing and is a further blow for our regional economy.”

Union members were “standing rock solid”, general secretary Mick Cash said.

He said: “We are angry and frustrated that the company continue to refuse genuine talks that could work out a deal that underpins the guard guarantee.”

A period of major disruption had also been caused by timetable changes in spring, which Northern had said it was “deeply sorry” for.