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Francesca Barker, a regular traveller on Northern trains says ‘Enough is enough’

Date published: 16 November 2018


Having stood all the way to work on yet another delayed Northern train, I decided it was enough.

This is the tale of the tired commuter - I think it would strike a chord with other train users.

"Frosted glass and foggy breath, clusters of chilly travellers huddled on train station platforms - in the North.

That part is quite significant, for two reasons.

1) Us Northerners can withstand a wintery chill that even the WhiteWalkers of Game of Thrones may poke a toe out of bed and say, "not today!"

2) The Northern fiasco seems our never-ending luxury, the Great Northern railways are no more, and we are left with antiquated old buses that chug on slippery rails (this was the reason for today's delay)

“We have all been so politely British, nestling next to strangers on the tin can railroad to work and back, paying our precious wages into a system that refuses to help, to change, to evolve, whilst the rest of the country gets to work on time, here in Greater Manchester, I am tired.

“For fear of not making it to the office on time, I have now commenced the over-anxious countdown on a daily basis - and duly started my day an hour earlier to alleviate as much anxiety and stress as possible.

“What was once, and quite some time ago, a sure bet of actually getting on a train, at a set time, to get to a destination, for certain - is now a running of the gauntlet.

“To be oh so sure, I now get the train an hour earlier than the one I used to get - the problem being, so does everyone else!

“So, we stand, at just after 7 o'clock in the morning, all familiar faces, knowing.

“We glance, en-mass at the matrix sign - which is in fact working today, and lo and behold, 1 minute late, 2 minutes late, 3 minutes late, 15 minutes late.

“When it gets to over 10 minutes late, you assume the worst on the Leeds to Manchester line - that the orange glow will flash DELAYED which really means CANCELLED, but for some unknown reason, Northern let us stand in hope freezing our proverbial off on the platform for an extra 15 minutes anyway.

“All of this, for a pretty pound, or nearly £9 on this route at peak-time.

“The daily peak fare is £8.90 from where I live, the monthly pass is £118, and I'm not quite sure what we are paying for?

“If I bought a plane ticket and turned up at the airport and my plane was late - so be it, but if I turned up and was then told it was a smaller plane, there was no crew, and that I would have to stand, and hope that there was indeed enough standing room for me to even fit on; would I stand for it?

“No.

“Yet here we are day after day, we take to twitter with photos of the sardine cans, we email poor Andy Burnham who can only shout so loud at people who refuse to listen and on it goes, with no resolution.

“Today (Thursday 15 November), I boarded the delayed 7:22, it was two carriages, already full upon arrival, and so we hoped and prayed and marched on, one by one, like an over-crowded Noah's ark and got up close and personal with our neighbours - it's been a long time since my hand was so close to a man's bottom, and I'd rather not repeat the experience.

“It rolled into Rochdale and the faces of the lost souls upon the platform mirrored ours, just 10 minutes previous.

“Will I get on?

“Will I ever get to work?

“Do I even want to go to work when I feel like I've had the stress of an 8-hour day?

“Why bother?

“Your mind rolls through the frustrations, quicker than Northern's trains roll upon the tracks.

“Money is tight, we work hard, we are constricted to earning what we can in the hours that we can and hope that when the day is done, we go home to our families, with the roofs over our heads that we have too worked hard for, in good time, space, comfort and decency.

“It's not too much to ask it is?

“It's a vicious circle - I get up earlier, I'm tired so I don't bother with breakfast, I walk to the station, wondering how the day will begin. I think of the disgraceful cost of such a shoddy service and it already annoys me before I set foot on the ***** thing.

“I get to work and plough through my days, happily, but aware that come 5 o'clock, carnage will begin.

“So, I don't get the 5 o'clock and I avoid the 6 o'clock because I don't want to stand all the way home, I don't want to do my Mo Farrah impression running from platform to platform in Manchester Victoria.

“So, I work longer days. For no more pay. To ironically end up getting an off-peak train home, and even that, EVEN that, doesn't have the decency to turn up on time, if at all, so by the time I get home, its after 8 o'clock, I don't want to cook, I can't really be bothered to eat, no socialise, no participate, and I realise that a few changes to my routine because of TRAINS, just trains, has changed the way I live.

“I'm more out of pocket - I pay ridiculous fares, if a train is cancelled, I buy a coffee to pass the time, if a train is cancelled and I need to be at a meeting, I get a bus, a cab, a donkey.

“I'm tired, I don't cook, I waste money on ready-meals, takeout, I get lazy. Not because I am, because I'm tired.

“I want my working day to be 9-5, which means getting the 8:03 and knowing it will turn up, not getting the 7:03 or if I'm feeling naughty and risky, the 7:20am.

“I want to get the 5:27 train home, and know that when I get to the station, there will be a seat, not an angry train conductor screaming MOVE DOWN in my face after a hard day at the office.

“I want to get home to my family, my house, my cooker, and I want to greet my fridge with excitement and cook something at 6:30, not 8:30.

“Northern may find us Northerners easy money, and easy living, but do they ever stop to think about the impact their incompetence and greed is having on the people who keep their money coming in?

“Enough is enough."

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