Rail passengers suffered a ‘nightmare’ journey from Huddersfield on a train which was so overcrowded people struggled to get off – but the train company admits things are unlikely to improve in the short-term.
And when they complained, they were told by First TransPennine Express that more trains can’t be ordered to meet demand because it would take two years to get them – and the company’s franchise finishes in February.
And the company has even admitted that even though passenger numbers are growing the number of carriages has remained the same and further investment is needed.
Passengers were also angry after an announcement was made that seats were available in first class – at £6 each.
Caroline Wright got on the train, which was travelling from Newcastle to Liverpool, at Huddersfield and was only on for one stop to Manchester Piccadilly.
Caroline, from Lindley, said: “We don’t use the trains during the week and just assumed they would be quieter on a Saturday.
“We were going shopping and to have lunch with our kids in Manchester yet when it arrived in Huddersfield people were already standing and it was obvious many of the seats were pre-booked with reserved tickets in the back of the seats.
“We had to stand in the aisle and the doorwells and I thought it was quite dangerously overpacked. If there had been a sudden braking I dread to think what would have happened.
“When they announced three seats in first class for an extra £6 a seat it beggared belief. You couldn’t get to first class even if you were prepared to pay.
“It was so packed that when the doors opened at Piccadilly no-one could get on or off without a real surge and a push.”
When she complained she received a reply from First TransPennine Express apologising for the conditions.
First TransPennine Express said: “Crowding has been a continual challenge for us as customer numbers continue to increase but our fleet has stayed roughly the same size.
“We did procure a fleet of 10 electric Class 350/4 units at the end of 2013 to run on our Anglo-Scottish route which allowed to us re-deploy our fleet and generate additional capacity on several routes, but further investment is clearly necessary to meet with customer demand.
EXTRA: The daily commute in numbers - just how many people leave and come into Kirklees each working day - see infographics below or click for more details.
“Currently, however, we cannot order any more trains as our franchise is set to end in February 2016. As the lead time for procuring new trains is around two years, there isn’t the scope for us to work on such a project.
“However, the Department for Transport has committed to a five-year, £1billion investment programme for the North of England, and it would be highly unusual if capacity increases did not form part of this plan, particularly within the specification of the new TransPennine franchise from 2016 onwards.”
“Given the delay there has been with the electrification, I would hope that whoever gets the franchise will have more trains,” he said.
“There has been fantastic growth on the transpennine route but all it needs is for a train to be cancelled or to be running late and suddenly there are problems with overcrowding.
“We should know who will be getting the franchise in November and the Department for Transport needs to have a proper plan for rolling stock.”