Northern Rail (***rant alert***)

charlatans
The poet (in the hat) with our friends Sam and Steve at Tramlines (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Tramlines 2015 started on Friday evening in Sheffield, and we had tickets for the whole weekend. We jumped on a train in Dodworth and in just half an hour, and for just £11.60 (apx $18) for both of us return, we were there.

We thought that was excellent value, especially when you take into account the price of petrol and parking, and – of course – vehicular wear and tear. And we wondered why so many people complain about the price of rail fares …

We went to City Hall to collect our wristbands, and it was actually quite hilarious. It wasn’t very busy yet at all, but the organisers still had us walking in in single file, queuing at the right desk, and then exiting via a different door … all 2 of us …

Most of the roads around the festival stages were closed, and quite rightly too, but we were able to get a taxi to the main stage area and pick up 2 of our friends on the way. We’d only gone to see The Charlatans, and they were excellent – my very first time. I recognised the lead singer, Tim Burgess, and when I said to the poet, “That’s the only one I know,” he thought I was being funny … I didn’t realise one of their famous songs was The Only One I Know

It was great to see Sam and Steve, and the rain stopped before we were all drenched, but we had to dash to catch our train back and we had no idea how to get to the station. We were eventually directed to the nearest tram stop and got back to the station in time for a Burger King supper too.

The next day we wanted to see more of our friends, Bang Bang Romeo. The bass player is the son of the bass player in Monkey Dust and the poet has pretty much watched him grow up. This time, however, we were very disappointed with the trains … so here’s that …

*** rant ***

On a Saturday there is one train per hour going from Huddersfield to Sheffield stopping at all of the stations, which is fair enough if people aren’t using them. However, everyone knew there was a major festival happening in Sheffield. Everyone, it seems, except for Northern Rail. Did they put on extra trains for this huge event? No. Did they add extra carriages to the existing trains? No. And I’d like to know why.

Hundreds of people bought their tickets in advance to attend the festival. We had to. They sold out very quickly. And this is a city centre event with lots of venues and outdoor arenas, not just one venue.

We got on the train at an unmanned station, which means that we won’t get arrested for not buying our ticket at the station. There are lots of unmanned stations between Huddersfield and Sheffield. That means lots of passengers get on the trains and buy their tickets from the conductors.

Because there was only one train per hour stopping at these unmanned stations, and because no one thought to add any extra carriages to existing trains already going that way, the 2 coaches were rammed.

They were so rammed, hundreds of passengers didn’t manage to get on – loss of potential revenue #1.

They were so rammed, the conductors couldn’t get through to sell tickets to those hundreds of passengers who had managed to get on – loss of potential revenue #2.

There were no ticket staff installed at any of the usually-unmanned stations – loss of potential revenue #3.

There are no ticket barriers at Sheffield Station – loss of potential revenue #4.

And those who did buy rail tickets in advance and then didn’t get on their train will be reclaiming their fares – redemption of revenue.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (no really, I’m not), but even I can see where Northern Rail passed up an amazing opportunity to earn (and keep) money. So many passengers would have got through on those trains completely free of charge. And because no one was policing it, they’ll get away with it too.

If they didn’t have the staff, they could have hired temporary staff. If they didn’t have the rolling stock (excellent excuse usually rolled out), they could have hired temporary stock.

Not only did Northern Rail lose revenue themselves, they also lost Sheffield city centre and the Tramlines festival all of that custom from those who didn’t make it. Not to mention disappointed fans who couldn’t get there in time to see their favourite bands.

The festival itself was excellent, very well organised, very well laid out, very well catered, very well attended. It was a joy to join in. So why didn’t Northern Rail (and others) cash in on that success?

*** end of rant ***

Bang Bang Romeo sounded, looked and were great – the best we’ve ever seen them. We were also able to watch another band straight after them, who we didn’t know, and we had another few hours with Sam and Steve before they headed back to Nottinghamshire. We were close enough to walk back to the station this time and were half an hour early for our train …

*** rant #2 ***

So there we sat, on the designated platform (1b), where our 16:36 train was “on time”. There were 3 other trains at this platform in the time we waited, but they were all previously late trains. At 16:30 we were told over the tannoy that the next train to arrive at platform 1b was, indeed, the 16:36 to Huddersfield …

… only it wasn’t. It was the delayed 16:something-or-other to Doncaster.

And so we sat and waited patiently for that one to clear, and when it did, at the same time that another announcement came over the tannoy, we saw our train … at another platform. At precisely 16:36 we were told that the train now leaving platform 2b was the 16:36 to Huddersfield … and we had to get up the stairs, over the track and down the other side before the doors closed.

Fortunately we weren’t the only ones and the conductor had the decency to make sure there was no one else over on platform 1b. But oh, what a shambles! And our next train wasn’t for another hour.

To say we were disappointed with Northern Rail by the end of the weekend is an understatement, and now maybe we know why there are so many complaints.

*** end of rant #2 ***

We didn’t make it ourselves to the Sunday. We wanted to see Buzzcocks and more of our friends, The Kavaliers (the drummer is the son of the drummer in Monkey Dust … do you see a theme here?). But heavy rain – and the difficulty of getting there on a Sunday, if Saturday was anything to go by – put us off.

Instead we had a trip to Meadowhall where we replaced a silver chain of the poet’s and some sleepers of mine. Then we were home to a pork casserole with parsley dumplings for tea (made in the slow cooker by himself) (and the dumplings – his first ever) (and our own parsley from the garden!), and an evening in front of the telly.

This week, at work, I’ve knocked one of my daily “tasks” on the head – the daily competitions (again). I’ve not won anything for ages, and that half hour I’d sooner spend writing or reading or something else now I’m so busy with work. I still have plenty to be going on with, with several short stories to edit, another technical paper, and 2 books.

I think I have a pretty normal, straightforward week ahead.

Posting weekly

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Wordsworth’s garden – come on in … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Isn’t this a lovely picture? Makes me want to wander in, settle down and daydream. It was taken at Grasmere, at William Wordsworth’s house, and it’s one of the poet’s.

Last week just got busier and stressier. I took my car in Thursday morning, which took a chunk out of my day. I had intended to do some work at the library, but lovely mechanic man said they wouldn’t get around to it for hours, so he took me home instead.

The car wasn’t ready until midday on Friday, but I had a lift there and was glad to get it back. It’s running a lot more smoothly, but I just can’t rely on it any more. This is a massive problem, as I can’t afford a new one either.

I started a new non-fiction but revisions came in for a fiction and it seems I have to drop everything when that happens, regardless of workload or work queue. If I don’t act on them immediately, I get nagging emails. Some clients do need to know that they’re not the only ones I have, but obviously I make them feel very special …

The revisions were done but by about 3:30pm on Friday I’d had enough of last week and called it a day. Then it was a really busy weekend, with a gig over in Doncaster Friday night to see a favourite band, then a long session at Doncaster Live on Saturday, culminating in the Buzzcocks – free of charge! – at the end of the night. And on Sunday we were back again to see another friend’s band I’d not seen until then – and they were really good.

This week has been busy again, with that non-fiction edit to finish. I did the manual edits on Monday and started the electronic edits on Tuesday, and I wrote the walks report and sent it on its merry way. But I’m not really very well at the moment. Neither of us is. I don’t know if we picked something up in Dent and it’s been incubating or if it’s something else, but we’re both very fluey and feeling very sorry for ourselves.

Despite this, while I worked yesterday, I did have cups of coffee appear, as if by magic, on my desk, and I did have dinner (lunch) cooked for me. The poet was having a Do Diddle Day! But by teatime we were both really flagging and today I think we’re worse.

This doesn’t get the work done, though. And no work means no invoices and that means no money. So I have to shift that edit, get it invoiced. Then I have to do another revision. Then I have a new edit to start, a novel this time. I also have an article to write.

I seem to be posting weekly at the moment, but that will change again – just as soon as I get back into a swing of things.

I’d best crack on – enjoy the pic. 🙂