Hartlepool passengers 'treated like cattle' - call to bring rail services back into public control

Passengers are ‘treated worse than cattle’ and rail and bus services should be brought back into the control of the Department of Transport, Hartlepool’s leaders have said.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 6:00 am
Hartlepool train station
Hartlepool train station

The calls came as a motion was put forward by Hartlepool Borough Council leader Coun Shane Moore to urge for Northern rail to be brought back into the direct control of the Department of Transport.

It followed an announcement from the Secretary of State for Transport announced last month that he had requested new proposals in relation to the future of the Northern rail franchise.

Northern bosses said they are committed to transforming its railways to improve customer experience and acknowledged they have faced several ‘unprecedented challenges’ in recent years.

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Labour Party’s Coun Carl Richardson called for Coun Moore’s original motion to be extended to encompass all rail franchises.

Socialist Labour Party’s Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher then took the calls a step further and tabled an amendment looking at all public transport, citing issues with buses in the town also.

Coun Marjorie James backed the move noting how people were treated ‘worse than cattle’ when recalling a train experience recently.

She said: “Like many I now go to Seaton Carew to get on the train because it’s almost impossible to actually get onto the train in Hartlepool itself, it’s normally two carriages and it’s full, so if you want a seat you need to go to Seaton Carew.

“It’s absolutely appalling that for the number of people in Hartlepool that travel by train, and there are lots, you’d be absolutely amazed how full our train station is at times.

“And yet we are treated worse than cattle.”

“If a farmer wants to move cattle he has to provide so much space for each animal, and yet a human can just be crammed on.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said residents are also being hit hard by the ways certain local bus companies are ran.

He said: “We’ve got people in our communities who are isolated after certain times

“Look at the bus services in Hartlepool, you’ve got a real situation where communities are isolated and what for, for private profit and that is a real detriment to our people.”

Coun Moore said the move, particularly regarding trains, would have benefits for residents and the type of management has already proven a success with some organisations.

He said: “It makes sense to move our residents and our workers around in an efficient and cost effective way, it would help the economy both nationally and locally.

“This model has proven successful with LNER and will ensure that services are run for the benefit of the people of this area, rather than the profit of a small number of shareholders.”

Councillors backed the amended motion and will write to the new Secretary of State making the calls once they are installed after the upcoming General Election.

Northern’s response – the company’s statement in full

A spokesman for Northern outlined their plans for improving their rail services going forward.

They said: “It’s on record that the Northern franchise has faced several material and unprecedented challenges in the past couple of years, outside the direct control of Northern.

“The most significant of these is the ongoing, late delivery of major infrastructure upgrades.

“The North West electrification was more than two years late, which meant we could not use electric trains on that route or cascade diesel trains from that route to run more services elsewhere on our network.

“More recently, new and longer platforms at Leeds stations are delayed, which means we have had to postpone our plans to run longer trains.

“These factors – alongside the damage caused by strike action and lower than expected economic growth – have had a significant effect on the revenue expected in our original franchise business plan agreed with government back in 2015.”

The spokesman added: “Arriva and Northern remain fully committed to delivering the transformation of the North’s railways and improving customers’ experience.

“We are delivering the biggest transformation of local rail for a generation, with 29 of our 101 new trains in service from Monday and driver training taking place.” on dozens more trains right now.

“Alongside 2,000 extra services per week, this is part of a £600 million investment in improving customers’ experience; we are continuing to invest in better stations, better offers for customers and more recruitment.”