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Rail commuters fight back

Fed up Manchester-Liverpool passengers put squeeze on East Midlands Trains by sending controller something fishy in post

Published on November 25th 2008.

Rail commuters fight back

ANGRY passengers on the Manchester to Liverpool rail line have launched a fightback campaign against East Midlands Trains by sending tinned sardines to rail boss Tim Shoveller.

The move is in protest at the atrocious and cramped service provided on the troubled peak time service first highlighted on Confidential here and here a couple of weeks ago when we urged affected passengers to get in touch with Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary to demand change.

The campaign, TrainSardine.org, is targeting the rail company which regularly turns passengers into sardines by sending two carriage trains out from Lime Street to Manchester and vice versa in peak times when it should send four. The “half size” trains result in severe overcrowding with many commuters between the North West's two major cities unable to board trains to get to work

Stories of passengers passing out are not unknown. Meanwhile anyone owning a guide dog misses the train altogether. For while there is no health and safety law to prevent humans being carried in such a manner, the RSPCA has a stricter code that advises animals must not travel in such alarming conditions.

A spokesperson from TrainSardine.org, said; “This campaign is run by passengers who are sick of the poor service offered and the excuses we have been given over the past twelve months to explain the shortage of carriages and overcrowding.

“East Midlands has a legal contract to provide a service. However, they only have to communicate late or cancelled trains.”

There appears to be no straight cut solution with everyone blaming everyone else.

East Midlands, owned by the FTSE 100-listed Stagecoach, won the right to run the Liverpool to Norwich line, which runs through Manchester, when Central Trains was broken up in November 2007. But, say campaigners, Central submitted low passenger figures to the Government and so, when they lost the bid to East Midlands, they were able to hand only half the necessary carriages over.

New carriages were then ordered on lease, but the company supplying East Midlands suspended service after the Government, fearing a monopoly, called for an investigation of the carriage leasing industry. (This after it emerged that the big three leasing firms control more than 90 per cent of the market. In 2007, they were making around £175m a year profits.)

East Midlands, commenting on the trainsardine campaign said in a statement: “We fully support the objective of improving capacity on our Liverpool to Norwich line, and we do sympathise with passengers who travel on this particular route and have to experience overcrowding on some services.

“We recognise that this is a key issue for our business, and therefore a key priority, and we have taken a number of steps to try and provide additional capacity, including our ongoing £10 million refurbishment of the trains that run along this route which will provide more seats for passengers, and strengthening a number of trains from two to four car during the busiest times. “

When pressed as to when the four carriages might become a reality, however, an EMT spokeswoman told us that this was actually happening already - but on the Sheffield to Manchester stretch. She could not give firm comment as to if or when peak trains on the Manc-Liv leg would benefit from a similar increase in capacity.

The statement went on to call for passenger feedback to help its case with the DoT for more trains which, it says, it cannot fund through passenger revenue alone, and “would like to thank those involved in www.trainsardine.org for helping with this process.”

And, perhaps, for their fish. A trainsardiner said today: “We are disappointed that East Midlands Trains are going to try and pack more people on the trains by refurbishing them. This will leave even more standing and even more overcrowding. The simple way to deliver the service they bid for is for them to increase the number of carriages.


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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

punji flipflopNovember 25th 2008.

Back home in India i used to travel 40 miles to get to work.Everyday i had to travel on the roof of the train to save money,it was cheaper to ride on the roof than inside.When i was really skint i used to run behind the train to save even more money.

JenniferNovember 25th 2008.

This problem isn't only on this line. I often get the 08.35 train from Walkden to Manchester and by the time it has got to my stop (from Wigan) the two carriages they send are already overcrowded leaving myself and the other 20-30 commuters waiting are reduced to cramming into the carriage; often having to hold on to one another as we can't reach a rail. We then stop at a further 2 stops before reaching Salford Crescent where a number of people leave the train. Last week I had the misfortune of having a small case as I was going away for the weekend. I could see the daggers I was getting as I squeezed on but what was I meant to do, miss my train and have to wait half an hour for the next one? I ended up being squashed up against the door and that was quite scary, not to mention inconvenient when about 15 people have to pile off just so other passengers can leave the train. I was told by a fellow commuter that she often gets the train home early afternoon when they are empty, yet they send four carriages. It's an absolute joke.

Wazza lassNovember 25th 2008.

It's the same when it gets to warrington or birchwood. It's always rammed. East Midland are talking through their arses.

scoteeeNovember 25th 2008.

and on that note i bet it wouldnt cost 3 billion to implement we'd free up the roads and get to work on time!

scoteeeNovember 25th 2008.

I get the 1720 to Sheffield each Friday and then an 18:37 train back just over an hour later and even though there are more than 2 carriages both trains are stillpacked tight with frustrated travellers.How can they say that they are refurbishing as an option when clearly the business is there for additional carriages.Sureley the ticket prices are high enough to fund extra carriages other wise they wouldnt be making a a profit? I feel sorry for the Stockport travellers, each time the train gets there, it stops and then no-one can get on because it's always packed to the brim.

scoteeeNovember 25th 2008.

what we really need are 30 sea king helicopters with a waiting area in between 15 major stops and we all pay 12 quid each to go the 10 miles or so jobs a goodun!!! how much would it cost to send a sea king 10 miles and how many poeple can one comfortably fit on it ?

FraggleNovember 25th 2008.

The EMT reply is daft. When the refurbish a train, that train is not available for use meaning that there are even fewer trains for passengers. And why are they bothering to refurbish these trains anyway? They're not that old, and the increase in the number of seats can only be negligible anyway because there's a limit to how many seats you can cram into a metal box. Except that these trains will still have labelling from the previous franchise, and getting rid of that takes precedence over making more space available for people. Surely people would rather have more carriages, even slightly older and scruffier ones that they could actually get on, rather than little trains with new carpets?!

AnonymousNovember 25th 2008.

the trouble with this line, is there is frequently 100 plus who can't get on the train, and frequently end up late. The trains companies as a whole need seriously revaluating. More trains, and if the train companies aren't doing enough to accommodate commuters the remore the franchise from them.

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