By Billy Curtis
The blame for late or cancelled trains should be levelled at the company responsible for the nation’s rail infrastructure and not just the service operators, according to a pressure group.
The chairman of Bradford Rail Users Group, James Vasey, spoke out as Network Rail, which manages the railway network, unveiled plans to share the burden of responsibility with individual train operating companies, such as Northern Rail, which runs services in West Yorkshire.
Mr Vasey said: “Although we have seen an increase in delays and smaller, more crowded trains, this is not Northern Rail’s fault.
“Northern Rail do not control the railways, if your train is delayed for a signal fault, it’s Network Rail; the national rail operator.
“But the passengers see Northern Rail on the ticket and that’s who they blame.
“Railway is improving. If you take a look back to 2006 when the first Northern franchise opened, it was terrible.
“You were going to the train station expecting a delay, whereas now you expect your train to be on time.
Quality has increased, but with that so have customer expectations.”
It comes as Chris Grayling is set to announce plans to strip Network Rail of its complete control of England’s railway tracks, and share responsibility with private train operating companies. The RMT union has criticized the change, claiming it will lead to the eventual privatisation of the whole infrastructure.
Chief executive of Network Rail Mark Carne said: “We strongly welcome these plans to bring more joined up working within the industry. We have already devolved Network Rail into route-based businesses closer to customers, and the proposals announced today will build on the alliances we have created between these route businesses and train operators.”
One commuter who did not want to be named said: “Inconsistent is the best way to describe it. Some days the service will run fine, and others I’ll be late for work.
“Getting home from Leeds is the real problem, too many people on a small crowded train is a nightmare. I don’t know who’s to blame, but I know I don’t think I should have to pay more for my season ticket for unreliability.”
The Northern Rail assistance account on Twitter is constantly bombarded with disgruntled passengers, delays, train faults and cancellations their main gripe.
This isn’t the first time Northern Rail have faced backlash from the public, after their 117% increase in fare prices back in 2014, with fares set to rise again next year.