The Woodlesford Train Users Action Group has been formed by disgruntled passengers fed up with overcrowding and late trains after being told that no improvement was on the horizon.
In Britain there are many Rail User Groups, which represent the interests of passengers on a particular railway line, or route, many of which have existed for decades.
Railfuture was instrumental in setting up many groups especially during the 1960s, 70s and 80s when lines faced closure and surviving services faced cuts. In those days it was a fight to preserve what people had. However, times have changed.
Today more people than ever before want to use Britain’s railway. The problem is that the system cannot cope with this demand, even though the sustained growth for the last 20 years has not been difficult to predict. In fairness to the industry, as Network Rail has proven to its immense embarrassment, there are a limited number of skilled and talented people to design, construct and manage the vast number of desperately needed rail enhancements – plus building and commissioning new trains – that are needed to keep pace with rising passenger demands and expectations. However, the “jam tomorrow” promise will not satisfy frustrated passengers left standing on platforms because the trains are full.
Commuters using Woodlesford railway station, which serves Woodlesford and Rothwell in West Yorkshire, have had enough and have formed the Woodlesford Train Users Action Group. They have also met Ralfuture’s Yorkshire branch to seek advice on how to set-up a Rail User Group to look after their interests. This is something that Railfuture is only too willing to do, providing that the group intends to work constructively and in partnership with the rail industry to improve the service.
A representative of the passengers summed up their frustration with the following quote for Railfuture (it should be noted that Northern Rail is not alone in having capacity problems, and its original franchise awarded by the government predicted no growth, astonishingly).
“The last straw was when the customer relations man from Northern Rail told me ‘jam tomorrow’ and thought that was alright. Commuters from Woodlesford had endured a decade of a deteriorating service that showed no sign of improvement. Now I had it from the horse’s mouth we could look forward to no improvement.
“The following day, 23rd October 2015, I could stand idle no longer. We arrived at the station in time to buy our tickets and watch helpless as our fellow commuters were left with us on the platform because there was only a single carriage for a busy rush hour train into Leeds - enough was enough.
“Not only was the next train significantly delayed so was the following train. People missed connections and were obviously going to be late for work. It was made worse because it came at the end of a week of cancellations and delays in both directions on numerous routes and it wasn’t even leaves on the line time of year.
“When I eventually arrived at work I set up a Facebook page for Woodlesford Train Users, posted some photos from that morning’s poor service testifying to our treatment. The response has been magnificent with friends passing the page across to people they know commute and are at the mercy of the train. Complete strangers have followed and now we have a fledgling twitter page @WDSRailUsers.
“The service along the Leeds/Sheffield/Knottingley line has been getting worse for a decade or more. First it was just late trains, then it was regular cancellations and now it is both of the above and dangerously crowded carriages. We are planning a petition at the station and on line and will continue whatever the outcome of the franchise to continue lobbying for a better service.”
Time will tell whether these fare-paying passengers obtain the service improvements they expect and deserve.