Packed in like sardines - Calderdale rail user groups press safety fears

Hebden Bridge resident Kate Anstee founded the new Facebook group
Hebden Bridge resident Kate Anstee founded the new Facebook group

Overcrowding is top among health and safety issues a new Facebook campaign group set up by a Calderdale woman wants to press with train operator Northern.

Kate Anstee, of Hebden Bridge, set up Northern (Rail): Ruining People’s Lives On A Daily Basis with the intention of channelling social media to take up concerns over Northern services, particularly those involving health and safety - and it has gained 1,200 members across the network in just a fortnight.

Overcrowding is a major problem, says the new Facebook group and local campaigners HADRAG

Overcrowding is a major problem, says the new Facebook group and local campaigners HADRAG

With the new Facebook group providing region-wide snapshots of the service, similar concerns are among those raised by Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG), which works, often in partnership with Upper Calder Valley Renaissance Sustainable Transport Group to press relevant rail authories on a whole range of issues affecting Calderdale service users.

For its part, Northern pledges the situation will improve - but not fully until 2020.

HADRAG’s Autumn 2017 newsletter says: “Overcrowding on local trains is a massive problem” and a features and account of problems caused by services arriving with reduced numbers of carriages.

“Only just got on at Halifax. Several gave up trying. Delayed as the last few tried to squeeze on...We fear worse before it gets better,” it reads.

Being packed in like sardines is damaging to physical and mental well-being and is a major safety concern, says the Facebook group.

The group’s brief says: “All too often we are faced with delays, cancellations, overflowing out of use toilets, windows that don’t open with our faces pressed against the glass whilst the person behind you is having a panic attack in your experience that is frequently dangerous and wouldn’t pass health and safety standards, that ruins our day before we’ve even got to work.”

Although there is scope for members to vent frustrations - and specifically the corporation and not the individuals who work for them - and one outcome of starting the page is rail passengers now feeling they are not alone, Kate’s intention is that it has a positive and practical impact. The group encourages logging times, places, accounts, videos and pictures to provide proof and allow it to press concerns.

Acknowleging formation of the new Facebook group, a spokesman for Northern apologised to any customer who has suffered delays or cancellations and pledged things would improve.

“Engineering work, trackside problems and some reliability issues with trains continue to cause problems for customers.

“We are aware of these issues and work closely with colleagues across the rail industry to minimise disruption to our customers,” he said.

“We know we have some older trains which are past their best, and have embarked on an ambitious modernisation plan that will not only see new or fully refurbished trains across our entire network by 2020, but will also see an increase in the number of services on some routes.

“By 2020 we will introduce an extra 2,000 services each week – that’s on top of the 2,500 we already operate each day – significantly increasing capacity on some key routes.

“This modernisation work is just beginning and there is some way to go, but by 2020 all Northern customers will have a rail service to be proud of and one which is fit for the 21stCentury.”