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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Rail complaints at record levels
GNER train
GNER says it is spending 30m on refurbishing its fleet
Passenger complaints about train services in the North of England have soared by 16% in the past 12 months.

Rail travellers lodged a record number of complaints - more than after the Hatfield disaster, when trains were delayed by massive repair programmes.

A passenger watchdog has laid the blame at the feet of the government's Strategic Rail Authority (SRA).

The North East Rail Passengers Committee said the SRA had failed to step in to resolve a year-long conductors' strike at Arriva Trains Northern.

GNER and Virgin CrossCountry came in for most complaints, although Virgin relaunched services to Scotland, the Midlands and South-West with a 1bn fleet of new trains.

The committee also singled out Sunderland railway station as "austere" and criticised GNER for the way it handled passengers travelling with other firms at Newcastle Central Station.

A committee spokesman accused the government of effectively giving up on railways.

He said: "It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the Treasury sees the railways as a financial black hole and a source of political pain."

There was a 16pc rise in passengers complaints in the last financial year to 1,461.

Rail commuters
Commuters complained about the state of some stations

The spokesman added: "Virgin are running more services that have benefited a lot of passengers, but they weren't able to run as many services as planned and some have been overcrowded.

"On board GNER trains the level of service is excellent, but at its stations we have had complaints about the firm not looking after other people's passengers."

Arriva Trains Northern recorded a drop in complaints, despite a string of one and two-day strikes and falling punctuality on some routes.

A Virgin spokesman said: "In the early part of the year we were suffering the effects of extremely bad weather that have dogged the CrossCountry network.

"The vast increase in demand caused some overcrowding and congestion on trains which impacted on time keeping.

'Complex network'

"We are working with the SRA in adjusting and revising the timetable to make it more reliable in tandem with modifications to the trains."

A GNER spokesman said: "We are spending 30m on overhauling our entire fleet of locomotives.

"We recognise some of our stations are not ideal and we need more lifts escalators and subways."

An Arriva Trains Northern spokesman said: "We are the largest operator in the North providing around 40m passenger journeys every year on the most complex network in the UK.

"Therefore, we welcome the news that complaints about our services have dropped from 736 to 631 - a 16pc reduction - and we are committed to reducing them further."

The company blamed punctuality problems on rail infrastructure and said working with Network Rail had led to improvements.

Millions for GNER trains upgrade
19 Sep 02  |  England

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