What am I paying for?

I’ve recently moved from Eccles to the sleepy village of Stoneclough. It’s not dissimilar to my hometown of Saintfield, but the local football team seems to be of a much higher standard. They won the First Division of the West Lancashire Football League in 2007/08…just saying. Buck your ideas up, Saintfield.

A major benefit to moving to Stoneclough is the cut it would cause to my daily commute. Instead of sitting on a horrible bus for nearly 2 hours a day, I would instead be able to saunter nonchalantly onto a train and travel in relative luxury for the grand and rather exact total of 24 minutes each way between Kearsley and Salford Crescent. Oh so I rather naively thought.

I’d forgotten the torment of travelling by Northern Rail from Liverpool to Manchester in late 2015. My first ever actual commute, may I neither forget it, nor relive it.

The price for 24 minutes of train travel a day? £98 a month. £98. 9. 8.

Does that get you luxurious carriages with trollies of delicious morning delights? Does it buffalo. Trains roll in from the ‘80s. Literally, the same trains they used in the ‘80s. They creak along and slowly halt in front of you, and when the doors open, you squash yourself in wherever you can fit (more difficult by the day for someone like me).

“Ah, but at least they run on time!”, you cry. Absolutely not. Not once have I got on a train at 7:49am, when it’s meant to be there. You cannot rely on a train. Even in the sunshine, when there are no adverse weather conditions to battle against, they still do not run on time.

Sometimes they don’t even run! I had a train home (the final one each evening, by the way) cancelled last week, because they’d run out of trains. Northern Rail, a company whose only purpose is to run trains, ran out of trains. They didn’t have enough trains despite running the same route at the same time for years. You’d think by now they’d know how many they needed.

It begs the question, loud and clear, “Where does my train money go?” That (at least) £98 a month that I, and presumably everyone else crammed onto every train, has to pay to have a chance of reaching the city. Where does that go? That’s a lot of money to pay to stand, literally, right up against random people on a regular basis, as we all desperately try to keep our balance lest we should commit a terrible faux pas. It’s double the price of a monthly bus ticket (unfortunately buses aren’t a particularly viable option), for much less luxury, and sometimes convenience.

To use a Masterchef cliché – train companies, in particular Northern Rail, need to up their respective games. It’s simply not good enough, and it’s particularly annoying because there’s nothing I can really do about it. They’ve caught me in their outdated iron web of screechy, wobbly incompetence.

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