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Northern Rail, or should that be Northern Fail?

December 2nd, 2010 tj Leave a comment Go to comments

Yep, you guessed it! One of my famous complaint letters coming up!

Dear Sirs,

Now that my fingers have thawed out sufficiently I find myself having to write to you to complain about the ‘service’ you offered commuters at Mossley Station this morning (2nd December 2010). I’m probably not the first person you’ve heard from this morning, and I’m certain I won’t be the last.

I arrived at the station at around 8am, planning to catch the 0807 to Manchester Victoria. As 8.07 approached the screen updated to say the train was expected to arrive at Mossley at 8.08; I wasn’t too perturbed by this as late arrivals are quite common.

However, when the train did arrive it was standing room only in the front 2 carriages (of a 4 carriage train). The rear two carriages were completely empty. As many people as possible crammed themselves onto the front two carriages but there were at least 30 people, myself included, who could not fit on the train. When we asked the guard (whose head appeared out of a window in the rear 2 carriages) to open the carriages to let us on he said he could not do it. Apparently it was down to that bane of modern life… health and safety reasons, The platform at Mossley is apparently too short, even though the train seemed to fit just fine. I assume a full risk assessment has been carried out?

The next few minutes descended into farce, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. People, understandably frustrated by proceedings, were blocking doors and pleading with the guard to show some common sense. Unfortunately common sense seems to be a rare commodity on today’s railways. The guard threatened to involve the police, but this didn’t deter the commuters. Why would it? They had nothing to lose. Eventually the protesters had to concede defeat and let the train depart.

Thankfully the next train, the 8.27, was relatively empty and I was able to stand uncomfortably all the way into Victoria.

I wonder if you could explain why this happened? Why was common sense not allowed to prevail? There are at least three possible ways to combat this happening.

1. Why could the guard not stand in the supposedly ‘unsafe’ door to stop people using it?  The train wasn’t so long that the entire rear coach was beyond the platform. In fact, it looked safe enough to board to me. Had the guard just stopped people from using the ‘unsafe’ door then passengers would have easily been able to board using the other doors.

2. Why could the front coaches be closed to enable the train to move forward by a few feet and enable the rear doors to be opened safely? Again, this is pure common sense. It would be safer than the first suggestion and all it would take would be a few minutes. I guess you wouldn’t want to do this as it might make your trains (even) late(r).

3. Why not extend the platform at Mossley to accommodate 4 coach trains?  Wishful thinking, I know. And I already know the answer if I’m honest. As a monopoly you would rather bleed your customers dry with yearly price increases (without any noticeable improvement to the service or facilities) than invest in the infrastructure to provide your customers with a better service.

I look forward to hearing you try and explain your way out of this one. I won’t be letting it drop easily. Nor, I suspect, will any of the other people affected this morning. I would like you to address all points raised in this email, but especially those in bold. If I do not receive a satisfactory response soon I will take this matter further.

Yours faithfully,

John Hyde

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  1. ian
    December 2nd, 2010 at 13:58 | #1


  2. Jones
    December 6th, 2010 at 13:13 | #2

    You raise some valid and interesting points.

    There are a variety of reasons as to why the guard didn’t or couldn’t open the rear coaches!
    Can you tell me what train stock arrived or arrives on this service? Ie 144 or 142 possibly a 15x.

    The only main problem I can think of is that there is no connecting gangway doors between the two units. If this is the case then for safety reasons they are not allowed to have passengers on a unit without a guard within contact!


  3. December 6th, 2010 at 13:27 | #3

    Unfortunately I’m not particularly well versed in the different types of rolling stock so I couldn’t tell you which they were. However, the rear half of the train was different to the front half.

    And I can appreciate them not letting passengers on if there isn’t a guard onboard, but there was a guard on the rear half as he was the one that people were arguing with.

  4. Jones
    December 6th, 2010 at 13:39 | #4

    Ah. From the sounds of It they are like you say different diesel units where one possibly has the connecting door and the other doesn’t.

    Sometimes there are revenue protection staff who assist the guard and it is possible that this chap in the rear wasnt trained or authorised to open or patrol this rear unit.

    That said I will assume it was another guard. And if Moseley station was the only short platform on the route then common sense should prevail and with there being two guards, your idea to lock a door or have the second guard protect the door not on the platform should have been fine.

    I am a guard for Northern Rail and I understand passengers gripes and inconveniences as they happen to us too. I am in no way biased towards Northern Rail and just aim to shed a little light on a possible reason.

    P.S I enjoy your Royal Fail and Shitty Link letters as I have had similar experiences.


  5. December 6th, 2010 at 13:56 | #5

    I appreciate the input. It’s good to hear things from the other side of the fence, so to speak!

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