We need to talk about Northern
Former Lib Dem leader and Cumbrian MP Tim Farron writes about the appalling rail services his constituents and visitors to the Lake District have endured in recent months with 160 cancellations in April & 72 in the first week of May.
For many people here in the North West, turning up to the station to find your train has been cancelled has become a far too familiar experience.
It’s safe to say Northern’s reputation up here has hardly ever been glowing, but what rail users have experienced over the past few months has been so appalling that people’s patience has finally run out with the company.
But the situation up here on the Cumbrian Lakes Line, which runs from Oxenholme to Windermere, is particularly shocking. An astonishing 160 trains were cancelled in the month of April, while 72 were cancelled just in the first week of May alone – which is crazy when you think that only around 30 trains run on the line a day.
As you can imagine this has caused a massive inconvenience for people who rely on the train to get to work every day.
For students who use the train to travel to school, the situation it’s a similar story, but with important GCSE exams starting this week the consequences for Northern’s incompetence are even more serious.
Last summer, the Lake District joined the likes of the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon in officially becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But for the thousands of people who have travelled from across the globe to visit Britain’s second most popular tourist destination, the first thing that greets them as they arrive at our beautiful part of the world is the word ‘cancelled’. What a welcome to Britain’s second biggest tourist destination.
Despite politicians of all political parties in the North West raising this in recent months, the Government have simply put their fingers in their ears.
This week the Department for Transport announced that they would take back control of the East Coast Main Line after the companies who run it, Virgin and Stagecoach, were losing money from it.
By choosing to intervene in this case but ignore the pleas to strip Northern of failing services in the North West, the Government has shown that when it comes to the railways, their priorities lie with the shareholders – not the passengers.
The truth is people in the North West have had to put up with paying first-class rail fares for third-rate rail services for far too long.
Enough is enough - It’s time for Northern to go.
Tim Farron is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and theMP for Westmorland and Lonsdale