Home Travel Passenger says Newcastle-Liverpool train journey took ‘as long as a flight to Dubai’

Passenger says Newcastle-Liverpool train journey took ‘as long as a flight to Dubai’

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Passenger says Newcastle-Liverpool train journey took ‘as long as a flight to Dubai’

A passenger has shared a story of their train journey from Newcastle to Liverpool which, due to a number of difficulties, took seven hours – as long as some flights from the UK to Dubai.

The traveller, who is also a reporter at the Liverpool Echo, intended to travel from Newcastle back home to Liverpool on Sunday 23 October, a journey which normally takes just under three hours.

But when Charlotte Hadfield reached Newcastle station, she found that a number of trains were cancelled, including all Transpennine Express trains to Liverpool Lime Street.

She planned to travel home via Carlisle and Wigan instead, but found that a notice had been placed on Northern and Network Rail’s website to say that there had been a train derailment.

A derailment is an unexpected event which means a rail vehicle has come off its rails, and causes major disruption to the network. This “do not travel” notice had been up prior to the start of Ms Hadfield’s journey.

Northern had tweeted: “Unfortunately we are advising customers not to travel between these stations on 23/10 as we are unable to source road replacement following disruption involving a derailed train.”

The thwarted traveller then decided to travel via York and Manchester, arriving at Manchester Piccadilly at 7.15pm, but a signalling issue meant that the train was delayed by 42 minutes. There were Northern Rail replacement buses running, and Ms Hadfield was advised to go outside and wait. As the crowd waited for the bus, she explained, the original train in question arrived and she wasn’t able to make it.

Ms Hadfield said: “People are in genuine disbelief at the lack of communication or advice from station staff as we try to figure out how we are going to get home.”

Network Rail apologised for the “short notice changes to trains caused confusion and saw some passengers advised to get a rail replacement bus service when their train was in fact running.”

Network Rail had experienced unexpected staff sickness that evening.

Ms Hadfield said another train was delayed at Manchester Oxford Road, but she eventually arrived at Liverpool at 10.16pm – nearly seven hours after her intended departure time.

The journey follows a period of Northern train disruption this year, which led to Metro mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region calling for emergency funding for TransPennine Express and Northern contracts.

A spokesperson for TPE told The Independent that there has been “unprecedented pressure” on the service. They said: “Prior to December 2021 TransPennine Express (TPE) had posted its best ever performance results, and was subsequently recognised as ‘Train Operator of the Year’ at the Rail Business Awards.

“Since then, prolonged disruption affecting our services has been caused by a range of issues including ongoing high levels of train crew sickness, a persisting training backlog as a direct result of Covid, and infrastructure issues outside of TPE’s control. Combined, these factors have seen a number of on-the-day or ‘evening before’ cancellations being made.

“In normal circumstances, we have enough people to fully operate our scheduled timetable – and have more drivers now than ever before – however the combination of factors has put unprecedented pressure on our ability to effectively operate our services.

“Our customers want, and deserve, reliable and punctual train services, and we are sorry have not been able to consistently provide that due to the ongoing issues. TPE’s team continues to work flat-out to deliver higher levels of service delivery and to tackle the issues that are being experienced by customers.”

Chris Jackson, regional director for Northern, told the Liverpool Echo: “Due to planned engineering work, we were unable to operate services between Manchester and Liverpool that call via Newton-le-Willows on Sunday 23 October. We were, however, able to operate all but one of our hourly services from Manchester to Liverpool that operate via Warrington. We apologise to anyone whose journeys were inconvenienced.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to passengers that they didn’t get the service they expect or deserve while travelling through Manchester Piccadilly yesterday evening. It’s after a staffing issue at our signal box in Stockport led to trains being cancelled, diverted or delayed.

“We’re also sorry that the resulting short notice changes to trains caused confusion and saw some passengers advised to get a rail replacement bus service when their train was in fact running. We understand how frustrating this is and are looking into how we can better share information to our frontline station staff when situations are constantly changing during times of unexpected disruption.”

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