Councillor Sykes urges Transport Minister to take action over Northern Rail’s lamentable performance

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has roundly condemned Northern Rail for its recent ‘lamentable performance’ following changes to the timetable and has called upon Transport Minister Chris Grayling to ‘get a grip on the situation’ and impose financial penalties on the company for its failure to operate a satisfactory train service.

Councillor Sykes, who represents Oldham Council on the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Northern Rail’s performance is simply unacceptable. They had plenty of time to prepare for these timetable changes and for the re-training of staff, but they clearly did not care enough about the long-suffering rail passenger to do so.  For Northern, maximising profits rather than customer service is clearly their priority.”

He added: “Rail customers pay a lot of money to train operators in the UK relative to their European counterparts, and they rightly expect that their train will at least turn up on time and that they will be able to get a seat for their journey.  Yet in recent days we have witnessed train cancellation after train cancellation with the result that rail passengers are so late for work that their jobs have been put in jeopardy or they arrive homes hours later than usual.  When the train does turn up have to suffer a delayed journeys crammed like sardines in old, overcrowded carriages.  You just need to stand at Manchester Victoria station and listen to every announcement that a train has been cancelled because of the unavailability of train crew to know that Northern have got it so, so wrong.”

Councillor Sykes concluded: “Transport Minister Chris Grayling now needs to get a grip of this lamentable situation.  I welcome the fact that he has now finally met with the Mayor of Greater Manchester and our local MPs and has promised financial redress and an independent inquiry into the debacle.  I have written to the Minister to add my voice to those urging him to hit Northern where it will hurt them most – in their pockets, by imposing financial penalties and by paying proper compensation to passengers – and, if they continue to get it wrong for much longer, to take the franchise back and let the Government run the railway themselves.”

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